Plagiarism Is Rampant On Instagram And Nobody Seems to Care

If you feel like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and TikTok are all just places where people share screenshots of funny things other people have said on other platforms, you’re not alone. Plagiarism is so famous for this that the official Twitter Instagram account posted a joke about it. The problem arises when you begin to follow the money.

One of the cat accounts I follow, pawsomecouture, posted a screenshot of a funny cat tweet on their account. In the caption, they’d credited the Twitter account that had originally posted it. But they hadn’t linked to her account, or tagged her Instagram account. My first thought was that it was hard to find, but when I spent 5 seconds checking, I learned it was the exact same handle as her Twitter account.

Screenshot of Pawsome Couture’s liberal use of Heisey’s tweet, no Plagiarism.

This brand took a tweet, posted it on their own account to get engagement, and then hadn’t even done the bare minimum to at least make sure the creator got a few Instagram follows out of it.
In what other profession would it be acceptable to take something someone else had made and post it to a profitable brand account page without some kind of recompense?
Creators Have Been Happy With “Exposure” for Way Too Long
The internet is a tough and wonderful place to create.

Wonderful, because anyone can find an audience, no matter how niche your passion is. I see folks selling jewelry, embroider patches, their own courses, feet pics.
But it’s tough because part of your audience will always expect you to give them stuff for free. And if you think to charge for it, you’ll be eviscerated.
I feel myself getting annoyed when I try to read an article online anywhere. Forbes’ website is nearly illegible due to the sheer quantity of ads.

Screenshot of Forbes’.

This is why so many platforms — and brands — have been happy to shove tons of ads in the feeds of content consumers. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter reap the benefits from selling that ad space, but without comping the content creators who actually attract the audiences. Instagram only just now started to pay creators for their views on Reels. Until recently, going viral on Twitter meant you might get $30 from posting an ad of a projector underneath your viral tweet.

Creators loved to get the likes and retweets and followers. But unless you were willing to put in the work to get a brand sponsorship or sell memberships to your audience. There was no way to earn from the content you created even though. It was explicitly valuable enough to sell ads on Plagiarism.
That created a very toxic environment in which consumers expected free content. But more than that: because it was literally worthless. It meant corporations and companies felt entitled to steal your work. Sometimes cropping you out altogether! Use it to build their own brand. Countless times, I’ve seen a brand attempting to appear hip or trendy screenshot. A meme or tweet and post it on their own accounts in order to signal a certain vibe to their own consumers.

Plagiarism But look

If Pawsome Couture copies a tweet and uses that to build their audience on Instagram where they sell cat toys and pay no proportion of their profit to the content creators, it’s theft, plain and simple.

As Long As We’re Happy With Virality, Brands Will Keep Stealing
For a long time, going viral was all any creator could want or expect. Speaking for myself, I loved posting videos and photos of my cat. That would go “viral,” racking up 1,000s of likes. It didn’t pay a single cat food bill, but the sensation of being popular online was addictive.