Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beauty Blogging: Copyright Infringement & Reposting Etiquette

Hey everyone, I hope your day is going well! I know I rarely write personal, non-review posts but today I want to bring up something that's been bugging me for quite a while now. This is going to be a long post, and quite honestly, a "ranty" one. However, if you are a regular reader of mine or a fellow beauty blogger, I urge you to read all of it as the issue at hand is very important, not only to me but to the makeup blogging community in general. To read on, click.......

As you can imagine, I, along with all the hard-working beauty bloggers out there, spend a lot of time blogging. Free press samples, sponsorship opportunities, and exclusive event invites are certainly among some of the perks of being a beauty blogger, that I will not deny. However, bloggers work really hard to attain those privileges. I spend an inordinate amount of time and effort (and money) reaching out to brands, setting up the perfect photography station, swatching products, taking photos, editing photos, writing reviews, and posting on social media. So quite frankly, whenever I see my work being shared and used inappropriately (without my permission and without proper credits), I get very upset.

The Backstory:
Having my blog photos and swatches used without my permission is nothing new but recently, this issue reached a peak when my Too Faced Sweet Peach Palette swatches were posted many times on Instagram and various social outlets without my permission and with most of the posts not properly crediting me as the rightful owner of the images.

It started with me sharing a photograph I took of the palette on Instagram. At the time, I regrettably tagged a well-known Instagram account (which I will refer to as "IG User X") that often shares makeup updates and news. I tagged this account hoping that the user would regram (repost) my image with proper credits, updating her large following on the new release, at the same time bringing exposure to my post.
However, hours later, I found out that IG User X did not regram my photograph of the palette, but instead went on to my blog post, took all of my swatches of the eyeshadows, made a collage out of them, and shared it on her Instagram account to her 400k+ followers. This actually was not the first time she did this with my images and in retrospect, this has been a common practice of hers. Now, you may wonder what exactly is wrong with the situation since I did technically tag her in hopes of being featured on her account.
The collage IG User X made out of my
swatches and shared without my permission.
Well, there are a few things... As far as I can understand, most readers visit beauty blogs for makeup swatches. So when someone takes all of my swatches, compiles them into a collage, and shares it publicly (in this case, to more than 400k followers), it stops the traffic flow to my blog post. Why would someone visit my blog post when all my swatches are right there at a glance?

The problem escalated the next day when I found the collage of my swatches being circulated on a popular Reddit post, where a Reddit user took that collage from IG User X's account and uploaded it to Imgur.com, sharing it on Reddit, with no mention of the fact that those were my images. I am not putting the blame entirely on the Reddit user, because when IG User X posted all of my swatches without my permission, she had only subtly credited me at the end of her paragraph-long caption (as she often does with images she takes from others' accounts). Instagram shortens captions longer than six lines so when I am credited at the end of a 20-line caption, most people will not see that I am the rightful owner of the swatches. Because of IG User X's dishonest crediting practice, most people may not actually be aware that she is sharing someone else's image.
My swatches being shared on Reddit without any credits.

Over the next few days, I kept on finding that collage of my swatches being circulated on Instagram and various other social media outlets, all without my permission and with only a few of those posts directly crediting me as the rightful photographer and owner of those swatches.
A small sampling of all the reshares, only one out of the nine
you see here credited me as the image owner.
All the others credited IG User X (name blurred out).

To me, all of this is just not right! I worked hard for those swatches but someone else pretty much got all the credit and exposure. I decided to take action and directly contacted IG User X, both via Instagram's direct messaging system and via her business email, politely requesting her to properly credit other's work she shares on her account. Neither of my messages was answered and as I kept on seeing more and more posts of my swatches being shared without my permission, I decided to report IG User X for copyright infringement on Instagram. My request went through two days later and the image was removed by Instagram.

Lo and behold, within hours of the image removal, I received a message from IG User X, indignantly asking me why I reported her for copyright infringement (and from my interpretation of our conversation, this was not the first time she received a report). I politely explained myself and genuinely attempted to start a conversation about proper repost etiquette and the importance of obtaining permission to share others' work. I explained that just because I tagged her in my Instagram photo of the palette, I did not give her the permission to share all of my swatches on her account. Sadly, IG User X completely dismissed all my attempts at an open-dialogue, ignored my suggestions and basically told me to not interact with her account in the future.

Why I'm Sharing This:
I am writing this not because I want to publicly denounce this Instagram user. As mentioned before, this was not the first time something like this happened. Many Instagram accounts (including official brand accounts) share bloggers' work without properly crediting them.
I want to bring awareness to the fact that we need to respect copyrights and other people's hard work. I don't want to sound preachy but when we share others swatches and images, there are rules and etiquettes we should adhere to. As harsh as it may sound, using or sharing others' work without attaining permission or properly crediting their work is the equivalent of stealing.

Proper Repost Etiquettes:
So I want to end this post with what I believe are some essential reposting and regramming etiquettes that I hope everyone would consider. Some of these apply to the average social media user but most are directed at big brand accounts and resharing accounts that hold considerable influence in the beauty community.

Reposting on Instagram (and Other Social Media Outlets):
1. Use a Regram app! Honestly, this is the simplest and best way to go, these apps add a small banner strip around the image so it's clear who the rightful owner is.
2. Make it VERY clear that you are posting someone else's photo (tagging the owner in the image doesn't count). Credit the owner within the first three lines (or better yet, in the first line) of your caption (ex. Photo cred: @______). The new Instagram update shortens any caption longer than six lines so if you credit someone at the end of a long caption, most people are not going to see who the image owner is unless they click on the "..." to expand the caption. Also, be very aware who you are crediting, many people post others' work without crediting the owner, so it's important to be aware who the actual owners are.
3. Do NOT post/share an image found on someone else's blog post unless you have their permission to do so. I rarely post eyeshadow swatches on my social media outlets because I want people to visit my blog post to see them. As shrewd and greedy as I may sound, when someone posts those swatches on their Instagram account, I lose potential blog traffic.
4. Do NOT compile others' images into a collage without their permission. This one may seem redundant but I see this done all the time. If you don't own the image, you can't edit it and call it your own!

Below is a perfect example from Rimmel London Canada of how to properly regram an image with the proper credits:
A photo posted by Rimmel London Canada (@rimmellondoncan) on

1. If you are a beauty blogger, WATERMARK all your photos to protect your work. I personally hate how watermarks make photographs look but after seeing my photos being used without my permission, I just had to do it!
2. Do NOT put your watermark on an image unless you own that image! When bloggers or Instagram influencers place their own watermarks on official press images from brands or collage photos they make out of other people's images, they damage their integrity and confuse readers and followers on who the rightful owners are.

Using Another Blogger's Image in a Blogpost or Web-posts:
DON'T do it unless you have their permission! This one is pretty simple. The photographs that I and other bloggers take are not official advertorial campaigns and thus cannot be used without permission.

My Final Words:
I want to give a big thank you if you read to the end of this long, long post. As you can probably tell, this whole experience has left me feeling quite bitter and this was by no way an easy post to write.
However, I have faith in the beauty community as I would really like to see some changes in the way beauty bloggers' copyrights are protected and respected and hopefully this post of mine shed some light on this issue.

If you are a regular beauty blog reader, I truly urge you to report and call out copyright violations when you think you see images being shared inappropriately or not credited properly.
If you are a beauty blogger, where do you stand on this issue? Has your work ever been used without your permission?
Lastly, I want to hear from all of you who read the entirety of my lengthy post, please share your thoughts in the comments below so we can start a conversation!