Why it’s important to credit artists online

Sophie King
Jul 3, 2019 · 6 min read
Dove Cameron posting my image and design without credit.

I can’t speak for all creatives but I think most of us encourage our work to be shared online, as long as we’re clearly credited. I’m endlessly grateful when people support my art in whatever way they can. Of course, it’s all down to personal preference and creatives are at individual liberty to not want their work shared, even with credit, so it’s always a good idea to ask for their permission first.

My issue is when people, especially accounts with large followings, brands, businesses and so forth, post artwork, without giving credit to the rightful owner. When you share artwork online without crediting the artist, it creates so many issues for them.

As soon as an artwork enters a public space without a clear owner, individuals and companies believe it’s up for grabs for themselves. Like a thief that enters a park and sees a handbag left on a bench, even though they must know it has an owner, they take it anyway and in their eyes it belongs to them now, to use however they want.

I’ve heard every excuse under the sun as to why people don’t bother to credit:

“It’s the artists fault for putting your work out on the internet, what did you expect? Everyone does it”


When artists publish their artwork online, they mainly do so to their own website or social media accounts. In doing so, they’re clearly stating “this is mine”.

The issue is when people take their artwork from their website or social media accounts and don’t clearly state whose it is.

You’re effectively taking the bag from someone’s home and dropping it off on the park bench for thieves to steal. You’re assisting the crime.

“I found it on Tumblr/Pinterest/Facebook/Twitter without credit, I didn’t know it was yours”

The internet isn’t some generator of free anonymous artwork, all the “content” you find online has an owner and you know this. If you don’t know who the owner is, it’s your responsibility to do due diligence and find them, if you can’t find them, don’t post their work, it’s so simple.

“When you post things to the internet, it’s not yours anymore, so I don’t have to credit you”

This is a common misconception but a legally false one. In fact, it’s under most major social media platforms terms of service, that you can’t post content if it violates the intellectual property rights of another party. This is what instagram says:

So why is it wrong to post artists work without credit?

There is a direct correlation between images and videos being shared online without credit and brands ripping off said work. It’s happened to me several times, brands post my work to their social media, see the interest it generates from their followers and rip it off a month later.

When they post images of my textile art without credit, they’re misleading their followers that it’s actually their design. Their followers ask if they’re selling it, they don’t correct them, in fact, so many times I’ve seen brands go along with it and tell them they’re selling it soon! They’re effectively testing market interest, they already know my design will be a hit before they take the risk of spending thousands of pounds ripping it off.

It’s so shady, which is why I think people should pay special attention to brands that post artists work without credit, you don’t want to support businesses that are morally and legally dubious.

When businesses use artists images as “content” for their social media, they’re using our work as free marketing material to promote themselves. Offline, they’d have to pay thousands to create their own “content”, to pay for a studio, models, photographers, lighting assistants, editors and so on. It seems only fair you ask permission from the artist to use their work and credit them?

Brands taking artists’ work and using it to promote themselves, is also detrimental to the meaning of their artwork. Mac Donald’s can’t just take the Mona Lisa and stick it their Happy Meals. Brands need permission because artists might not want the message of their artwork to be associated with theirs.

My work is often posted by businesses that advocate for “girl power” because it’s trendy. I get lumped in with their fake feminism. They preach #girlpower, until it comes to actually supporting women. There’s nothing feminist about not giving women artists credit where credits due, taking advantage of their original work for your own benefit.

I’ve even had a business whose whole brand is about “girl power”, steal my images to use as free marketing, to appear “relatable” to young women, only to attempt to sell my design to Asos once they see the interest it gets and guess what, the whole business was ran by a middle-aged man who wouldn’t stop harassing me when I told him to stop, woo girl power!

There’s also a whole online industry of people who run Instagram accounts that post solely other people’s images, to build a following and do sponsored posts or paid promotions. They’re indirectly making money out of artists, using their copyrighted material for free, without even bothering to credit them. None of their content is legally theirs, their account wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for artists images. It’s only fair they credit.

When accounts post my work without credit, I often have to beg for attribution and then they act like they’re doing me a favour by crediting me hours or days later, they really begrudge doing it. They “tag” me, without “@-ing” me in the caption, so it’s unclear attribution. Or if they do @ me in the caption it’s buried in hashtags and at the bottom of a post. Most of the time they ignore me, their attitude is dismissive. They act so entitled to my work, I honestly think they believe it’s theirs. I’ve often been guilt-tripped that I do not deserve credit because my art is about “empowering women”, therefore I should be happy for them to spread my work without credit because don’t I want more women to see my work?

Posting artists’ work uncredited online is particularly detrimental for creatives just starting out. When your work gets spread without credit, no one knows it’s yours. That work gets ripped off by more well- known “artists” and people recognise it as theirs, not the original creator.

These young artists have to start over, as now people who come across their work will just assume they’re ripping off the more well-known people, when in fact they’re the original. Their style has become a “trend” that people are bored of, as they’ve seen it all before.

If you’re an artist, do not underestimate the value of your work you have every right to protect it. It’s yours, no matter how many times people attempt to undermine your right to ownership. You have something of value, that people will try to take for their own gain. There are things you can do to protect it, such as file copyright reports with social media platforms to get your content removed, it’s straightforward and costs nothing.

The internet is a great place to find new artists, who definitely wouldn’t stand a chance in the traditional art world, let’s not ruin it by sharing their work without attribution, making it harder again for them to get their name out there. Women and minorities have had their work erased throughout the history of art, social media is a chance to make a change. You can make such a difference to artists lives simply by crediting them, it’s free and simple. It costs nothing to credit creatives clearly online but it costs them so much to not be credited properly.

Here are examples of my images/work being shared by people with huge platforms without the support of credit:

Dove Cameron sharing my image and design on her instagram without credit.
Gal Gadot sharing my image and design on her instagram without credit.
Nastygal posting my image and design on instagram without credit.
Feminists United posting my image and design on their facebook without credit.

Sophie King

Written by

artist and writer based in the UK sophieking.co

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