A clear majority of professional photo businesses in Europe and North America find IPTC photo metadata highly relevant to their business. That is the message received by IPTC from its 2019 photo industry supplier survey.
According to survey results, eight out of ten photo supplier companies say that data describing images and supporting searches by users is most relevant. Eight out of ten photographers say that metadata to express ownership and usage rights is most important.
These trends are shown by a survey among photo professionals conducted by IPTC, the maker of the industry standard for embedding descriptive, rights information and administrative metadata into images. The 2019 IPTC Photo Metadata Survey results were made public on 14 August 2019 and can be downloaded from the iptc.org website.
“We know that taking the time to apply photo metadata is an investment by photo businesses, so it’s good to see that they get a return,” said Michael Steidl, lead of IPTC’s Photo Metadata Working Group. “Still, we are pleasantly surprised by the importance that photo businesses give to metadata.”
The survey investigated how and why IPTC photo metadata are used in 2019, and more than 100 supplier companies and photographers from many European countries and the USA participated. Most respondents to the supplier survey are companies active in the stock images business, but IPTC also received responses from companies dealing with news photos, cultural heritage images and video footage. The primary business areas of photographers are stock images and public relations photos.
The main reason for applying descriptions of what is depicted in an image are for supplier companies business needs, primarily to help users or customers to find an image they are looking for. Businesses apply rights and licensing data primarily because of legal requirements, but also to protect their companies revenue streams. Administrative data are added to satisfy customer needs.
For photographers, rights are of critical importance
The use of rights data by photographers is more driven by their own business needs than by legal requirements. As photographers are the first party in the supply chain of images they have a high interest to claim who is the creator and the first copyright owner of each creative work. Applying descriptions of the image is driven by customer needs and business needs of photographers. Why administrative data is applied comes also from their business needs and much less from customer needs compared to supplier companies.
IPTC photo metadata – used since 1995
The IPTC photo metadata standard originated in 1995 when Adobe and other makers of image software adopted the IPTC Information Interchange Model (IIM) standard for the panels with fields describing what an image shows, providing the name of the photographer, stating copyright and usage terms, and sharing instructions and more administrative information. In 2005 IPTC published its first Photo Metadata Standard covering fields used by photo professionals and expressed by the IIM format and the then-new XMP format. The IPTC fields were substantially extended in 2008 and since then the standard has been continuously maintained by IPTC, the global standards body of the news media.
For more information, download the full analysis of supplier survey results as a PDF.
Recently conversations on Twitter and various blogs and news sites have reported on Facebook’s use of IPTC embedded photo metadata fields to “track users”. (Reddit.com: “Facebook is embedding tracking data inside the photos you download”, The Australian: “Facebook pics tracking you”, Forbes: “Facebook Embeds ‘Hidden Codes’ To Track Who Sees And Shares Your Photos”, Financial Express: “Beware! Facebook embeds tracking data inside photos you download”).
As the creators and maintainers of the IPTC Photo Metadata Standard, we want to clarify a few points and share our own analysis of the situation.
In Spring 2019, IPTC’s Photo Metadata Working Group conducted our latest round of tests regarding how various social media platforms deal with metadata embedded in uploaded and shared images. The 2019 test results show how Facebook treats image metadata: in IIM and EXIF formats, a few fields are retained related to claiming rights while all others are removed, and in the XMP format all fields are removed.
While this was a small improvement compared to the previous IPTC test in 2016 when all Exif fields were removed, we did not rate Facebook with a “green dot” showing compliance with IPTC standards, as removing metadata embedded by the owner of an image contradicts IPTC’s strong support for keeping metadata persistent.
In addition, in both the 2016 and 2019 tests the Working Group found that two fields in the IIM format do indeed appear to be given values populated by Facebook.
IPTC looks at the facts
IPTC provides a reference image for each version of its Photo Metadata Standard which contains a test value for every specified metadata field. This makes it easy to test which fields are removed or modified.
The reference image of the 2017.1 version of the standard was uploaded to Facebook by the Working Group member David Riecks and it can still be seen here. Next the group used the IPTC’s Get IPTC Photo Metadata website tool for retrieving embedded metadata of most of the images shown on the web. Anyone can use this tool: simply fill the URL of the image into the site’s form and click to see all the metadata embedded in the image.
This test was performed using the URL of the IPTC reference image uploaded to Facebook and the result was shown instantly:
- Embedded metadata fields in the IIM format related to rights were retained: Creator, Creator Job Title, Copyright Notice, Credit Line, Source and Description Writer.
- All embedded metadata using the XMP format were removed by Facebook.
- The Creator and the Copyright Notice in the Exif format were also retained.
- The Instructions field and the Job Id field in IIM show values significantly different from what had been uploaded. The IPTC Working Group assumes these values were inserted by Facebook:
- The value of the Instructions field starts with FBMD. The IPTC Working Group retrieved this image using “Save As…” and another Facebook user uploaded it to his account. Result: the value was not changed during the second upload to Facebook. These results were shown for the re-uploaded image.
- The value of the Job Id fields looks like a unique identifier. If an uploaded image is downloaded using the Save As function and then uploaded by another Facebook user this field contains a different value.
- The IPTC Working Group searched for any documentation of these inserted values but found no specification or statement from Facebook. There have been, however, many guesses and assumptions by users and developers.
Using the Get IPTC Photo Metadata site anybody can check what Facebook values were applied to her or his photo. As a user, you can find Facebook image URLs by clicking on the image on the Facebook site and using the “Copy image address” or the “Inspect” or “Inspect Element” function of your web browser, you should then see the URL.
IPTC tests showed when a Facebook member uploads an image to the Facebook system it removes a lot of fields, keeps only a few related to rights and replaces or adds values to the Job Id and the Instructions fields. The role of these values is not publicly documented by Facebook, so they are currently the subject of significant speculation.
IPTC makes no assumptions about what the metadata values are used for, but Facebook appears to keep the value of the Instructions field constant even when the image is re-uploaded by another user. The Job ID field on the other hand changes with each separate upload.
Our recommendations are that all embedded metadata values should be retained by platforms and that no platform should be overwriting user metadata.
IPTC’s 2019 Social Media Platforms survey also looked at the metadata usage of other major social media platforms. Interested parties can find more information at Social Media Sites Photo Metadata Test Results 2019.
The example metadata values embedded into the 2017.1 reference image can be checked by going to https://getpmd.iptc.org and clicking on the green button in Option A labeled Get Photo Metadata of Web Image. No image URL is required, as by default the metadata of this reference image is retrieved and displayed.
For those interested in the technical details of embedded photo metadata, the technical formats IIM and XMP are introduced in the IPTC Photo Metadata User Guide, including a look under the hood of image files.
Last week’s 2019 IPTC Photo Metadata Conference was again hosted in association with the CEPIC Congress. This year’s conference was held in a slightly rainy Paris but at least that meant that we didn’t mind staying indoors in late May.
The event kicked off with an introduction from event chair Stéphane Guérillot from AFP, who is also on the Board of IPTC and Chair of the IPTC Standards Committee. The theme of the afternoon was “putting IPTC metadata to work for your image collections” and the emphasis on practical outcomes was a constant refrain.
The first panel was around the question of “do we still need IPTC Photo Metadata?” Michael Steidl, lead of the IPTC Photo Metadata Working Group started off by presenting results from the IPTC Photo Metadata surveys that the Working Group has undertaken earlier this year. Lúí Smyth from Shutterstock showed how metadata has helped them to organise millions of photos from thousands of sources. Isabelle Wirth, photo editor at AFP discussed how the agency uses IPTC Photo Metadata along with other IPTC standards such as News Codes and NewsML-G2 to make content searchable and shareable for their clients. And independent photographer and 3D photogrammetry expert with Deep3D, Simon Brown, explained how metadata was crucial for creating 3D views of sunken shipwrecks via tens of thousands of still photographs and some innovative software. In Simon’s words: “For more than one 3D project, projects with multiple contributors, or projects conducted over a longer period of time, IPTC entry becomes mandatory.”
The next session examined how creating and editing IPTC Photo Metadata could be improved. Sarah Saunders representing CEPIC presented results from the IPTC Photo Metadata surveys of both image suppliers and software makers showing that metadata usage has grown in sophistication but still varies greatly between independent photographers and large companies. Andrew Wiard, photographer and member of the British Press Photographers’ Association, spoke with passion about how we could improve the handling of photo metadata once it leaves the photographer’s desk, a constant goal of the Photo Metadata Working Group and which will form part of our work plan for the rest of 2019. Mayank Sagar from Image Data Systems showed some exciting tools with videos showing how their AI algorithms can detect objects from luggage and handbags for commuters to brands and logos on advertisements in sports footage, and talked about the current limits of AI classification and future issues such as how to handle artificially synthesised images. Andreas Gnutzmann of popular photo management software Fotoware showed how their system is moving to the cloud, putting metadata at its core even more than previously.
The third session looked at the end-user side and how the industry can benefit from photo metadata. Brendan Quinn of IPTC presented the Photo Metadata Crawler project, examining how news publishers around the world are embedding photo metadata in the images used on their sites. Michael Steidl showed results of the Photo Metadata Working Group’s updated analysis of social media systems and sharing platforms, which will be shared through an IPTC news article in the coming months. And Anna Dickson of Google gave us an update on her history working with images as photo editor at Huffington Post and Dow Jones among others, and discussing how Google are working with metadata and the IPTC, including our shared challenges of encouraging more site owners to publish embedded metadata so that it can be picked up by Google Search and other services. At the event, Google also announced some very interesting features that are currently in the pipeline.
Michael Steidl and Stéphane Guérillot closed out the event talking about the work the the IPTC Photo Metadata Working Group would be undertaking this year as a result of the discussions and of the survey results.
All slides from the day are available in PDF format from the event page, both to IPTC members and non-members.
Key findings from the Photo Metadata surveys will be shared in future news posts, so please watch this space for updates.
More information about the Google presentation and their proposed new features around image metadata is available to all IPTC members who have joined the Photo Metadata Working Group.
Thanks to all the speakers, to CEPIC for their assistance in hosting the conference, and to everyone who attended for making the event such a success!
Tuesday was our biggest day in terms of content and also in terms of people! We had 40 people in the meeting room which was a tight squeeze, thanks to everyone for your understanding!
The topic focus for Day 2 was Photo and Video, so it was natural that the day was kicked off by Michael Steidl, lead of the IPTC Photo and Video Working Groups. As we had a lot of new members and new attendees in the audience, Michael gave an overview of how IPTC Photo Metadata has come to where it is today, used by almost all photography providers and even used in Google Image Search results (see our post from last year on that subject). The Photo Metadata Working Group is currently conducting a survey of Photo Metadata usage across publishers, photo suppliers (such as stock photo agencies and news wires), and software makers. Michael gave a quick preview of some of the results but we won’t spoil anything here, you will have to wait for the full results to be revealed at the 2019 IPTC Photo Metadata Conference in Paris this June. Brendan Quinn also presented a status report on the IPTC Photo Metadata Crawler which examines usage of IPTC Photo Metadata fields at news providers around the world. This will also be revealed at the Photo Metadata Conference.
Next, invited visitors Ilkka Järstä and Marina Ekroos from Frameright presented their solution to the problem of cropping images for different outlets, for example all of the different sizes required for various social media. They embed the crop regions using embedded metadata which is of great interest to the Photo Metadata Working Group, as we are looking at various options for allowing region-based metadata to cover not only an image as a whole but a region within an image, in a standardised way.
We had a workshop / discussion session on the recently ratified EU Copyright Directive which will impact all media companies in the next two years. Voted through by the European Parliament this month after intense lobbying from both sides, it could easily be bigger than GDPR, so it’s important for media outlets around the world. Discussion included how and whether IPTC standards could be used to help companies comply with the law. No doubt we will be hearing more about this in the future.
Michael then presented the Video Metadata Working Group‘s status report, including promotional activities at conferences and investigations to see what use cases we can gather from various users of video metadata amongst our members and in the wider media industry.
Then Abdul Hakim from DPP showed a practical use of video metadata in the DPP Metadata for News Exchange initiative which is based on NewsML-G2. An end-to-end demonstration of metadata being carried through from shot planning through the production process all the way to distribution via Reuters Connect. See our blog post about the Metadata for News Exchange project for more details.
Then Andy Read from BBC presented the BBC’s “Data flow for News” project, taking the principles of metadata being carried through the newsroom along with the content, looking at how to track the cost of production of each item of content and also its “audience value” across platforms to calculate a return on investment figure for all types of content. Iain Smith showed the other side of this project via a live demonstration of the BBC’s newsroom audience measurement system.
After lunch, Gan Lu and Kitty Lan from new IPTC member Yuanben presented their approach to rights protection using blockchain technology. Yuanben run a blockchain-based image registry plus a scanner that detects copyright infringements on the web. Using blockchain as proof of existence has been around for a while but it’s great to see it being used in such a practical context, very relevant for the media industry.
Lastly, another new member Shutterstock was represented by Lúí Smyth who gave us an overview of Shutterstock’s current projects relating to large-scale image management: they have over 260 million images, with over 1 million images added each week! Shutterstock are using the opportunity of refreshing their systems to re-align with IPTC standards and to learn what their suppliers, partners and distributors expect, and we look forward to helping them tackle shared challenges together.
I chair the Board of Directors of IPTC, a consortium of news agencies, publishers and system vendors, which develops and maintains technical standards for news, including NewsML-G2, rNews and News-in-JSON. I work with the Board to broaden adoption of IPTC standards, to maximize information sharing between members and to organize successful face-to-face meetings.
We hold face-to-face meetings in several locations throughout the year, although, most of the detailed work of the IPTC is now conducted via teleconferences and email discussions. Our Annual General Meeting for 2016 was held in Berlin in October. As well as being the time for formal votes and elections, the AGM is a chance for the IPTC to look back over the last year and to look ahead about what is in store. What follows is my prepared Chairman’s Report at the AGM.
Good morning from #IPTC Chairman @smyles, at the #IPTC Autumn Meeting 2016, #dpa in Berlin! pic.twitter.com/8u1KvBrfEu
— IPTC (@IPTC) October 24, 2016
The Only Constant
It is clear that the news industry is experiencing a great degree of change. The business side of news continues to be under pressure. And, in no small part, this is because the technology involved in the creation and distribution of news continues to rapidly evolve.
However, in many ways, this is a golden age of journalism. The demand for news and information has never been higher. The immediate and widespread distribution of news has never been easier.
The IPTC has been around for 51 years. I’ve been a delegate to the IPTC since 2000 and Chairman of the Board since June 2014. I’d like to give my perspective on the changes going on within the news industry and how IPTC has and will respond.
We’re On a Mission
IPTC is rooted in – and foundational to – the news industry. Our open source standards for news technology enable the operations of hundreds of news and media organizations, large and small. IPTC standards are instrumental in the software used to create, edit, archive and distribute news and information around the world.
We are starting to evolve the scope of our work beyond standards – such as via the EXTRA project to build an open source rules-based classification engine. Much of what we do is relevant to not only news agencies and publishers, but also to photographers, videographers, academics and archivists. By bringing together these diverse groups, we can not only create powerful, efficient standards and technologies, but also learn from each other about what works and what does not.
What’s Going On?
- continuing to improve documentation – to make it easier to get going with a standard and simpler to grasp the nuances when you want to expand your implementation
- making our standards more coherent and consistent – as many organizations need to use a combination
Great discussion about #IPTC alliance, collaboration with International Image Interoperability Framework @IIIFramework re: #Photo #Metadata pic.twitter.com/EFWdOf7aC6
— IPTC (@IPTC) October 24, 2016
PM session: standards makers PB Core, Media Institute; product vendors inVid, Extensis, Canto, Dextro, Mainstream Data on metadata workflows pic.twitter.com/9EJJQmjDwp
— IPTC (@IPTC) October 25, 2016
IPTC is a membership-driven organization. Membership fees represent the vast majority of the revenue for our organization. As the news industry as a whole continues to feel pressure – including downsizing, mergers and, unfortunately some members going out of business – the IPTC is experiencing downward pressure on its own revenue. So, we are working on ways to reach new members, whilst at the same time ensuring that existing members continue to derive value. We’re also open to exploring new ways of generating revenue which fit with our mission – let us know your ideas!
What new areas should the IPTC focus on? Many journalists are experimenting with an array of technologies – Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, 360 degree photos, drones and bots, to name but a few. And let’s not forget about the “Cambrian Explosion” of technologies related to news and metadata on the Web, including AMP, AppleNews, Instant Articles, rNews, Schema.org and OpenGraph. How can IPTC help – negotiating standards? Developing best practices? Navigating the ethics of these technologies?
If you’re not happy, then please tell me!
I Want to Thank You
Finally, I’d like to extend a special thanks to Michael Steidl, Managing Director of the IPTC, who is personally involved in almost every aspect of what we do.
IPTC Releases Results of 2016 Social Media Sites Photo Metadata Test
Important image metadata is not retained in images after upload to some of the most popular social media sites, according to a study by the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC). The missing data includes key copyright and identification information as well as descriptive data about the image.
The IPTC, a consortium of over 50 news agencies and media companies, sets international technical standards for news exchange, including metadata embedded in image files. The recent Social Media Sites Photo Metadata Test repeats a survey in 2013; while improvements are noted, some sites scored lower this time around.
The Social Media Sites Photo Metadata Test evaluated 15 top social media sites, and checked if embedded metadata was retained and displayed on upload to the sites or downloads of various version of the image. The results are displayed at www.embeddedmetadata.org/testresults.
Only one social media site, Behance, received favorable results for retaining and displaying embedded data. A few systems retained embedded metadata but failed to use it when displaying metadata on the web site. Ten sites removed at least some metadata when images were downloaded to a desktop environment.
“There are many important reasons to embed and preserve metadata – to protect copyrights, ensure proper licensing, track image use, smooth workflow, and make them searchable on- or offline,” said Michael Steidl, Managing Director of IPTC. “If users provide captions, dates, a copyright notice and the creator within their images, that data shouldn’t be removed when sharing them on social media websites without their knowledge.”
There may be several reasons social media services remove metadata – and some may not be intentional. Test results showed that in some cases, when images were downloaded to a desktop environment, the metadata was preserved if the size of the image remained unchanged. But if the image was rescaled, the metadata was stripped. “The quality assurance of these sites might not be aware that their software strips metadata inadvertently,” said Steidl.
“Because many of the social media sites are essentially free, users become the product, and not necessarily the customers,” said David Riecks, a photographer and metadata consultant who owns ControlledVocabulary.com and worked on the test. “Users are often not aware of these practices. There should be a sweet spot between these social sites preserving all metadata and removing it all. I’d like to see more engineers working together to find solutions.”
The Embedded Metadata Manifesto was launched by IPTC in 2011 to draw attention to the importance of retaining important data embedded in image files. The website, www.embeddedmetadata.org also includes Embedded Metadata Manifesto’s five guidelines for how metadata should be handled and preserved in digital media.
About IPTC: The IPTC, based in London, brings together the world’s leading news agencies, publishers and industry vendors. It develops and promotes efficient technical standards to improve the management and exchange of information between content providers, intermediaries and consumers. The standards enable easy, cost-effective and rapid innovation and include the Photo Metadata standard, the news exchange formats NewsML-G2, SportsML-G2 and NITF, rNews for marking up online news, the rights expression language RightsML, and NewsCodes taxonomies for categorizing news. Visit www.iptc.org and follow on Twitter: @IPTC
Adding metadata to images costs money but developments in the image industry indicate a real return for those who invest in their metadata workflow now. In an increasingly automated workflow metadata drives distribution and management in all sectors.
At the IPTC Photo Metadata Conference 2015 participants heard from practitioners and game changers in rights management about how quality metadata improves business. The conference was held on 4 June 2015 in Warsaw, Poland, in conjunction with the Cepic Congress 2015. Find slides and audio recordings of the presentations at phmdc.org
Adding metadata to images costs money but developments in the image industry indicate a real return for those who invest in their metadata workflow now. In an increasingly automated workflow metadata drives distribution and management in all sectors. At the IPTC Photo Metadata Conference 2015 participants will hear from practitioners and game changers in rights management, software and user interfaces about how quality metadata improves business. The conference will be held on 4 June 2015 in Warsaw, Poland, in conjunction with the CEPIC Congress 2015. Find more at phmdc.org
IPTC announced a new version of its Photo Metadata Standard, the most widely used standard to describe photos. It allows users to add precise and reliable data about people, products, locations and artwork shown in an image, and provides an improved and flexible way to express rights associated with a picture. IPTC is the world’s leading standards body for the news media and aims to simplify the distribution of information. The specification of this standard can be downloaded from the Photo Metadata Standard section.