Instagram And Plagiarism

While browsing Instagram the other day, I happened upon an amusing coincidence:

2015-09-08_09-04-13
Yes, two identical images side-by-side. I decided to probe a little further:

2015-09-08_09-04-55 2015-09-08_09-05-18

Well one appears to have more likes than the other and has a profile picture. Let’s look a little deeper:

2015-09-09_05-39-38 2015-09-09_05-40-07

Which just about ends our little investigation. One has no followers and has a lot of random stuff. The other has many followers and obviously has developed his own unique photographic style. It is obvious that winfredzaborac has brazenly copied content from dimazverev777 without so much as even giving the original creator any mention. Just another day in the plagiarise-happy-world of social media.

Plagiarism is especially common on Instagram. It is rampant to the extent that I am compelled to check the credentials of nearly every user before I will ‘like’ a picture in their stream, since I strongly believe in crediting the original creators and not the unimaginative copycats. The example above is a simple case to evaluate. However there are many other accounts that exist on plagiarism which are much more professionally managed and difficult to identify. These professional fakes are so good that most people don’t realise they are following a counterfeit, and these accounts do have a lot of followers.

How to identify plagiarism

• An original creator usually has information in their profile, such as more detailed description of their work, contact information, or a link to their blog or homepage. Take a look at the supplied information and evaluate if this user feels like someone who has no problem with people contacting them to verify their work.

• If a photostream contains images from too many genres, it is probably stolen content. Great photographers only concentrate on and excel in a few genres.

• If a photostream looks too good to be true and the user is not famous, it is probably stolen content. These people steal from the best artists of the world, so their photostreams look even better than than that of an actual award-winning, proven photographer.

• If a user posts images from locations hundreds and thousands of miles apart within a few days, it is probably stolen content. Just ask yourself logical questions like how this person can be at multiple locations in a matter of days, or how the same person has so much money and free time to be travelling to hundreds of exotic locations in a month or in a year.

• Not easily done from the Instagram mobile application, but you can check for any image duplicates with services such as Tineye and Google image search. These are easier to perform from a desktop though. if the original image is also newly uploaded by the original creator you may not find any results.

How to defend against plagiarism?

There is no way to prevent anyone from appropriating copies of the images you upload. Instagram’s resolution used to be 612×612. Then it increased to 640×640. At the time of this article, this has gone up to 1080×1080. The latest resolution bump has caused many photographers to re-think their approach to sharing on Instagram. Here are a few ideas you can adopt to dissuade the practice or minimize the loss:

• Limit the resolutions you upload at. Consider uploading a version of your image at a lower resolution. Even if it gets plagiarised, it would only be of limited profit to the thief because of its lower resolution. This advice is also applicable to all other social media services. The maximum resolution I upload is 1,024 pixels on the longest side. For Instagram’s square format, I am still using 640×640.

• Place a little copyright watermark in the corner of your image. If someone is just taking your image to make their photostream more interesting, they are doing free promotion for you. No problems with that! If they are out to steal your image and clone out your watermark, I hope you adhered to the previous point I mentioned about keeping your resolutions low. There is not much advantage of going to the trouble of stealing a low-resolution image, and very little loss to you even if it happens. In certain parts of the world, copyright laws dictate that unauthorized removal of a watermark means more money in your pocket if the case ever goes to court.

One contentious point about watermarks is that some people argue that putting some words in an image ruins the picture. However, that would mean that every book and magazine cover, every movie poster, every advertisement and every page in a fashion magazine is ugly. Since that sounds stupid, I will suggest that you do what makes sense to you. Just make sure that your watermark is small and not distracting.

Remember to support original content creators!

3 comments

  1. Great points and well written. Social media offers both opportunity and threat. It’s just the percentages that I’m not so sure about. I’m about to post my own quandaries about whether-or-not-to-watermark tomorrow actually. I had made the decision just to rely on meta-data but now I’m going back to a mark as well. I’d love to know your thoughts on my post if you can drop by some time. It will be under ‘Photography’ (well derr!!) haha

    Liked by 1 person

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