A couple months ago the lovely activist, entrepreneur, and actress Sophia Bush posted a photo of a woman wearing a shirt that said "Strong women intimidate boys.. and excite men."
She sources Malin Akerman — another famous actress — for the photo. I assumed that Malin Akerman probably didn't take this photo or make the shirt, so I went all Sherlock Holmes and spent a good 15 minutes uncovering the real source of this work.
Malin Akerman posted the same photo, credited to fellow actress Jaime King.
Jaime King credited the photo to NYC photographer Jamie Nelson. Interestingly enough, this photo has since been deleted from Jaime's account.
Thing is, photographer Jamie Nelson did not actually take this photo. She also reposted it from someone else with the accurate credit buried under a ton of hashtags, making it difficult to see who actually took the photograph.
Good on her for tagging everyone who was involved in the photo. She may not have done it in the clearest way, but at least she did it. Still, I found more after I kept digging. As you can see, this was a repost from AFROPUNK.
The crediting done here is super straightforward. They credit the photographer, the model, and the shirt maker. That's great! However, it's still a let down because when I went to the original artist's page to find the photo I realized it originally wasn't posted in black and white, and the credit line was cropped on the repost.
John Brown was the photographer who shot this photo. He was kind and brave enough to share it with all of us on the Internet, and it was unfortunately taken advantage of.
Yes, this is the nature of the Internet, but what are we doing if not speaking up and trying to educate others to share with respect? Just because people can share others' work freely and without much repercussion, doesn't mean we should just shrug our shoulders and keep scrolling.
I didn't write this post because I feel holier than thou (I'm sure I've inaccurately credited artists before), but as a reminder to myself and everyone reading that it's up to us. We have to go the extra mile to make sure that the work we are re-sharing is accurate and fair.
Here are a few of my ground rules for sharing other people's work on the Internet:
- Accurately credit the people that you are reposting. Yes, this might take a bit more effort. Yes, this feels like work. That's the price you pay for sharing other people's art for free on your website or social media. Curating is an art form, and it requires dedication and hard work when done right.
- Credit the work CLEARLY. 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.
- Never edit without their 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.. ask for permission first. Always.
- 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.
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 thing about that is we can help educate and hopefully shift people's posting habits.
What do you think? Do you see this happening online? Have you ever spoken up about it? Please feel free to share your experiences or thoughts below. Let's have a conversation!