I’ve seen it happen all too often in my circle of artist friends. You make a drawing or take a photograph and it starts getting passed around, posted on the feeds of curators, brands, even celebrities. Somewhere along the way your work gets cropped and filtered and even claimed to belong to someone else.
We live in 2019, a time when “reposting” is just a fact of life. It isn’t all bad, of course. I have no problem with brands and accounts sharing my work in most cases. Actually, I encourage it. I love getting more eyes on my art. But it needs to be done right.
Please remember that behind every image on Instagram there is a real, living, breathing human who took the time, energy, and bravery to create something and share it with the world. The least you can do is make sure you are accurately and appropriately crediting them.
If you have an account that only reposts and shares other people’s work, look at it as your job. Curation is a real talent. Approach it with professionalism and respect toward both — the craft of curating as well as the artists who are making the work.
All of that being said, this is just my opinion. Every artist feels differently. Here are a few ground rules for sharing other people’s work on the Internet.
Although it’s 2019 and reposting is second nature, it would be ideal if you always asked before reposting on your feed, no matter what. The very least you can do is make sure the artist doesn’t clearly state “no reposting” on their profiles or website.
2. Never edit without permission.
You may think you are helping out the artist by touching up/editing their work, but you’re not. This piece does not belong to you. Respect the artist’s original vision. If you feel the need to edit, crop, touch-up: Don’t.
3. Credit clearly and appropriately.
Tag the artist in the caption as well as in the image itself. Make sure it is clear who the artist is. Do not try to pass it off as your own work. Don’t bury the artist’s name or handle in a pile of hashtags that make it impossible to see. Don’t just tag the photo, but not list their name in the caption. That’s just lazy. Go above and beyond to make sure the artist gets the recognition they deserve. Yes, this might take a bit more effort. Yes, this feels like work. That is the price you pay for sharing other people’s art for free.
4. Dig for the proper source.
If you are reposting from someone who has also reposted, you need to research to find the original source of the art. You cannot simply tag the person from whom you found the artwork. Again, it’s work, but it’s the right thing to do.
5. When you see something, say something.
It feels like every day I see someone’s work getting ripped off online. Don’t just shake your head and move on — speak up! Chances are the person posting doesn’t even realize what they’re doing.
6. NEVER use an artist’s work for commercial purposes without payment or permission.
Reposting on Instagram or your blog is one thing, but turning an artist’s work into a poster for an event or the background for an advertisement is another. Message or email the artist to request use of their art, and be ready to pay for it.
It’s up to us to change the reposting landscape. I don’t think most people do this maliciously. It’s just pure ignorance and laziness. The good news: We can help educate and shift people’s posting habits by taking the extra time and care when we do it ourselves.
Art matters. Artists matter. They deserve to be treated with respect. Always.