Image, audio and video files on the internet need a more robust metadata system that is supported by web browsers and digital media players. It’s ridiculous that the files themselves can’t tell a web browser and a user who created it, and how to contact or find out more about the artist.
How handy would it be to be able to right-click an image that contained this metadata, and get info about the creator such as their official webpage, Twitter account, Facebook page, iTunes Music Store link, as well as of course copyright info and the like?
And let’s not limit this to just web browsers—why can’t I find out this information from an MP3 file, right from within iTunes? Why do I have to Google the band? This is silly, and this is exactly what the internet was designed for and what computers do best. Perhaps web browsers need to be updated, the HTML specification rewritten—but with the proliferation of media and increasing piracy and copyright infringement, this should be a priority.
It drives me crazy when we have the technology right in front of us and we don’t use it. It also drives me nuts to spend extra time doing things that could be—and should be—done more smartly. This data can be embedded, and it would benefit not only the creators, but the fans.
Copyright infringement and piracy is rampant on the internet. It’s probably too late to put the genie back in the bottle, but there should be ways to allow content creators to stake their claim to the original work, and allow those that want to use it fairly to do so. I know we have the superb Creative Commons, but Creative Commons only solves the issue of content creators to allow others to use or remix their work. There’s no intrinsic method to embed metadata in the image, music and movie files themselves. Well, there is IPTC for image files, and that may be a place to start—at least for embedding the metadata in images. But we need a solution for using this information online in a web browser and in media players. And we need this for audio and video files as well.
As a visual artist who promotes my artwork heavily online, this issue concerns me directly. So I’ve thought about this a bit and I believe I’ve come up with a solution that could work. It was inspired by the anatomy of a tweet.
Tweets on the Twitter service contains much more information that you’d think. In fact, it’s much more information that I was aware of before I wrote this post. Check out this anatomy of a tweet image from ReadWriteWeb:
I first noticed some of this metadata peeking through on a few Twitter clients that displayed more information than the official apps. What first caught my eye was the metadata that revealed the app that posted the tweet. I loved the idea, as it gave a “thumbs up” to the app since you could track who was using what app to post.
That got me thinking about image files. Some image file formats can embed metadata, like PDF, TIFF, JPG, Photoshop .psd and others. This can include author, copyright as well as metadata from the camera used (if a digital photo). But web browsers do nothing with this info as far as I can tell. This needs to be expanded to media of all types.
If ephemeral tweets can be jam-packed with far more than 140-characters of information—photography, artwork, movies and music deserve at least the same.