When Digital Watermarks Go Wrong

Freedom FOREVER.

Stamps, like so many products that live digital lives, are susceptible to thievery. An unscrupulous yet correspondence-happy individual could ostensibly take an image of a postage stamp found online and use a print of that image to send birthday cards or holiday greetings or action figures sold on eBay. To prevent this, the U.S. Postal Service employs a crude-but-effective form of theft prevention: In the stamps it displays in its online store, the mail service simply crosses out the value of the stamp. 

So, for example, here's the USPS's Earthscapes collection, with each stamp's price -- these are Forever Stamps, which means they are literally priceless -- crossed out:

470140-01-main-900x695.jpeg

And here's the USPS's $0.32 Aloha stamp collection:

788840-01-main-900x695.jpeg

And here's the service's Santa-and-reindeer-themed Forever Stamp holiday collection:

679840-01-main-900x695.jpeg

Anyway, you get the idea -- postal watermarking, via slash mark. And I mention it because, as the blog One Foot Tsunami points out, this regular practice of digital safeguarding can lead to some unintended irony. Here, for example, is the USPS's Four Flags collection:

foreverish.jpeg

Yes. Ouch. (And also: touché?) Now, to be fair, there is literally nothing on any of the four Four Flags stamps that could be crossed out without occasioning some similarly ironic hilarity. And anyway, the watermarking is sort of -- just a little bit -- poetic. If not, one hopes, prophetic.

Hat tip Rob Meyer.

Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Technology

Just In