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Facebook loses German lawsuit surrounding removal of metadata from photos

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A photographer has won a lawsuit filed against Facebook in Germany. The suit claimed that Facebook’s practice of removing EXIF metadata from photos uploaded to the service violated German copyright law. Now, Facebook may be forced to stop the practice or risk paying a fine to photographers in Germany, according to a report in PetaPixel.

EXIF data contains information about exposure settings, the camera and lens used to take the photo, as well optional copyright information that photographers can input. Normally, this information stays with a photo, even if the file is later copied, resized, or otherwise altered, unless someone chooses to remove it. As metadata can easily be stripped from a photo, it alone is no guarantee of protection for photographers, but a German court agreed with the plaintiff that it was still illegal for Facebook to remove it.

This news came via German lawyer, journalist, and photographer Hendrik Wieduwilt, who reached out to PetaPixel about the case (news of which had yet to be circulated in the English-speaking press). Wiedulwilt said the case could have an effect on Facebook’s policies even outside of Germany. “This is good for photographers since it makes it easier for them to pursue copyright infringement. And since it is technically unlikely that Facebook will create a technical solution only for Germany, this might have global consequences,” he told PetaPixel.

Having waited the required six months without receiving a counterargument from Facebook, the court now considers the ruling to be final. At this point, Facebook will either need to change the way it handles images uploaded to the service or risk being fined up to 250,000 euros (about $264,000) every time a German photographer files suit in the future.

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