Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Metadata Report

I've written in the past about photographic metadata on web sites. There had been some grumbling in copyright circles about how metadata was routinely stripped from photographs, especially on news sites, denying a credit to the photographer.

News outlets are excused from a requirement to credit in the UK's moral rights legislation. This omission, which dates from the 1988 act, clearly predates the web and comes from an era where to give a credit would mean taking up precious page real estate (although this wasn't the only reason). In an online electronic world this should no longer be a valid reason since metadata can always be included in an image. I should note that the Guardian (if not others) do find space to credit photographers ... but what about web sites?

I thought it would be interesting to check out a few of the major news web sites to see whether any creator information was encoded in the images. I realise this is a straw poll and won't apply to absolutely every image on a site.
  • The Times are including their URL as source metadata but nothing else. They also include a text credit including one for the photographer.
  • The BBC news web site includes a creator metadata item as well as a burned-in credit.
  • The Guardian gives both text credits and includes a fair amount of useful metadata, although it's in a Photoshop namespace rather than the expected places so you may have to look at the raw XML to find it.
  • The Express occasionally has burned-in credits but I couldn't find any metadata.
  • I couldn't find any metadata in the images I checked on The Mirror web site.
  • Briefly venturing overseas ... Reuters and the New York Times do give good text credits as, usually, does the South China Morning Post but I could find no metadata in the photos I checked.
  • Finally the Daily Mail. Many of their online images not only include creator metadata but can also include a substantial amount more. This is on top of always having a visible credit 'burned' into one corner of the image. One image, illustrating a story about a child being taken away by social services, included a legal warning that the family must not be named and that the case was subject to court proceedings ... in the metadata. A front page story today about the raising of the Costa Concordia featured a large image from Reuters, with again a substantial amount of metadata which I assume originated with Reuters. Unfortunately not all the images on the web site (that I looked at) include metadata but I have to give the Mail credit for including such extensive metadata when they do include it.
So on the basis of this straw poll I believe that, in most cases, news web sites are finding space to credit the sources of their images on the page but few seem to realise the usefulness and importance of metadata. The Times makes use of it to point out that the image came from their web site, which is a variation on a theme, and I have elsewhere seen source or creator metadata that only said something like 'other' or 'record company' and agencies are mentioned far more than the photographers. So on the whole there is room for improvement.

We should all try to include metadata in images published on the web. I certainly try (and usually remember). I've looked at news here simply because of the moral rights exemption (which I'm glad to see most are ignoring) but if your web site isn't news then you may well have no excuse.

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