Protecting Metadata for Photographers And Users of Digital Media Files

Three prominent industry organizations have just launched a comprehensive and long-needed campaign to permanently embed standardized metadata and copyright-status information in digital files. The program is intended to benefit those who create, as well as use, digital photos, text, audio and video files.

The impetus behind the initiative was provided by the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). A number of trade organizations representing photo agencies and the visual arts community are also supporting this project. The goal is to retain critical metadata throughout the lifecycle of digital files as they proceed through the various workflow stages.

“Metadata is an important driver for business productivity, so it should always be retained,” says IPTC President Michael Steidel. He explains that far too much data is currently lost: “It is time for creators, distributors and software vendors to work together to bring about conditions where business can make use of metadata to track and preserve media files, copyright and other rights—as this is critical for the creative industries that depend upon that for their existence.”

The London-based IPTC, an international consortium of news agencies, publishers and vendors, created the Embedded Metadata Manifesto upon which this initiative is based. The five key principles of the Manifesto are: 1) accurate metadata is essential to describe, identify and track digital media; 2) media file formats should accept embedded metadata that can be recognized and utilized by different software systems; 3) metadata fields should be consistent across various metadata formats; 4) copyright management information must never be removed from the files; and 5) other metadata should only be removed from files by agreement with the copyright holders.

For commercial photographers and their clients, this approach to embedded descriptive information means greater automation in the post-capture process as well as a more efficient workflow—all of which can save time and money. For everyone who creates and uses digital files, it means the efficient delivery, successful retrieval, and improved rights management of our important assets.