Google Images Displays Copyright Info

Posted on 11/9/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In late September 2018, Google announced that it had been working with two photo industry consortiums, CEPIC and IPTC, to integrate some image ownership-related metadata into search results. Now Google images desktop view has a new “Image credits” link below the image. This information is collected from IPTC Creator, Credit and/or Copyright information if it exists.

In some cases, clicking on the image takes the searcher to the stock agency representing the image and licensing information is provided immediately. However, in many other cases the searcher is taken to the web page where the image was found. In such cases there is usually no credit information or indication of where to go to license the image.

With Shutterstock, clicking on the image takes the searcher to a completely different set of Shutterstock images that have the same keywords as inputted in the Google search. In the desktop view of the Google return the image number is also supplied under the picture in a very tiny font. That number can then be entered into a Shutterstock search bar in order to find the specific image.

Photoshelter reports that Google has already begun to extract IPTC data from its collection. Thus, if the photographer’s information is already in the image IPTC there is nothing else the photographer needs to do.

How Much Will This Help?

This change is an improvement over the previous system. Google captures about 92% of global searches. But, a huge percentage of the images found through a Google search will not now, or ever, have IPTC metadata that can enable future searchers to find the image owners.

Google can only draw information from the IPTC if it is there. Virtually, all the image that have been previously uploaded to the Internet, or more importantly used by Internet customers who legitimately purchased rights, have been stripped of their IPTC data.

There is practical logic for stripping. Metadata can easily exceed the size of a rescaled image, and slow page load times ( ). Since everyone wants faster upload times the solution is to slim down the image file. That can be accomplished by stripping all metadata in order to serve up more efficient image formats.

Going forward more IPTC data can be added to images on stock agency sites and Google can make sure that this information is shown in the “Image Credits,” of their searches. But once the image is used by someone else on another web page there is no guarantee that the IPTC information will not be stripped.

Time For A Change

There needs to better alternative for locating an image owner. When a searcher is taken to a web page of an organization other than a stock agency there needs to be a way for that searcher to obtain the photographer’s contact information, particularly if the photographer is trying to license usages of his/her work. Image credit does not solve the problem.

Storing ownership data and other information in the image file was a great idea back in 1965 when IPTC was founded. But technology, and how it’s used, has changed dramatically since then.

Storing such information in an image file is still useful as long as the creator can insure that it will remain there. But, that’s the problem.

It is time to consider how technology has developed and consider a new strategy for making critical information available to potential image users. Visual search has dramatically improved and it will get better. Rather than looking for information in the image file, look at the image itself. The important data about any image can be stored in a separate database. Visual search of the separate database can then be used to locate the person who created the image, whether licensing is required and where to go to get a license.

An Image Creator Locator (ICL) is one strategy that could be used. This process would require no more of the searchers time than using the Google “Image credits” system. But it could be set up to provide much more detailed information. There may be other better solutions, but Google’s “Image Credits” link will not do the job.

The vast majority of image viewer don’t need the IPTC information, nor will they ever consider or use it. All they want is to see the image. But, photographers need to find a better way to make it easy and quick for that small percentage of viewers who need more information to find what they need.

Paul Melcher of Kaptur recently pointed out that, “A recent study by eMarketer reveals 72% of U.S. internet users regularly or always search for visual content before making a purchase.” If they are searching the Internet for the images they need then photographers trying to license their work must make sure that when the searcher finds an image – wherever they find it – they can also find and contact the photographer.

Copyright © 2018 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

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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