Some time ago, a good friend of mine wrote this blog entry in a period of time where I was constantly battling re-posters. Back then I had no blog of my own, only a tumblr profile that I used to talk about this issue. Now, anyone who has been on tumblr knows that taking up any issue on that web-page will lead to lots of hate, people who argue just for the sake of arguing, and people being downright rude.
I was 16 years when I started posting my images online. The first of them had no watermarks, because I did not know that so many people had zero respect for other people’s work. I was naive enough to believe that no one would take credit for my work. After a while I started adding my custom username to all my pictures. Just like now, they were marked with “annethearcher” in the corner. These tiny watermarks were of course edited out, and several different facebook pages would change the colours a bit and claim to own my pictures. I tried to report this, but facebook did nothing. I tried to message the people behind the pages and ask them to at least credit me in the description. I ended up with being blocked, because they did not “understand” what they were doing wrong. Apparently it was okay to edit out my name and claim that they owned the pictures of me and my bow.
The image above was my most drastic solution. Back then I had two separate tumblrs, one for my Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and other fandoms called “annethearcher”, and one for all of my archery stuff called “archerofthenorth”, hence the two different URLs on the watermark. This of course made a lot of people angry. The huge watermark claimed half the picture, ruining it in their eyes. My response was simple: They cannot edit this one out without taking half the picture. It served its purpose, and I soon started scaling it down, while also keeping it in the frame. The amount of hate I received almost made me stop posting pictures.
At first I patiently explained to the tumblr messages I received. Some of them were anonymous, some of them were not. Those who were anonymous were of course the most rude ones. I explained to them why I did not think it was okay for them to re-post my pictures, or remove the credit, or edit them without my permission. I put a lot of work behind them! A lot of the clothes I wore in the pictures were hand-made. I had taken time out of my own life to create them with my sister. We had spent time hiking in the woods just to get the best shots. I had spent ages editing them, getting the colours right before posting the finished results. I put so much work into every picture, of course it was unfair for someone to take two minutes to remove my name and claim they owned it, or that it was them in the picture!
The hate grew worse after that. In retrospect, I wish I had taken screenshots of the messages I received, because some of them were… Well, they were bad. I was called attention-whore. Told that if I didn’t want my pictures stolen, I shouldn’t put them online. Some even started sexually assaulting me. They told me that if I really wanted attention, I should post nudes as well. I believe someone wrote that they would not mind seeing some boobs under my cloak. I was 17 back then, with low self-esteem and much more fragile than I am two years later. People told me that I wasn’t really that beautiful, and that they didn’t get why someone would even bother stealing my pictures. I disabled anonymous messages for months after that storm. Blocked at least 15 different people who were harassing me. It took a long while before I posted anything again.
When I did, I became more subtle with where I put my watermarks. I changed my tumblr username to “annethearcher” so I would not have to link to both my tumblr and deviantart, but instead just use my one iconic name. I started hiding it along my arrows, or the ground, keeping it in the middle of the picture while also keeping it subtle. It was there, but it did not disturb the rest of the image. Things became quiet. I stopped caring about those stealing my pictures for a long while, knowing it was a lost battle. I know that there are many pages out there that features my images without bothering to give me the credit for them. I have never posted images on Pintrest or WeHeartIt, but I know that there are pictures of me there anyway. Some do have me listed in the credits. Most have my watermarks, where watermarks were originally placed before publishing. As far as I know, none of my pictures have been used to promote causes that I do not stand for, but I also know it is just a question of time before I see my pictures with some racist slogan slapped onto it. I hope I never have to see it.
There is a huge difference between sharing a picture and stealing it. If you wish to edit it, always ask the owner first, and ALWAYS CREDIT! Even if you just share the original picture, leave a link to the source. People often want to see more from the creator, and almost all creators will let you share their work as long as you credit. It is not that difficult, really. “Picture by annethearcher” is all that I need to see. As long as credit has been given, there is no problem. I love to see others share my work, it is one of the reasons I post in the first place. But to those who simply post and say nothing, or claim ownership over images that are not their own, I hope you read this and realise what you really are doing. It is so much more work than to slap on a costume and snap a few pictures. It is a long, time-consuming process and whether it is painting, animation, photoshoots or videos, I know that no creators like to have their work stolen. So the next time you think about sharing something, take a moment and think of the person who made it. They are people too.
Crediting only takes a couple of extra seconds.