Think And Link Before You Share

This is a post I’ve intended to write for a long time, but every time I sit down to do it, my fingers are filled with RAGE.

Because when people steal my content or my friends’ content, or they take credit for my friends’ content, or they simply don’t give an F about anyone’s content, and they just plan to use it to increase visibility of their Facebook page or Pinterest account by getting as many likes and shares as possible, THE RAGE, IT BURNS.


Some Key Points To Remember:

Facebook, Google, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. are not sources.

At the very least, always cite the true source
(even when sharing on Facebook),
but understand that even that may not be enough to legally protect you against
copyright infringement.

Do not remove the watermark or website off of an image you didn’t create.

Do not add your watermark or website to an image you didn’t create.

There are some people who are giant jerks about this kind of thing.

(No really, they are. I’ve had discussions with them, asked them to remove my content that they’ve shared w/my watermark removed and no credit to me and they tell me to “get the fuck over it” and that “everything on Google is free.”)

But I also know that most of the time, people genuinely don’t realize that by sharing that image they found on Google or Pinterest (which links to Google), they are harming content creators.

I get that not every like and share of my image or my friends’ images w/out credit back to us is a blatant lack of respect for us.

So that’s why I’m trying to start a discussion with you all, so we can all take more responsibility for our actions online when it comes to sharing other people’s content.

Because you know what? You can get in really big trouble. Like, lawsuit trouble. And no amount of ignorance is going to get you out of it.

I have a lot more sympathy for individuals who unknowingly share my content without credit, but Facebook pages? My temper is short with you.

You’ve seen these Facebook pages before. The images that they harvest from Google or Pinterest pop up in your newsfeed probably 10 times a day from a friend who “liked” it because it was funny, sweet, sad. These pages are gathering images from online searches without taking any time to source out the original page it showed up on, and using them to increase their Facebook page visibility.

I don’t have an issue with these Facebook pages. I have an issue with the way they are finding content to share, and the way they are sharing it. There are countless blogs they can follow, where they can get fresh, great content to share, and know exactly who to credit, but they choose to do quick searches on Google or Pinterest, instead.

I’m not just talking about FB pages that are for LOLz and warm and fuzzies. My images have been shared, sourced from Pinterest and Facebook with my watermark removed, no link to me, by MAJOR CORPORATIONS. They have paid editors and a legal team. THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER.

A version of a popular Mommy Truth (contributed by Amber from Crappy Pictures) has been cropped to remove the credit to both of us and shared countless times (by some pretty big name brands, too). I’m talking thousands of shares I’ve tallied up on Facebook pages by now.

You like my Mommy Truth? GREAT! I’d love for you to share it! Please do! Just be sure to link back to either my blog or my Facebook page when you do. At the very least, I ask that you don’t crop out my website.

You found my Mommy Truth but didn’t know it was mine because the watermark was already cropped off when you found it? Well, who were you planning on citing for your source? I mean, you were planning on citing someone, right? And not Google, Pinterest or Facebook? Because if you found my image w/out my watermark and couldn’t tell who made it, then you shouldn’t share it.

Cool Google Trick:
Put the url of an image (found by right clicking on the image and copying the image address) into the Google Images search bar ( It will bring up images that are like it. You have a pretty good chance of finding the original source that way.

“Oh, but Jill, I’m sure you’ve made mistakes!” you may be saying. To which I respond, “I’m positive I have.”

I’m working very hard to make sure I’m properly attributing everything on here and my Facebook page, going through my archives when I can for good measure. There are a lot of posts to go through, but I’m doing my best.

I get irritated when people share my work without crediting me, but the rage doesn’t set in until I contact them and ask them to fix it and they respond to me with messages like:

“LOL how else do you think all these pages get our content? It’s all over the internet and it’s free for us to use. ” <real response

I’m not expecting perfection, I’m just hoping we can all put forth a little effort to respect each other’s time and creativity.

There is so much more that can be said about this issue, but I’m not going to try. I’m not nearly as well-versed in this as these folks:

Link With Love

Alexandra Wrote

50 Things to Do Before You Deliver: The First Time Moms Pregnancy Guide
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  1. I love this post. I do have a follow up question regarding this. How do you deal with this issue (especially when it involves major corporations) without wanting to hire a lawyer? I am currently dealing with this issue. The crazy part, they sourced me correctly, but they ripped the watermark and cropped one of my images and it looks like crap now!

    • Erin, if your watermark was removed from the image you really should speak to a copyright attorney. Under the DMCA there are significant penalties for removing the copyright management information, and often attorney fees are part of the recovery.

      Disclosure: I am an attorney but this is not legal advice.

    • That is SO frustrating! Ugh. I hate to hear that you’re dealing with that. Honestly, I haven’t gone the lawyer route yet simply because I just haven’t had the time to investigate it, but I feel like I need to look into it, especially when some major company does something like this. It’s such complete bullshit.

  2. I am book marking this for when I talk about plagiarism with my students. F bombs and all. None of it is relevant to them in essay writing until I bring in real life stuff like this.

    Also? People are stupid. I mean, sheesh. Sucks that you have to KEEP dealing with this!

    • Katie, teachers like you are going to make such a difference. I feel like people who perpetuate this shit right now are kids who never fully grasped plagiarism and all it’s implications in school. You HAVE to make it relevant to them, and I commend you for doing that.

  3. While ignorance isn’t bliss it’s more forgivable. Nothing makes me extra ragey than when I confront someone and they’re all like “what are you talking about crazy lady?” AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

    Have you thought about adding coding to the background of the blog that prohibits people from right clicking so they can’t “save as”? I don’t know if that helps the Google Image problem though.

  4. I’m so glad you fostered this conversation. Everyone needs to think about these ideas. It happens FAR TOO OFTEN and it is awful. Pure ugly awful.

  5. I had always been fairly careful about what images I was using on my blog but for some reason it never occurred to me that the same rules should apply to what I was sharing on my social networking sites. My eyes were opened to this recently and I am now attempting to go through all my sites (even my blog just to doublecheck) to delete all things to do not credit the original source. I am so thankful to all the sites that have been writing about this lately.

  6. Images that don’t link to the original source are my MAJOR pet peeve on FB and Pinterest (though I admit it’s usually for selfish reasons – how can I share it on other platforms if I can’t get to the original?) LOVE your suggestion for finding the original source, though! I’d never heard that before, and I’ll certainly be trying it out soon!

  7. Nothing has made me understand the true consequences of plagiarism and copyright infringement like working online. I’m constantly learning new ways to respect content creators, and constantly trying to adjust my site to fit the standards I’d expect of others.

    Great post, lady. You work too hard on this site for people to “LOL” in your face over credit where credit is due.

  8. This is a difficult topic for many to grasp, that not everything you find on the internet is free for the taking. I’ve written a few articles on Digital Rights to help dispel many of these myths.

    One area I haven’t specifically covered is watermark removal, or in legal speak we call it “copyright management information”. While not required, if one does put “copyright management information” (Watermark) on their work and some uses the work (say it’s an image) and removes the watermark they’re in a world of hurt if you’re willing to pursue it.

    When it comes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) there is very strong protection for copyright holders who have their work stripped of the “copyright management information”. It’s not just anecdotal in comments or language, but courts have come down hard on people. So much so that the penalty is $2K – $25K PLUS attorney fees, so it’s definitely something I counsel my clients to pursue.

    I guess because I am an IP lawyer in real life this all is very personal to me. I’m very passionate about offering up information and sharing information to help bloggers, small businesses, online entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone in the digital space, understand these laws. I try to talk in plain English and I definitely write my articles in plain English. But, as you’ve seen there is just so much entitlement out there.

    I would like to clarify one statement you have. Citing the source will NEVER relieve anyone of copyright infringement, it’s not a matter of maybe. If the work is licensed under a creative commons that may be sufficient, but creative commons is a licensing mechanism that changes the nature of how usage of the work is handled.

    This is an important conversation that needs to continue among the online community.

      • Must second what Morgan said. Sara, you bring knowledge that is much needed and too highly disregarded online. As usual, I love that you always have great insight to add.

    • You rock for chiming in and sharing your knowledge, Sara. I really, really appreciate that you added to this conversation and gave us all some more to think about. Thank you.

  9. I think this post may be coming across differently than you want it to, for those of us not in the business.

    I get you are mad, and have every right to be. However, there is a very strong scolding tone and I’ve never met a person who responds well to be scolded. It usually prompts more of an, “Well, yeah? F you!” response than a, “Oh, gee, you’ve made me see the error of my ways.” response.

    Specifically, “You found my Mommy Truth but didn’t know it was mine because the watermark was already cropped off when you found it? Well, who were you planning on citing for your source? I mean, you were planning on citing someone, right? And not Google, Pinterest or Facebook? Because if you found my image w/out my watermark and couldn’t tell who made it, then you shouldn’t share it.”

    Your expectation that people not in the biz would know about this is unrealistic. And I say that as a person who puts the original source as text in my original pins. When I repin something? No, I don’t go hunting for the original source, I often don’t even bother to click through before re-pinning, especially if it’s a pretty picture. There is nothing that suggests anyone should do this and many indications that one needn’t bother. To be mad at people, to use that tone, “Well, you were planning citing for your source?” doesn’t win over anyone to your cause.

    I get how your anger at those who should know better would spill over, I do. But as Phil Jackson says, anger is the enemy of instruction.

    • Lisa, I’ll admit again that this topic really brings the anger out in me. It’s not about my content being shared by people who truly are unaware of what they’re doing wrong. It’s about people who know better, who SHOULD know better, and don’t care.

      I apologize if it came off that way. I meant that passage to be directed at the big FB pages who have done this to me and so many others time and time again, always giving us the same lame excuse that they “found the image that way on Pinterest/google.” For them, I kinda hope this post DOES come off as angry because I am. We all are. We’re sick of it. I’m sick of major companies whose FB page managers make 5x more than I make blogging, jacking my images and not even taking 5 minutes to try to track it down.

      But yes, I know, tone and all that. The anger wasn’t meant for people who truly don’t know better.

      • Lisa,
        I just wanted to let you know, for your own protection, that what you repin (as well as what you pin) falls under the same copyright laws. You agree to them when you agree to the Pinterest Terms of Service. You can find all of that info, from copyright to how to use Pinterest on their About pages.

  10. Alex Asher Sears on

    This is so awesome in so many ways. Ignorance isn’t bliss. And people need to respect those who want to have their content shared as much as those that prefer more control over their content. They’re both valid.

  11. Thank you so much for posting this. While Imhad no idea about many of these issues I know better now! Thanks for informing me!

  12. You forgot that thing where they pin your content and if, say, it’s a recipe or something, they’ll post the ENTIRE content to the ‘comments’ section so people don’t have to click back to the original post. Yes, this makes it ‘easier’ for you because everything’s on your Pinterest, but this, too, is kind of stealing. Linked back to the source, but depriving the source of clicks. Also taking someone’s recipe without credit, or even WITH credit but copying/pasting the instructions too is illegal — you’re supposed to write your own. Even if you have the blogger’s permission to share the recipe in general! A lot of people share a lot of things and just don’t get it.

  13. Absolutely!
    I work really hard to make sure I credit original sources when I link (even on pinterest, when I have to spend a good 10 mins trying to find the original source people people have pinned it incorrectly)

    I am not a creator, and I always want to credit the fabulous people who come up with this stuff 🙂

  14. Mégan Miles Alba on

    Great post! So many people are ignorant when it comes to this. Just because it’s on the internet does NOT mean it’s free. Someone gave their talent, time, & finances to create something. They deserve proper credit and some link love.

    And I’m sure those people who tell you to get over it have never had their work stolen. If they knew how it felt, they’d be livid.

  15. New Age Hippy Mama on

    Wow! THANK YOU….I KNOW I’ve made some of these mistakes. When you know better you do better right!

  16. My brother recently had a photo lifted from flickr and some guy altered it and shared it on his Facebook page (which violated the creative commons). A bunch of us reported the image and messaged the admin of the page and it was taken down within hours – actually, the whole page is now gone.

    Now, we’re not sure if the user removed the image (and page) or if Facebook took it down. Regardless, it worked. Initially, the guy said “I’m waiting for the cease and desist.” A real jerk.

    Anyway, though Facebook doesn’t specifically have “copyright infringement” as a reason to report, there is “this image should not be on Facebook”…which, if it violates copyright, it shouldn’t be.

    • Gah. So scummy! Yes, I’ve definitely used that report feature before, which has also resulted in messages calling me a “bully.” Right, so I’m the bully for protecting the work that takes hours away from my family for me to create? Ok then. People. Grrrr… glad y’all got a resolution out of it, at least.

  17. As a new blogger this is so important to read. It is hard to know sometimes how to cite something. I always try to link back to the cite and quite honestly I do not usually post stuff to the blog from other sites. I’d rather put no picture if I don’t have one. Great topic. Thanks for bringing it to our attention/reminding us of the issues.

  18. This issue is one of the main reasons I have disabled right clicking on my site. I know I’m small-time and have to scrap and fight for my 1,200 page views a month, and I don’t really create anything funny that is worth sharing, but my stuff is still mine and I’d like to make it just a little bit harder on would-be content thieves than ‘right click-save picture’. All my links open in a new tab so there’s no need to right click to open anything for that reason. It’s annoying but it makes me feel better that I’ve probably annoyed anyone who has tried to copy my pictures.

  19. Jessica Knight on

    this post has REALLY opened my eyes. I’m not a blogger, however I’m an avid pinner on pinterest, and now I’m very concerned that I should delete all my pins. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on this? will you be removing your pins as well?

  20. Has there been a case where a blogger has sued another online entity? And won? I feel like, until there is a legal precedent, content thieves will continue to believe nothing will happen to them because nothing has happened to anyone else (as far as I know.)

    • Katie, suing under copyright can be very tricky because the work must be registered before a suit can be instituted and many bloggers often don’t have the resources to sue. There may be timing issue with the registration and proceeding with a suit, although it’s not insurmountable. Copyright violations are often handled through the DMCA process.

      There is legal precedent regarding copyright ownership and subsequent infringement for works posted online. Often it is a larger company (for example, Getty Images) suing bloggers for using their images. Copyright litigation, like most litigation, is not inexpensive. And the damages available may not be sufficient to cover the costs of litigation, unless there are certain violations that afford the copyright holder attorney fees if they win.

      Another hurdle is that many of the large content theft rings are located outside of the US, which makes it difficult to extend jurisdiction. That’s why the DMCA process is such an important tool in the protection of online copyrighted content. It’s not foolproof, but the takedown process of the DMCA provides an excellent means to protecting ownership rights to the exclusion of others.

  21. So, this has made me rethink even having a pinterest page. The only reason I have one is to gather together ideas for my own personal use, not really because I wanted to share them with anyone else. (well, except my husband, but he’d have to see it on my page anyway as he is not into pinterest)

    For you IP experts out there, if my page is not shared with anyone is it copyright violation to pin things to it from the original source? If so, what methods are legal for gathering pictures and ideas together (for personal, not business purposes)? Do I need to print each idea to a PDF and save it on my hard drive? Or is there no way to do this?

    • Copyright law does not differentiate between personal or business use. There are exceptions to infringement, the big one being the Fair Use doctrine. Pinterest poses some unique issues in copyright law because the copyright owner may not provide permission for the pinning (distribution) of their image.

      If you find an image and there is a “pin it” button, many believe it is safe to pin. There have been disagreements on this though. But, if someone puts a “pin it” button there is a good faith belief they don’t mind their image/work being pinned – just make sure you’re pinning directly to them.

      The problem with pinterest is that it is a very public way of doing what many of us did as teens – tear things out of magazine and stick them to our walls. It is this further distribution that has brought copyright infringement into the forefront of what Pinterest does.

      There’s nothing wrong with buying a magazine and tearing out pages because you like the recipe, want to use the photo to help with your home remodel, love the dress/shoes/couch/etc. The problems arise because of the nature of the internet.

      • Thanks Sara, I should have been able to think of that, but my brain did not want to work that day. (or it’s just been way too long since I thought about copyright law in that way).

        Given what you said, I’m thinking that if I either make my page totally private so that I am the only one who can see it and/or only post a link to the content I want to share (without a picture) then I should be ok using Pinterest. Or just go the PDF route I note in my previous comment.

        I started my pinterest page more becauase I wanted to keep track of some stuff, not becauase I really cared about sharing it with anyone else (well, at least anyone else who doesn’t already have access to my computer). And I certainly didn’t want to violate someone else’s rights.

  22. Well said, and thanks for the gentle reminders. We were all taught to cite our sources in school….the same applies in these situations.

  23. Rachael CrunchyontheOutside on

    I personally LIKE finding and citing the original source of any piece of work. I worked for a copy and printing company for 8 years. Totally had to piss people off regularly because they wanted to copy things that were blatantly copywritten (watermark, ®, TM, etc.). I cannot imagine what a PITA it is to have to worry about it on the internet, where everyone thinks everything is free. I write a lot, too…but, not for blog purposes. I have to cite EVERYTHING, even stuff I write based on someone else’s work I read. Most ideas aren’t original. I suppose the moral of the story, is COVER YOUR ASS…CITE IT!

  24. Thanks for sharing the Google trick with images. Pinterest is the only thing I really use to share ideas. I get so annoyed when someone posts an image but it has no link attached. Sure the picture is nice… but I want to see where it came from. Isn’t that the point of pinterest? My best example is when I see a picture of a yummy recipe… then I click on it and nothing pops up. What is the point of posting the picture on a recipe board w/o the recipe and where it came from? I do think some people just don’t understand how the internet works. I’m not the best with it sometimes… but I would never post something and pretend it’s my own. Even recipes, I always post the link…. I never cut and paste! Sorry to hear people do this to you. I would get pretty pissed if I had people stealing my work and ideas… I mean who wouldn’t?

  25. This has always been a peeve of mine too! My ‘real’ job is as a graphic designer so I know all too well about people “borrowing” images for their projects. And I know the copy right laws. People saying that images on google are free just exasperate me! Next to every picture on google it says “May be subject to copyright.”!

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  28. I saw this happen a few times to another blogger, her post and picks were on another blog as if it was from the other blogger and not her! You can report these people (thieves) to the host of the website or blog. It was a blogger blog so a bunch of us reported to Blogspot. If it’s a website, you can find out where it is “hosted” by doing a search at any domain name online store. Then contact the host to see if they can take the site down… That’s what I’d do!

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