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A Metadata Manifesto
Version 1.0 / July 2006
Photographers, illustrators, publishers, advertisers, designers, art directors, picture editors, librarians and curators all share this same problem: struggling to track rapidly expanding collections of image assets.
In a world of desktops increasingly crowded with digital files, old methodology persists. Folders of digital images are "filed" while information about the images -- creator, caption and rights data -- often is available only from a separate database, notebook, or CD jacket.
The only link between the image and this data is a file name and where that file is stored. Unfortunately, this link is easily severed when file names get altered, files get relocated, copies are made and disseminated. Meanwhile, image information gets left behind.
Without effective systems in place for identifying and managing digital assets, everyone working with digital images is adversely affected. Resources are wasted, opportunities are lost, liability increases and intellectual property rights are eroded.
The volume of digital files challenges publishers who need to manage and access them. Busy designers and art directors download preview images to their desktops, only to find weeks or months later they cannot identify the source. Librarians and curators -- charged with making more cultural resources available to the public -- are already overburdened managing their legacy analog material. Now, they must cope with rapidly expanding digital assets as well.
Lack of information about an image file can delay projects, necessitating additional research to establish licensing rights, obtain clearances, and confirm caption details. This in turn has contributed to the growing problem of misuse of images, whether through error or by intent. Without proper licensing or permissions, users infringe copyright and expose themselves to liability.
The pressures on image creators-as copyright holders-to protect their intellectual property has intensified since the digitalization and online distribution of their images. If their images cannot be properly identified, they suffer from lost revenues due to missed licensing opportunities. Add to this the challenge posed by proposed changes in U.S. Copyright Law. If "orphan works" legislation passes as drafted, it would permit use of their images without a license in the event the owner cannot be located.
Industry wide adoption of metadata is the key to addressing these challenges. Yet today, it is underused and under-supported. What's missing is an adherence to standards and technology solutions that support metadata use and preservation.
Image creators need to commit to embedding metadata as they move rapidly to an all-digital workflow. Those at the forefront have recognized the value of metadata to better protect their intellectual property. A recent Stock Artists Alliance member survey of nearly 400 active stock photographers found that a majority currently embed metadata in their image files. 9 in 10 include a copyright notice, 8 in 10 include creator contact information, and 7 in 10 include a unique image identifier, title, caption and keywords.