Inspired by this poorly worded question:

https://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/q/104524 (now deleted)

Or this one:

Remove Text From Background

Is it acceptable to ask about removing watermarks? If yes, what is the proper way to ask about this?

Off the top of my head I can think of three possible legitimate reasons:

  1. The watermark was created by the author who accidentally deletes the original. Now he want's to know how to remove the watermark.

  2. The work is abandoned copyright (grey area?) For example: The watermark could be a logo from a screenshot from an old TV network that no longer exists. Question asker could ask how to remove that watermark for personal non-commercial reasons.

  3. Someone who just wants to learn a skill. IAMAL so the following statement may be incorrect. Correct me if I'm wrong. It would not be considered copyright infringement if someone downloads a sample watermarked image just for the purpose to remove the watermark. After removing the watermark the image is immediately deleted. The image isn't technically being used in any original work. Downloading a publicly displayed watermarked image to your desktop is not illegal as far as I know. Modifying it to learn a skill and then deleting it isn't illegal either. So, no law is being broken.

I think #3 might be the weakest argument I can make because I'm not a (US) copyright expert. However, I still believe there are some legitimate reasons to allow watermark removal questions like this. (If the question isn't worded as poorly)

For an example of abandoned copyright I have the following source. I know it doesn't have to do with art specifically but it proves that copyrighted material can be abandoned and even given a free pass to some extent. (again in my favorite color grey)

The Internet Archive has created an archive of what it describes as "vintage software", as a way to preserve them. The project advocated for an exemption from the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act to permit them to bypass copy protection, which was approved in 2003 for a period of three years. The exemption was renewed in 2006, and as of 27 October 2009, has been indefinitely extended pending further rulemakings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abandonware)

  • 2
    Even if not deleted (keep it - make it your desktop background) it isn't illegal. it's your own and as long as you don't distribute or use it anywhere, there is nothing wrong with doing it. They made the image (with watermark) publicly available, what you do with it (personally) is irrelevant.
    – Welz
    Jan 26, 2018 at 18:03
  • @WELZ good point. Maybe this is something I should ask on stackexchange.law Jan 26, 2018 at 18:04
  • Related and relevant: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/80495/…
    – Vincent
    Jan 29, 2018 at 21:43
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    I would like to point out that it is very easy for a person to ask the same question in a way that does not bring the watermark into play and still get the same answer!
    – joojaa
    Feb 7, 2018 at 19:36
  • I changed this question slightly to avoid the problems that lead to closure and reopened it to allow for new answers.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    May 7, 2018 at 8:31
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    Side note, related would be the question about preventing from reverse finding images on Google
    – curious Mod
    May 18, 2018 at 14:02
  • @Emilie That would be a legitimate reason to want to remove a watermark. There's nothing illegal about cheating in a video game. May 18, 2018 at 14:37
  • @LateralTerminal I'm not sure I'm following what you're saying, especially the part about cheating in a video game. It seems fair to assume that people are motivated to prevent getting an image being found on Google because they are infringing on someone else's copyright. This may not be the case all the time but I suspect a majority of the time.
    – curious Mod
    May 18, 2018 at 14:44
  • @LateralTerminal Nevermind, I see what you mean about the video game part, but I'm mostly talking about the kind of information the answers are providing and not so much the OP but the kind of views this kind of question would attract.
    – curious Mod
    May 18, 2018 at 15:42

2 Answers 2


I have to admit that I'm a bit torn. I am the last one to want to restrict information and thus censor posts, but I also vehemently do not want this site to be a go-to for copyright fraud or other kinds of illicit activity.

Compare it with a site that answers questions on how to create a compact explosive and on how to carry items on your body unnoticed. It is knowledge, but is can easily be used for nefarious purposes--and will in most cases only be used for such.

In my humble opinion, removing a watermark is a skill that is, in the vast majority of cases, only usable for copyright fraud. You could indeed think of cases where it isn't, but those'd be way less probable at best.

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    Regarding compact explosives: a guide for making those is (or was, the book is older) published by the US Army and is sold on Amazon. Feb 1, 2018 at 13:14
  • 1
    Terrorists cookbook seems to have dropped out of favor.
    – joojaa
    Feb 8, 2018 at 6:33

I found this topic very interesting.


Wanting to learn more about US copyright law I asked a few questions on our sister site.

From the gist of those answers I'm getting that if the watermark was not made by the question poster it should not be allowed on our site.

I'm still waiting for more answers but it seems that downloading watermarked images can be illegal but that depends on the websites TOS (there might be a loophole but that's not what this discussion is about).

However, If someone uses watermark software on their own work and submits it as a question, then it is on topic and is suitable for this site.

The Original Question

I want to remove a text watermark - can this be done by having 2 layers and painting on the top one with a special mode? is NOT legal.

This is because:

It may actually be a sample pic from uconomix at some point. It's hard to tell because their site changed and I'm using google translate.

Either way it's not legal.

I'm open for more discussion and other peoples opinion on this topic.

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    The very first link there points to a Google Research blog article: research.googleblog.com/2017/08/… - the watermark used in this image has been specially designed to make attacks on it (i.e. removal of it) harder :) Feb 2, 2018 at 8:22
  • @MichaelSchumacher I noticed that! Somewhat ironic of the original question asker XD Feb 7, 2018 at 19:42
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    It wouldn't be too uncommon if someone was testing the strength of their watermarks by subjecting them to real-world tests - i.e. asking questions like these and using examples of their own watermarks :) Feb 8, 2018 at 13:37

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