When protecting your copyright online it has long been known that uploading your images onto the net is a risky idea. You have to weigh good and the bad. The good, as a photographer you can share your images with potentially the whole world and getting your work known. The bad, your work may be pirated or stolen (here is my own experience of my images being stolen).
Photographers are always told to fill out the metadata on their 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)has just been completed, looking into the use of images on social media websites, with the big three sites stripping the metadata from uploaded images.
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 download the image via the right click save as command.
Is there any embedded copy right information when 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 main culprits for removing metadata with Twitter also removing some information. Google+ surprisingly for me passed all criteria used 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 (in the back of our minds) yet untested.
The Issue as I see it is, images being put on social media 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 images on your profile can download them at the uploaded size, without notification and the 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 point of view. In the digital age. Paper folios are no longer sent all around as it is quicker to direct someone to an online gallery or email a pdf. 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 ones. 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 do we balance all these situations. On one hand allowing photographers images to have the protection they deserve and at the same time allowing a social media users 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?
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If you wish to get notifications when I post on my blog, you can follow me on Twitter@apertureF64, on Facebook.com/aperturesixtyfour or alternatively be emailed by subscribing below. All images are the Copyright of Benjamin Rowe , ALL RIGHTS Reserved unless credited to another photographer. For more information please read my Copyright Statement