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.
- Don’t reblog the repost.
- No, seriously. Don’t reblog the repost.
- 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.
- If you can find the original artist and art on Tumblr, reblog that as well.
- If you know or can identify the original creator, let them know so they can file a DCMA on the appropriate website.
- 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.
- Spread the word that you’ve found a reposter and ask others to help identify the stolen works.
- 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?”
- 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.”
- If a Discord you’re in DOES allow reposts (…I’ve left servers over this, literally…) point out to them how inappropriate that is.
- 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.
- 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.