Digital Ownership

Photo sharing, digital ownership, metadata, & watermarking

Update at end of 2020: Check out the article on using Digimarc to digitally watermark images and how that played out.

Digital ownership of a photo is hard to track and even harder to prove. Anyone who has ever shared their photos online has probably had them stolen and used by other people without compensation or attribution. It happened to me a couple of weeks a go. I add digital ownership metadata to all images when I import them to Lightroom before I do any editing or sharing so that's good enough right? Maybe it is and maybe it's not. If that was good enough I probably wouldn't be writing this.

I went to a few sites today where I share my photos, right clicked to save the image and then viewed the image details to verify that my metadata is in there as the rightful owner of the image. Nope, no dice. My metadata got stripped out somewhere along the way in my editing workflow or maybe when I uploaded it to share online. Way to go Wenning. That feels like an amateur mistake. So before today, anybody who grabbed my images from any website would have no trouble claiming the image as their own...with impunity. I want my name to travel with the image so if someone wants to use it in a commercial or editorial print or online publication they can contact me and purchase a license to use the photo. At the very least I hope that whoever is using the image on their blog or publication will send me some love as the artist who created the image. I guess this is a good lesson to learn early on, but boy do I feel like I should have already had a handle on this.

I do know that plagiarism is going to happen when putting this kind of work out online. So why did I start doing this in the first place? I want to come home from travels with something to share to a broader audience; specifically to people who may never have a chance to visit that place. If someone wants to share that image to their network so that other people can travel through my images; that's cool with me since that's accomplishing the goal of my photography as well.

This is the photo in question of the Neptune pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon California. The image has a digital watermark applied using Digimarc. I'm not a fan of putting my name or a logo over the image. The point is to show you a great place or experience, not to market my brand. By adding a digital watermark I will be able to track this image wherever it goes across the internet and know where it is being shared. Yes, I still need to figure out how my personal ownership metadata is being stripped out of the IPTC fields and remedy that. On a lot of sites (Flickr, Pinterest, & more) they strip out that data anyway to make the images smaller...and I suspect to limit their liability for your photos being passed around and ripped off. So I'll see how this digital watermarking works out for me while I figure out how to remedy the other issue.

Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle with Intentionally Lost and Kevin Wenning #intentionallylost

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