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Recognizing AI Generated Images, Danmei Edition

Note: this is cross-posted from an account I run, mdzsartreblogs, on Tumblr. You can read the original post here.

Heyo, @unforth here! I run some danmei art blogs (@mdzsartreblogs, @tgcfartreblogs, @svsssartreblogs, @zhenhunartreblogs, @erhaartreblogs, @dmbjartreblogs, @tykartreblogs, and @cnovelartreblogs) which means I see a LOT of danmei art, and I go through the main fandom tags more-or-less every day.

Today, for the first time, I spotted someone posting AI-generated images (I refuse to call them AI “art” – and to be clear, that’s correct of me, because at least in the US it literally LEGALLY isn’t art) without any label indicating they were AI generated. I am not necessarily against the existence of AI-generated images (though really…considering all the legal issues and the risks of misuse, I’m basically against them); I think they potentially have uses in certain contexts (such as for making references) and I also think that regardless of our opinions, we’re stuck with them, but they’re also clearly not art and I don’t reblog them to the art side blogs.

The images I spotted today had multiple “tells,” but they were still accumulating notes, and I thought it might be a good moment to step back and point out some of the more obvious tells because my sense is that a LOT of people are against AI-generated images being treated as art, and that these people wouldn’t want to support an AI-generator user who tried to foist off their work as actual artwork, but that people don’t actually necessarily know how to IDENTIFY those works and therefore can inadvertently reblog works that they’d never support if they were correctly identified. (Similar to how the person who reposts and says “credit to the artist” is an asshole but they’re not the same as someone who reposts without any credit at all and goes out of their way to make it look like they ARE the artist when they’re not).

Toward that end, I’ve downloaded all the images I spotted on this person’s account and I’m going to use them to highlight the things that led me to think they were AI art – they posted a total of 5 images to a few major danmei tags the last couple days, and several other images not to specific fandoms (I examined 8 images total). The first couple I was suspicious, but it wasn’t til this morning that I spotted one so obvious that it couldn’t be anything BUT AI art. I am NOT going to name the person who did this. The purpose of this post is purely educational. I have no interest whatsoever in bullying one rando. Please don’t try to identify them; who they are is genuinely irrelevant, what matters is learning how to recognize AI art in general and not spreading it around, just like the goal of education about reposting is to help make sure that people who repost don’t get notes on their theft, to help people recognize the signs so that the incentive to be dishonest about this stuff is removed.

But first: Why is treating AI-generated images as art bad?

I’m no expert and this won’t be exhaustive, but I do think it’s important to first discuss why this matters.

On the surface, it’s PERHAPS harmless for someone to post AI-generated images provided that the image is clearly labeled as AI-generated. I say “perhaps” because in the end, as far as I’m aware, there isn’t a single AI-generation engine that’s built on legally-sourced artwork. Every AI (again, to the best of my knowledge) has been trained using copyrighted images usually without the permission of the artists. Indeed, this is the source of multiple current lawsuits. (and another)

But putting that aside (as if it can be put aside that AI image generators are literally unethically built), it’s still problematic to support the images being treated as art. Artists spend thousands of hours learning their craft, honing it, sharing their creations, building their audiences. This is what they sell when they offer commissions, prints, etc. This can never be replicated by a computer, and to treat an AI-generated image as in any way equivalent is honestly rude, inappropriate, disgusting imo. This isn’t “harmless”; supporting AI image creation engines is damaging to real people and their actual livelihoods. Like, the images might be beautiful, but they’re not art. I’m honestly dreading someone managing to convince fandom that their AI-generated works are actual art, and then cashing in on commissions, prints, etc., because people can’t be fussed to learn the difference. We really can’t let this happen, guys. Fanartists are one of the most vibrant, important, prominent groups in all our fandoms, and we have to support them and do our part to protect them.

As if those two points aren’t enough, there’s already growing evidence that AI-generated works are being used to further propagandists. There are false images circulating of violence at protests, deep-fakes of various kinds that are helping the worst elements of society to push their horrid agendas. As long as that’s a facet of AI-generated works, they’ll always be dangerous.

I could go on, but really this isn’t the main point of my post and I don’t want to get bogged down. Other people have said more eloquently than I why AI-generated images are bad. Read those. (I tried to find a good one to link but sadly failed; if anyone knows a good post, feel free to send it and I’ll add the link to the post).

Basically: I think a legally trained AI-image generator that had built-in clear watermarks could be a fun toy for people who want reference images or just to play with making pseudo-art. But…that’s not what we have, and what we do have is built on theft and supports dystopia so, uh. Yeah fuck AI-generated images.

How to recognize AI-Generated Images Made in an Eastern Danmei Art Style

NOTE: I LEARNED ALL THE BASICS ON SPOTTING AI-GENERATED IMAGES FROM THIS POST. I’ll own I still kinda had the wool over my eyes until I read that post – I knew AI stuff was out there but I hadn’t really looked closely enough to have my eyes open for specific signs. Reading that entire post taught me a lot, and what I learned is the foundation of this post.

This post shouldn’t be treated as a universal guide. I’m specifically looking at the tells when AI is emulating the kind of art that people in danmei fandoms often see coming from Weibo and other Chinese, Japanese, and Korean platforms, works made by real artists. For example, the work of Foxking (狐狸大王a), kokirapsd, and Changyang (who is an official artist for MDZS, TGCF, and other danmei works). This work shares a smooth use of color, an aim toward a certain flavor of realism, an ethereal quality to the lighting, and many other features. (Disclaimer: I am not an artist. Putting things in arty terms is really not my forte. Sorry.)

So, that’s what these AI-generated images are emulating. And on the surface, they look good! Like…

…that’s uncontestably a pretty picture (the white box is covering the “artist’s” watermark.) And on a glance, it doesn’t necessarily scream “AI generated”! But the devil is in the details, and the details are what this post is about. And that picture? Is definitely AI generated.

This post is based on 8 works I grabbed from a single person’s account, all posted as their own work and watermarked as such. Some of the things that are giveaways only really show when looking at multiple pieces. I’m gonna start with those, and then I’ll highlight some of the specifics I spotted that caused me to go from “suspicious” to “oh yeah no these are definitely not art.”

Sign 1: all the images are the exact same size. I mean, to the pixel: 512 x 682 pixels (or 682 x 512, depending on landscape or portrait orientation). This makes zero sense. Why would an artist trim all their pieces to that size? It’s not the ideal Tumblr display size (that’s 500 x 750 pixels). If you check any actual artist’s page and look at the full-size of several of their images, they’ll all be different sizes as they trimmed, refined, and otherwise targeted around their original canvas size to get the results they wanted.

Sign 2: pixelated. At the shrunken size displayed on, say, a mobile Tumblr feed, the image looks fine, but even just opening the full size upload, the whole thing is pixelated. Now, this is probably the least useful sign; a lot of artists reduce the resolution/dpi/etc. on their uploaded works so that people don’t steal them. But, taken in conjunction with everything else, it’s definitely a sign.

Those are the two most obvious overall things – the things I didn’t notice until I looked at all the uploads. The specifics are really what tells, though. Which leads to…

Sign 3: the overall work appears to have a very high degree of polish, as if it were made by an artist who really really knows what they’re doing, but on inspection – sometimes even on really, REALLY cursory inspect – the details make zero sense and reflect the kinds of mistakes that a real artist would never make.

So, here’s the image that I saw that “gave it away” to me, and caused me to re-examine the images that had first struck me as off but that I hadn’t been able to immediately put my finger on the problem. I’ve circled some of the spots that are flagrant.

Do you see yet? Yes? Awesome, you’re getting it. No? Okay, let’s go point by point, with close ups.

Sign 4: HANDS. Hands are currently AI’s biggest weakness, though they’ve been getting better quickly and honestly that’s terrifying. But whatever AI generated this picture clearly doesn’t get hands yet, because that hand is truly an eldritch horror. Look at this thing:

It has two palms. It has seven fingers. It’s basically two hands overlaid over each other, except one of those hands only has four fingers and the other has three. Seeing this hand was how I went from “umm…maybe they’re fake? Maybe they’re not???” to “oh god why is ANYONE reblogging this when it’s this obvious?” WATCH THE HANDS. (Go back up to that first one posted and look at the hand, you’ll see. Or just look right below at this crop.) Here’s some other hands:

Sign 5: Hair and shadows. Once I started inspecting these images, the shadows of the hair on the face was one of the things that was most consistently fucked up across all the uploaded pictures. Take a look:

There’s shadows of tendrils on the forehead, but there’s no corresponding hair that could possibly have made those shadows. Likewise there’s a whole bunch of shadows on the cheeks. Where are those coming from? There’s no possible source in the rest of the image. Here’s some other hair with unrelated wonky shadows:

Sign 6: Decorative motifs that are really just meaningless squiggles. Like, artists, especially those who make fanart, put actual thought into what the small motifs are on their works. Like, in TGCF, an artist will often use a butterfly motif or a flower petal motif to reflect things about the characters. An AI, though, can only approximate a pattern and it can’t imbue those with meanings. So you end up with this:

What is that? It’s nothing, that’s what. It’s a bunch of squiggles. Here’s some other meaningless squiggle motifs (and a more zoomed-in version of the one just above):

Sign 7: closely related to meaningless squiggle motifs is motifs that DO look like something, but aren’t followed through in any way that makes sense. For example, an outer garment where the motifs on the left and the right shoulder/chest are completely different, or a piece of cloth that’s supposed to be all one piece but that that has different patterns on different sections of it. Both of these happen in the example piece, see?

The first images on the top left is the left and right shoulder side by side. The right side has a scalloped edge; the left doesn’t. Likewise, in the right top picture, you can see the two under-robe lapels; one has a gold decoration and the other doesn’t. And then the third/bottom image shows three sections of the veil. One (on the left) has that kind of blue arcy decoration, which doesn’t follow the folds of the cloth very well and looks weird and appears at one point to be OVER the hair instead of behind it. The second, on top of the bottom images, shows a similar motif, except now it’s gold, and it looks more like a hair decoration than like part of the veil. The third is also part of the same veil but it has no decorations at all. Nothing about this makes any sense whatsoever. Why would any artist intentionally do it that way? Or, more specifically, why would any artist who has this apparent level of technical skill ever make a mistake like this?

They wouldn’t.

Some more nonsensical patterns, bad mirrors, etc. (I often put left/right shoulders side by side so that it’d be clearer, sorry if it’s weird):

Sign 8: bizarre architecture, weird furniture, etc. Most of the images I’m examining for this post have only partial backgrounds, so it’s hard to really focus on this, but it’s something that the post I linked (this one) talks about a lot. So, like, an artist will put actual thought into how their construction works, but an AI won’t because an AI can’t. There’s no background in my main example image, but take a look at this from another of my images:

On a glance it’s beautiful. On a few seconds actually staring it’s just fucking bizarre. The part of the ceiling on the right appears to be domed maybe? But then there’s a hard angle, then another. The windows on the right have lots of panes, but then the one on the middle-left is just a single panel, and the ones on the far left have a complete different pane model. Meanwhile, also on the left side at the middle, there’s that dark gray…something…with an arch that mimics the background arches except it goes no where, connects to nothing, and has no apparent relationship to anything else going on architecturally. And, while the ceiling curves, the back wall is straight AND shows more arches in the background even though the ceiling looks to end. And yes, some of this is possible architecture, but taken as a whole, it’s just gibberish. Why would anyone who paints THAT WELL paint a building to look like THAT? They wouldn’t. It’s nonsense. It’s the art equivalent of word salad. When we look at a sentence and it’s like “dog makes a rhythmical salad to betray on the frame time plot” it almost resembles something that might mean something but it’s clearly nonsense. This background is that sentence, as art.

Sign 9: all kinds of little things that make zero sense. In the example image, I circled where a section of the hair goes BELOW the inner robe. That’s not impossible but it just makes zero sense. As with many of these, it’s the kind of thing that taken alone, I’d probably just think “well, that was A Choice,” but combined with all the other weird things it stands out as another sign that something here is really, really off. Here’s a collection of similar “wtf?” moments I spotted across the images I looked at (I’m worried I’m gonna hit the Tumblr image cap, hence throwing these all in one, lol.)

You have to remember that an actual artist will do things for a reason. And we, as viewers, are so used to viewing art with that in mind that we often fill in reasons even when there aren’t. Like, in the image just about this, I said, “what the heck are these flowers growing on?” And honestly, I COULD come up with explanations. But that doesn’t mean it actually makes sense, and there’s no REASON for it whatsoever. The theoretical same flowers are, in a different shot, growing unsupported! So…what gives??? The answer is nothing gives. Because these pieces are nothing. The AI has no reason, it’s just tossing in random aesthetic pieces together in a mishmash, and the person who generated them is just re-generating and refining until they get something that looks “close enough” to what they wanted. It never was supposed to make sense, so of course it doesn’t.

In conclusion…

After years of effort, artists have gotten across to most of fandom that reposts are bad, and helped us learn strategies for helping us recognize reposts, and given us an idea of what to do when we find one.

Fandom is just at the beginning of this process as it applies to AI-generated images. There’s a LOT of education that has to be done – about why AI-generated images are bad (the unethical training using copyrighted images without permission is, imo, critical to understanding this), and about how to spot them, and then finally about what to do when you DO find them.

With reposts, we know “tell original artist, DCMA takedowns, etc.” That’s not the same with these AI-images. There’s no original owner. There’s no owner at all – in the US, at least, they literally cannot be copyrighted. Which is why I’m not even worrying about “credit” on this post – there’s nothing stolen, cause there’s nothing made. So what should you do?

Nothing. The answer is, just as the creator has essentially done nothing, you should also do nothing. Don’t engage. Don’t reblog. Don’t commission the creator or buy their art prints. If they do it persistently and it bothers you, block them. If you see one you really like, and decide to reblog it, fine, go for it, but mark it clearly – put in the ACTUAL COMMENTS (not just in the tags!) that it’s AI art, and that you thought it was pretty anyway. But honestly, it’d be better to not engage, especially since as this grows it’s inevitable that some actual artists are going to start getting accused of posting AI-generated images by over-zealous people. Everyone who gets a shadow wrong isn’t posting AI-generated images. A lot of these details are insanely difficult to get correct, and lots of even very skilled, accomplished artists, if you go over their work with a magnifying glass you’re going to find at least some of these things, some weirdnesses that make no sense, some shadows that are off, some fingers that are just ugh (really, getting hands wrong is so relatable. hands are the fucking worst). It’s not about “this is bad art/not art because the hand is wrong,” it’s specifically about the ways that it’s wrong, the way a computer randomly throws pieces together versus how actual people make actual mistakes. It’s all of the little signs taken as a whole to say “no one who could produce a piece that, on the surface, looks this nice, could possibly make THIS MANY small ‘mistakes.'”

The absolute best thing you can do if you see AI-generated images being treated as real art is just nothing. Support actual artists you love, and don’t spread the fakes.

Thanks for your time, everyone. Good luck avoiding AI-generated pieces in the future, please signal boost this, and feel free to get in touch if you think I can help you with anything related to this.

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How to Support Chinese Authors of Queer Fiction by Buying Their Work on JJWXC

I have strep throat, so our regular blogging schedule is having an interruption. Instead, here’s a blog post I wrote for my personal account a couple years ago. The original link is here. I’ve x-ed out things that are no longer relevant/accurate and added a little information.

So, English-Speaking Danmei Fandom, You Want to Support Authors…

…and so do I, so here’s my dumb white English-more-or-less-only (I speak a small amount of Japanese…it vaguely sort of kind of helps) speaking ass, doing a little homework that hopefully will help others? This is not exhaustive, not complete, not better than resources others have made, but I checked things I personally cared about, and since I’ve done the research, I figure I might as well toss the info out into the wild.

First – as Suika linked, HERE IS AN AMAZING GUIDE TO HELP YOU MAKE A JJWXC ACCOUNT and it teaches you how to use it. It was created by Shoko Translates and it’s incredibly clear and easy to use and you should use it and trust anything they say over literally anything in this post, because I only have the vaguest idea what I’m talking about but they know their shit.

Google translate on Chrome works decently to make the site English…but doesn’t work well in any other respect; overall it functions WAY better on Firefox even if it’s umpteen times harder to figure out what anything says.

Use the guide to make your account; I couldn’t get it to successfully send my phone a text, but I had zero problems when I switched to e-mail. Chrome translate is definitely easier for making the actual account, but then it’s better to switch.

Once you’ve got the account and you log in…


…so, I have no idea what either of those two I’ve circled say (USE THE LINKED GUIDE, IT’LL TELL YOU) but I know that if you click either of them, you get a huge list of authors and book titles, with genre notes, hits, publication date, etc. More importantly, you get a search bar – you can see it right below my silly black circle.

Congratulations, you can now find the things you want to support using search! The first option in the search drop down is book, and it brings up the actual book but also a lot of superfluous stuff. I had way better luck searching by author, which is the second option on the drop down menu.

Now that you know how to search – when I sat down with this today, my goal wasn’t yet to actually pay for anything, I just wanted a sense of how many points things would cost, and I wanted to be able to look that up. So, that’s this post’s goal, and sorry I’m a little disjointed in presenting that out, I got like no sleep last night. Anyway. The point is, based on that link I provided (DID YOU USE IT YET? YOU SHOULD):

10,000 points on JJWXC cost approximately USD 17. Convert as needed for your own currency. Or, one point costs 0.17 cents. (To be clear: that’s about 2 tenths of a cent, not 17 cents.)

With that basic conversion, once you have an account, you can see how many points things cost, and therefore calculate how much they’d cost you in $$$ to support the author. Anyway, I haven’t actually figured out ANY of the money parts of this yet, because I wanted to figure out how many points the books I would want to support were before I even attempted money stuff. My thinking with this post was – if you, like me, were holding back cause you were wondering about expense…well, here, have some answers about expense, and probably in a day or four I’ll sit down and try to figure out the money part, and I’ll do another post then. Or, you can just use that guide I linked. Cause that’s what I’m going to do.

So, what/who do you want to support?

Priest (search for author: priest)

  • 镇魂 (Zhen Hun/Guardian). Point cost: 1,742. In USD: $2.96 (Censors removed this from JJWXC but it’ll be coming out in English translation later in 2023)
  • 天涯客 (Tian Ya Ke/Faraway Wanderers/Word of Honor). Point cost: 943. In USD: $1.60
  • 有匪 (You Fei/Legend of Fei). Point cost: 3,031. In USD: $5.15
  • 默读 (Mo Du). Point cost: 3,506. In USD: $5.96
  • 杀破狼 (Sha Po Lang). Point cost: 2,673. In USD: $4.54 (This will be coming out in English translation later in 2023)
  • 七爷 (Qi Ye/Lord Seventh). Point cost: 934. In USD: $1.59
  • (This is not an exhaustive list, but you can search for others – the Priest Wikipedia page gives a full list of Chinese names, translations, adaptations, etc.)

墨香铜臭 (Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, search for author: 墨香铜臭)

  • All MXTX works have been removed/censored from JJWXC since I originally wrote this post, but they’re now all available in official English translations and in many other languages as well.

肉包不吃肉 (Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou/Meatbun Doesn’t Eat Meat, search for author: 肉包不吃肉)

  • 二哈和他的白猫师尊 (Er Ha He Ta De Bai Mao Shizun/The Husky and His White Cat Shizun/Hao Yixing/Immortality). Point cost: 7,246. In USD: $12.32 (Censors removed this from JJWXC but it’s being released in English)
  • 余污 (Yu Wu/Remnants of Filth). Point cost: 4,245. In USD: $7.22 (This will be coming out in English translation later in 2023)

梦溪石 (Meng Xi Shi, search for author: 梦溪石)

  • 千秋 (Qianqiu/Thousand Autumns). Point cost: 2,783. In USD: $4.73 (This will be coming out in English translation later in 2023)
  • (There are many others.)

漫漫何其多 (Man Man He Qi Duo, search for author: 漫漫何其多)

  • 当年万里觅封侯 (Dangnian Wanli Mi Feng Hou/Those Years in Quest of Honor Mine). Point cost: 1,551. In USD: $2.64
  • (Again, there are many others.)

I could go add titles for years, but, well, it’s my post, and these are the stories I was most interested in supporting personally. Doing ALL this research, AND writing it up for this post, took me less than an hour, and once you’re in the website and have bought points, you can select all chapters with a single click, it’ll tell you the final point cost, and with another click – bam, you’re done, you’ve bought the raws. You’ve supported the original creator. You’ve done what translators have been begging us to do for ages. And, if it’s a story that’s not all out yet – you’ve got the raws! You can mtl them! You can read them before the translators are done! Or, if you’ve got a fave author? You can read their work in progress! You can learn what’s coming next! Even without speaking Chinese (I don’t speak a word of Chinese!!!) there is NO DOWNSIDE HERE.

(also, can I point out how INCREDIBLY SMALL some of these dollar amounts are? Some of ya’ll are acting like this is bank-breaking, I mean seriously, COME ON.)

Google is your friend. Find the carrd for your fave. Copy and paste the author’s name in Chinese. Use the JJWXC search. Find the thing. Support it.

English danmei fandom, this is our chance to do better.

PLEASE, can we do fricken better??? It’s so easy. And so cheap. And these fandoms have brought so many of us so much joy.

Go forth, and do the thing.

I’m doing it.

I also wrote two follow-ups to this that I may or may not end up cross-posting to here.

How to Actually Buy The Thing Now That You’ve Found It

How to Order Print Chinese Books from Books TW

Who we are: Duck Prints Press LLC is an independent publisher based in New York State. Our founding vision is to help fanfiction authors navigate the complex process of bringing their original works from first draft to print, culminating in publishing their work under our imprint. We are particularly dedicated to working with queer authors and publishing stories featuring characters from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Love what we do? Want to make sure you don’t miss the announcement for future giveaways? Sign up for our monthly newsletter and get previews, behind-the-scenes information, coupons, and more!

Want to support the Press, read about us behind-the-scenes, learn about what’s coming down the pipeline, get exclusive teasers, and claim free stories? Back us on Patreon or ko-fi monthly!

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How to Spot Art Reposts

Note: this is a post I wrote last year for a side blog I run from my personal Tumblr account. You can see the original post here. Given the popularity of the post I did about the Wayback Machine, I thought perhaps x-posting more of my fandom-general posts written outside of my ownership of Duck Prints Press might be useful/of interest to people. This post was originally written in March, 2021.

Umpteen months ago I asked if followers of this blog would like my take on art reposting, how to recognize reposts, and what to do when you find them, and today, I finally wrote it.

I am deliberately NOT putting this behind a read more. It’s long, but it’s important. If you want to support creators and avoid reposts, please, please read it!

What is an art repost?

An art repost is any instance where a piece of art is re-uploaded from the platform where it was originally posted to any other platform (such as Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Discord, etc.). This is not the same as reblogging/retweeting/sharing posts. Any instance where the social media account of the creator is still the originating source for the post is not a repost, and in general creators strongly encourage people to interact with their own work that they’ve posted – that’s why they’ve posted it!Please, we’re begging you, reblog artwork from creators! By contrast, a repost is a brand-new post made by any other account owner. 

Reposts can be authorized or unauthorized.

What is an authorized repost?

Many artists allow reposting provided they’re informed first. Others have blanket statements in their profiles that allow reposting. No matter what, an authorized repost should always include the artist’s name and, ideally, link(s) to platforms where they regularly post.

What is an unauthorized repost?

An unauthorized repost is any instance where an artist has not been explicitly given, and is especially inappropriate if the artist has asked that people not repost their work. The majority of artists do not allow reposts, and it’s usually stated in their bios, in their pinned posts, in their caption, or in their watermark, or sometimes all four and then some. Unauthorized reposts can also include remixing existing gifs into new sets, making photo montages with images you don’t own, creating tiktok or youtube videos with artwork you don’t have the rights to use, and much much more. Basically, if you are taking someone’s work, and posting it or modifying it without their permission…don’t.

What about instances where it’s not clear if explicit permission has been given for a repost?

This is a gray area, one on which even well-meaning netizens disagree. For me, personally? If I’m not positive the repost was created with permission, I don’t reblog it, even if the artist is named and linked on the post. I don’t have time to track down if permission has been granted or if the person has given blanket permission in their bio, and I’d rather be sure than risk reblogging something they’ve forbidden. However, many others feel that as long as an artist is thoroughly credited, it’s okay to post or reblog a piece in the absence of explicit indications that the artist would disapprove of that usage of their work. Which approach you take is ultimately up to you. None of us have the time to investigate every single piece of art we see on Tumblr. To some extent, we have to trust that people have the permission they say they have, or that when they’ve reposted and linked to other platforms, they’ve done so either with the artist’s knowledge or after having checked that the author’s bio on that platform allows for such reposting. 

My own uncertainty that I trust people to do that appropriately is why I, personally, only reblog works that have either been posted by the artist or that explicitly indicate that permission was obtained for the repost.

What if someone lies about having permission?

None of us can control what other people do on the internet. All we can control is our own behavior. It’s totally okay for us to assume that others who say they have permission are acting in good faith – but it’s also our responsibility that, if we find out that we’ve been mistaken, we remove the reblog and spread the word that someone has violated that good faith trust. That’s the best we can do.

Why is reposting bad?

Artists own the copyright to their own work. Yes, even fanartists. Just because something is posted on the internet doesn’t mean it’s fair game for anyone to download, upload, and use as they will. Many artists need the money they earn from selling prints, commissions, merch, etc., to supplement their income or earn a living. Everytime their work is reposted without their permission, you’re potentially taking money out of their pockets. This goes double if the work is posted without even their name attached to it. Many artists also find this intensely disheartening: they’ve slaved over an image, whether that be a piece of artwork or a gif they’ve edited or a photograph they’ve taken. When people just come along and act entitled to take that work and behave as if there’s no one behind the computer screen on the other end, it leaves artists deflated. I know multiple artists who have literally left fandom because having their work stolen and reposted was that upsetting to them. Even if you (generic you, who is not a creator) thinks that reposts don’t hurt anyone…artists almost universally say reposting DOES hurt them, so don’t fucking do it.

What kind of works can be reposted?

All types of artwork and graphic work can be reposted, with or without permission. Don’t assume photographs that are on Google can just be taken and reposted! Someone took that photograph, and someone owns the rights, and unless the image is in the Creative Commons, it’s not for free use. The same goes for all forms of artwork, animated gifs, even fonts. Behind every single graphic you see is a real live human who put effort into creating it, and reposting that work without permission or without identifying the creator is at minimum highly disrespectful and at the extreme can literally endanger people’s livelihoods. It’s theft, flat out. If you wouldn’t rob from a mom-and-pop store, don’t repost the work of an artist without permission!

…but (insert excuse of choice here).

Honestly, I could put in a list of excuses I’ve heard, but I’m not going to, because I don’t want to fucking bother dignifying all that bullshit. There is no excuse. Either reblog from the original creator, or get permission from a creator to repost, or DON’T POST IT. You (person making excuses!) are not entitled. You are an asshole. Stop.


Alright – now that I’ve gone through the basics of what a repost is – and isn’t – and why reposting is often bad – now for the main part. How can you, as a random person on this hellsite, know if a work is a repost, and what should you do if you find one?

The first thing to remember is that if a post is a permitted repost, it should be obvious. Most people who are making a good-faith effort to share artworks from other websites will include text that makes it clear that the work is a repost, that it’s been shared with permission, and provide the name of the artist and links for where to find them. People who do those kinds of posts are not doing anything wrong (unless they’re found to be lying…but I personally have yet to hear of an instance where they were). 

This is a post about the other kind of repost – those cases where, due to ignorance or malicious intent, people intentionally post artworks that they haven’t created themselves while providing no credit to the original creator, or inadequate credit.

Signs that a Post May be an Unauthorized Repost:

1. There’s no caption. Most, but not all, artists write something to go with their posts. The lack of a caption is absolutely not an instant “gotcha,” but it’s a warning bell. Also, a lot of people on Tumblr intentionally or accidentally remove captions, so it’s not uncommon to go back to an original post and discover there actually was a caption when it was first posted. If you find that, make sure you reblog a version that includes the caption! The artist put that information there for a reason!

2. Alternatively, the caption says something like, “credit to the artist.” Credit to the artist isn’t credit, and is basically instant proof that something is a repost. The artist has a name, and their own social media, and at the barest minimum a repost (even if it’s unauthorized) should include their name and link. To do any less than that is to be a huge asshole and if you do that, I’m judging you.

3. You think you recognize the art style but it doesn’t match the username. Anyone around fandom long enough who likes art learns the style of some popular artists. If you see a piece you recognize the style of, and the username of the person who posted it is unfamiliar to you, that can be a sign. Then again, people change their usernames a lot, so if you’re not sure it’s better to keep poking than assume.

4. The dimensions are wonky, the resolution seems very low, or parts of the image are distorted in ways that aren’t part of the artwork. Obviously, this is subjective to some extent, and we all know that Tumblr can mess with image resolutions, especially on mobile, but if the dimensions of the image seem unusual or if parts of the image are distorted that can be a sign that the image has been cropped to remove a signature or watermark. Likewise, very low resolution can be a sign that people couldn’t download a high-res image and so posted a thumbnail, or that they cropped an image so much that it looks like crap. As yet another way this may show, if a part of the background or even of a character seems very detailed – like the artist devoted a lot of time to it – but it’s cut off and/or only part of it is visible, that’s another sign that the image may have been cropped. If you see something like this, and the image seems off, that would be a reason to keep digging.

5. The artwork has a watermark or signature that bears no resemblance to the URL of the poster. If you see a work with a signature that says, for example, “by daisydoesart” (disclaimer I just made that up and if someone actually has that username I’m sorry I don’t mean you) and the URL of the poster you’ve seen is rando1211, that’s a pretty bad sign. It’s not a 100% guarantee – some people use different usernames on different websites, and it’s not unheard of for those urls to be pretty different – but the more generic the reposter’s username is, and the more different it is from the signature, the more suspicious you should be. If “daisydoes” posts something signed “daisydoesart,” that’s probably fine. Heck, even if “ddeesartblog” does, that’s promising, but probably still worth double checking. But if there’s zero resemblance…look into it, and don’t assume. Yes, I have literally seen reposts where the correct Tumblr username was in the watermark, and it didn’t match, and people still reblogged it…but I’ve also seen posts where the correct Tumblr username was in the watermark…and the person had since changed their username. So. That’s why all of these are warning signs, not proof.

6. When you check the post’s notes, there are other people who have said it’s a repost. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, and there are people (like me) who will call out other people if we see a repost. While there’s a chance that those people will be wrong…honestly? I’ve never personally known them to be. So it’s a fairly reliable indication.

7. When you go to the original post, the tags are generic. Again, most, but not all, artists will use tags to make it easier for people to find their works. They’ll often have a personal tag – “my art” is a common one – and other signs that an actual caring person is behind the account. At the extreme, I’ve seen reposters use tags like “not mine” or “from (platform)” – those can be a good hint that you’re looking at a repost. Yes, there are reposters who feel so entitled that they literally say, “I’m reposting this” or “credit to artist” in their post. No, that’s not credit, and yes, they should be stopped.

8. When you go to the account of the original poster, there’s no information there. The vast majority of creators will have a bio that indicates that they make art, or take photos, or create graphics, or do gif sets, etc. Alternatively, some artists will have a pinned post up that makes it clear they’re a creator, even if their bio doesn’t. Yes, there are exceptions – especially when the creator isn’t an English speaker or when they’re using an automated tool to repost from another platform – but those are the minority. If you’re on account that has no bio, or the bio is just a couple generic words, that’s a huge red flag. Here are some examples of bios from reposters I’m aware of in the MDZS fandom:


For contrast, here are some legit creator accounts:






Notice how… a. they talk about themselves; b. they use their own work as their header; c. they have a pinned post with their own work; d. advertise their shops, art side blogs, commissions, and other specific platforms; e. they’ve signed and/or watermarked their own work, and the names match or are traceable to their account; f. never themselves post reposts! Not every creator will hit all of these, but most creators will do at least one of them!

9. Specifically for Chinese fandoms, if there’s a Weibo symbol and then Chinese, Korean or Japanese characters after it, that’s a Weibo watermark and if the work isn’t credited odds are very high it’s a repost. Here’s an example of what the watermark looks like:

10. When you’ve seen the previous signs and you’re getting suspicious, a good next step is to scroll through the poster’s blog. People who don’t do captions, don’t tag thoroughly or at all, and/or don’t have a bio up, still maybe an artist, and the easiest way to tell at that point is to see what else they’ve put up. If they’re an artist, odds are, their blog feed will contain other images done in a similar art style, and no images that are in a radically different art style. Obviously, there are exceptions, and you’re only an outsider coming in and you can only do your best. But if the art all looks similar, and if there’s only original art posts up, odds are decent that the person in question is the original poster. For example, I was suspicious of @elfinfen based on all the previously mentioned signs, but I’m now thoroughly convinced they’re the original artist of their works, and an extremely skilled one whose work I love at that – and part of why I’m convinced is that their art is distinct, stylized, and dominates their blog. If, on the other hand, there’s a lot of random art (especially if each piece has different signatures/watermarks) or a miscellaneous assortment of content, it’s more likely to be a repost.

11. In the end you can rarely be positive. Use your best judgement. If you don’t have time to check and you’ve seen signs that make you suspicious, then it’s better to not reblog. It’s much easier to wait until you get evidence one way or the other and then act accordingly then to clean up after you’ve reblogged something you shouldn’t have and it’s gotten spread around even more.

12. An exemption to all of this! While it might be a little blech, in general it is standard fandom etiquette that reposts of official art (network photoshoots, cover art, merchandise imagery, etc.) are okay. Ideally, these would at least also include credit to the creator, but general attitude is, it’s acceptable to repost these unless the person who reposts them is claiming they’re the creator.

Okay, I found a repost. Now what? 

Choose from the below list, as much or as little as you have the cope for. Don’t stress if you can’t do all of them. No one of us is responsible for fixing this massive, internet-wide problem, but we can do the bare minimum at least, and the bare minimum is number 1 on this list. If you’ve done that much, and you can’t do more, then you’ve done enough. If you CAN do more, though, here are some suggestions.

  1. Don’t reblog the repost.
  2. No, seriously. Don’t reblog the repost. 
  3. Tell the person whose blog you saw it on that it’s a repost; most people care and would want to know, and will delete it if informed. If you tell them and they don’t delete it or don’t understand why they should, feel free to send them this post.
  4. If you can find the original artist and art on Tumblr, reblog that as well.
  5. If you know or can identify the original creator, let them know so they can file a DCMA on the appropriate website.
  6. If you think the person who posted it made a mistake out of ignorance, politely let them know that reposts are generally frowned on and they shouldn’t post artwork without the permission of the original creator.
  7. Spread the word that you’ve found a reposter and ask others to help identify the stolen works.
  8. If you really, really want to reblog the post…ultimately, I can’t stop you, but please don’t do so without at least adding credit…or at ABSOLUTE MINIMUM saying, “this is a repost, can anyone help find the original creator?”
  9. A lot of Discords and other groups have channels for posting art, and people in those will also often have places and people willing to help track down originals, so you can throw the artwork up and say, “this is a repost and I’m trying to find the creator, please help.”
  10. If a Discord you’re in DOES allow reposts (…I’ve left servers over this, literally…) point out to them how inappropriate that is.
  11. Ask someone like me (hi, I’m @unforth​) who has a lot of experience with this stuff, and see if we’ve got time to help.
  12. If you reblog something, and someone comes into your DMs or asks to let you know it’s a repost, don’t get pissy about it. Delete the reblog. Or, if you’re the original poster…learn not to repost ffs and delete the post and apologize.

Want more information? There are a lot of excellent resources on the @dont-repost-art blog.

So, this has been my (again, hi, I’m @unforth​) tutorial on how to recognize reposts and what to do about them.

Please for fuck’s sake DO NOT repost art.

And I swear to god if anything I wrote in here is ever used to harass actual creators I will hunt you down and make your life hell. Just Don’t.