Sleazy Prop Transparency

A Prop Thief's Method of Choice

Every day there seems to be a new fracas about prop stealing. A lot of people see props as some sort of currency, as precious items that can be exchanged for other props, for friendship, or for lord knows what. They see themselves in their choices of props, and perhaps avatar props, more than any other item of "clothing," bear witness to the old aphorism that "every picture tells a story."

When those props are suddenly stolen, people get upset. I guess I can understand that. Still,

Get over it.

The simple fact is that anyone anyone with a screengrabber (a way to grab the computer screen as a picture, built-in on some operating systems) can grab any prop on the screen as a picture, and with a few minutes (or even seconds) of editing, they have an identical-looking prop.

They don't even have to be careful about masking the props. Prop masks can be easily extracted from screen grabs by just comparing the grabbed screen, full of props, to the original room GIF, which will be propless: Take the difference between the pictures, smash-down the levels a couple of times, reduce to grayscale, and.... (or as an alternative: set the magic wand tolerance to zero, turn off magic wand antialiasing, and click in one of the large black areas; invert the selection, & fill with white)

...while not perfect, 90% of the mask-extraction work is already done for you, needing only a quick touchup with the paintbrush tool. If you're in a hurry, skip the tounchup and just hit "copy" and "paste."

Screen grab
Mask made automatically (QuicKeys on the march...) by image differencing against "pgate.gif"

That, in a nutshell, is the essence of screengrab prop stealing. For very clever and technologically-gifted prop snatchers, there are some even more-effective and more-automated methods. Props, like anything else on the internet, are just data the whole point of the internet is to transmit and exchange data, and you can never know what might happen to that data on the other end(s). It may be stored, altered, re-used, fused and abused.

There's nothing you can do about it, so stop, take a breath, and go on with your life. Face it, other people will get a hold of the pix you used. Don't get too possesive about them. In fact, ask yourself and answer truthfully did you really own those photos of Eddie Murphy and scans of Vargas girls, to begin with?