After a discussion last week with several of my cartoonist peers (and at the behest of Steve Bissette): I want to talk about image theft and uncredited content on social media. I’m only going to speak from personal experience (and only about the one image posted above) but I hope that this example will show the disservice this causes to any artist whose artwork is edited and reposted without credit.
[Disclaimer: I post all my work online for free. I want people to read, enjoy, and share my work. I have no problem with people reposting my work if it’s credited and unaltered. (That way new readers can find their way to my site to read more.) My problem is when people edit out the URL and copyright information to repost the images as their own for fun or profit.]
Below, I’ve listed the sites where my comic was posted and how many times it was viewed on / shared from each of those sites. (The following list was composed from the first ten pages of Google.) Let’s take a look at the life of this comic over the last 11 months.
On January 23 (2013) I posted the comic on my journal comic website, Intentionally Left Blank, and on my corresponding art Tumblr (where it currently has 5,442 notes). The same day, it was posted (intact, with the original URL and copyright) to Reddit. (There, credited, it has received 50,535 views.)
The Reddit post alone was exciting but on January 24, someone posted an edited version of the image (with the URL and copyright removed) to 9GAG. That uncredited posting has been voted on 29,629 times and shared on Facebook 22,517 times. That uncredited image caught on and spread like wildfire:
January 25: LOLchamp (39 comments. Views unknown.)
January 26: WeHeartIt. (With the 9GAG ad at the bottom. Views unknown.)
January 26: Random Overload (2 Facebook likes. Views unknown).
January 26: CatMoji (41 reactions. Views unknown.)
January 26: The Meta Picture (1,800+ Facebook likes. 6,000+ Pintrest shares)
February 5: damnLOL. (929 Facebook shares. Views unknown.)
February 7: LOLhappens. (1,400+ Facebook shares.)
February ?: LOLmaze (121 shares)
February ?: LOLzbook (37 likes and 37 shares).
On March 25, I was lucky and this comic was featured in a Buzzfeed post “36 Illustrated Truths About Cats.” The comic was featured alongside work by a 35 other artists who I admire and aspire to be. (Exciting!)
Buzzfeed was able to trace the uncredited image back to me and listed a source link to my main website but still posted the uncredited version of the image. The post currently has 6,000+ Facebook shares, 14,000+ Facebook likes, and 727 Tweets. Ever the optimist, I’ll count those numbers in the “credited views” column.
The problem with Buzzfeed posting the uncredited image and only listing the source underneath was: people began to save their favourite comics from the article and repost them in their personal blogs without credit. (13, 3, and 60 Facebook likes, respectfully.) I’m mentioning this not to target Buzzfeed or the individuals reposting, but to show the importance of leaving the credits in the original image.
March 30: FunnyStuff247. (47,588 views.)
March 31: LOLcoaster. (1 Facebook like. Views unknown.)
April 5: ROFLzone. (1,200+ Facebook shares. Views unknown.)
April 26: LOLwall. (70 Facebook likes. Views unknown.)
July 23: The uncredited image was chopped into four smaller pieces and posted on the Tumblr of TheAmericanKid, where he sourced it to FunnyStuff247. (124,786 notes and featured in #Animals on Tumblr.)
Aug 21: Eng-Jokes.com. (87,818 views and 41,400+ Facebook shares.)
Oct 2: MemeCenter. (284 Facebook likes. Views unknown.)
Oct 5: FunnyJunk. (3,327 views.)
Oct 10: LikeaLaugh. (1,486 views.)
Nov 20: Quickmeme. (280,090 Facebook shares. Views unknown.)
Nov 20: JustMemes. (6 Facebook shares.)
There were 14 other sites which listed uncredited versions of the image within the first 10 pages of Google, but they were personal blogs so I’m not going to include them here.
One additional website I haven’t mentioned was Cheezburger, who originally posted the uncredited version of comic on January 23; but later modified it to the credited image after I contacted them. They didn’t contact me when they made the change but the image currently has 2,912 votes and 4,700 Facebook shares. Let’s be optimistic and count those as credited views and shares.
That brings us up to the current views and shares of the comic. Now let’s do some math.
I’ve removed the comments and reactions (because they could already be accounted for in views). I’ve left in votes, however, because some sites list votes instead of views.
Taking into consideration that Tumblr notes are made up of both likes and reblogs, let’s be conservative and say the Tumblr notes are twice as high as they should be. (That every single person that has viewed the image on Tumblr has liked the image and reblogged it.) Dividing the Tumblr notes in half, that leaves us with:
Posts using the credited image:
2,721 Tumblr notes
0 Pintrest shares
14,000 Facebook likes
10,700 Facebook shares
Posts using the uncredited image:
62,393 Tumblr notes
6,000 Pintrest shares
2,085 Facebook likes
347,984 Facebook shares
Adding those up and treating them all like views (assuming that every shared post was viewed once):
The original (unaltered, credited/sourced) version of the comic has been viewed 81,595 times.
The edited, uncredited/unsourced version of the comic has been viewed 588,310 times. (That’s over half a million views. Seven times more than the original, credited version.)
What does that mean for me as a creator? On the positive side, I created something that people found relatable and enjoyable. I succeeded at that thing I try to do. But, given the lack of credit, it also means that 88% of 669,905 people that read this comic had no chance of finding their way back to my website.
This was a successful comic. I want to be able to call this exposure a success. But those numbers are heartbreaking.
Morally, just the idea of taking someone’s work and removing the URL and copyright info to repost it is reprehensible. You are cutting the creator out of the creation. But worse yet, sites like 9GAG are profiting off the uncredited images that they’re posting.
9GAG is currently ranked #299 in the world according to Alexa rankings. As of April of this year, their estimated net worth was around $9.8 million, generating nearly $13,415 every day in ad revenue.
As a creator of content that they use on their site: I see none of that. And I have no chance of seeing any kind of revenue since readers can’t find their way back to my site from an uncredited image.
I don’t want to sound bitter. The money isn’t the point. But this is a thing that’s happening. This isn’t just happening to me. It’s actively happening to the greater art community as a whole. (Especially the comics community. Recent artists effected by altered artwork/theft off the top of my head: Liz Prince, Luke Healy, Nation of Amanda, Melanie Gillman, etc.) Our work is being stolen and profited off of. Right this second.
I do my best to see the positive in these events but the very least I can do as a creator is stand up in this small moment and say “This is mine. I made this.”
Something need to be done by the community as a whole: by the readers as well as the creators. We need to start crediting our content/sources and reporting those who don’t. Sites like 9GAG need to be held accountable for their theft of work. If you see something that’s stolen: say something to the original poster, report the post, or contact the creator of the artwork.
If you have an image you’d like to post but don’t know the source: reverse Google image search it. Figure out where it came from before you post. If you like it enough to share it, it means there’s probably more where that came from.
This is why credit must be given to artists. Do not reblog art that has no artist source (a website, a name, something) Do not post art that has no source. Add credit if you find something unsourced if you can.
I don’t care where you are sharing the artwork that is not yours, post the damn source, artists make a living off of the exposure they get from their work (commissions etc).
Do it wrong.
Cartoonists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, we all get the same questions. And we all have boring, stock answers like ‘draw every day’ or ‘practice a lot’. Sometimes it’s because we don’t know what we did right. But the real reason is that every bit of advice we give you has an expiration date. The world of art is always changing. The things people like, the way those things are distributed and sold is always changing. By the time you put in all that practice to get good at what someone else told you is the way things are done, they aren’t done that way any more. The only sure way to become great at what you do is to break the rules. Not for the sake of being a rebel, but so that you can make something only you can make, in a way only you can make it. If you do something wrong well enough, it becomes the new right. So here are 5 steps in the right way to do it wrong.
STEP 1: Practice
To become a good artist:
Focus on making perfect art. Don’t show weakness. Use the tools that everyone else recommends. If you can’t draw hands, put them in pockets. If you can’t draw feet, crop them off the page. If you’re not very good at an instrument, play something easier. If you’re not knowledgable in a subject, write about something else.
To become a great artist:
Just make a bunch of crappy art. Do things wrong. Trust me, even the art you think is great, give it a few years and you’ll think it’s crap. So you might as well shoot for the moon. Grab tools that no one else has ever even imagined using, and see what happens. Draw everyone on horses even though you know the legs are going to come out all weird. Perform that long, flowery monologue you know you’re going to forget the words to. Film that science fiction epic even though the only creature effects you can afford are sticking Halloween stuff on your cat. Doing things you know you can’t do well so that you can do them later is the whole idea behind exercise.
STEP 2: Taking criticism
To become a good artist:
Show your only your best work to people you trust. Enjoy the praise, and ignore the haters.
To become a great artist:
Share your work with everyone, even the jerks. Put it online, show it to strangers. Show them the stuff you’re proud of, and the stuff you’re not sure of. When you show just your average art, people have nothing to say, so they just give you empty praise. But show them something that can be improved, and they’ll tell you about it. The stuff they tell you is gold. Don’t just be disappointed, write that crap on a post-it and put it above your desk. Think about it when you work. Each and every one of them gave you a free mini art lesson. If they were dicks about it, that makes them a bad teacher, it doesn’t make you a bad artist. There’s a very good chance that they are wrong. But thinking about what they said, and why you disagree with it, helps turn that problem into a technique. Sifting through critiques is like panning for gold. Sift through the muck of poor wording and trolls to your own little takeaways. Write it on a post-it note and put it above your desk. Think about it while you draw. Use it.
STEP 3: Improving
To become a good artist:
Did you try something new and get a bad reaction? Oh no! Listen to the advice people give you and take that element out of your work. Make something people like.
To become a great artist:
Did you try something new and got a bad reaction? Awesome. There are two reasons that people say negative things about your art: because they see something worth improving, or because you’ve somehow struck a chord. Either way, you made them feel something. Figure out how you did it, and how best to use that skill. Did something you did make someone angry? If you offended or hurt someone, you now know how to avoid doing that in the future. But if you made someone feel something about the story or characters, you now have a skill that you can hone and use as a tool at a better point in the story. To make people angry, sad, happy, uncomfortable, or in any way emotional when looking at your work is a skill that few have because we’re so used to beating it out of our work. Many people compensate for this by adding shock value. You can learn to do it with emotion.
STEP 4: Dealing with rejection
To become a good artist:
Find out where art like yours is being published. Submit to them! Rejected? That’s too bad! Try again! Send them your new stuff every year! Never give up! One of these years, it will all work out!
To become a great artist:
Getting rejected is great! When you get a rejection letter, you aren’t losing a job, you’re gaining one. Finding a venue and an audience is now up to you, which is great, because if you’re successful, you’ll be the one getting rich from your work. All of those places were created because someone needed a new place to put a different kind of work. You’re now in the same boat.
STEP 5: Building a career
To become a good artist:
After a lot of practice and study, take all the advice people have given you, follow their lead. Make something you know will be successful, put it in all the right venues.
To become a great artist:
Do it wrong. Don’t do it right just because of all the people around you who say ‘that’s not art,’ ‘that’s not music, ‘there’s no money in that,’ ‘it’s not a real book unless it’s in print,’ etc. Some of those people will be your heroes. Every generation hates the next generation’s music. Every generation of artists thinks the next generation are hacks. Following the leader is a good way to make art that pleases people in the moment, but doing something that breaks all of the rules is the way be the leader and make something historic. Tell a story only you can tell in a way only you can tell it. When you see a piece of new technology, a piece of ancient technology, an interesting bit of trash on the street and think ‘I could put art on that’, then put art on that. You’ll be reaching new people in places no one else is even trying. There’s no money in ANYTHING until someone puts something great on it. When someone tells you you’re doing it wrong, that’s your clue that you’re doing something that could change all of the rules, and a few decades from now, your style will be the one someone’s drilling into a beginner’s head, and that beginner will be coming to you for advice. Feel free to tell them what you did right, but be sure to also tell them: Do it wrong.
Anonymous said: In order to be commercially successful, is it necessary to develop a specific style? I enjoy creating art in different mediums and different subjects, but am not having any success in selling my work. Must I pick one thing and focus on it?
From a professional illustrator standpoint, when you develop a “signature style”, you’re developing a brand. This is something you would want to really refine and work on consistently, though nothing is stopping you from doing other more varied work in your free time. Design a “menu of products” to test this style on. Design posters, vinyl toys, keychains, comics, anything marketable that you see other successful illustrators selling. The difference between an illustration career and a fine arts career lies in working for other people and generating “products.”
If you’re pursuing fine arts like painting and experimental work, “style” isn’t necessarily something that needs to come through in every painting for it to be successful.
If you want to work on a style but still enjoy jumping around a lot, try doing things in series. Groups of 3 or 5 pieces are fairly successful to try solidifying a specific style. Then you can move on to something else if you’d like.
When all’s said and done, don’t worry too much about selling original work. Look around for local gallery shows or ask cafes if they want some artwork in their establishment. Put your work out there, be vocal both online and in your local community.
TL;DR: no, you don’t need to focus on anything specific, but if you’re trying to develop a marketable illustrative style, it definitely requires a lot of attention and practice before it really picks up. Be confident in your work and advocate for yourself!
Le me, surfin’ the web : “Oh DeviantArt released their new Commisions portal… let’s check it out! WAIT WHAT DID I JUST SEE? Are they out of their minds?”
Lemme translate those pricing tiers for you DeviantArt.
- $0.02 - $0.37
- $0.38 - $1.24
- $1.25 - $3.12
- $3.13 - $12.49
Way to encourage artists to underprice their work, DA! And I’m not even sure “underprice” is a strong enough word for that.
Oh and let’s not forget they’re taking a 20% commission on everything you “earn” (hahahaha) with their commissions widget. I wasn’t too fond of that but I thought “okay I guess you’re kinda paying for a service?”.
But this, this is just too much. See, I don’t really care about artists who choose to set low prices. It’s their decision, and I used to do it as well.
What I do care about, however, is the fact that more and more artists feel like they HAVE to underprice their work.
As if you were being greedy for wanting more than 10 dollars for a piece you worked on for several days! No, you don’t and you aren’t. Your art, your work, your prices.
But when one of the biggest art websites, one I’ve be using for 7 years, deliberately worsens the situation, then it becomes a problem.
how much do you charge for commissions?
Oh my thats too high, i was only looking to spend 37 cents…
this is fucking disgusting
this is why i laugh whenever people on dA ask me if i take point commissions
points ain’t payin the bills, son
this is fucking horrible
price your art how you want but holy shit honestly dont price your stuff THAT low
Oh my god thats awful.
Thats why you stop using Deviantard in the first place, if you really want to promote your art and make a living out of it,try anything else
Just a friendly reminder that DA’s commission widget isn’t worth it, and to never ever undersell yourself, especially by these standards!
aseriesofunfortunatezubats said: i don't know if you give this kind of advice but there's something i can't find the answer to and i was hoping someone could help. i'd really like to do book cover art and design. if i made my own covers for books that already exist (to make a sort of portfolio i guess) would that be infringing on the author's/original cover artist's rights?
To my knowledge, no that’s not infringing copyrights, so long as you don’t sell them and state that they are personal projects (and not real published covers). It would be considered a derivative work , (read more for all the legal stuff)
You can also try designing book covers for fake books (like give yourself a fake synopsis) to give yourself some original works and balance out the fan works.
Hey everyone! As you may have noticed, things have been pretty quiet around here lately. I (and I suspect the other mods too) have been pretty busy with IRL stuff, and haven’t had the time to attend to the blog. So I think I’ll look into adding on a few new Mods to make the place active again!
Send me an e-mail at Abelphee @ Gmail .com (remove spaces) with the following application filled out:
Name: (alias is fine, whatever you want to go by)
Gallery/Portfolio URL: (or sketchblog etc.)
Tell me a bit about yourself:
Art experience/history: (school, work, likes/dislikes, experience, etc.)
Moderate a blog/forum/etc. before?:
Any suggestions to improve the blog?:
I’ll be looking at applications over the next few days and then let everyone know :D
Painting Blood Step by Step by ConceptCookie
Frickin’ hell lemme tell you how much I needed this tutorial.
20 Pieces Of Advice For Female Artists From Female Artists -
Pearls of wisdom straight from flawless ladies of NYCC’s Artist’s Alley.