In our society, if we are not rewarded, or punished, we don’t comply. Honor or respect are not strong enough compensations to be accepted as rewards. Probably because they are not public enough, meaning that, besides the person you respected, no one else will be aware of your good deed. In a time where gratification is measured in the amount of “likes” someone gets on Facebook, a sole reconnaissance is certainly not enough. We like to give only if we get something back or if we can escape punishment.

Properly crediting a photographer’s work does not bring any type of rewards. It is only done as an honorable and respectful gesture by those few who still considers those as rewards enough. However, the huge majority of “posters” ( those who post items online) do not value either enough to spend the few minutes necessary to have proper credit displayed. Why ? no incentives. no rewards. And in the case of a properly licensed image, no punishments. So why bother?

Every creator desire for his work to be associated with his creation and to receive proper attribution. Be it in music, movies, writing, painting, sculpture, architecture, we are all profoundly proud of our creations. Even more as those creations become the gateways to future creations commissioned by new patrons. They are our storefronts that states clearly: “Here is what I can do”. Thus the implacable necessity to receive credit wherever and whenever the work is displayed.

Past model of photo attribution have horribly failed. IPTC, for example, has never succeeded in becoming an accepted standard as the technology industry has made a mockery of its unfortunate efforts. Resize an image or right click to save it and all the metadata is gone. No help here. That is why more crude systems, like image watermarking, have continued to survive even in the face of its absurdity. Stamping an image is just plainly counterproductive to what a photograph is.

Chocolate Ice Cream Temptation

 The survival of IPTC has been, up to know, only helped by its ability to store keywords,   crude oil for the image bank search engines. If it wasn’t for keywords, those endless  series of words created in an effort to describe an image, IPTC would have long been gone. However, this is about to change.

Take the automotive industry. They spend a formidable amount of time in research and development. One of their key effort for the next 5 to 10 years is the driverless car. Google has already famously created one, the US army has few truck size rolling around and BMW has been toying with a racing version. It’s a $200 billion opportunity. One major issue they face is obstacle recognition: the ability to estimate what is in front of the vehicle and what action to be taken. Right now, they have solved this 

problem by creating a database of potential object a car might encounter. The camera of the car sees an object, matches it with one that exists in its database and takes appropriate measure. However, with the infinite variations of light and perspective, it is prone to fail. And when that happens, a life can be endangered. While they can continue to feed hard drives with all potential images of an object, the better route, obviously, is object recognition. And when you have the combined research of the US army, 

car companies, Google and other working on a solution, you can be sure it is not far away.

What does this mean for photography ? Those tools will trickle down to become widely available to be used on still images and thus negate the need for worded keywords to be attached to image files. Object recognition will be done on the fly by smart search engines by detecting and recognizing the content of an image .

With no guaranteed attribution and no usefulness in keywording and in search , IPTC will probably develop into a niche nostalgia club along the Cobalt lovers and other Pascal nostalgics.

What is important here is to clearly pay attention to what is going to happen. The photo industry no longer controls the standards of photography because they just don’t have the power to do so. Those now belong to Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, 

Flickr, (none of which respect IPTC, by the way) as well as the US Army, the automotive industry, and anyone that has a financial interest in photography. Even a Getty is forced to bow down and follow ( which they are). If the photography industry wants persistent attribution, it needs to work with these companies to make sure it happens. And for that, they need to create, use and adopt tools that offers an incentive for users to comply. Not by force of law or outdated sub-standards but by force of incentives. Recognize that human nature, especially online, is driven by one force only and that is retribution. Be it massive social approval (likes, retweets and pins), traffic growth or/and cash. If we can link attribution to any of these than there will never be another uncredited image.

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