Study Looks Into Whether Photo Websites Play Nicely with Copyright Metadata


How well does your favorite photo hosting and/or sharing service handle the copyright information and EXIF data of your photographs? How do the popular services stack up against one another in this regard?

Metadata handling isn’t often discussed when photo sites are compared, but that’s what the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) has been devoting an entire study to. The organization has published its findings regarding which companies play nicely with your metadata, and which pretend it’s not there.

The study found that many major photo sharing services, including Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, strip helpful copyright information from photos when they’re stored on company servers and displayed through the popular websites.

IPTC managing director says that if a photographer chooses to include copyright metadata within an image, “these data shouldn’t be removed without their knowledge.”

However, that’s exactly what many sites do. Earlier this month, the organization tested 15 different social sites to see how they handle metadata. Here’s a condensed chart that shows the results for some of the more popular services:


You can read about the study’s methodology here, Basically, green is good and red is bad. Google+ and Dropbox appear to have good metadata policies compared to their peers, while Facebook and Flickr are lagging behind.

One of the testers in the study, David Riecks, states,

Professional photographers work hard to get specific information — like captions, copyright and contact information — embedded into their image files, therefore it’s often a shock when they learn that the social media system they chose has removed the information without any warning to them”. Since some countries are in the midst of passing ‘Orphan Works’ laws, any files that are ‘stripped’ may be considered potential ‘orphans’ without having any copyright protection.

IPTC defined a set of metadata values (including copyright and source info) in the early 1990s, and most photo editing programs support these values.

You can find the full test results and the complete chart here.

Social Media sites: Photo Metadata Test Results [Embedded Metadata Initiative via SLRLounge]