Protect Your Images with Copyright Metadata (Part 1)

Over the next few days, we’re going to embark on a little project, one in which we take steps to protect our art. If you’re not adding copyright information to your images, you leave yourself wide open to having your intellectual property drained away! You need to think seriously about a plan to label, identify and register your images, so that the benefits of your hard work are coming to you. For more ideas and information on ways to look out for yourself, including instructions for registering your images with the US Copyright Office, visit our friends at Defend Your Art.

Today, we will take the first steps, in identifying ways to add copyright information to your images. If you aren’t already doing this, read on! If you are, I encourage you to read on anyway, as we will be looking at ways to speed up your workflow and automate things, so you can work harder on your image and not so hard on the maintenance!

When you open an image in Photoshop, and that image contains a copyright notice, Photoshop will recognize this and add a small © symbol to the title bar of the image, like so:


In order to view the copyright information, you can select File > File Info… from the menu, and you are taken to a rather large dialog box showing all the metadata for the file. Today, we’re going to focus only on the “Description” tab of the File Info dialog box; it is there we find the copyright section.



So, how do we go about getting this data into our image? We could use this dialog box, open it for each image, and type all the copyright information in each field, and save the file. But, there has to be a better way, right? That’s why we’re here… What we will do is to create a template containing all the copyright data we need, and save it so we can re-apply it to any image we wish. This template is known as a metadata template, and can contain lots of other information in addition to copyright data… but that is a lesson for another day!

Step 1: Let’s start with a new blank document (File > New…), and accept the defaults. Then, open the File Info dialog box as we’ve seen above. Notice how the copyright status is “unknown” and the rest of the copyright information is blank?


Step 2: Let’s go ahead and populate the fields like so:

  1. Change the status to “Copyrighted",”
  2. Add a Copyright notice (I’ve used “©2009 Michael J. Hoffman – All Rights Reserved”), and
  3. Add the URL of our standard copyright notice on the web.

Then, click the arrow to the left of the “OK” button, and choose “Export…” from the dropdown list. This will allow us to save the copyright data to a template file, so we can import it again later.


Step 3: Now, give your template a name – I’ve called mine “MJH 2009.xmp".”


That’s all there is to it!

Now, open a new image that needs a copyright notice. Go to the File Info Dialog box, and pick the same arrow to the left of the OK button. This time, choose the name you gave your template (it should now appear in the list). Photoshop will import the metadata from the template, and will present you with the following dialog box:


Clear existing properties and replace…: This option is the most dangerous. ALL metadata will be cleared and ONLY the metadata from your template will be added to the file.

Keep original metadata, but replace…: This option completely replaces any metadata items that you have in your template, but keeps any other metadata intact in the file.

Keep original metadata, but append…: This option is safest – it will only update the metadata from your template if the corresponding field in the file is blank.

I prefer to use the last option in the general case, as it will preserve any existing fields (you don’t want to change an existing copyright notice!).

Now we’re done! Look at the title bar of the image, and you’ll see the little © symbol, indicating your image has been updated.


Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “this is still too much work,” and you’re right! So, that is why, in the next installment, we’re going to take a look at automatically applying this metadata template to each image you open, on the fly. But in order to get that level of automation, you have to prepare, and do this work upfront – right here, right now.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Other options to consider: before the photo even reaches Photoshop, it can have copyright info added by the camera (in the setup menu, depending on make/model) or by defaults when importing into Lightroom (“Information to Apply” > “Metadata”).

    Jennifer, I agree! I’m planning a follow on (part 3) of this topic covering Lightroom, and tonight I kicked off a multipart series on Adobe Bridge in which we’ll look at applying metadata in Bridge. Thanks! mh++

Leave a Reply

Close Menu