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Monday, September 1, 2008

The PLUS Coalition: Standardized Licensing Codes

Protect your business and promote your work by employing the simple standardized licensing codes proposed by this internationally recognized organization

This Article Features Photo Zoom

The PLUS Artist & Licensor Registry, the first registry launched by PLUS, allows anyone, anywhere, to locate the creator, rights holder and authorized licensor of an image. Listings in the registry will be free and will include name and contact information. In addition, PLUS will issue a PLUS Entity ID to photographers and other licensors. Like a social-security number, these IDs uniquely identify each person and company participating in the industry. This PLUS Entity ID may be used in license documents, photo credits, digital image files, etc. While a listing in the registry is free, the PLUS Entity ID requires membership in the PLUS Coalition. It should be noted that in the coming months various trade organizations participating in PLUS will submit their member information to the registry.

The second two modules of the PLUS Registry, the License Registry and Image Registry, will launch in early 2009. The License Registry solves the challenge of metadata permanence by securing metadata so that only the rights holder may edit it. A License ID issued by PLUS may be embedded in image files. That License ID may be looked up at the License Registry to access any public information about the license, such as the contact information for the licensor, the media in which the image may be reproduced and the end date of the license. The licensor determines which information is public and which information is private. The License Registry allows licensors to update licenses when they’re renewed or revised, so that the ID number in the file always refers to a current, accurate set of license information. Lastly, the PLUS Image Registry module will allow users to register their images and receive Image ID numbers. Image IDs may be embedded in both licensed and unlicensed images to allow anyone in possession of an image to instantly identify and contact the rights holder for that image. In addition, the Image Registry will include image-recognition technology to allow users to locate the rights holder even in the event that both the embedded metadata and the Digimarc are lost. Photographers and stock agencies may upload low-res copies of images to the registry and will receive an ID number for each image. PLUS then “fingerprints” each image to allow for image recognition. Image users seeking to identify the rights holder or licensor for any image simply upload a low-resolution copy of an image to the Image Registry, and the registry will provide ownership and contact information.

Details of the available PLUS Packs are clearly described.
The common undercurrent to many of the PLUS standards is the machine-readability of PLUS codes and IDs. The benefit to photographers is that management of image licenses can be more easily queried and tracked with software that recognizes PLUS standards. On the client side, there are two key benefits. PLUS codes and IDs enable the license to stay with the image rather than getting buried in paper-licensing archives. This provides stock agencies, as an example, cost savings in searching for licensing information and reduces the risk of copyright infringement. PLUS codes and IDs also facilitate multilingual support through their reference of translated licenses and glossary definitions.

Machine-readability of PLUS standards is something that will expand to meet existing and future needs in relation to new media types, searches and potentially even digital cameras. Video has been identified as the next media type to expand PLUS standards, and as with photography terminology, a glossary is to be developed first. Adoption of PLUS standards for recognition in search-engine results has begun with initial conversations with organizers of the ACAP (Automated Content Access Protocol) and various search-engine companies.

The Future
PLUS not only has identified areas in need of standardization, but has provided standards that are foundational to more complex applications. PLUS standards addressing terminology and licensing have the potential to greatly impact the efficiency and productivity of photographers and to simplify the licensing process for their customers. Employing PLUS licenses and standards not only has the potential to improve productivity, but also to raise the level of professionalism exhibited to clients. Perhaps of even greater importance is how PLUS standards are poised to proactively address future challenges photographers will face with new Orphan Works Copyright legislation recently revisited by Congress. Embeddable metadata preserving creator and license terms only can help photographers in a quickly changing landscape.

PLUS is the largest and most diverse initiative ever undertaken in photography-related industries. It’s currently in the Integration Phase and is working closely with Adobe and many other software developers on integration of the standards. Once integrated in common applications, the PLUS standards will be broadly promoted to professionals in all industries, and PLUS course packs will be distributed to all educational institutions offering relevant courses. Although PLUS may not yet be as well known to photographers as other standards, its mission, standards architecture and growing adoption by top-tier photographers and organizations makes PLUS worthy of evaluating, if not adopting.

Jim Goldstein specializes in landscape, nature and travel photography. With more than 10 years of web marketing strategy experience, Goldstein has a unique perspective reflecting the challenges facing modern photographers. His podcast can be found at JMG-Galleries.com. Learn more about the PLUS Coalition; visit www.usePLUS.org.


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