1. Posted September 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    I think I need a stiff shot of whisky after that post Bob, and I think you must have had one before you clicked the “publish” button.

    “Be militant about your rights. Your images are YOUR work and you are granting agencies the right to sell them for their cut of the income.” Absolutely, as the copyright owners, there is absolutely no harm in questioning these things and no excuses for agencies to shirk questions asked. IF the agencies are removing or not protecting the metadata, the “simple business” reason probably comes to mind for a lot of contributors. That would make perfect business sense, those who buy from us are anonymous, and to make sure there is no possibility of a circle, we are anonymous too. Which is all well and well, but not if the DMCA stipulates that it’s not. Anyway, if it is happening who knows the reasons for it, clarification really needs to come from the agencies, as we can only speculate if we don’t hear from them. Time for another drink 🙂

  2. Posted September 7, 2011 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    Hi Bob long read…We were already thinking about this issue for a long time. You really got deep in the matter, thanks for that. I think that agencies should not only let all “embedded” ownership/copyright untouched but also always mention the name of the copyright holder as a credit line…also after distribution ;( Very good post…stuff to talk about in Berlin for sure!

  3. Posted September 7, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi Bob!

    Thank you for taking the time with this! Your work and research is appreciated. I do, however, think you have a point about the removal/lack of preserving copyright metadata. Unfortunately we will only see the full effect of it many years from now when the images are spread wider and orphanworks issues start to crop up.

    An issue you haven’t mentioned is why would any agency remove copyright information deliberately. My first thought on the matter was that it would allow buyers to find and contact you directly for images, cutting out the ‘middleman’ but again, maybe I am too pessimistic.

    Either way, Thankyou for taking the time to pull this all together!

  4. Ryan Jorgensen
    Posted September 16, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    I must say after reading this post I feel disappointed (to say the least) with the policies employed by a couple of the microstock agencies listed above.

    I’ve included IPTC copyright data in every image distributed to stock since I started out in 2006, with the complete trust this information will end up unmodified on the end users computer.

    Photography to me is an art-form and to loose a credit after spending (sometimes) days on a image is just gutting. Almost akin to scratching the signature off a painting being sold in a gallery.

    Legal jargon aside, i believe all agencies have a moral responsibility to keep copyright metadata intact, for the sake of the author who (in many cases) have put their heart and soul into its creation. regardless of search speeds or ‘other’ agendas.

  5. Lori
    Posted September 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I am so glad I found your post! As a newbie to (micro)stock photography, I will be refocusing my efforts towards those agencies that demonstrate responsible policies that reflect photographer’s/contributors’ rights. Without contributors, what would the agencies have to market?

  6. Posted September 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Dear Bob
    I don’t know if Istockphoto remove metadata from any images, but for six months now I have made it a standard procedure to completely fill-in the file info section in PSD (CS3) before posting any images. This image,


    was posted on iSP in August and has a full copyright/Description/Keyword file info section completed. I just downloaded it (Xsmall size = 1 credit) and all the data is there, exactly as the original master JPEG). So, iSP don’t strip file info?

  7. Posted September 18, 2011 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    Thanks for all the digging and work Bob. You’ve done a great job a raising an important issue and opening up a big box of discussion.

  8. Posted October 1, 2011 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    Hmm interesting debate 🙂
    Just one small addition to what have been said below and should be translated as:

    The agency doesn’t claim to the author, nor does the agency claim to own the work of art, but merely facilitates its purchase and gives a small percentage of the sale price for its services to the photographer.

    instead of :

    “The agency doesn’t claim to the author, nor does the agency claim to own the work of art, but merely facilitates its purchase and keeps a small percentage of the sale price for its services.”

    No offense her to Stefan what at the moment I still thing have one of the most “fair” agencies but is perfectly valid for iStock for example.

  9. Posted October 2, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Well, two points in Dreamstime response are really funny, however it is also a slap into the contributors face:

    1) …agencies take small part of the price… – WTF?! 70-85% is very far beyond “a small part”!

    2) “Dreamstime is not responsible for modifications that occur to Images as part of its automatic posting process.” – HUH??? And who is? Contributors? Do contributors write Dreamstime server scripts or what?!

    Together with PACA response there is one strong message – we (agencies) do not give a damn about your fair share or rights whatsoever. Unless there is serious legal pressure against us, we will continue to push you as much as we please anytime we wish.

    I absolutely agree that the second point in the DMCA is broken by stripping metadata. Because pictures without metadata are much easier to steal and much harder to track. All agencies must be aware of thousands and thousands of pictures downloaded from microstock and available for free download across many download servers. What about tracking clients doing this?

  10. bobbigmac
    Posted October 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
    Edit 10-Oct-11: Dreamstime have just let me know that they have now modified their system to embed copyright metadata in every single purchased image, and are currently in the process of applying the metadata content to thumbnails/previews too. This is really good to see 🙂
    • Posted October 20, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Yes it is good to see and no doubt it’s a change brought about partly by you publicising it. Well done to Dreamstime also for acting so responsibly. It’s good to remind the agencies sometimes that they hold our photos, I think they forget sometimes. 🙂

  11. Posted October 21, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Thanks for waking some agencies up. I mentioned that problem before in my blog and I am glad that agencies start to learn that there is no use in removing copyright metadata from their images. Good work!

  12. Posted December 5, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Agreed R. Kneschke. We at StockFuel also believe in leaving all of the copyrighted metadata in user-generated content uploads.

  13. Posted July 7, 2012 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Good article. I definitely appreciate this site. Stick with it!

  14. Tommi
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    I used to be a Lobbyist. In that role, I learned that laws that violate Public Policy (i.e. violate laws on the books) are unenforceable. For instance, it is unlawful for a company to discriminate on the basis of age in the hiring/firing process. They can insert language in a Separation Agreement when a Senior is fired (for instance) that says the employee waives their rights as to age discrimination. However, if the employee knows enough to check with a qualified employment law attorney, they will find out that this clause in the Separation Agreement is uneforceable because it violates public policy.

    What is needed to protect photographer’s rights in a 100% iron-clad way, is an amendment to the DMCA that prohibits the removal of the copyright & authorship for any reason by any seller of an image UNLESS that seller has outright purchased he copyright. If the right lobbyist were to champion this, the public interest of tens of thousands of photographers should outweigh the interest of the agencies in this case. also, now that dreamstime and others have taken measures to preserve the metadata, this proves it can be done without a negative impact on the marketplace.

    And, there are many, many consumer laws and laws regarding fair trade, etc. that may supercede the type of defense PACA and Dreamstime suggested. Just because they have some sort of obscure language in their contracts with photographers that the photographers themselves are modifying the images by using the automated submission tools, this does not mean that such vague language constitutes adequate notice that their copyright notice and authorship will be stripped. Moreover, regarding “intentionally facillitating . . .infringement”, I believe it may be possible to bring a negligence claim into this argument. As i seem to recall, I believe some state laws may consider negligent language as intentional (I would need to go back and research this).

    A good lobbyist needs to make the case that a DMCA amendment is necessary that provides better protection of photographers. I cannot think of another industry where an Agent or Broker hides or fails to disclose who they represent because they are insecure about someone going around them. That is a business problem and does not justify obliterating the only protection that a photographer has with respect to the DMCA–their copyright and authorship notices.

    One need only look at the mortgage banks who had to pay steep fines to understand that “just because something is buried in contract language” does not mean that it is going to hold up in court.

    I, too, am not an attorney and these are just my own opinions and not presented as legal facts. However, it seems morally bankrupt and unconscionable–and possibly actionable–that one’s “agent” would not take every measure possible the prevent theft of services from those they represent as well as (in my opinion only) clearly facilitating the infringement they KNOW will be possible and that any reasonable “Agent” should be aware of WILL happen if the image is stripped of that information.

    One might liken that to signing an agreement with a bank that absolves them of liability if you use their online banking system to deposit monies (i.e. a “Proceed at your own risk” type notice), and then your account is robbed because the bank failed to take reasonable precautions to protect your money such as adequate server security. Lawsuits would abound!
    This example may not constitute a perfect legal comparison, but it should demonstrate the spirit behind my point.

    One of the photographer trade associations might consider engaging a lobbyist to work toward a DMCA amendment that will adequately protect photographers or might select a large state such as CA (one of the 28 where I lobbied) that could be a model for state by state legislation that could be promoted through state legislator member organizations. Contact me through this site if you have any questions and the site owner doesn’t mind!

  15. Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m late to this incendiary blog, but no less appreciative. It sucked when the blog was begun and sucks that much more today. Nothing’s changed. Not a single place I upload to is compliant with fair trade. Lopsided doesn’t begin to describe the situation so we play in and make the most of it.

  16. Erika
    Posted October 7, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Hi Bob, interesting article. Could it be that metadata is stripped off when optimising the images? I optimise the images for my website though Tiny PNG and just discovered that when I open an image in Photoshop after optimising it, it does’t show metadata anymore, which is a problem.
    It could well be something in the software.

    • bobbigmac
      Posted October 8, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      It is partly due to that yes, but making images small is not the only issue. There are plenty of ways to do so, while still fulfilling the DMCA requirements. This is particularly relevant to the purchased images, which have no need to be extremely minified and should preserve metadata (but mostly don’t).

2 Trackbacks

  1. By The Case for Metadata Retention in Microstock on September 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    […] Davies from picWorkflow recently published a very interesting blog post exploring metadata stripping by microstock agencies. It’s long and thorough and well worth […]

  2. […] Do microstock agencies violate photographer's DMCA copyright? […]

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