For better or for worse, the Internet allows hundreds of millions of people to be a click away from each other. We can save and share our favorite things with one another, we can have real-time discussions with people on the other side of the world, and we can create communities or groups of friends with people we’ve never seen face to face before with nothing more holding us together at first than a shared interest. Obviously, this is amazing, but at the same time several problems arise from the nature of the Internet. I’ve talked before about a few of these negatives, namely using anonymity to be cranky all the time and piracy, but two months ago a friend of mine reached out and asked if I had talked about something I was genuinely surprised I hadn’t talked about before. So, I decided I wouldn’t only do this topic, but I’d reach out to a handful of people who it directly affects to get a perspective not all of us can have on the matter. Let’s talk about art reposting.

If you’re on Twitter and following anyone at all who likes art or is an artist, more than likely you’ve seen this issue before. It’s one that keeps poking its head back up as something relevant and in all honesty something that should be relevant all the time so long as the issue remains present. For the extremely few that are unfamiliar with the problem at hand: Art reposting, particularly sharing without credit, is when someone takes an image they didn’t draw and haven’t asked permission to use and re-uploads it on just about any social media platform that allows for people to upload saved images without linking back to the original artist or original upload. As a result, since it’s a million times easier to save a mass amount of pictures and re-upload them regularly, the people who repost art grow much quicker in popularity in comparison to artists that can’t post something new as frequently.

As a bit of a reference point, one of the more popular sources for reposting high quality art without going out of their way to credit the original artists has 11,538 followers on Twitter and 320,615 registered users on its website which it uses to host high-resolution images. In comparison, Namori, the mangaka for Yuru Yuri, has 255,470 followers on Twitter, Yoshitaka Ushiki, the mangaka for Yumekui Merry and the Madoka Magica anthology manga, has only 45,716 followers on Twitter, and Kouhei Horikoshi, the mangaka for the recently insanely popular Boku no Hero Academia, is just above the amount of registered users this reposter has on their website at 469,603 followers on Twitter. While putting into consideration that 320 thousand people actively participate in seeking out art that isn’t theirs under the umbrella of just one “community,” clearly this is a large issue.

Unfortunately, however, the anime community at large doesn’t always have a spotlight on this issue and more often than not its swept under the rug as something unimportant. A good plethora of excuses are commonly made by both reposters and people for some reason defending them, like that artists shouldn’t be posting their artwork on the Internet if they didn’t want it stolen, or that the reposters didn’t know the source so it isn’t their fault that they don’t credit it, and while these reasons are already very flimsy arguments, I decided I’d try to reach out to a few people who would know this issue better. Who better would be to ask about art reposting than artists?

So, I was able to interview five artists of varying popularity, nihapy, secret, soyatu, SubparScribbles, and projectTiGER, from all over the world, and I asked them a few questions about art reposting and their opinions on it. The only artist of the five that knows their art has been reposted without crediting back to them is projectTiGER, but all of their opinions as people who are much more experienced with digital art than I am, are valuable. I didn’t ask them all the same questions so not every artist will have an answer for every question, but without further ado let’s get into the interviews.

How much do you think people who repost art without credit hurt the artists they repost from?

It really depends on the context. I’m following a reposting account on Twitter, they always links the pixiv page of the art they post and always credit the artist. They only post Japanese fanarts and I’ve followed quite a few new artists on pixiv thanks to them. There’s a good and a bad way to repost art. Bad way would be to post art, caption “wow so badass” and never ever credit the artist.

Well, you see, I really don’t know. I can’t tell how many people have seen my art that was reposted without my knowledge… and this by itself is a problem. Once during a convention I met enthusiastic people who told me that they love my work that they saw on Instagram… but I don’t even post art on Instagram. Now it’s just a funny memory to me, but it shows that it’s very difficult to gauge just how much of your work has been reposted on the internet.

Art can be very personal, and can have disastrous results when posted out of context, so having control of where your art is posted is quite important. Once, a certain tribute art of mine was published in a certain magazine somewhere in Europe. It was credited appropriately, but I was not even asked about it; I didn’t even know until much later. I’m not entirely sure if you could call this “growth”.

On the flip side, there is an element of free exposure when it comes to reposting.  This is a commonly brought up counter argument, and I won’t deny that reposting shows off your work to a different audience. But only a tiny part of those people will manage to find the original artist or source; reposting benefits the reposter the most — and it can be very discouraging to see others building a fan base solely off reposting art that isn’t theirs.

I think it hurts artists greatly, especially artists who make profit out of their work. Artists work extremely hard on honing their skills and creating art to the best of their ability, and reposting art can definitely be disheartening for them at the least. Art reposters benefit from reposting more than they think. Accounts dedicated to reposts, credited or not, often get a mass amount of followers who probably don’t know better, and deprive the original artists of attention, especially when they don’t source things… I’ve seen twitter accounts that repost art that have what, 10k, 50k followers, and probably even more on Instagram, and it makes me just sad…

I think they should give the artist credit! Because it will help artist’s popularity grow surely! [Art reposters] are getting more attention or views than the original post from the artist, I think? I’m not too sure about answering this.

On the contrary, how much do you think art reposters who credit you have helped you grow?

Hmmm, that’s a good question. I don’t think it has helped me that much since it was on really little communities. But imagine if Blizzard or another big artist reposted my art.  That would be pretty big.

“Sharing” art is a big part of the community. Now and then I come across things like “Oh! I know a friend who will love this!” or “Hey! This is really cool!!” and I want to show them to others.

When things are reposted with credit, it makes it easier to find the original artist, as well as even more fantastic art! But unless that particular artist is not on that particular SNS, I really see no reason to repost it.  Reblogging, sharing on Facebook, and retweeting takes literally a click, and the original artist gets the credit, isn’t this the easiest way for all? I am still iffy on the whole repost thing — there are some artists that simply do not like reposting, credited or otherwise, and I feel that it is courtesy to respect the artists wishes.

It depends on the [audience] I think. If the artist doesn’t want [their art] reposted, the repost may be a harm to the artist.

It’s so ambiguous, I think. Sure people who repost artwork have helped me as an artist, they are simply sharing their recommendation of art, like “Ah I like this artist’s artwork! They need more attention!” “Aaahh this is great! I want to share it.” “I want everyone see this art!”

I am trying to be positive that most the people doing reposting for this reason. Also, I think we need to look at the audience’s point of view too. They simply hit the [like] button when see good artwork; they mostly don’t really care about the credit.

That has aided me 100%, to be honest.  I really haven’t been hurt by it and the crediting account gaining more doesn’t bother me at all, as long as they credit me and don’t claim they did it I am fine.

How do you feel about the excuse of reposters not knowing the credit for the image the post or saying something like “I found it on Google Images”?

I want to punch them. If you don’t have the time to find who did the art you don’t have the time to post it!

Absolutely terrible. I suppose to be fair, there are generally a few groups: the first that truly do not know and think everything on the internet is free for all. Most of the time, this is quite harmless, and once they know, they’ll never do it again. Then there are the folks who are aware, but do it anyway and defend themselves to the death with excuses like “I’m giving you free exposure!” and “If you didn’t want people to repost it you shouldn’t have posted it to the internet!!!,” these people are 10,000% absolutely terrible.

From Google Images!? I think they should building connection between themselves and the artists, like start to follow artists they like on social media and message them to have permission and such.

Well they can reverse search the image too before reposting or even if they remember after posting add the artist’s name in there. If you don’t know better it is understandable to an extent but if you go out of your way to do it you are kinda being a scumbag.

Is there ever a point when reposting that it’s too late to give the artist credit? If so, when and why?

Sometimes, for posts that blow up, by the time you attempt to repair the damage, it’s already spiraled out of your control. Chances are, no one is going to see your edit or apology; plus on certain sites you cannot edit your post, or the shared/reblogged posts will not reflect your edits. This is not an excuse to avoid trying to fix or apologize for reposting, but rather a good reason to avoid reposting at all. The traffic is gone, people have seen your work and they still don’t know you, the artist, exist.

You can say it is a selfish wish to be known for your art and what you have put time and effort into but I really don’t want to take moral lessons from people who post artwork they spent zero effort in creating. For people who draw as a hobby it may be just a matter of pride, but for people who make a living off art you have robbed them of a chance or a potential job opportunity.

I think it’s okay! It’s better than nothing, but it would be better if they double-checked before posting to make sure it isn’t forgotten.

Do you ever expect people to reverse image search something when they see art that doesn’t have credit?

Hmm, if you really want to know, yeah everyone knows how to do that. But some people just don’t have time for that.

Well, I don’t expect everyone to do so. Actually, do most people know Google reverse image search is a thing? Reverse image searching has come a long way from what it was years ago and perhaps with more awareness, I hope it’ll be just as well-known as phrases like “Just google it!!” Nowadays I see older folks whipping out their smartphones and googling things when they aren’t sure; maybe one day reverse image searching will be another reflex.

Hmm, I don’t know about this. I think mostly people just save or download the works and use it as a wallpaper or icon or such.

While I’m doubtful what was said was a surprise to anyone and there shouldn’t be much to unpack, the opinions of these five I felt were still very important to look at. I don’t expect to change anyone’s minds about reposting with just a handful of questions from a handful of people. Instead, I thought it was important to look at this because of the arguments made against people insisting art reposting stops and often an artist’s thoughts on the matter can’t really be found in an easy dialogue, at least in the threads where artists and reposters argue. The same points that artists make can be referred back to millions of times by everyone, but to hear the minute differences in what each artist thinks while still being in general opposition shows something that I don’t think people see often or at least make notice of.

When there’s just an image and you don’t care about how it came to be, it’s incredibly easy to detach yourself from the artist. Past that, if all you hear about them are them trying to defend their art and being painted in an awful light or seeing people fight in place of the artists, it’s easy to remain detached while knowing they exist. More than anything, I think differing opinions all more or less agreeing on the same thing creates a bridge to understanding them better. If every artist can have a different opinion and be offered the chance to not only express those opinions but in slightly more detail than usual, it offers a point of view on an opinion that it’s easy to assume that every artist more or less has.

During my interview with secret, I got to ask her a question I didn’t get into asking the others centred around what a perfect way to repost would be. With a couple of the people I interviewed I got off script for the main topic and kind of questions I wanted to ask, but with secret she brought up something while not necessarily special was interesting to hear.

Is there any perfect or helpful way to do a repost account on various sites?

A couple of Tumblr accounts have it down where they link to the original post and the artist’s most active accounts, and also encourage people to support the original artist. I honestly don’t think there will be a perfect way to repost on Instagram. I guess people could try screenshotting the posts and putting links in the description?

More than anything, the point of sharing art is to help support the original artist. Where you have accounts on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram that get thousands and thousands of followers, this doesn’t help anyone. Why I show this answer is because I think the point of reposting in the first place is to share, and if sharing can be done in a way that’s beneficial to the artist why not do that?

Fortunately enough with me spending more time than I frankly needed to in order to finish this post, an article from BuzzFeed News with a ridiculously long title brought the importance of crediting reposts into the spotlight for a little bit and it’s worth bringing that example back for this. An online freelance artist, Esther García López, back in November 2017 got some of her artwork reposted to Facebook but because of the person sharing the art doing the right thing and crediting her, she was found by a Spanish company and received a job. Had this account done the same thing as plenty of other popular art accounts do and left out the artist credit, there could be one less artist with a job in the world.

When I say that reposting strictly without credit helps no one, I mean that the popularity generated around a specific account for saving and posting images isn’t befitting anyone. All the account’s growth does is grow an example that whoever drew the art isn’t important and by doing something this simple you can become popular yourself. It grows an example that doing this is okay, and that the original artist is unimportant. The popularity that the individual or group of people get doesn’t mean anything to them in relation to what that same popularity could mean for an artist who could make a living off of their work.

Just like anything, the art people put time and effort into takes time to create. I can’t equate art reposting to something like theft, but is harmful nonetheless. So, imagine for a moment that you’re school. Try and just imagine the amount of trouble and anguish it would cause you if a classmate stole an essay you wrote and presented it as their own. Not only that, but imagine they got away with it and imagine you’re living in a setting where your essays could at any moment be copied and presented with zero credit to you.

The reason I choose this analogy is because who you are and how your work could be used can vary drastically from person to person. Clearly, the people copying your work and benefiting from it in the short-term are already committing plagiarism, but it creates an example that your work is okay to take — that anyone’s work is okay to take. Depending on the context, the copied work could be absolutely disastrous to you or it could be a minor annoyance, but the fact that at any moment it could be taken and could absolutely blow up in popularity with you completely out of the picture remains.

Through talking with the five artists I spoke to, this was one of the most important points I was able to receive from them: They don’t know when their art could be taken, they don’t know if it has been, and depending on where it was put afterwords could have a range of stressful problems that arise as a result. On the contrary, if you just retweet, share, reblog, or even just credit properly, you could lead to someone who’s art you clearly liked enough to share grow in a whole myriad of ways. The excuses brought to the table are tired and mean nothing in comparison to the kinds of problems people who repost without credit cause.

As a last question I asked whoever I remembered to ask if they had any last words on reposting.

Most artists state clearly their stance on reposting, and for those who don’t, it takes only a few minutes to send a message to ask. If you can’t find the source, you really don’t have to repost it — it’s not like you spent any time actually making the artwork anyway.

For artists though, please remember that you have your rights. If you chance upon your work being used without your permission, you don’t even have to contact the reposter if you don’t want to – most websites provide copyright or DMCA takedown forms for this very purpose. Most websites work quickly to resolve such matters (some even have fantastic community support), but your mileage may vary.
A few off the top of my head:
Tumblr Report Misattrib
We Heart It Copyright Infringement Form
Facebook Copyright Report Form

If you love a piece of art and want to share it use links instead of images!

I hope reposters and artist can build quality connections [with each other] so we won’t miscommunicate with each other! Please be careful when reposting someone’s artwork because some artists like to work privately too! Communication is a good thing!

Please be kind to the artists you love. Their growth means more art for everyone to enjoy. Take it from the artists themselves.

After multiple months on full panic mode debating about how I should do my first interview piece, this post is finally out. With this out-of-the-way, editorials should return to the normal schedule, but I don’t want to promise anything since usually something or other comes up that ends up making the post get delayed. I listed the Twitter accounts of all of the artists I interviewed down where the sources usually are along with the BuzzFeed article I mentioned. If you have any additional thoughts on this week’s topic feel free to leave them in the comments, I promise I read all of them. In addition, if you want to see what I’m up to between editorials, feel free to follow me on Twitter! Thank you very much for reading this week’s post, and I’ll see you (hopefully) next week!

The featured image for this post was drawn by soyatu.

Interviewed artists:
nihapy (@Nihapy)
projectTiGER (@projectTiGER_)
secret (@secret_sans)
soyatu (@soyacomu)
SubparScribbles (@SubparScribbles)

This Artist Was Offered A Full-Time Job After Someone On The Internet Properly Credited Their Work by Tanya Chen (BuzzFeed News)