Embedding Metadata in MP3s

From Creative Commons
Jump to: navigation, search

Metadata Embedding

Creative Commons licenses are attached to Web pages. But we also want our licenses to be useful for materials distributed in file formats around the Net.

The first format we've learned to tag is MP3, the popular audio compression format. Other common formats — image, video, text, other audio formats — will follow soon. This is an ongoing process, and we welcome your feedback. (You can

also read a more detailed

technical explanation

of what follows.)

If you just want to get started, try the ccPublisher app, available for Linux, OS X, and Windows.

Metadata Embedding in MP3s

Let's say Anita wants to license her song, "Volcano Love," with a Creative Commons license, and release it as an MP3. Here's what she'd do:


First, Anita would put a "Some Rights Reserved" button on the site where her song could be downloaded — along with a link to a license, some RDF metadata, and an assertion about the copyright status of the work. Nothing new here: this is what Creative Commons licensors do now.


With file embedding, though, this page will now serve the added function of verification. Here's how: Anita would insert the URL to that webpage in the copyright field of the MP3 file, along with a short, plain description of the work's license status. We call this the license verification link because it points back to a page that Anita herself controls.


Next, imagine Anita puts the MP3 on a file-sharing network. A user comes across her MP3 and can follow the verification link to Anita's page. In the future, we hope that file-sharing networks, media players, and other applications will build tools that read the verification link automatically and inform users of the copyright assertions like Anita's.

The advantage of the verification link

Embedding this kind of "verification link" in MP3s, as opposed to merely the license metadata, is a measure of protection for artists against the incorrect or fraudulent labeling and sharing of their work.

Take this example:

Honeysuckle is a popular commercial singer. She likes her songs "all rights reserved."


John decides to license a Honeysuckle song under a Creative Commons license, to fool people into thinking she's gone "some rights reserved." He makes a fake Honeysuckle site on to his website, adds a Creative Commons license and RDF to it, and embeds a phony "verification link" to his page in the Honeysuckle MP3. Then he puts the song on a file-sharing network.


Honeysuckle visits the file-sharing network and sees copies of her song circulating. She finds this suspicious, given that she didn't put the song on the network and always claims "all rights reserved."


She follows the verfication link, finds John, and forces him to take the fake page down.


With the phony verification page gone, users of the file-sharing network will see that the verification link is broken, or they will follow it to a page explaining that John fraudulently tried to license the song.

Verification Link: Also a Traffic Engine

An added benefit of the verification link is that licensors, or the companies who do their hosting, can use them to draw traffic to their websites.



Ravi is an amateur photographer. He hosts his photos at SNAP, a website devoted to photography. Each time Ravi uploads his photos to the SNAP website, the SNAP software offers Ravi an opportunity to use Creative Commons licenses, and the tools to embed his webpage on SNAP with the appropriate RDF. Next, SNAP's software automatically inserts the verification link into his photo files' copyright fields.


Ravi circulates the photos among his schoolmates, whose photo-viewing software reads the copyright fields and takes them to the SNAP website, where they can see Ravi's whole catalog of photography and links to other SNAP services.