Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Copyright and Metadata

There is currently legislation making its way through Congress that would allow anyone to use and reproduce any images deemed to be 'orphaned,' as in not having a known owner. This Orphan Works bill may eventually pass into law.

What would this mean for photographers? Well if you don't attach metadata, including copyright and contact info to your images placed on the internet, they could potentially be used by anyone, for any reason. The problem is metadata can be stripped from an image, so then the copyright owner of the image could be intentionally 'not found.'

Suing for copyright infrindgement at that point would give the owner damages according to the perceived value of similar images on the market. So if a similar image can be had for cheap using royalty stock photography, then guess what? You'll get little redemption.

We are entering a new era where copyright is of little concern to people. Look at the music, entertainment and software industry. They have taken huge hits because of people copying materials illegally. Will photographers have to deal with the same issues? It seems like we're on the way.

I don't like to propagate this kind of negative news, but I feel it is necessary in this instance. It's not really 'negative.' It is what it is. It's simply up to us to respond accordingly.

There are some ways to reduce, though not eradicate, the likelihood of copyright infridgment of your images. Make sure you attach copyright info to all the images that leave your computer. Go to Photoshop and File Info. Do NOT use the 'save for web' photoshop option because it strips images of some of the metadata. Apparently Adobe will be coming out with a plug-in tool to safeguard the metadata when use the 'save for web' option. Not sure when.

Another option is to use PLUS, which is 'an international non-profit initiative on a mission to simplify and facilitate the communication and management of image rights.' This coalition was created in order to respond to these ongoing image rights issues in various industries. Using PLUS will facilitate the standardization of licensing language, greatly reducing the common misunderstandings between art buyers and photographers over copyright issues. Additionally, images will have embedded codes in them revealing exact usage rights, as well as copyright and contact info of photographers.

Something else you can do is register your images with the copyright office, which I haven't done to be honest. If you find someone has used your images in any way without your permission, you have the right to take them to court. Having your images registered will give you a much better chance in court, even though you already own the copyright. Here is some more info, offered by ASMP. The form to fill out is here.

Feel free to post any additional info in the comments section.

No comments: