Dangerous Metadata

With editorial images there is a large opportunity to get into trouble with inappropriate keywording and captioning, particularly the latter. Apart from the obviously embarassing gaffes of referring to a famous person as a man when they’re a woman, getting their age radically wrong and so on, there is a much more serious problem of defamation.

Such difficulties normally don’t arise with model-released stock, but where you are adding metadata to images of recognisable people, suggestions that they are drunk (or any euphamisms such as “tired and emotional”) with a girlfriend not their wife or guilty of a crime, you could find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. That is especially so if a throwaway line put into the caption by the photographer gets picked up and turned into a story by a client receiving the image.

The bottom line is that you should take the same amount of care about photo captions as you would about a news story. Our suggestion is that because the fighting talk should remain the domain of the journalists writing their stories it’s best to go down a very conservative line when suggesting anything derogatory.
If outsourcing captioning it is important that the company or individual doing the work has some guidelines in place at the very least.