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I've already discovered that you need JAI ImageIO in order to read EXIF metadata, as described in this post: http://easyproblemsolutions.blogspot.com/2008/06/java-and-jpeg-metadata.html - unless you have it installed the EXIF metadata isn't handled. However I also want to be able to write it as well, and looking at http://download.java.net/media/jai-imageio/javadoc/1.1/overview-summary.html, the second table says 'reader only' for JPEG metadata. That's why I believe the comment in the source code is probably correct and you need 1.2 to be able two write EXIF.
I found an archive that purports to be 1.2 on google code at http://code.google.com/p/pdftotiff/downloads/detail?name=jai-imageio-1_2-pre-dr-b04-lib-windows-i586-18_Mar_2007.zip but it's windows only and I'm wary of just grabbing stuff from random locations on the internet - can't think why ;-) And if I go and look for the daily builds at http://download.java.net/media/jai-imageio/builds/daily/, the directories are all empty.