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How To Add Copyright Metadata To Your Images

Much like registering your copyrights with the U.S. copyright office, adding copyright information to the metadata of your images will allow you to have some additional cushion in terms of protecting your copyrights.

If you are a photographer who frequently uploads their work online, whether it be for storage or sharing with friends and family, you may want to consider adding copyright metadata to your images. While adding copyright metadata won’t make your photographs 100% foolproof from copyright infringement, it could help deter some individuals from using your work without your permission. And because the process of adding metadata to your images it’s relatively simple and straightforward, it might be worth the extra effort even if it deters just one person from infringing on your copyrights.

Before we get into the details of how to add copyright metadata to some of the leading image software programs, let’s talk a bit about what metadata is and why it might be important to add your copyright information to your image’s metadata. 

What Is Metadata? 

An image’s metadata refers to a collection of data that is associated with that digital Image. This information can include a timestamp of when the photograph was taken, keywords associated with the photograph, and even the type of camera and the settings used to capture the image. Some cameras automatically input the metadata once a photograph is taken while other cameras limit the amount of detail that gets added. Check with your camera’s user manual to see if and how you can change the type of metadata that is added once you take a photo. Essentially, all images have some sort of metadata attached to them and whenever these images are transported from one location to another, that metadata will travel with it. 

Metadata that is embedded in your images once you take the photo is called EXIF data. This is the data that pertains to the technical aspects of the image. There’s also IPTC data which is short for International Press Telecommunications Council. IPTC is a metadata system that is deemed as the industry standard as far as categorizing and understanding the metadata that goes with an image. IPTC breaks up the metadata structure into three parts. They include the following, 

  • Administrative: This data includes the artist’s name, their contact information, and any other relevant information about them.
  • Descriptive: This data refers to keywords associated with the image, the image title, or any subjects in the image
  • RIghts: This data is associated with copyright information, property release information, and even model release details related to the image. 

News outlets and stock image companies rely on IPTC when navigating the world of photography and copyrights. If you are someone who sells or is planning to sell your photography, then getting familiar with IPTC is a must. 

Why Is An Image’s Metadata Important?

If you take photos just for fun, then you may not really care much about an image’s metadata because it may not mean much to you. However, if you are a photographer, you are more likely to rely on the image’s metadata as far as classifying your images or describing them when you share them on a personal blog or website.

In terms of copyright protection, adding your copyright information to the metadata of an image will help give your images a little bit more protection as far as how they are used. Whenever your photo is shared, or if it’s picked up by a news outlet, copyright metadata can help identify who the copyright owner is and would allow a user to seek your permission beforehand. 

How To Add Copywrite Metadata To Images

You can change the metadata Information along with adding copyright metadata to images using a variety of different software is. Today, we are going to take a look at popular programs used by photographers and how to add metadata to images on those software.

Add Metadata To Images Using Adobe Bridge or Adobe Photoshop

  • Start by opening up the folder or the photo that you want to add the metadata to. In Adobe Bridge, you can add metadata to a batch of photos by putting them all in a folder. In Adobe Photoshop, you have to add the metadata to each image individually. The process of adding the data is the same for both platforms, however. 
  • Once you have the folder open click on “File” and then click on “File info.” A pop up will appear where you can add in Medidata information.
  • Under the “Description” tab, scroll to the copyright status drop-down menu and select the copyright protections that you want to put in place. 
  • There is also a space under the drop-down menu that will allow you to input copyright info URL. Here you can link your portfolio or other URLs associated with your copyrights. 
  • Next click on the IPTC Extension tab. On this tab, you can enter in specific information related to your IPTC contact information. This includes your location, phone number, email, and other important information linking you as the owner to the image. 
  • Once you click “Okay,” you will have successfully saved your copyright metadata onto your images.

Note: Before you hit save you will have the option of saving the entry as a .xml file. This will keep you from having to re-enter the data on every single image you want to embed your copyright information onto. You will simply need to import the file in the IPTC tab of your image you are adding info to. 

How To Add Metadata Into Adobe Lightroom

If you create presets or have an image that uses different presets in Adobe Lightroom, you can embed these presets or images with metadata as well.

  • Start by expanding the “Apply During Import” panel on the right hand side of your screen. 
  • Next, click on the preset you want to apply the copyright metadata to or click on “New” to create a new preset.
  • A pop up will appear which will allow you to input additional metadata as well as your copyright information. 
  • Once you have finished inputting all the relevant information you would like, click “Create,” and your copyright Medidata will be saved.

Will Adding Copyright Metadata To My Images Stop Copyright Infringement? 

No. Just because your images have copyright metadata embedded in your images does not mean your images are not subject to copyright infringement. If someone really wants to steal your images, there are plenty of ways that they can do so and the copyright metadata certainly will not stop them.  

You should always keep in mind the following when it comes to your images and how they are or are not protected online:

  •  Some social media platforms or websites that allow you to upload images will automatically strip the uploaded image of its metadata including the data related to your copyrights
  • If an individual takes a screenshot of your image, there will be no metadata associated with the screenshot because the screenshot will be treated as a whole new image.
  • Adding your copyright information into the metadata of an image does not mean you have registered your copyright. Registering your copyright can only take place with the U.S. Copyright Office. In the event that your copyrights have been infringed upon, you need to have your copyrights registered. Because of this, it’s important to go ahead and register your copyrights with the U.S. copyright office if you plan to use them in a commercial capacity. 

Final Thoughts

Adding copyright metadata is so simple and straightforward that for many photographers it becomes second nature. Much like registering your copyrights with the U.S. copyright office, adding copyright information to the metadata of your images will allow you to have some additional cushion in terms of protecting your copyrights. 


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