Google gets difficult questions, says it will improve image metadata

During the 2010 picture buyers fair that took place in London this week, Google’s Matt Zitzman presented on image search and how images add value. While he went through many of the innovations that Google has made in image search the question at the end of the session focussed on a different subject. An audience that included many photographers quickly turned on to the difficulties to find the owners of images that are found on the web. Google was accused of stripping the metadata and being responsible for creating so-called orphan works in the process.

There was quite a bit of, mostly incorrect, talk about the ‘heckles’ that Google got at the seminar. We have a video of the moment one of the questions was asked. This was followed by a number of other visitors asking the same, or similar questions. Others in the audience mentioned that it’s not Google that strip out the data. They said this happens as soon as images are saved for the web.

Zitzman addressed the question by saying Google is now engaging with the picture industry to find solutions (he spoke at the PACA 2009 conference as well). When similar questions returned to the second seminar he confirmed that, while there are a number of other stakeholders, he would like Google and the picture industry to take the lead in finding a way that image-ownership can be attributed at source (i.e. a Google search). This read like a clear commitment to keep engaging with picture sellers and their organisations to solve this issue. This is good news for photographers and something stockphoto agencies will have to watch closely.


Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

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