IPTC Photo Metadata Conference: Orphan Works Presentation Overview

Sarah Saunders, from photo metadata consultancy, Electric Lane gives an overview of a presentation she delivered at the IPTC Photo Metadata Conference held in London earlier this year in regard to ‘Orphan Works‘.  This a fairly hot topic in the whole image rights industry and covers the use (or more often ‘misuse’) of images where the original owner cannot be identified.  Sarah outlines 4 key recommendations:

  • Positive identification not orphan grabs
  • Labels to help image users
  • Copyright protection for all works
  • The need for content registries and exchanges

The content registries and exchanges issue perhaps has most relevance for Digital Asset Management:

Content exchanges consist of access to identified content, rights information and delivery mechanisms. They are being promoted as a way of finding rightsholders in a cross media environment. In the UK, The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will be reporting soon on its consultation about a UK Digital Content Exchange (DCE). Image libraries are in fact already content exchanges. In some ways they are ahead of other industries. Where the image library industry needs development is in the area of unique identifiers, so that images can be properly tracked in the web environment.” [Read More]

Sarah also makes reference to the PLUS coalition and their metadata standard which is widely backed by the picture industry (and a number of associated suppliers, such as one of our featured vendors, Capture) but has less widespread take up among the non-image library industry that many DAM vendors are active in.

Although I would tend to agree with Sarah, in the article referred to, she makes the point that ‘we are all photographers now’.  I might also add that, by implication, we are all ‘content exchanges’  too now (to varying degrees) and it’s the ease with which anyone can set one up and start storing images from any source that can pose a problem for protecting rights.

DAM systems are great for helping end users find media like images but currently they often do little to help prospective media users to identify whether they are doing so legally and one cannot envisage much motivation from the buyers of them to pay more in usage fees – even if they really should.  From my understanding, PLUS is intended to help mitigate that problem by providing a common framework for metadata that addresses the rights issue within it.  The scheme looks a good one, but I see no demand for using it among corporate users of DAM systems and consequently, limited motivation among DAM system vendors to support it.  The other issue is the need for DAM systems to support a multiplicity of content types like video, print media and audio etc – all of which have their own metadata standards and internal industry debates about rights protection.

For these standards to acquire some momentum (and legal clout) they require the support of multiple governments across the world – certainly most of the developed nations.  Until that happens, it’s a chicken and egg situation.  At present, the trends in government thinking seems to be more towards de-regulation and a content ‘free for all’ rather than improved rights protection for intellectual property owners.   I await the report of the Intellectual Property Office about a UK Digital Content Exchange with interest to see if my current perception of government opinion with regard to rights protection is an accurate one.

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