This isn’t an anti-American, anti-government or anti-big business rant, it’s simply a plea for fairer play.
We continually stress the need for our photographers to add good and relevant keywords to their images, what we in the trade call the metadata. There are several reasons for this, and by far the most important to us is that without sensible, accurate keywords the most wonderful photograph in the world will never be found and therefore never sold.
The second most important reason is that once the picture sets off on its pilgrimage around the world it will be carrying with it its own passport or ID card, so that everyone who encounters it will know who it is and where it came from. If you have a home to go to you’ll never be an orphan.
Yet the British government is contemplating passing legislation on “orphan works” that could enable the use of a photographer’s intellectual property without prior permission and without a full and diligent search for the copyright holder. In “Digital Opportunity“, a report by Professor Ian Hargreaves, orphan works are defined as ‘works to which access is effectively barred because the copyright holder cannot be traced’.
No problem for our plucky little photographs. They’re armed with their passports and ID cards from the Fortunate Kingdom of Metadataland.
But what if, on their travels around the world, they venture into the Despotic Dictatorship of Facebookistan? Or the Democratic People’s Republic of Twitterbia? Or the Confederated States of Flickrania? Or any of the SocMed Pact empires?
Also no problem — for Facebookistan, Twitterbia and Flickrania, that is. They will automatically strip the photographs of their identity. The Fortunate Kingdom of Metadataland passport will be routinely removed and destroyed. Our photographs’ individuality will be erased. They are then free to carry on their journey without let or hindrance, but now descamisados; rootless, unidentifiable and orphaned.
This is what will happen if you upload a photograph to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr, as well as to Pictify, Photobucket and a host of other websites. Your metadata, your EXIF data and everything else that identifies the image will be discarded. It will become an Orphan Work.
Send a picture to the BBC after a winsome presenter pleads with you to upload your funniest animal photographs and you’ll find that suddenly the world’s cuddliest corporation will own your image outright in perpetuity without recompense.
Because they can, I guess. If you can steal, and the law permits you to get away with it, then it would be dumb not to steal.
According to a study by the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC), major social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Flickr remove copyright information and other useful embedded data from pictures posted by their users.
Some sites don’t automatically deprive images of their data. Google+ and Tumblr come away with less blood on their hands. fotoLibra even ADDS to your metadata, to make it safer still.
Remember the fuss in December when Instagram altered its terms & conditions so that on January 16th the one billion images uploaded to their site would become their absolute property, with no recompense to the photographers? The outcry was massive, and grudgingly they had to back down. But no apology was ever forthcoming and their lawyers were still screaming and spitting defiance and denying malfeasance after the deadline had been and gone.
Have a look at IPTC’s photo metadata test results for Social Media sites. I’m afraid they don’t surprise me one bit.
There must be some affordable way of embedding metadata in a digital image which would destroy that image if it were removed or tampered with.
It’ll have to wait for a better coder than me.