The art of science and the science of art.

Bif! Bam! Pow! Microraptor Missing Creator Credit!


I really don't enjoy playing Internet Police. After this happened and this needed to be said, I don't want to write another story about image misappropriation. About another brazen misuse of some science illustration. Le sigh.

Oh wait, first rule of writing something impactful: start positive. Ok. Ahem.

Once more unto the breach! In a dazzling case of daylight misattribution in front of the eyes of thousands, a crying shame!

A young scientific illustrator - career thwarted! A microraptor - stolen from its owner! Biff! Bam! Pow! Time for an art-intervention in scintillating Symbiartic style!

The scene...

Microraptor Ate Fish - illustration © {link url=""}Emily Willoughby{/link}, posted with permission.

All is well; a Microraptor is illustrated feeding on prey at the popular Note the artist's name, Emily Willoughby appearing prominently below the lovely illustration depicting the Microraptor feeding on a fish. The post above tells the tale, and Willoughby has imagined it with a richness that words cannot do justice.

Now, a shadow falls on the scene:

Once again, © {link url=""}Emily Willoughby{/link} even though Discovery reeeally doesn't want you to know that.

What's this? The same image appearing on in a story by Jennifer Viegas? The same image, but now with illustrator Emily Willoughby's signature cropped out? (Take a good look: should be in the bottom left, as it is on the Wired story. Thank you Wired for being such decent folk.)

Before everyone gets all poh-lite and indignant and starts wondering why I'm blogging about this public thing that happened in public instead of sending a lovely note to Discovery and the blog author, Willoughby and a number of her friends and fans have already tried that, according to her Facebook page. Comments made on Discovery are not appearing.

Perhaps Viegas is not at fault: perhaps it's an image editor at Discovery. Will someone step out of the shadows and set the record straight? AND CREDIT THIS GORGEOUS ILLUSTRATION AWREADY.

Let's recap. Here's a short image use tutorial I wrote for ScienceOnline in 2011. (See? I'm even giving credit to myself because my last name is Mellow and not "Mellehrer".)

  • Go beyond Google Images or Wikipedia to the original photographer, illustrator or artist.
  • Check for a Creative Commons Licence*.
  • Ask. Just ask if permission is unclear. We have email now and it's amazing how fast that stuff is.
  • Credit the photographer, illustrator or artist by name.
  • Link back to their site.
  • Saying "Credit: Google Images" or "Source: "Wikimedia" is like saying "Credit: Some human on Earth". So don't do that.
  • If you crop the artist or photographer's name out, we can still find you.

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This part is important. If you'd like to support Emily Willoughby and her scientific illustration career, visit the following links and be astounded.

Also, she's currently seeking a publisher for a book with these illustrations. C'mon publishers. It'll be like printing money. But legal and with dinosaurs.


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The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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