Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Digital File Delivery & Orphaned Works Legislation

At the time I converted my image capture techniques from film based capture to digital, I spent a great deal of time learning from publishers, graphic designers & pre-press operators how to best deliver the new digital based images. Getting information like optimum colorspace for reproduction when preparing files for delivery helps to insure accurate reading and color reproduction once the files leave my hands. Basic color corrections, cropping, sharpening are all part of the new digital workflow now done in house by most photographers prior to delivery.

In my queries to designers and the rest, I was amazed the learn how often image providers deliver files without basic information regarding copyright, photographers contact information, etc. embedded in the meta-data of each file they deliver. More than once I have received calls from publishers or designers wanting to know if a certain photo they are intending to run was mine. It seems there was no attribution or copyright information attached to these files and they were now attempting to track down the source of that photo before sending it to press.

Now it seems the need for we, as photographers and image creators, to identify ourselves as creators and copyright holders of the images we make and deliver, publish on blogs, transmit via the web (email, ftp, etc) is even more urgent. The pending "Orphan Works" legislation would make available  to image users any photographs, text, or other copyrightable material when the owners are difficult or even impossible to find. As I understand it, when a work is difficult to attribute to a creator, any potential user of that image need only to register their intent to use the work with the copyright office, placing the onus of proof of ownership on the creator to check with the copyright office regularly to review literally tens of thousands of descriptions of "orphan" photographs submitted each week. After registering intent, infringers then need only to pay an orphan works search service to run an automated query of the available registries. This dilligent search will take only minutes, after which the search service will provide the intended infringer a certificate of a failed search for attribution of that image. The infringer will then be free and clear to make any and all uses of unattributed images they either found on the web, in their file drawers, or scanned from books or magazines where your name was either lost from the meta-data, cropped when scanned, etc.

Now comes the tricky part. I have learned that many website hosting services, image sharing sites like Flickr & Photobucket will strip meta-data from image files when they are uploaded to the various servers. Rule of thumb when using these services are to carefully read the Terms of Service before joining and uploading anything. I would also suggest that we all contact our web hosting providers to ask whether or not they make use of the practice of stripping meta-data from files. If, in fact, your web host does strip meta-data, it is important for you to let them know why it is so very urgent that they discontinue the practice. Contact Adobe and encourage them to create a meta-data lock which would prevent that information from being removed once the information is attached and locked within the image in any of their image processing software.

Be sure to include copyright information along with your contact information, any rights & use restriction info, even use license information in all files you produce and especially to all files you deliver to clients. Make it part of your standard workflow along with raw file processing, color-correction, sharpening... Your doing so proves your intent to protect your work and should the image be found elsewhere, your original file containing that information could very well save your ass by proving the end user willfully stripped that info from your file. Do this for each and every image you distribute! It's important!

The easiest way to embed your information in your image files is using Photoshop (I haven't really spent any time using Adobe's Lightroom or Apple's Aperature software, but assume these programs also contain tolls for attaching meta-data infor to these files). Go to File>Info and then simply fill in the data in the provided fields. There are windows there for all of your contact info, camera data, exposure data, license info, copyright notice, etc. Using CS, CS2 & CS3 Bridge, there are simple tools for creating meta-data templates to save and then batch attach to large numbers of files with a simple keystroke.

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