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SmugMug Pledge On Copyright Law Changes And 'Orphan' Images

SmugMug has told its users not to worry about the safety of their images, after copyright changes.

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SmugMug the leading photo-sharing and ecommerce website has told its users: 'Don’t worry, your original images are totally safe with us – unlike some sites, we never strip key metadata.'

As the photographer backlash against the new Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act gains pace, with top names like David Bailey challenging the planned copyright law changes, SmugMug has sought to reassure photographers uploading images to its site that they will be protected from third parties attempting to ‘lift’  pictures for possible use without permission or payment.

The new law passed by Parliament includes a clause allowing ultimately for free commercial and non-commercial use of ‘Orphan Works’ – copyrighted images where copyright owners cannot be contacted. Millions of images found on the internet are missing metadata that identifies the photographer. If there are no last-minute amendments this will soon become law.

David Bailey wrote to Chancellor George Osborne: "I am appalled at what the government is doing to our rights. Social media, and everyone else for that matter, routinely strip our names and contact details from our digital files. So now commercial organisations will be allowed to make money from our “orphans”, but not us, the creators. They should not get away with this."

SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill said: "We know this is a very important issue for photographers but unlike some sites, SmugMug does not strip key metadata from customers’ images. Assuming a customer uploads their images with the proper metadata we will always maintain the important fields in their display copies (except thumbnails)."

SmugMug educator and account manager Sean Rogan added: "If some blogger in Indonesia sees a photo online, screengrabs it and uses it on a local flyer that never leaves Indonesia, then the photographer who took the picture will probably never know that their image has been lifted."

"But there is a due diligence issue that corporations must embrace. So if an original file is out there and is lifted from SmugMug and ends up in a national newspaper, the photographer can make the case that the image has been used without his/her knowledge. The publisher will not be able to contest this because the original source file will have all its necessary metadata."

Founder of PT4U and The Photographer Academy Mark Cleghorn said: "I’ve been shooting digitally for over 13 years. The very first part of my workflow is always to add my copyright info just like we would have done in the film years using a simple sticker on tranny mount and prints. This is done to protect income and image usage. To think that some companies are stripping this data is criminal. It is a comfort to know that some businesses like SmugMug are still on our side."

SmugMug’s position re metadata was also acknowledged on BBC Click: "SmugMug has become popular with photographers because it was one of the first to acknowledge the importance of metadata and leave it intact throughout the import, storage, export and distribution process. Some websites strip it without warning, to save bandwidth costs."

Multi-award-winning fine art photographer Trevor Yerbury added: "The unbounded proliferation of social media in all its forms has led to an explosion of photographers’ images being used without permission or payment. It’s good to see that SmugMug is doing its bit to keep our work as safe as possible."

For more information on SmugMug, visit the SmugMug Pro website.

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