Google Licensable Badge Announced

Posted on 9/9/2020 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Last week Google announced it’s intention to launch Google Licensable Badge a function that will place a badge on images which require licensing before use when they are found by anyone doing a Google search. It is expected the launch will happen in the next couple of months.

Google will determine whether to display its licensable badge on an image found through one of its searches in one of two ways. The first is through a markup in the code of the Web page hosting the image. The second will be through IPTC metadata embedded in the image itself.

Most of the stock agencies will be creating schemas that tell Google when an image has been found on their site. For example, if an image is found on Shutterstock then their schema will indicate that a licensable badge should be placed on that images. The badge will tell the customer to go to Shutterstock to license the image.

All 350+ million digital files on Shutterstock already have the metadata included in their hosting Web page. If Google finds an image on Shutterstock they will know that the licensable badge must be attached to that image.

Shutterstock is still working on ensuring that it can also embed IPTC metadata into each digital image file. That process may take some time, but they want to ensure that their contributors are covered with both methods.

Presumably, all other major stock agencies will develop schemas that will direct customers to their sites when Google’s search engine finds an image on their site.

Individual photographers with their own sites can put a code in the IPTC header of each of their images that directs the customer to a URL with the photographer’s contact information. The URL could also include information about an organization the photographer has decided to use to handle licensing, or information about pricing for various uses or the photographer’s website.


A small problem arises if the photographer puts his own contact information into the IPTC header and then sends a copy of that image to his stock agency. The agency will probably strip this information from the header because the agency wants potential customers to contact them and not the photographer.

It is also unclear what will happen once the customer has received the image with a code in the IPTC header. In theory, if the contact information remains in the IPTC header and Google finds the image on the end using customer’s web page (not a stock agency), then a Google Licensable Badge would be shown on the image file delivered to the searcher.

For photographers currently trying to sell images through their own website, there is possibly a bigger problem. If they don’t go to the trouble of setting up a URL and inserting the information into the IPTC header on all their images. When Google finds one of those image and delivers it to a customer the customer may assume it is free to use since it won’t have the badge.

This could also make it more difficult to collect for copyright infringement. The user could say, “I found the image through a Google search and there was no licensable badge on it so I assumed it was free to use.”

Google has also said that at some point they will give customers the option of searching for either images where “Licensing is Required” or those that are “Free to Use.” Customers who don’t want to pay for images may choose to just search for “Free to Use” images. If photographers fail to make the necessary adjustments in the IPTC header of their images, such a search could deliver lots of images the photographer hoped to license in addition to free images.

PhotoShelter has also recommended that image creators include all the language and legalese in their licensing agreement ( ) on the URL in the IPTC header, but I think that is overkill in the early stages of any negotiations. If you finally come to agreement on price you may want to submit this language with your invoice.

Copyright © 2020 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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