In protecting your copyright online it has long been known that uploading your images onto the net is a risky idea, where you have to weigh out the good and the bad. The good being as a photographer you can share your images with potentially the whole world and getting your work known. The negative would be that your work may be pirated.
Photographers are always told to fill out the metadata of your images because with more information about who the image belongs to the bigger the chance someone won’t just take your image. To protect your image even further you can water mark them. All these different methods I wrote about here.
A recent study by the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC is a representative for major news publishers, agencies and industry vendors) have just completed a study into the use of images on social media websites, with the big three stripping the metadata from uploaded images.
The IPTC tested social media sites and systems on four criteria’s; If any metadata was shown by the sites web interface, if the site showed metadata did it show the most prevalent details like describing the image and claiming copyright of the image, is it possible to down load the image via the right click save as command also was there any embedded copy right information when this was done and finally the image was downloaded via the systems own user interface (if possible) and checked for embedded metadata.
You can see the results below or here
Facebook and Flikr were the culprits for removing metadata with twitter also removing information but not being as bad but still removing information. Google+ surprisingly for me passed all criteria’s with flying colours.
IPTC managing director Micheal Steidl said in a statement
“A social networking site is only as good as the information its members choose to share,…… If users provide rights data and descriptions within their images, these data shouldn’t be removed without their knowledge.”
Steidl is right that, a social network is as only good as its member’s information, why do they strip the images. One reason for stripping the images is to reduce the file size, making it quicker to load on the multiple platforms that social media now inhabits.
David Riecks of ControlledVocabulary.com and a member of the testing team said;
“Professional photographers work hard to get specific information like captions, copyright and contact information embedded into their image files, therefore it’s often a shock when they learn that the social media system they chose has removed the information without any warning to them,”
Yes there is a shock when we first find out that metadata has been stripped but it is something that has been known yet untested. Now with a test we can be surer.
The Issue as I see it is that in images being put on social media they are becoming orphaned from their owners. The current perception is that if an image is online and has no metadata it is fair game to be used because you don’t know who the owner of the image is, which got Toyota in hot water a few years back.
With Facebook the fact that anyone who can view your profile images and can download them full size (the uploaded size), without notification and without agreement of the user.
This study has brought out some useless comments from the usual people claiming you shouldn’t post images online and if you do it is your own fault. This is a ridicules view point in this digital age. Paper folios are no longer sent all around as it is quicker to direct someone to an online gallery. Yes the paper folio is still important and there are still portfolio days but to have a wide audience you need an online presence.
The other fact is that metadata does not just hold copyright information, but the information of the camera lens, geo-location, time and place. Giving the viewer as much information as possible, legitimizing the image.
Though there are valid reasons for stripping metadata, to protect the user. The internet is full of nice people and some super weird. For a casual user sharing images of their child or a young person sharing images of them and their pets, anybody could see the geo information of their house leaving it open for an internet weirdo to leave his dark cave and go for a real life view. Yes it is extreme but you can understand it.
How to balance the need for privacy and the need to protect copyright
How to we balance all these situations, while allowing photographers the protection they deserve for their images and allowing a social media user the right to protect their privacy while sharing images (it sounds strange but that is what it is).
One way would be to strip data on upload and then allow data to be added or to give the options of what part of the metadata a user wishes to preserve.
If there can be a compromise and a change in the way social media treats the photographic images there needs to be a loud voice from its users saying they want change, without it nothing will be the same.
Over to you
How do you think social media sites could protect your images? Were you surprised by the study’s results? Do you think there is a need to make a change?
Let me know what your opinion in the comment box below.
I have a final question to wordpress; how would you score on such a test?