Quick guide to IPTC Photo Metadata and Google Images
In Autumn 2018, Google introduced some new features to their image search. When an image is shown, one could have clicked on “Image Credits” and a popup will show the image’s creator, credit line and a copyright notice. From 28 May 2020 on these fields are shown instantly next to a photo, no click is required anymore. It works by reading the corresponding embedded IPTC photo metadata fields from the image file.
In Summer 2020, Google is planning to extend this feature to also display the image’s licence (what we call Web Statement of Rights) in the results of all image searches. Google will also show a link to a web page where a licence to re-use the image can be obtained – the Licensor URL.
As these fields are defined by the IPTC Photo Metadata Standard, we are taking the opportunity to show you the best way that each metadata field can be filled in based on the definitions in the standard.
Google’s Licensable Feature
Google plans to implement the optional display of a Licensable badge and of two links to web pages maintained by the image supplier in the results of all image searches beginning in summer 2020. To be ready for the launch, Google started collecting rights and licensing metadata from images on the Web in mid-February 2020. This Google Developers page introduces the feature and shows how it will look in image search results.
It is important to note that nothing has launched to end users yet: Google is encouraging image owners to annotate their content with metadata so that the feature can be launched to users later in 2020.
This feature will be supported by IPTC Photo Metadata fields Web Statement of Rights and Licensor URL, as described below.
What fields to use, and what to put in them
Google displays three IPTC photo metadata fields, wherever available, for an image shown as search result. This tells the viewer who is the creator and who is the copyright holder of the image and what credit line should be shown next to the image. This information is taken from the IPTC photo metadata embedded in the image file.
For displaying the creator of the image, the Creator field is read and shown with the label Creator. Google first reads the ISO XMP dc:creator field, and if that is empty, then the IPTC IIM 2:80 Creator field. Your editing tool probably just gives you a single field labelled “creator” so just use that and you won’t have to worry.
By its definition this field contains “the name of the photographer, but in cases where the photographer should not be identified the name of a company or organisation may be appropriate.”
The Credit Line field (XMP photoshop:Credit or IIM 2:110 Credit) is used as “the credit to person(s) and/or organisation(s) required by the supplier of the image to be used when published.” Generally this would be a line of text that the supplier expects users of the image (such as Google Images) to display to users alongside the image. Again, Google first reads the ISO XMP photoshop:credit field, and if that is empty, then the IPTC IIM 2.110 Credit field.
Most tools label this field as “Credit Line” in the editing interface, but some tools call it simply “Credit”.
Google Images also displays the Copyright Notice field (XMP dc:rights or IIM 2:116 Copyright Notice). The definition for this field is: “Contains any necessary copyright notice for claiming the intellectual property for artwork or an object in the image and should identify the current owner of the copyright of this work with associated intellectual property rights.” The format can differ according to the relevant copyright legislation of different countries. Again, Google first reads the ISO XMP dc:rights field, and if that is empty, then the IPTC IIM 2.116 Copyright notice field.
Web Statement of Rights (in beta: visible to users in mid-2020)
Be aware that software for editing metadata uses alternative labels such as “Copyright Info” or “Copyright Info URL” for this field.
Proper use of the IPTC Web Statement of Rights field will trigger the display of the Licensable badge on a photo in Google search results, and of the License details in the Google search results preview view.
If the Web Statement of Rights field contains a full valid URL …
- The Licensable badge is set
- The text License details will be shown with this URL as link to a web page showing a license which applies to the shown photo – and optionally to all other photos of this supplier.
This field must contain a full valid URL (starting with https:// or http://) referring to an existing web page showing such a license and optionally also other copyright information.
Note: If this field is not set properly the License details may not be shown and the Licensable badge may not be set. Read also “How IPTC fields are used by Google” below.
Licensor URL (visible to users in Summer 2020)
This field – labelled as URL or Web URL – is often included in metadata editing software as one of the sub-fields of the Licensor panel.
Use of this field will trigger the display of Get this image on: Supplier Company Name in the Google search results preview view.
The name of the supplier (company) will provide a link to a web page enabling the user to acquire a license for the shown photo.
To populate this link Google will read the IPTC property Licensor specifically its sub-field Licensor URL.
(The Licensor property was specified by the PLUS Coalition and was adopted by the IPTC Photo Metadata Standard in 2008.)
This field must contain a full valid URL (starting with https:// or http://) referring to a page showing information about how one can acquire a license, either for this photo only or for all photos of this licensor or supplier. This may be a page of a web shop ready for providing a license, in most cases after the payment of a fee.
Note: if this field is not set, the Get this image on: …. text may not be shown. Read also “How IPTC fields are used by Google” below.
Note: if the Web Statement of Rights field contains the URL of a Creative Commons license the same URL may be used for this field, as Creative Commons licenses define the conditions of using this photo without a required fee. Alternatively this field may be left blank for Creative Commons images.
The IPTC Photo Metadata Standard covers many other embedded metadata fields as well – to learn more, see the full IPTC Photo Metadata User Guide.
How IPTC fields will be used by Google for the Licensable feature
As explained on the Google Developers page for Image Licence Metadata, Google will read two sets of photo metadata fields:
- IPTC metadata fields embedded into the image file of the photo
- Structured schema.org metadata fields embedded into the HTML of the web page showing the photo
IPTC fields and schema.org fields are read, if only IPTC or schema.org fields exist this is sufficient for the display of Licensable and providing the links. If both sets of metadata are present and if the values of the pairs “IPTC Web Statement of Rights / schema.org license” or “IPTC Licensor URL / schema.org acquireLicensePage” are not the same, Google prefers the value of the schema.org metadata embedded into the HTML of the web page.
Therefore IPTC suggests that suppliers and licensors inform their customers about how the structured HTML metadata for a licensed photo should be set, as the HTML metadata will override the IPTC metadata embedded into the image file.
We have created an IPTC Photo Metadata Example page showing a photo with both IPTC fields embedded that are required by Google to make the licensable images feature work (Web Statement of Rights and Licensor URL within the Licensor). A link from the example page to IPTC’s Get PMD tool shows all IPTC metadata embedded into the example image file.
A look at the HTML source code of the example page shows the corresponding structured schema.org metadata embedded into the page.
For photo creators and editors: how to edit the metadata fields
It’s important to understand that IPTC Photo Metadata is actually embedded in the image binary file. You can’t add HTML tags or schema.org markup to add this metadata. But never fear – there are some tools you can use to edit the fields. We maintain a list of tools for editing IPTC Photo Metadata. Here are a few of the major tools we cover:
- Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom
- The free image manipulation tool GIMP – see their docs
- Photographer tools such as ACDSee Pro, FotoStation, PhotoMechanic and the Digital Asset Management system Extensis Portfolio
- For the more technical, the command-line ExifTool can be run in a script to update many images at the same time.
Each of these tools will allow you to edit fields a slightly different way. Usually there is some kind of “properties panel” or “metadata window” that lets you view and edit all embedded metadata fields.
For example, here is where to edit the Licensor URL information in Adobe Lightroom:
If you are a tool vendor and you would like your product listed, please contact us.
For developers and site administrators: how to ensure the fields are preserved in images on your site
Your site’s digital asset management system, content management system, image management system or content delivery network may be stripping out embedded metadata fields. Some systems do this with the best of intentions, thinking that it will save a few bytes of bandwidth, but stripping out metadata actually infringes on the copyright holders’ rights and may even be illegal in some countries.
You should use a DAM and CMS that respects and conserves IPTC and XMP embedded metadata, and ensure that any configuration options that strip out metadata are turned off. Also you may need to look at image cropping and manipulation plugins for your CMS – for example the ImageMagick WordPress library retains embedded metadata, but some others strip it out.
For tool makers: how to support IPTC Metadata fields in your software
If you need help supporting IPTC fields in your software, please talk to us at IPTC – perhaps you even want to join IPTC so you can help to create future generations of our standards in the news and media industry.
For all: how to check embedded metadata
To check if IPTC metadata are embedded into an image we suggest to use IPTC’s Get IPTC Photo Metadata site: you can apply the URL of an image published on any website or upload your local image and the IPTC site will show you all embedded metadata. After clicking the green button look for these fields in the shown result:
- IIM section: Creator (IIM), Credit (IIM) and Copyright Notice (IIM)
- XMP section: Creator (XMP), Credit Line (XMP), Copyright Notice (XMP), Web Statement of Rights (XMP), Web URL within Licensor (XMP)