Facebook has announced that it will be introducing new measures to fight copyright breaches, but photographers fed up with seeing their work free-booted on Instagram should not get excited: the system is limited, can easily be evaded, and seems to have been designed with large brands in mind.
Facebook is updating its Rights Manager tool, making it easier to identify when images have been used without permission. The system is currently only available to those who submit an application who will then be asked to upload a CSV file containing metadata for the images that they wish to have protected.
Facebook’s announcement explains that the Rights Manager will use “image-matching technology to help creators and publishers protect and manage their image content at scale,” suggesting that the tool is not designed with individual photographers in mind, but is geared towards brands running campaigns who need to maintain close control over their assets. Creators have to specify where their copyright applies and which territories should be omitted.
As detailed by The Verge, the system relies on matching both the image and the metadata. If metadata is critical to the Rights Tool’s detection mechanism, it is easily evaded, as stripping information from image files is a simple process. Metadata is an archaic and flawed system for protecting images, and it's unclear why Facebook has chosen to use it for its new system.
Given its near-infinite resources, if Facebook were serious about tackling copyright, it could easily implement a system whereby image data is embedded into the image itself, as proven by services such as IMATAG. The process of posting images to the social networks could invisibly insert copyright information, and any reposting of that content would immediately flag it to the system. It’s not clear why Facebook is not pursuing such technology.
As it stands, detecting copyright infringements is dependent upon users identifying breaches, not Instagram or Facebook. It’s likely that hundreds of thousands of images are posted without the owner’s permission every day, undermining the networks’ own terms and conditions, and creating vast amounts of advertising revenue.
Is Facebook serious about tackling copyright infringements? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.