Lately I’ve noticed lot of people online - including big businesses - reposting images without crediting the creator. I know most people don’t do this with malicious intentions, but it’s harmful nonetheless. Of course there are exceptions to this. Artist friends of mine have had others claim credit for their work; building whole social media profiles based on stealing the work of another. But if you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure you’re participating in the online world with the best of intentions!
As someone who creates 95% of my own social media content, I know how it feels when I see someone post my work without credit. It’s awful. I put so much time and heart into my work, and for someone else to essentially steal it…it breaks my heart a little. You would never go to someone else’s website, copy a whole blog post, and claim it as your own, right? The same applies to a photo or illustration.
It’s only fair (and legal) that everyone is celebrated and credited for their work!
Let’s be real for a moment. When you repost without credit, you are stealing. In most countries, including Australia, copyright protection is automatic. You don’t need to place a copyright symbol or a watermark on your work to protect it. In the act of creation, you become the copyright holder. When you repost without correct credit, you’re actually breaking the law!
You don’t need to place a copyright symbol or a watermark on your work to protect it. In the act of creation, you become the copyright holder.
From a moral perspective, it’s simply not a nice thing to do. By failing to attribute the maker of an image, you’re robbing that person of the opportunity to gain clients who’ve seen and loved their work, you’re showing disregard for the hours they’re poured into that creation, and you’re telling the world it’s okay not to credit others. Creatives work hard to produce beautiful work to inspire others, and it’s only fair that everyone is celebrated and credited for their work!
My intention is to offer you some tools to make it easy for you to credit the creator of any image, no matter where you find it. I’ll start by saying this: in 99.9% of cases, you can track down the original source in just a few minutes. There’s really no excuse not to.
How to find the source of any image
Google Reverse Image Search
I honestly don't understand why this tool is so unheard of! It’s so simple, and will hunt down almost any image for you in second. Simply go to Google Images, drag and drop your jpeg image file into the search bar, and Google will bring up matches from the web.
Unfortunately you can't drag and drop an image into Google on mobile (yet), but luckily developer Amit Agarwal has created a wrapper of Google Image Search that works on mobile devices. You can find it here.
Instagram is the place where I see images going uncredited the most. If you’re not going to take the time to create your own content, the least you can do is recognise the person who did put time and energy into creating the image you’re about to use. I’m not against reposting at all - I do it myself - but I invite you to think of it as an opportunity to promote the creator whose work you love enough to have in your feed. A rising tide lifts all boats, and giving someone else a shout out isn’t going to do your business any harm!
If you post someone else’s image, tag them in the caption, not in a comment further down. When people do this, it seems like they’re trying to hide the creator’s name by allowing it to get lost in a sea of other comments. Not cool!
If you find an image you love on someone else’s Instagram account, don’t just tag the name of the account you found the image on. Read their post first to make sure they haven’t reposted it from someone else. I see work being incorrectly credited all the time, simply because someone didn’t follow the trail of links back once or twice to find the original source.
Reposting an opportunity to promote the creator whose work you love enough to have in your feed.
If you find an image on Pinterest (or Tumblr), following the links back will usually lead you to the original source.
If a Pinterest post doesn’t have a valid link, there’s another handy tool you can use: the Visual Search Tool. Click on the pin to make it full screen, and you’ll see a little magnifying glass in the top right corner. Clicking on that will take you through to a page of visually similar results - one of which will likely be credited, or will link back to the original source.
In the rare case that you can’t find where an image came from, you can add a caption asking if anyone recognises the work. Or, you can use a different image.
How else can you encourage an online culture of giving credit where credit is due? If you see work you recognise being posted without credit, tag the maker. If the person posting genuinely didn’t know who created the work, this gives them they opportunity to update their caption. If they did...at least someone has called them out. Either way, others who see the post will see your comment and be able to check out the creative if they wish!
Interested in learning more about the legal side of creative copyright? #createorcredit is an initiative by Catherine Grace, a former intellectual property lawyer in Australia. She has a series of blog posts that cover the moral rights of the creative, and deceptive and misleading conduct on social media. You can read her posts here.
Go forth and credit!