Metadata is a general term referring, with regard to digital images, to the collection of data that can be embedded in a digital image. Extensive information can be embedded in a digital image, from technical details of the image capture device, description of the content of the image, keywords, and copyright information. It is the latter subject that will be discussed in this section.
There are many ways to embed metadata in a digital image, and a huge range of software that enables the input of metadata. Clearly discussing the merits or otherwise of all the software that supports the embedding of metadata in digital images is beyond the scope of this article. For the sake of simplicity this article will focus on the embedding of metadata with Photoshop/Bridge only. However, at the end of this article you will find references to other articles on this subject, some of which will refer to other software.
Because this article is about copyright protection only, all the other invaluable and extensive uses of metadata will not be discussed.
In essence what is required is to embed the copyright notice in the image metadata, and this really should be done immediately the image is captured, or at least as soon as the image has been transferred from the camera to the hard drive of your computer. Using Bridge, one can select all the images shot that day, and by right clicking and selecting ‘File Info’, embed the necessary information.
Even better, set up a metadata template using the File Info feature. Enter your copyright notice details as required into the IPTC panels, then save this as a metadata template by clicking the flyout menu symbol at the top right of the metadata panel, and select “Save Metadata Template”, choose a name for your template, and save it.
In future when you wish to embed your copyright notice in a set of images via Bridge, select the images, right click and select “File Info”. When the IPTC panel appears, click the flyout menu symbol at the top right of the IPTC panel, choose from the list of templates that appear the copyright notice template you previously saved. Finally, ensure the correct year is quoted in your copyright notice, then click OK.
In this way you can easily embed your copyright notice in hundreds or even thousands of images in one simple operation.
IPTC Contact panel.
Enter full and comprehensive contact details in this panel.
IPTC Status panel.
Copyright Status field, select Copyrighted, this article assumes that you are wishing to assert your copyright rights!
Copyright Notice field, enter as detailed in the Copyright Notice article, but contact details can be omitted if they have been entered in the IPTC Contact panel.
Rights Usage Terms field. you can add here any special rights usage terms you may wish to employ for the image(s) concerned. If you wish you could make a statement to the effect that you will permit copying for educational purposes, it really can be anything you like. As you are the copyright owner you have full and exclusive rights to set down any conditions and obligations on potential users that seem right to you.
The Save for Web feature in Photoshop is commonly used when preparing images for the web.This is so because Save For Web minimises the file size by not embedding an ICC profile, and, unfortunately, by stripping out all the metadata, including the IPTC metadata panels. So Save For Web strips out our copyright notice in all versions up to and including Photoshop CS2, but there is an option in CS3 and onward to preserve metadata in Save For Web.
However CS3 preserves all the metadata in the image, and you may not wish that to happen either. It would have been nice to have an option just to preserve the IPTC Contact and IPTC Status panels in the Save For Web feature.
One can work round these problems of course, but it is a bit clunky and time wasting to have to do this. The main purpose of this section is just to highlight to photographers that Save For Web in versions up to CS2 will strip out your copyright notice, this is really bad news, and to protect your copyright in these versions you must put the copyright notice back into the Save For Web files, using Bridge for example.
If anyone has a really neat solution to this issue that is fully automated we would be happy to publish details of the method you have devised.
There are a number of excellent web based articles and other resources with more detailed information regarding metadata and copyright protection. Here are some of them;
Professional Digital Workflow – Adding Metadata: Avoiding Common Pitfalls discussing ways in which metadata can be accidentally lost, and how to avoid these problems.
International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) – Custom Panels User Guide; PDF with comprehensive detail of what is to be entered into each IPTC metadata field.
Stock Artists Alliance – Video Tutorials on using the IPTC Panels
International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) – Photo Metadata White Paper 2007; An interesting discussion document detailing the importance of metadata, current standards, and proposals for future developments such as ‘write once’ metadata fields.
Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) – Because metadata can be stripped out, PLUS have developed a non-profit registry of rights holders, licenses and images. PLUS can enable anyone who has an image to obtain rights and ownership information for that image, regardless of whether the metadata is stripped out or not.
Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guide Lines (UPDIG) – Guidelines Version 3.0 Metadata