Embedded License Data

Right clicking and pressing save as is the most known practice for downloading a photo on the internet. There are few venues for photo hosting which will protect a photo online. Flickr for example provides right-click protection, watermarks, and original size protection. Even these features do not fully protect the piece of work and therefore we must, as developers and creatives alike, operate under the assumption online that any photo can be taken without permission.

The next line of defence is licensing information. Even if the proper information is given on the same page that the photo can be downloaded from, once it is in another location the licensing data does not come with the photo. It’s therefore difficult for someone to know who the photo is attributed to and what they are able to do with it legally.

Broxigard via DeviantArt

Embedding licenses in the image files is Moby-Dick and developers Captain Ahab. Long desired by many legal and creative entities around the web but never quite fully realized. The ability to use a library or libraries to add this easily to an application would be a huge boon to the popularity of proper licensing, which lets face it, benefits everyone.


Working with my professor David Humphrey and 4 other peers at Seneca College, we are engaging the task of creating a library or libraries which will enable a developer to attribute a Creative Commons license to image files. This has been something Creative Commons is eager to have as a tool in order to further innovate licensing.

Most popular image formats have an area which allows text to be inserted into it. As David Humphrey mentions PNG, JPEG and GIF all have fields which the licensing information, a condensed license, or even a permalink to the license can be added into.

To begin, we have divided into groups. We are first attempting to programatically insert licensing into an image file via Android by whatever means necessary.

I am investigating the Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) file format as per Adobe’s specifications in order to develop the most appropriate method for generating and attributing a Creative Commons license. This will need to take into account the length of space available in the smallest space between major image formats, and allowing for the creator of the image to customize the license. An example of the tool Creative Commons has can be seen here.

Please also check out David Humphrey’s blog post on the topic.