There’s a huge problem for creatives online having their work shared, appropriated and copied without any credit, permission or compensation. This has been an ongoing problem, but in this day and age with so much information out there and awareness around such issues you’d think it would be under control. Unfortunately not. Browsing Instagram I often see work used for posts that hasn’t been created by the person posting it and yet no mention of the original creator has been made. This is most commonly in the form of pictures of quotes or motivational / humorous wording but happens with any type of image, and I’ve been seeing it posted way too often by people who are in the creative field and should know better, especially when used for their brand accounts for business gain. So I felt it was time to address this myself.
The very very simple bottom line is: if you did not create it yourself, do not share it on social media or anywhere else as your own. The key part being “as your own” – share with correct attribution to those who own the rights to the image. This means don’t post it without making explicit mention of who originally used their time, effort, expertise and creativity to create the piece. Pretty things online don’t simply appear there out of the ether, even if the original source isn’t immediately clear – there is always someone who created it. If they didn’t add a license to that image allowing people to re-use it freely without crediting them, then it is not open to public re-use without credit. Simple as that. This is a legal requirement – your account can be reported for not crediting those who own the rights to it.
Not crediting images is stealing.
An easy way to find the original source of an image is to go to Google Images, click the little camera icon which allows you to search by image, and upload the image that you’d like to use. This will bring up other sources for that image online, so you just go through and find the original one. Linking to where you found the image on Pinterest or other sites doesn’t count, as that just points people to other sources where the image has been incorrectly used without credit. Yes, it requires a tiny bit of effort on your part, but it’s nothing compared to what went into creating the image you’d like to share.
A more extreme extension of this is people who blatantly copy the work of others for their own gain. There’ve been many, many, many cases of large corporations copying the work of independent artists and using them on products for sale. In some cases it’s so prevalent that people don’t even realise it’s illegal. One such case very recently involved artist Tuesday Bassen whose work was stolen by major chain store, Zara. When she confronted them about it, their response was apathetic and disinterested. There has since been an Instagram account created listing all the designs Zara has stolen from other independent artists. And Zara aren’t the only ones. Another incident recently involved a local restaurant stealing the design of an international restaurant using the logic that the images and fonts are all individually free so it’s ok for them to do this. It’s not. The design was put together to create a final piece by an international designer commissioned (i.e. paid for) by a different restaurant and is therefore not free for anyone to re-use without consent. This is intellectual property theft.
The intention of this post is to raise awareness, because I’ve noticed that many people simply don’t realise what they’re doing is theft. I’ve been wanting to write it for ages (it’s probably been in my drafts in some form for years) and never did it because I get angry and ranty and it comes across that way… but to be honest this is something to get angry and ranty about. It continues to happen and the guilty parties refuse to accept responsibility unless publicly shamed to the point that it becomes problematic for them. Small independent artists don’t always have the resources to take on bigger companies and corporates who rip them off so you don’t even hear about most cases of it happening. It’s up to us as the educated public to not accept this behaviour from them and stop supporting them with our cash when they continue with such arrogance and blatant disregard for talent that they like enough to use on their products but not enough to pay for fairly and use legally.
So what’s the solution if you find inspiring images online that you want to share?
Spread the creative love and do it in a positive (and legal) way that benefits the original creator.
Mention clearly who the original creator was – like clearly, not hidden somewhere it won’t be seen. In a blog post this means adding a caption below the image with the name of the original person who created it with a link to where that person has shared it, i.e. on their site or their own social media account. On Instagram this means tagging them as well as clearly mentioning their name, handle and site name. Using a repost app that adds a little mention in the corner isn’t quite enough. This let’s them know you’ve shared it, which will either make them glad that you’ve found their work inspiring and are sharing it in a positive way that tells people who they are, or if they’d prefer you didn’t share it they can let you know. In many cases, it’s best to drop them a quick message and request permission before sharing, especially in the case of professional photographers.
Alternatively, you can:
• take our own photos
• create your own designs (of course, not copying someone else’s work while doing this). Get creative and make them uniquely yours! There are so many free online apps and programs that allow you to create your own designs (Pixlr and Canva to name a few), and many other free or reasonably priced resources for design elements online, like the ones in my Creative Market store .
• use free stock images, like those offered by amazing photographer Roxy at CGS Creative. There are so many resources out there if you just do a quick search.
Apart from crediting images just being the legally correct thing to do, it’s also just basic internet etiquette and a great way of networking and building community. Surely if you like an image enough to share it, you’d like to send some good vibes in the direction of the creator by introducing new people to their work.
This way you show appreciation for the content that has been created and for the ability to reuse it. No one likes to be stolen from or taken advantage of, and everyone likes to feel appreciated 🙂