You may not realize it, but there is a war going on under the surface of the internet. All those pictures. Someone owns them. Lots of people use them – including you and me – without any right. 

The fault lines are being drawn over the cyber map of the world and a few companies are part of the picture. We look at three today that stake a claim to this interesting market opportunity: Adobe Inc (NASDAQ:ADBE), Image Protect Inc (OTCMKTS:IMTL), and Shutterstock Inc (NYSE:SSTK).

Adobe Inc (NASDAQ:ADBE) is a leading diversified cloud player that plays a central role in the evolution of the online digital image marketplace. Its Digital Media segment provides tools and solutions that enable individuals, small and medium businesses, and enterprises to create, publish, promote, and monetize their digital content. Its flagship product is Creative Cloud, a subscription service that allows customers to download and install the latest versions of its creative products.

This segment serves traditional content creators, Web application developers, and digital media professionals, as well as their management in marketing departments and agencies, companies, and publishers. 

The company’s Digital Marketing segment offers solutions for how digital advertising and marketing are created, managed, executed, measured, and optimized. This segment provides analytics, social marketing, targeting, media optimization, digital experience management, cross-channel campaign management, audience management, and video delivery and monetization solutions to digital marketers, advertisers, publishers, merchandisers, Web analysts, chief marketing officers, chief information officers, and chief revenue officers. Its Print and Publishing segment offers products and services, such as e-learning solutions, technical document publishing, Web application development, and high-end printing, as well as publishing needs of technical and business, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) printing businesses. 

The company markets and licenses its products and services directly to enterprise customers through its sales force, as well as to end-users through app stores and through its Website at It also distributes products and services through a network of distributors, value-added resellers, systems integrators, independent software vendors, retailers, and OEMs. 

ADBE shares haven’t really done much of anything over the past week, with the stock logging virtually no net movement over that period. ADBE shares have been relatively flat over the past month of action, with very little net movement during that period. Given the risk aversion we have seen in the large cap tech space, this is actually perhaps something of a victory.

Adobe Inc (NASDAQ:ADBE) pulled in sales of $2.8B in its last reported quarterly financials, representing top line growth of 24.1%. In addition, the company is battling some balance sheet hurdles, with cash levels struggling to keep up with current liabilities ($3.7B against $7.8B, respectively).

Right now, sliding between the major moving averages, investors are waiting for the next move to build a fresh directional understanding of the stock. 

Image Protect Inc (OTCMKTS:IMTL) is a far more speculative name on this list. But it shouldn’t be overlooked. The opportunity is quite interesting given the company’s latest technological developments.

The key here is IMTL’s “Fotofy Image Marketplace”, which represents nothing other than perhaps the most interesting solution in the world right now to the problem of image rights infringement.

The company is working to drive traction with an in-image ad platform that creates a confluence of satisfaction among image owners and image users. The result is a new “third way” solution to resolving the inherent tension that has been so problematic for copyright enforcers in the digital image market since the birth of the internet.

The latest announcement from the company details the launch of its ad network, which the company notes is “a significant step toward translating our Fotofy strategy into tangible revenue growth,” commented Matthew Goldman, CEO of Image Protect. “We already have strong prepotency in place due to a rapidly progressing development timeline and very strong organic user growth on the Fotofy Platform. The Ad Network unleashes a powerful new capacity for monetizing this progress in the form of incoming cash flow for our shareholders.”

According to the company, this is a huge niche. Recent market research from eMarketer now forecasts all-time record global digital ad spending in 2019, with total spending jumping 17.6% year-over-year to $333.25 billion, pushing digital ad spending up to account for roughly half of all global ad spending for the first time in history. Inside of this dynamic, the in-image ad market is set to top $50 billion in 2019 and continues to grow rapidly, creating a powerful context for the Company’s newly developed technology.

The company also just announced – last week – that it has launched its Fotofy Analytics Dashboard to augment user insight into and control of the placement of images that may end up driving a personal revenue stream as the Fotofy network gains further traction.

The stock may be a sub-penny special. But don’t let that fool you: this is a real solution that has genuine potential to be a game-changer in this thriving market segment.

Shutterstock Inc (NYSE:SSTK) is another key player in the space. The company provides digital content, and tools and services in North America, Europe, and internationally.

It offers digital imagery services that include licensed photographs, vectors, illustrations, and video clips, which is used in visual communications, such as Websites, digital and print marketing materials, corporate communications, books, publications, and video content; and music services comprising music tracks and sound effects that are used to complement digital imagery. 

The company provides its services under the Shutterstock, Bigstock, Offset, Shutterstock Select, Shutterstock Custom, Shutterstock Editorial, and Shutterstock Music names, as well as Superior search, Application programming interface, Showcase, and Editor and Editor Pro tools to enhance workflow and project management needs, and search capabilities. 

It serves marketing professionals and organizations, media and broadcast companies, and small and medium-sized businesses through online platform. 

It will be interesting to see if the stock can break out of its recent sideways action. Over the past week, the stock is net flat, and looking for something new to spark things. The key level for SSTK is clearly pegged at the $35 area. It’s important that the stock holds above the level to keep the basing dynamic in play.Shutterstock Inc (NYSE:SSTK) pulled in sales of $161.7M in its last reported quarterly financials, representing top line growth of 3.3%. In addition, the company has a strong balance sheet, with cash levels far exceeding current liabilities ($259.1M against $228.8M).