The art of science and the science of art.

If Only Images Were Shared Like Videos


Two interesting things happened recently for me on Facebook: one of my comics went viral, and another one was stolen.

In the first case, a comic I did about mental health was widely shared, and according to Facebook's "insights" 2.2 million people saw it due to the tens of thousands of comments, likes, and shares. Luckily for me, people were sharing the original post from my page, so I get to see all this information.

At the same time, someone on another Facebook page copied a set of comics from my blog, smashed them together into one image, and shared it on their own page. While it was bouncing around Facebook, being liked by thousands of people, Elise Andrew of IFLS recognized it as my work and notified me. I was able to message Chemists Memes and ask them to take down what they stole, which they did swiftly and apologetically.

When just days later a video about Disney princess aftermath went viral and was all over my newsfeed, I couldn't help but get a little jealous. This video has been shared across every social media platform, as well as major websites, and the creator gets credit for every view thanks to YouTube. It doesn't matter if the person reposting, sharing, or embedding mentions his name, links to his page, or says nothing at all. Every view is counted, and anyone interested can click the YouTube link to view his channel and find out more about him. I don't even want to talk about potential ad revenue.

Imagine a digital utopia where images were shared this way too. You could create a poignant, interesting, or funny comic, photo, or painting, and people could then embed the image on their page, blog, or website. You would get to see exactly how many views it gets, and can even make (gasp!) money based on the traffic. People don't have to ask permission to share your image because they are using a source that gives you credit and leads directly back to you.

Maybe I'll post comics on YouTube. It will be awkward, but at least it'll be slightly less prone to thievery.

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

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