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.)
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.
sites like 9gag make me want to vomit, and this post makes me want to cry
PLEASE. PLEASE CREDIT, OR DONT SHARE AT ALL. its the least you can do
its hard to understand this when youre not an artist yourself maybe, and i know some of you people like to ‘just dont give a fuck’ because it makes you feel cool and entitled…but you cant deny that this kind of system is blatantly wrong and that you would feel horrible if it happened to you
you can say ‘i would be happy’ all you want but thats still a lie. you wouldnt be happy with people getting ANYTHING out of your hard work, let alone if they didnt even have the ‘courtesy’ to credit you for it
share this post and let other people look at these numbers
Books in Book. number 1. I finished this book and now it is not with me. It was a while ago. All books can be opened, including pieces that were wrapped.
Many people have asked me the size of the book … Well … I think you compare the book with the key out better. Do you agree or not?
While Ms. McKenna “did not ‘abduct’ the child,” the court said, “her appropriation of the child while in utero was irresponsible, reprehensible.”
Sara McKenna, a former Marine, became pregnant during a brief relationship with Bode Miller, an Olympic skier. While seven months pregnant, she moved from California to New York to go to school, leading a judge to scold her for “virtually absconding with her fetus.” Now, the fight for custody of their son has become “a closely watched legal battle over the rights of pregnant women to travel and make life choices.” (via bebinn)
First Look at Miyazaki’s New Manga
The 72-year-old legend, Hayao Miyazaki, has said to retire after his latest film, The Wind Rises, releases. Well, The Wind Rises was released in June of Japan and will release early next year in the United States, but it seems like Miyazaki is enjoying his “retirement,” by working on something new: a manga based off of samurai in the Warring States era of Japan. No word on this manga releasing soon, but it’s a promising bit of info for those wanting more from Miyazaki, post-directing!
Sixteen-year-old Elif Bilgin of Turkey has developed a way to replace traditional petroleum-based plastic with banana peels.
The Turkish teen took home a US$50,000 prize for her project “Go Bananas!” Thursday after winning the second annual Scientific American Science in Action Award, associated with Google Science Fair.
“My project makes it possible to use banana peels, a waste material which is thrown away almost every day, in the electrical insulation of cables,” Bilgin said in a media statement.
“This is both an extremely nature-friendly and cheap process, which has the potential to decrease the amount of pollution created due to the use of plastics, which contain petroleum derivatives.”
Bilgin spent two years developing the bio-plastic, which does not decay. She said the process is so easy that it is possible to repeat at home, with special care taken for chemicals used in the production process.
In September, the teen will compete at Google’s California headquarters for the overall Google Science Fair prize for 15-to-16 year olds. She will also have access to a one-year mentorship.
Has anyone else noticed how many brilliant breakthroughs in science are coming from the minds of teenage girls the last few years? Between this story, the four girls in Nigeria who invented a generator that runs on urine, the California girl who invented a twenty-second cell phone charger… Who knows where we’d be today without the patriarchal interference of men, stealing or hiding the brilliance of women?
Our future is in the hands of teenage girls, and I for one feel really good about that.
When I was about 7 I wanted to invent a thing that purified water based off of fish gills. I went to the school library to do research like a good little inventor and one of my teachers asked me what I was doing, and then told me that there were some new barbie books in, and that I’d probably be better off with those.
Don’t forget the girl who invented a torch that’d light up just from the heat of your hands
basically everyone should stop s***ting on teenage girls because they do awesome things when you let them
We need to stop pitting girls against each other. We need to stop giving validation to novels and films that fetishize girls who say they “aren’t like other girls” as if there’s something inherently wrong with being a girl. We need to stop perpetuating the fallacy of the mythical “other girls” who all fit some made up stereotype that we teach our girls to be afraid of because “the right guys” don’t actually like “that kind of girl”. “That kind of girl” doesn’t exist, because girls are people and not objects that come in bulk.Megan Emanuel (via goldentulips)
Oh, cool—that’s an articulation I haven’t seen before!
carried the shit outta u son
What is this from please? I googled it but found nothing.
it’s from a korean movie called love fiction and the actress is Gong Hyo Jin
Unless I write “and then his Galaxy 4’s battery died” no one can ever get lost, forget an important fact, meet a partner outside of a dating site, or do anything that doesn’t eventually have them picking up a phone. So I’m stuck writing about an era where Ethan Hawke was considered the pinnacle of manliness.
This is such an interesting and terrifying point.
LMFAO Seriously? I can’t even get my thoughts together to express how many things are wrong with this.
Perhaps they don’t have service, or at least not enough to get the maps app to load properly. Perhaps they don’t even have a smartphone, because not everybody does, you classist fuck. Perhaps they’re just shit at reading maps, so they keep thinking they’re going the right way according to the map they pulled up, only to realize, no, that wasn’t it either. Perhaps they’re alone in their car and so they can only take quick glances at their phone so it’s really fucking hard to read their directions and they get lost anyway because they missed a step or didn’t realize that was their exit until they were past it.
Perhaps they don’t keep lists of shit to do on their phone. Perhaps they don’t have a hyper-developed “let me ask the internet!” reflex when confronted with the unknown. Perhaps they forgot to set a reminder for some important thing. Perhaps they were so sure they’d remember they didn’t bother to make a note of it. Perhaps, again, they don’t have signal. Perhaps they’re just shit at looking things up on the internet and give up in frustration after a moment or two.
Perhaps they don’t even do dating sites. Perhaps they just take their fucking phone with them while they’re out and about and meet people in other places, while carrying the phone, but not actively being on it. (Honestly, wtf was dating sites even doing on a list like this? Like they’re an intrinsic part of the smartphone user experience?)
Basically, perhaps you could engage your fucking imagination like a halfway decent writer and figure out how to work modernity into your plots, or at least shut the fuck up whining about how incompetent and ignorant you are, you fucking hack.
bolding mine because it’s embarrassing how lazy old male novelists are. young people are making plenty of modern fiction—there’s no excuse. also, is “they got lost” seriously your only plot point?
i have to reblog again though because i violated the Rule and looked in the comments and found the perfect rebuttal
What’s a “Galaxy 4”?
Female privilege is getting to claim a headache to avoid sex.
Female oppression is having to claim physical illness to avoid sex because men won’t take a simple fucking “no” for an answer.
Female oppression is men being so entitled that they think being denied sex is oppressive.
Imagine if marriage didn’t exist, and you’re a guy asking a woman to get married. Imagine what that conversation would be like (x)
The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not try to pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous… and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows.
This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from G.K. Chesterton: “Fairytales don’t tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairytales tell children that dragons can be killed.”
Will always reblog this quote.
Brave, Celtic/Pictish Animal designs by Michel Gagne.
One woman’s beef with cultural appropriation and food
For a long time, Vietnamese food made me uncomfortable. It was brothy, weirdly fishy, and full of the gross animal parts that other people didn’t seem to want. It was too complicated.
I wanted the straightforward, prefabricated snacks that I saw on television: Bagel Bites, Pop-Tarts, chicken nuggets. When my grandmother babysat me, she would make tiny concessions, preparing rice bowls with chopped turkey cold cuts for me while everyone else got caramelized pork. I would make my own Bagel Bites by toasting a normal-size bagel and topping it with Chinese sausage and a dash of Sriracha. My favorite snack was a weird kind of fusion: a slice of nutrient-void Wonder Bread sprinkled with a few dashes of Maggi sauce, an ultraplain proto–banh mi that I came up with while rummaging through my grandmother’s pantry. In our food-centric family, I was the barbarian who demanded twisted simulacra of my grandmother’s masterpieces, perverted so far beyond the pungent, saucy originals that they looked like the national cuisine of a country that didn’t exist.When I entered my first year of college in Iowa, a strange pattern began to emerge as I got to know my classmates. “Oh, you’re Vietnamese?” they’d ask. “I love pho!” And then the whispered question—“Am I saying that right?” The same people who would have made fun of me for bringing a stinky rice-noodle salad to school 10 years ago talked to me as if I were the gatekeeper to some hidden temple that they had discovered on their own. Pho seemed like a shortcut for them, a way that they could tell me that they knew about my culture and our soupy ways without me having to tell them. I would hear this again and again from that point on. I’m Vietnamese? They love pho! I told people to pronounce it a different way each time they asked, knowing that they would immediately march over to their racially homogenous group of friends to correct them with the “authentic” way to pronounce their favorite dish. I’m sure that they were happy to learn a little bit about my family’s culture, but I found their motivations for doing so suspect.
What can one say in response? “Oh, you’re white? I love tuna salad!” It sounds ridiculous, mostly because no one cares if a second-generation immigrant likes American food. Rather, the burden of fluency with American culture puts a unique pressure on the immigrant kid. I paid attention during playdates with my childhood friends, when parents would serve pulled-pork sandwiches and coleslaw for lunch. (It took me a long time to understand the appeal of mayonnaise, which, as a non-cream, non-cheese, non-sauce, perplexed the hell out of me.) From watching my friends, I learned to put the coleslaw in the sandwich and sop the bread in the stray puddles of sauce in between bites. There’s a similar kind of self-checking that occurs when I take people out to Vietnamese restaurants: Through unsubtle side glances, they watch me for behavioral cues, noting how and if I use various condiments and garnishes so they can report back to their friends and family that they learned how to eat this food the “real way” from their real, live Vietnamese friend. Their desire to be true global citizens, eaters without borders, lies behind their studious gazes.
When I go to contemporary Asian restaurants, like Wolfgang Puck’s now-shuttered 20.21 in Minneapolis and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market in New York City, it seems the entrées are always in the $16–$35 range and the only identifiable person of color in the kitchen is the dishwasher. The menus usually include little blurbs about how the chefs used to backpack in the steaming jungles of the Far East (undoubtedly stuffing all the herbs and spices they could fit into said backpacks along the way, for research purposes), and were so inspired by the smiling faces of the very generous natives—of which there are plenty of tasteful black-and-white photos on the walls, by the way—and the hospitality, oh, the hospitality, that they decided the best way to really crystallize that life-changing experience was to go back home and sterilize the cuisine they experienced by putting some microcilantro on that $20 curry to really make it worthy of the everyday American sophisticate. American chefs like to talk fancy talk about “elevating” or “refining” third-world cuisines, a rhetoric that brings to mind the mission civilisatrice that Europe took on to justify violent takeovers of those same cuisines’ countries of origin. In their publicity materials, Spice Market uses explicitly objectifying language to describe the culture they’re appropriating: “A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market titillates Manhattan’s Meatpacking District with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s piquant elevations of the region’s street cuisine.” The positioning of Western aesthetics as superior, or higher, than all the rest is, at its bottom line, an expression of the idea that no culture has value unless it has been “improved” by the Western Midas touch. If a dish hasn’t been eaten or reimagined by a white person, does it really exist?
Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, often claims that to know a culture, you must eat their food. I’ve eaten Vietnamese food my whole life, but there’s still so much that I don’t understand about my family and the place we came from. I don’t know why we can be so reticent, yet so emotional; why Catholicism, the invaders’ religion, still has such a hold on them; why we laugh so hard even at times when there’s not much to laugh about. After endless plates of com bi, banh xeo, and cha gio, I still don’t know what my grandmother thinks about when she prays.
Others appear to be on a similar quest for knowledge, though they seem to have fewer questions than answers. Like a plague of culture locusts, foodies, Chowhounders, and food writers flit from bibimbap to roti canai, fetishizing each dish as some adventure-in-a-bowl and using it as a springboard to make gross generalizations about a given culture’s “sense of family and community,” “lack of pretense,” “passion,” and “spirituality.” Eventually, a hole-in-the-wall reaches critical white-Instagrammer mass, and the swarm moves on to its next discovery, decrying the former fixation’s loss of authenticity. The foodies’ cultural cachet depends on being the only white American person in the room, braving inhumane spice levels and possible food poisoning in order to share with you the proper way to handle Ethiopian injera bread. But they can’t cash in on it unless they share their discoveries with someone else, thereby jeopardizing that sense of exclusivity. Thus, happiness tends to elude the cultural foodie.
Why am I being such a sourpuss about people who just want to show appreciation for another culture? Isn’t the embrace of multiculturalism through food a beautiful expression of a postracial milieu? Aren’t I being the true racist here?
Item: "Asian Girlz" by Day Above Ground, a wannabe–Red Hot Chili Peppers bro-band, is full of references to East Asian food juxtaposed with violently misogynistic lines about their yellow fever: “I love your sticky rice/ Butt fucking all night/ Korean barbecue/ Bitch, I love you.” (Yum!) When criticism surfaced in summer 2013, the band insisted that the charges of racism were ridiculous because none of them were racists, that their many Asian friends thought it was hilarious, and that, at its heart, the song was about sharing their love for the culture. You know what they say: If you really love something, treat it with flippant disrespect.
Item: Alton Brown’s “Asian Noodles” episode of Good Eats takes us on an educational trip to the typical Asian American grocery store—by having its host travel through a lengthy underground tunnel that is a visual echo of the idea of “digging a hole to China.” He emerges onto a set decorated with noodles, a red-and-gold Chinese scroll, and that typically “chinky” erhu music that plagues any mention of Asia in any media, ever. Also on the set is a bearded white man wearing a kimono and a sumo topknot wig who acts out the stereotype of the severe Asian American grocery store clerk. As Brown shares his vast pool of knowledge with the viewer, the clerk harasses him in fake Japanese (“Waduk! Chiyabemada!”). Clearly, knowing a lot about Asian food does not preclude one’s ability to be an asshole about it anyway.
These items speak to the Westerner as cultural connoisseur and authority, a theme that has shone like a brilliant Angolan diamond in the imperialist imagination ever since Marco Polo first rushed back to Europe to show off the crazy Chinese “ice cream” that he discovered on his travels. I don’t doubt that these guys love bulgogi and soba and want more people to enjoy them, but that kind of appreciation certainly doesn’t seem to have advanced their understanding of the Asian American experience beyond damaging and objectifying generalities.
Their commonality is their insistence on appreciating a culture that exists mostly in their heads; they share a nostalgia for someone else’s life. Nostalgia traps the things you love in glass jars, letting you appreciate their arrested beauty until they finally die of boredom or starvation. The sought-after object cannot move on from you or depart from the fixed impression that you have imposed upon it. After all, a thing can’t be “authentic” if it’s allowed the power to change. Robbed of its ability to evolve on its own, the only way such a thing can venture into the future is as an accessory worn by someone who can. The pho you had at a dirty little street stall in Saigon or the fresh goat’s milk you tasted in Crete as a child may both be beautiful in and of themselves, but their value diminishes if they are allowed an ounce of banality. In order for them to make you look like a more exciting, more interesting person, they must remain firmly outside the realm of the mundane.
All of this makes the experiences of the immigrant’s Americanized children particularly head scratching. We’re appreciated for our usefulness in giving our foodie friends a window into the off-menu life of our cuisines, but the interest usually stops there. When I tell white Americans about the Maggi-and-margarine sandwiches and cold-cut rice bowls that I used to eat, they tend to wrinkle their noses and wonder aloud why I would reject my grandmother’s incredible, authentic Vietnamese food for such bastardizations. What I don’t tell them is, “It’s because I wanted to be like you.”
We live in a time where the discriminating American foodie has an ever-evolving list of essentials in their pantry: ras el hanout, shrimp paste, lemongrass, fresh turmeric. With a hugely expanded palate of flavors, you can experiment with these ingredients in ways that used to be possible only for Medieval kings and nobles who spent fortunes on chests of spices from the Orient. By putting leaves of cabbage kimchi on a slice of pizza, you’re destroying the notion of the nation-state and unknowingly mimicking the ways in which many Korean American children took their first awkward steps into assimilation, one bite at a time, until they stopped using kimchi altogether. Over time, you grow to associate nationalities with the quaint little restaurants that you used to frequent, before they were demolished and replaced with soulless, Americanized joints. You look at a map of the world and point a finger to Mongolia. “Really good barbecue.” El Salvador. “Mmm, pupusas.” Vietnam. “I love pho!” When you divorce a food from its place and time, you can ignore global civil unrest and natural disasters (see: Zagat declaring Pinoy cuisine the “next great Asian food trend” this past fall as deadly floods swept through the Philippines), knowing as you do that the world’s cultural products will always find safe harbor in your precious, precious mouth.
Soleil Ho is a freelance writer, teacher, and MFA student living in New Orleans. Whenever she visits her grandmother, there always seems to be a big bowl of chicken curry on the table, just for her.
Wow wow all of this. Also, I guess eating weird fusion shit is a common immigrant experience? Never realized that before. But I’ve definitely eaten Spam with rice before and other things like that. Actually, just anything with rice. I bolded the parts I liked best.