It’s called the Content Authenticity Initiative

Adobe, Twitter, and The New York Times Company have announced a new system for adding attribution to photos and other content. A tool will record who created a piece of content and whether it’s been modified by someone else, then let other people and platforms check that data. Adobe showed off a prototype in Photoshop today, but many of the details are still in flux, and there’s no release date.

The overall project is called the Content Authenticity Initiative, and its participants will hold a summit on the system in the next few months. Based on what Adobe has announced, the attribution tool is a piece of metadata that can be attached to a file. Adobe doesn’t describe precisely how it will keep the tag secure or prevent someone from copying the content in a way that strips it out. Adobe chief product officer Scott Belsky said that some technical details will be worked out at the summit.

Adobe described this system as a way to verify “authenticity” online. And The New York Times Company’s research and development head, Marc Lavallee, suggested it could fight misinformation by helping people discern “trusted news” on digital media platforms.

But the most obvious uses include identifying a photo’s source and making sure artists get credit for their work. Many photos and webcomics circulate anonymously on platforms like Twitter, and an attribution tag would help trace those images back to their creator. This depends entirely on how well the CAI system works, however. Tags wouldn’t be very useful if they could be easily altered or removed, but if the system preserves security by tightly controlling how people can interact with the image, it could have the same downsides as other digital rights management or DRM systems.

The three founding members of the CAI also want more companies to support the project since its value depends largely on how many people buy into it. “We believe that a lot of creators will be happy to provide this information. And over time, consumers will come to expect content to come with attribution,” said Belsky.