A recent blog post written by Max Dubler really resonated with me. I linked to it in an Instagram Story yesterday, but in case you missed it, you can read it here.
A lot of folks wrote back to me in agreement but the truth is, the rules of sharing on Instagram are extremely gray. It's a strangely unspoken and uncomfortable topic. It seems that the accepted norm is that as long as "proper credit" is provided, it is generally deemed OK to take a screenshot of someone else's image and repost it to your own account. I myself have long defined "proper credit" as a tag to my account as well as a mention in the caption. In addition, when I'm asked for permission (which is only about 5% of the time) I've always requested that the image remained unedited and uncropped.
For a long time, I thought that as long as these expectations were met, everything was hunky-dory. After all, everyone else seemed to think this was fine, so I should too. But it didn't feel right to me. I found myself cringing every time someone wrote a caption that had nothing to do with my original photo or added a hundred branded and irrelevant hashtags (or worse yet, tagged other accounts) to my photo. My Instagram feed started to feel like a free stock image gallery. When other accounts take my images without asking and repost it for their own promotional purposes (a process that takes literal seconds), I feel robbed of something that I worked hard to compose, shoot, and edit at the expense of my own time, creative energy and equipment. I do not make any money off the majority of my Instagram images. So why should someone else?
I should also note that this mainly pertains to accounts of brands that I have no prior working relationship, agreement or understanding with. (If you're unsure if this is you, let's chat.)
Some of you expressed concerns. How would this affect my existing working relationships? What if I'm more ok with some accounts reposting than others? What about accounts that aren't selling a product and are purely about curation? Or using my image as their profile picture? (That's uncool, by the way.)
So here's my best solution at the moment: always ask for permission. Instead of freely taking and assuming that it's ok because everyone else does it, take the time to shoot me a direct message or email me first. I could decline, or I could say yes. I could ask for a small fee or I may see value in the exposure. But that is up to me, the owner of the content, to decide. Let's have a conversation. Who knows, maybe we end up creating something awesome together.
Thanks for reading. Let's keep the dialogue going if we're to create a community based on mutual respect.