So, I’ve had this post stewing for a while, trying to figure out exactly what I want to say and how to say it, because I’m a little worried that it needs to be said.
The short version? Don’t steal art.
The long version?
Well, the long version starts with a caveat: a lot of people are more conscious about this than they used to be! And sometimes people don’t know about it and just need to hear about it! But here’s the problem with the art theft I usually see in the book blogging community: it’s usually fan art, and it’s usually unattributed (and no, “credit to the artist” DOES NOT count). I see it on Twitter, and I see it in blog posts where people just make lists of their favorite books and characters. I also see it on Pinterest, but Pinterest is a minefield of stolen work, which is upsetting.
A lot of artists rely on having their name attached to their work in order to attract paying commissioners. On top of that, most artists I know dislike it when their work is reposted to any site without their explicit permission, even if there’s a link back to the original source. Traffic is really important to artists, and it should be on their terms.
So! Here’s a handy guide for not stealing someone’s work, and how to approach asking permission to share an artist’s work outside their chosen platform.
Whoa, neat! You love this art you just found of your bookish OTP and you want to share it! If you’re somewhere with a reblog/retweet function, USE that. Reblogging/retweeting is intimately linked to the source, and remains on the website that the artist originally posted to, directing people back to the artist. It is NOT the same as reposting, which involves saving the image and reuploading it so the source appears to be your own account. Reblogs and retweets are awesome. Reposting is not.
Oh no, there’s not a reblog-esque function! Or you want to share it on your blog! Now what?
For starters, DON’T REPOST IT. Never skip right to that. Instead, see if there’s a message function, or if the artist has some other point of contact. Then, send a polite message, something like the following, but more specific to whatever you’re looking to do with their art:
“Hi, I really love your art of [WHATEVER YOU LOVED]! I was wondering if it would be okay for me to share it on [PLATFORM], as [USERNAME ON THAT PLATFORM]. If so, please let me know what you’d like to me use as the source link! If not, I understand. Have a great day!”
Simple, polite, to the point.
ALTERNATELY, some artists will post in their FAQ pages a notice to NOT repost, or instructions for how to do so according to their wishes. Always check for these, usually before sending a message. Really, messages should actually be for after you’ve looked for such a statement and couldn’t find one.
Now, this goes one of two ways.
THE ARTIST SAYS NO/DOES NOT REPLY: You’re done. Full stop. You do not repost their art whatsoever. If you really love it that much, do not include the art in your blog post or moodboard or tweet or whatever, but do include a link (and link ONLY) to the source. That way, you don’t repost their art, but you do direct some traffic flow to the artist.
THE ARTIST SAYS YES: Great! If this is the case, go ahead! Make sure you include the artist’s name/social media handle (sometimes both), a link to their site of choice which you asked for in your message, and that you have permission to share the image on your account, whatever platform that may be. I recommend keeping the email you got permission from/screenshotting the message and saving it, just so you don’t mix up who gave you permission for what, and you can say confidently that yes, you did in fact get permission.
A caption reading “Art by [ARTIST], shared with permission” that makes the artist’s name into the source link is usually acceptable.
STEP FOUR (OPTIONAL)
Do you really love the artist? Do you have a little extra money? If you can, and if they are open to commissions, commission something from them! This is a totally optional step, but if you can afford to do it, it does help artists out a lot. Keep in mind, though, that if you ask about commission prices and cannot afford them, do not say “oh those are such high prices.” Instead, say something like “Okay, thank you. I can’t afford that much right now, but I’ll keep you in mind in the future!” It’s much more polite to say you can’t afford that at the moment than to complain about the prices, and it implies that you value the artist’s work instead of implying that you don’t think the time and effort they spend is worth the amount they’re charging.
If they have a ko-fi or Patreon and you can’t afford a full commission, considering leaving them a few bucks. If you can’t do that, but they do have commissions open, consider reblogging/retweeting/linking to their commissions post to spread the word, and hopefully someone else will be able to buy some art.
On the whole, I promise it’s not that hard to avoid using stolen art. Ask permission, and if you can’t even find the original artist, even after doing a reverse image search through Google, just don’t repost it. And try not to link to reposted art. Giving reposted art attention is a huge disservice to the original artist. If you aren’t sure if the post is original, look for signs of a watermark, or check and see if the source has a relatively consistent style in their other works, if they have other works at all. If the style is all over the place, they might be a repost account, especially if you see watermarks with a lot of different names or handles. If it’s consistent, then you probably have the original artist. If there are tags, original artists will often have a tag just for their own work, while reposters usually just tag according to the contents of the image or popular tags without including a personal art tag.
Go forth, and attribute your art properly!