Look, it’s the goddamn internet. If you don’t want your art shared,why freaking post it? Tumblr is not a national news organization. You should be glad someone liked your work so much that they wanted to share it. And for the argument that people shouldn’t repost a piece of art that the artist already posted: what if you found it somewhere else? I shouldn’t post art I like just because I don’t have express written consent or can’t find where the original post is?
Oh goody, it’s one of these. Let’s break it down in a brief little lesson I like to call “You do not own permission to do whatever you want with something just because it’s on the internet.”
Before I start, let me say that I’m not trying to tirade against the OP here but am trying to address a larger issue which is that a lot of people (especially non-creators) feel this way. Tumblr’s platform actively seems to encourage this line of thinking with how easy it is to take and distribute content that you do not own the permission to with the click of a button. A further disclaimer: I personally consider posting artwork/writing/photography/etc to your Tumblr without proper credit and/or without expressed permission from the creator to be THEFT.
1. If you don’t want your art shared, why freaking post it?
So the easiest way to address this question is to do a quick lesson in US copyright law. When you create something, be it a drawing of a duck or a limerick about shoes or a photograph of your cat, you immediately and automatically own the copyright to that piece of work. This also means that you have a list of exclusive rights to your copyrighted work such as reproduction, modification, distribution, public performance, and public display rights.
Having the public display right to a piece means that the creator gets to chose where, when, and how the piece they have made is displayed to the public. They alone have the right to post it wherever they want on the internet as well as control where other people are allowed to repost it. They also have the right to issue DMCAs to websites that are displaying their content without permission.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get back to the question. “Why do artists post their artwork if they don’t want people to take it and distribute it without their permission?” Well, the artists I know (myself included in that) create as a means of expressing ourselves to others. Maybe that’s a pretentious way of phrasing it, but boil it down and that’s what you get. We share it so that others can enjoy it too. However, when someone takes that expression and cuts out the creator, that’s denying them the rights they have from creating it. You are taking away their control. It’s not only a despicable thing to do, but it’s also illegal!
2. You should be glad someone liked your work so much that they wanted to share it.
This isn’t really that big of a compliment. If you want to share someone’s work, why not post a link to where it’s already publicly displayed? If you go see a movie that you like, do you bring a camcorder in to the theater so you can tape it and show it to all your friends, or do you tell them to go see it? Don’t get me wrong, artists are generally pretty happy when people enjoy what they make! It’s super encouraging to get attention for something we created! However when someone else posts it and they end up getting all the attention, it’s not a great feeling. You feel like someone has taken something from you. I speak from experience here. It sucks, trust me.
3. And for the argument that people shouldn’t repost a piece of art that the artist already posted: what if you found it somewhere else?
So what? Ask that person for the source. Find the source on your own using TinEye or Google Image Search. Don’t be lazy! Link to or reblog the ORIGINAL source and respect the creators rights in doing so! You get to find a new artist in the process and the creator gets the appreciation they’ve earned. It’s win/win.
Oh, and if you want to be really awesome you can even give the source to whoever is posting it uncredited and ask them to kindly give credit where its due.
4. I shouldn’t post art I like just because I don’t have express written consent or can’t find where the original post is?
Yes, exactly this. Respect a creator’s rights. Artists who frequently have their artwork taken and re-posted elsewhere have a tendency to slap ugly watermarks on their pieces or stop posting their work publicly entirely. In the long run, stealing is never a good resort.
Final note: fanart. Ok, so fanart is one of those “legal gray areas” (it’s not really, but that’s a whole other writeup) and because of that belief, people often think that it’s a free-for-all when it comes to doing whatever you want with it. Please respect creators regardless of what they make, ok? It’s really not that much to ask.
All of this. This is why I love you, Chizzi.