Photography, Instagram

Did You Just Steal That Image: Instagram Re-Posting Etiquette

Today we’re talking about laws, guidelines, and plain ol' niceness. It’s a question or circumstance that gets brought up all the time and even something we’ve dealt with personally. Sharing someone else’s work on Instagram is a normal occurrence and is usually widely accepted. However, there are actual laws you should be aware of and industry standards that you should follow. 

First, know that it is generally widely accepted for an account to be shared or re-posted. It potentially can help both accounts to grow, and of course it’s nice for others to acknowledge that your work is worth sharing. However, there are ways of sharing that are disrespectful and that don’t give proper credit to the original poster. Let’s break it down. 

Today we’re talking about laws, guidelines, and plain ol' niceness. It’s a question or circumstance that gets brought up all the time and even something I’ve dealt with personally. Sharing someone else’s work on Instagram is a normal occurrence and is usually widely accepted, however, there are actual laws you should be aware of and industry standards that you should follow.   |  Click to Find Out More  |  Think Creative

Copyright Laws

You need to know that the person who actually clicked the shutter button on the camera to take the image you want to share owns the full copyright to that image. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether the original poster is the actual photographer, but if it’s on Instagram, chances are it’s a smartphone snap. They still have copyright protection even if it’s taken on a smartphone, and they don’t have to file anything - it’s automatically given. However, it would be really hard to share the work of those around us if we adhered strictly to plain ol' copyright laws, so there exists what’s called “Fair Use Doctrine”.

The purpose of the "Fair Use Doctrine" is to allow for limited and reasonable use as long as the use does not interfere with owners’ rights or impede their right to do with the work as they wish. Basically, any reason you’d want to be re-posting someone’s image wouldn’t interfere with these guidelines. This doctrine helps us all relax a little in our sharing, but we need to keep in mind the respect that the original poster deserves.

Instagram TOS

It is actually against Instagram’s Terms of Service to share work that is not your own. It’s basically their way of covering their butts because of copyright laws - this is why there is no “re-post” feature inside Instagram. So, for the love of all things holy, please do not use any re-post app to share images. It slaps a big ole watermark on the original post and makes it ugly. This is now showing the original image in a way the original poster did not intend (which is illegal). Rather, simply screenshot the image you’d like to share and share the image exactly as it was originally posted (with the following things in mind).

Industry Standard

Outside of actual laws and terms of service there are unwritten industry standards that should be followed. First, you should never ever share something that isn’t yours by trying to pass it off as your own. That’s stealing. That’s lying. Unless you are sharing a royalty free image (such as a Death to the Stock Photo image) you should always give credit to the artist. Even wording your description to make it come off as something that you created is wrong (even if credit is somewhere included). 

Keeping all of these things in mind, there are a few ways you can triple check to see if it’s okay to share someone else’s image and to credit them in the best way.

Ask the Original Poster

It’s that simple. You can email them, direct message them or simply comment on the image you’d like to share. Most will respond with a resounding “yes!”. This gives you the option to say something like “posted with permission from @originalposter” and covers all your bases.

Comment & Tag

There are two ways to let your followers know who the image is from and you should absolutely use both of them. When writing your description of the image make sure you mention the original poster. For example “How lovely is this set up from @originalposter?! I’m totally in love with the….”, or at the end of your own commentary say something like “thanks for the beautiful image, @originalposter”. By mentioning them in the description it shows your followers who the image came from in a very simple and clear way. 

You should also “tag” the original poster on the photo. So once you’re done writing your description, click the “tag” icon and type in the handle of the original poster. By using both tagging and mentioning, the original poster is more likely to see that they were shared and your followers get two chances to check out the original account. 

I want to be clear that these aren’t mere suggestions on how you should handle sharing other’s work on Instagram - they are must dos. We’re all here to grow and share but we should all be doing it by keeping in mind these laws and standards, while maintaining creative integrity with our peers.


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