You have read the Terms and Conditions, you understand the rights you might be relinquishing, and you also understand there could be some security risks by posting that favourite picture online.
You are aware of the cyberspace myth that any photo on the internet can be re-posted provided attribution (photo credit) is given. To combat that myth, you have diligently programmed your camera or editing software to embed your name and copyright notice in the metadata. Now the world knows who owns the picture and that you have “reserved all rights.”
With a click of the mouse, your picture has been uploaded to your favourite portal, safeguarded against all would be infringers of your copyright. At least you thought.
In March, 2013, the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC)—those good folks who work with the photo industry to develop standards and protocols—conducted a survey and found major social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr strip the metadata from the image before it is made available on the site.
“A social networking site is only as good as the information its members choose to share. If users provide rights data and descriptions within their images, these data shouldn’t be removed without their knowledge,” said Michael Steidl, Managing Director of the IPTC, a consortium of the world’s major industry vendors. IPTC went on to say in the media release metadata is “embedded into image files to tie key information about the image, such as photographer’s name, and the photo’s data and location, to the photo itself. They let users of the image know where it came from and who owns the copyright.”
The results of the IPTC research and results can be found at http://www.embeddedmetadata.org/social-media-test-results.php
Should the social media sites strip the important metadata from the image the photographer is left with one option: embed a watermark on the front of the image. If you are using an Adobe product such as Elements, Photoshop or Lightroom, this can be done easily by either developing a custom watermark on a transparent layer, or by instructing the software to use a programmed command.
The vast majority of photographers uploading pictures to social media do not use image-editing software such as Adobe products. Should the photo originate through an Apple product, such as the iPhone or iPad, there are a multitude of apps available. Likewise for other smart phones.
Those photographers using point-and-shoot cameras and PC home computers will have to search the web for one of many watermark service providers. There are free service providers available on the internet. Some are software applications you download; with others, you upload your images to the service provider where the watermark is embedded and re-purposed back to the originator.
You should give careful consideration before posting any image online you deem has value, whether watermarked or not. Protecting your image on the internet is a matter of personal choice. The decision is yours; you owe it to yourself to make an informed decision.