Take 5 minutes and tell the world those images are yours.
Images on the internet are vulnerable in a way in which most people are unaccustomed to dealing. There is a widely-held belief that images on the web are free for the taking. For photographers, who need to display their images, this is a perplexing problem. The days of negatives and slides held safely in our vaults and the degree of control to which we could exercise over the proliferation of our images are over. It is an new world in which we must be cautious and protect that which is rightfully ours.
The internet allows us to reach many people. Some of these people, through ignorance or by malicious intent grab images for their own uses. As images created by photographers are their livelihood, it is of extreme concern that we find ways to protect our income source. There is an adage that states: If you don’t want your images stolen, don’t post them online. We know that this isn’t practical. There are steps you can begin to take to express your willingness to defend your ownership and your copyright.
There are several tools to help you get started in copyrighting your images. This screen capture of the EOS Utility program that comes with Canon DSLRs is a great example. It has a place where you can record the Owner’s Name where it will be placed in the metadata that accompanies every image the camera captures. This is data that is being applied in-camera at capture. No further effort is required other than snapping the shutter. Not only that, you can’t get to this data from the on-camera interface. It is somewhat hidden and requires you connect with a USB cable to a computer and set the Owner’s Name field there.
I take it a little further by actually place a copyright symbol before my name so that it is obvious that I am claiming my copyright on every image that is taken by my camera. Obvious I say? It isn’t obvious unless someone inspects the metadata and sees it. The casual grabber of images would probably not notice, not bother to remove and then potentially be caught. If the unauthorized user does know it and does remove it then the potential civil penalties become greater. I have plugged in every one of my DSLRs and set the Owner’s Name field to have a copyright notice so there is no doubt of my intent or willing defense of my rights.
‘But Rikk,’ you say. ‘I don’t have a fancy DSLR. What can I do?’ Most cameras come with software of some sort to help you manage your images. Canon comes with a utility called Zoom Browser EX. It allows you to talk to your compact cameras and set an Owner’s Name as well. Here is a screen grab of the settings on my A550 Point-n-Shoot.
Every image I take with these cameras will now irrevocably point back to me. I can know that people have taken my images. I can know that people have manipulated the metadata to falsify the copyright status of my images. Even though it is quite easy for an image grabber to do, I have taken a step that will help potentially protect my rights in the future.
In addition, software will allow you to place more detailed copyright information on your images. Here is a screen capture of a Lightroom metadata screen showing the copyright notice that is applied to my images on import. Now I am covered twice, once in the Copyright field and once in the Owner’s Name field. Now if we can just get all of the image editing programs out there to retain that data in all the files that are saved, we are a step closer to protecting our rights. Kudos to Corel for recently repairing the retention of EXIF data in their latest service pack for CorelDraw X4 released last week. This was an important item for digital photographers and having a software company recognize this is a sign that they care about us and our livelihoods.
Copyright begins at home. Take the time to plug into your home computer and set your Owner’s Name at minimum.
Rikk Flohr © 2009