Monday, 11 June 2012

Find the Rights - IPTC Conference 2012

It was great to have the IPTC Photo Metadata Conference in London this year. Metadata has moved now to a central position in the image licensing industry. Our topic covered two aspects of search-  finding the image and finding the rightsholders - both essential for the future of the image business.
 The full agenda for the conference is shown on the IPTC web site, and I report here on the sessions I was closely involved in. Overall, the conference was a great success, with excellent speakers and very good feedback from attendees. Image search was a major topic, with sessions chaired by David Riecks including reports on visual search techniques, controlled vocabularies, crowd sourcing,  linked data and indexing images for web search.

In the morning session 'Search  - finding the rights', which was moderated by Linda Royles, I gave an overview of ways of finding and protecting image rights.  This encapsulated the thinking in my paper 'Orphan Works and Image Licensing' written for CEPIC as part of the ARROW project. The presentation (not long and very visual) can be downloaded here. The main points I set out were along these lines:

1. Positive identification not orphan grabs
Positive identification is the opposite of the orphan works database concept. It encourages people to use images which have permissions, not those which don't. Methods include embedded metadata, unique identifiers linked to registries, visual search methods, and digital fingerprinting.

Orphan works databases may be needed in the heritage sector to enable institutions to digitise older orphaned works in their collections, but this is not a solution for currently circulating digital files which may have been orphaned because technology and behaviour have not yet caught up with the medium.

2. Labels to help image users
People need easy access to images they can legally license or use.  For this, we need identifiable icons on thumbnails and easy click through to source web sites. (see PicScout Image Exchange )

3. Copyright protection for all works
If copyright protection is eroded for images belonging to the general public, that will impact the creative industries as well. The guiding principle should be that permission is required for use of any image or artwork. It's not good enough to just use any old image because there's no information.  Creative Commons licences will become increasingly important, especially for non professional photographers (and remember we are all photographers now!) but the term 'commercial use' needs to be properly defined, so that image licensing opportunities are not subsumed by the term.

4. We need registries and content exchanges
An image with no metadata should not be released from copyright, but we do need to change the way we work to secure digital images for the future. Digital content exchanges and registries will probably be needed to secure the rights of creators and to promote licensing and easy access for users. Identifiers require registration bodies in order to be authenticated,  global identifiers require a global network, and users need easy access via a user interface.

Content exchanges  consist of access to identified content, rights information and delivery mechanisms. They are being promoted as a way of finding rightsholders in a cross media environment. In the UK, The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will be reporting soon on its consultation about a UK Digital Content Exchange (DCE)

Image libraries are in fact already content exchanges. In some ways they are ahead of other industries. Where the image library industry needs development is in the area of unique identifiers, so that images can be properly tracked in the web environment. The PLUS registry answers many of these requirements including that of a network of registries to form a global registry.

Other contributors in morning rights session
Antoinette Graves from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) outlined the framework for the IPO  consultation on copyright, remarking that the major area of concern is the heritage sector where digitisation projects are held up by orphan works and the resulting legal uncertainties for the heritage sector. The consultation is ongoing and results will be published later this year.

Mark Bide  from EditEUR argued that investment in content made by creators is now lagging behind the returns gained in the internet environment. It now seem easier to profit from other people's creativity, and it is important to turn the tide and make investment in content pay for the creator, as it should. The answer to the machine, he argued, is in the machine.  Technology and automation can bring about a revolution in licensing while preserving copyright and benefiting content creators in all media sectors.

 Nancy Wolff  from New York law firm CDAS warned that orphan works legislation is coming. DShe believes it is critically important for the picture industry to get to grips with issues and solutions now.

Afternoon Session on Orphan Works  
I chaired a break out session which pulled together some of the topics raised in the morning, and allowed for discussion between the people involved.

Offir Gutelzon  from Picscout demonstrated how the Picscout registry provides tracking and identification services for image suppliers and help for image users to access licensable images from an internet image search.

Cathy Aron, Executive Director of  image library association PACA described how  associations in the US are combining to reach agreement on issues relating to orphan works, in the expectation that orphan works legislation (which failed to enter the stature books in the US last time round) will eventually be passed. Issues like diligent search, the need for registries and the concept of safe harbour for cultural institutions are on the table, and it was agreed that CEPIC and PACA should stay in touch on orphan works related issues.

Paola Mazzucchi from EU project ARROW demonstrated how the system works to link and access data about rightsholders relating to orphaned books.  She  discussed the difficulties in accessing rights data about images which are not credited, and talked about the feasibility study currently underway at ARROW which will look more closely at easy of finding image rightsholders.

With legislation pending on both sides of the atlantic the urgency for the image business to find orphan works solutions  was stressed on all sides -  it was recognised that this is a global problem which will need global solutions.  An important step would be to find common ground on the essential elements of a diligent search.