After a few months of beta testing, Google has announced that it is now officially available for all the licensable markup, which activates the special Under license badge in Google Images. Thanks to this new feature, it will be possible to show the licensing information of multimedia resources published on the website and it will also be easier for users to understand how to use images responsibly.

A markup to show info on the license of images on Google Images

To report the completion of the beta test on licensable is an article published on the Google Webmaster Central Blog signed by François Spies, Product Manager of Google Images, that also retraces the various steps that led to the decision to pay more attention to the licensing of multimedia resources and help image owners to sell and get credit for their photos.

Screen di Google Immagini: come funziona il markup licensable

The collaboration between Google and the licensing industry

In recent years Google has “collaborated with the image licensing industry to raise awareness of licensing requirements for content found through Google Images”: in particular, recalls Spies, in 2018 “we started to support the metadata of IPTC image rights“, and last February we started testing the new metadata framework through and IPTC for licensed images.

In recent months, the new standard has been adopted “extensively by websites, image platforms and agencies of all sizes”, and so Google has further improved the features of Image Search that will highlight license information for images and will make it easier for users to understand how to use images responsibly.

What is the licensable markup

The Under License badge on the results page tells users that for the selected image information about the license are available and provides a link to the latter in the image viewer (i.e., the window that appears when you select an image), which provides more details on how users can reuse the resource based on terms provided by the content owner or licensor.

When available, Google also offers an additional link that directs users to a page of the content owner or licensor where the user can acquire the image.

At the same time, Google has also simplified the search for images with license metadata, intervening on the Google Images user rights menu to support the filter for Creative Commons licenses, as well as for those with commercial or other licenses (as seen on the following screen).

Nuovo filtro licenze in Google Immagini

How to add the structured data or metadata of IPTC photos

The guide page dedicated to this theme also provides the correct directions to report to Google which images can be licensed by adding structured data or IPTC photo metadata to each licensed image on your site. If we use the same image on multiple pages, we must enter the data to each image on all the pages viewed.

Currently there are two alternative ways to add license information to the image, both valid to ensure eligibility for the Under License badge. It should be noted that using such metadata is an optional choice and that using them or not has no impact on search rankings.

If we choose structured data – defined in the guide as “an association between the image and the page where it is displayed with the markup” – we will need to add structured data for each instance where an image is used, even if this does not change.

Alternatively we can use the IPTC photo metadata, embedded in the image itself and able to remain unchanged even when they are transferred from one page to another; in this case, therefore, the IPTC photo metadata must be indicated only once for each image.

The advantages for image licensors

Spies’ post also analyzes what are the main advantages that the licensable markup can offer to licensors, in what for Google is “a step to help people better understand the nature of the content they are looking at on Google Images and to understand how they can use it responsibly”.

First of all, it is easier to find the information about the license and, above allmost importantly, purchase it or get the possibility to reuse the resource: as we explained, when the licensor provides the metadata on the image (activating the Under License badge), you will be able to find in the image viewer the details page and the one for the acquisition.

In case the page that hosts the image is not configured to allow you to acquire it (for example it is a portfolio, an article or a page of the gallery), users can link to a new URL from Google Images which directs them directly to the page where they can purchase or obtain the license for the image.

Last but not least, metadata can also be applied by publishers who have purchased the images, which means that the license details are visible even when the media resources are reused by customers (which, of course, must not remove or alter the IPTC metadata provided).

The main comments of image licensors

At the bottom of the article, François Spies also reports the words of some executives of large image-licensors groups who are collaborating with Google, to make it clear how these innovations are evaluated by professionals.

According to Paul Brennan (VP of Content Operations at Shutterstock), for instance, “the new features of Google Images help both creators and consumers of images as they give visibility to the way creators’ content can be properly licensed.”.

A thanks to Google comes from Alfonso Gutierrez, President of CEPIC (Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage), who greets with enthusiasm “the window of opportunity that is opening up for photo agencies and the image industry in general thanks to this collaboration”, which has already led to ensure “guaranteed identification of authors and rights holders on Google Images”.

He talks about “a huge advantage for image providers” and “an incentive to add IPTC metadata to image files” Michael Steidl, head of the IPTC photo metadata working group, summarizing the scope of the functionality by explaining that now “When an image containing the embedded IPTC photo metadata is reused on a popular website, Google Images will redirect an interested user to the image provider”.

Unanimous opinions on the feature’s value

“Google’s licensed image functions are a big step forward in making it easier for users to quickly identify and get licensed for visual content,” says Leslie Hughes, president of the Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), that highlights the work closely with Google to get to the development of the functionality.

Wider the reasoning of Ken Mainardis, SVP, Content, Getty Images & istock at Getty Images, which begins to highlight how “we live in a dynamic and changing media landscape, where images are an integral component of narration and online communication for more and more people”. This means that it is “crucial that people understand the importance of licensing their images from appropriate sources for their own protection and to ensure that they continue the investment required to create these images”, and so Mainardis hopes that “Google’s approach brings greater visibility to the intrinsic value of licensed images and the rights required to use them”.

For Ramzi Rizk, co-founder of Eyeem, we are faced with “a significant milestone for the professional photography industry, as it is now easier for users to identify images that they can acquire safely and responsibly”. Positive also the opinion of Marcin Czyzewski, CTO of picturemaxx, “the world’s largest network of professional suppliers and digital image users”, that “appreciates Google’s licensed image features because for our customers as creators and rights managers, it is very important not only the visibility in a search engine, but also the display of copyright and license information”.

The last two voices supporting only those of James Hall, Product Director of Alamy, and Andrew Fingerman, CEO of Photoshelter; for Hall, “licensable tags will reduce confusion for consumers and help inform the wider public of the value of high-quality creative and editorial images“. Finally, Fingerman stresses that making “Google Images A reliable way to identify licensed content, Google will promote discovery opportunities for all independent agencies and photographers, creating an efficient process to quickly find and acquire the most relevant and licenseable content“.


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