It starts with seeing an image you find inspiring or effective in communicating something meaningful. Screen cap, credit, and you post it in your feed with your own caption. It’s a win-win situation, right? After all, credit is given to the artist, they are given exposure, and you get to share your words in your feed with a beautiful image. The digital age of social media is now universal and democratized, where anyone can have access to images and build their feed.

Unfortunately, there is an ethical piece missing here: Was there a conversation around obtaining prior consent to use the art in the first place?

In the intellectual property (IP) world, the theme we are navigating in this “screen cap and tag” culture is correct ownership. Correct ownership in the context of an image or another form of art, belongs to the original creators of the art. Ownership could belong to an individual, an entity (such as an organization that purchased the content), and could also include a team of people.

IP, on a foundational level, can be described as this:

  • If you made it, you own it.

  • If you paid for it, you own it within the terms of the purchase.

  • If you don’t own it, it isn’t ethical (it’s also unlawful) to use it without some form of prior consent obtained.

Which now brings the “screen cap and tag” culture to light: If prior consent isn’t obtained, then what is taking place within the collective on social is anything but democratic, and in fact is colonialistic.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Investments
We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. But did you know that it’s also worth a thousand behind the scene investments? For instance, I’ll list what (at minimum) goes into creating any ONE of Ceremonie’s images (this list is often much longer and involved for other content creators, one reason being that I am my own model, which saves me some further planning and costs):

  • all facets of branding / brand compliance

  • brainstorming

  • mood and storyboarding

  • admin communications

  • multiple meetings with other creatives involved

  • experimentation

  • sourcing props

  • prepping product

  • packing and transporting them

  • styling

  • iterations (many of which aren’t successful)

  • editing

  • research

  • writing

  • me having to work extra hours so I can pay for the services of other creatives to make the output possible

  • time away from my kids

  • childcare costs

  • time away from generating revenue to pay for living expenses

  • keeping tabs of the weather (I often shoot outdoors); rescheduling if weather is not a fit

  • traveling to the destination of the shoot (for outdoors shoots, sometimes in excess of 2 hours each way)

  • rental costs of using a space (if shooting indoors)

  • paying for meals for other creatives

What you might say:
I am starting out; I don’t have the budget yet.

What creatives say:
We know the feeling, we were there, too, and we invested in creating content.

What you might say:
But you do this for a living; this is in your wheelhouse.

What creatives say:
It’s part of our wheelhouse, but it still takes so much time and work. Might I add, in my case, I am not a creative agency. I am a shamanic witch that invests in original content. What this means is that I abide by IP laws (also called Copyright and Moral Rights) to providing value on my feed.

What you might say:
Isn’t exposure a form of payment?

What creatives say:
It sounds great in theory, but exposure does not pay the bills, and in my personal experience, it has never resulted in any revenue for me. The reality is that entrepreneurs hold space for an infinite amount of things, we are working even when we’re off work, and we don’t have the luxury of leaning on government (un)employment insurance, or company medical benefits. Fair compensation is not only fair, but an absolute necessity for us to keep doing what we are doing. Also, unless exposure has been discussed ahead of time as the form of payment, the assumption of it being payment doesn’t make it so.

What you might say:
No content creator has ever had issue with me using their image without first obtaining consent.

What creatives say:
It may simply be that they didn’t know you used their image. Instagram, for instance, has a max in activity logs, so it’s possible that the crediting got lost or buried. If they are a solopreneur or small business, it’s also likely they don’t have enough resources to take the time to message you about it. They may even emotionally be exhausted to have to constantly have this educational conversation in the first place that they simply don’t bother. Silence does not mean permission. YES means permission. Asking for permission is not an optional courtesy.

Other Important Ethics to Consider:
Terms of use will vary from creative to creative. This means their non-negotiables are not universal. For this reason, it’s important for you to seek permission from the owner of the art, and it’s helpful for the owner to define their terms. On a general level, these are key points to consider:

  • Is it ethical to use images from someone who offers a similar service to yours?

  • Is it ethical to use another artist’s image to sell a service or product? For instance, see Mystic Mamma’s terms (which is also my stance) very clearly stated in their profile.

  • Is it ethical to imply that the body in an image is yours when it’s of another person?

  • If you’re a curator, and after you have obtained prior consent, are you using the original content creator’s work contextually and in an informed manner?

  • Is it ethical to add filters to another artist’s artwork? (Most do not appreciate this).

  • Is it ethical to simply credit them and not tag, especially since the shelf life of a tag is far longer than an in-comments credit? Without tagging the image, there is no way for the artist’s profile to be searched for in IG.

  • If you create your own content, what is the difference between being inspired by another artist and appropriating another artist?

How A Profile’s IG Feed and IG Story Differ for Content Usage
Instagram’s mechanics have it built in for you to share another account’s content via their Stories feature. The artist is automatically linked and stats show that this function is an effective way to discover others and gain new followers. Plus by using Instagram, this social building function is what we have agreed to.

But for content to appear in your main IG feed, there are NO mechanisms that are built into the social media app to automatically link to another artist. This means for an IG user to use an image of another in their feed, they need to manually take a screen cap of it, and there is no function within the app that ensures proper crediting and tagging (let alone prior consent).

Starting Out Or On A Budget?
As mentioned earlier, when I started Ceremonie 4 years ago shortly after the birth of my second son, I had no budget for building visual assets (and was running on very little sleep). Here’s what I did:

  • I took my own photos (off my phone – I didn’t even have a ‘legit’ camera)

  • I accessed free stock image sites (Google those!)

  • When I had a tiny budget, I purchased bundle stock images as well as à la carte stock images (my favourite stock image site is

  • I bartered for proprietary photographs from professional photographers – I offered shamanic journeys, shamanic skin + aura care, and face mapping consultations

  • If you have received prior consent to use another content creator’s image, please be sure to credit them in-comments AND tag (refer above for reason). You may also find that image is given far more authentic respect if you make it a point to learn about the content creator and include some context about why their art is in your feed. They have invested so much in their art, and are being generous by extending to you the permission to post their work.

In summary, seek consent. If consent is obtained, respect the terms of use of the art. Credit and tag the artist properly. Taking these steps not only honours the creative, but also protects you from unwanted complications (potentially legal) down the road. If we say that we honour our artists, poets, dreamers, visionaries, sages, writers, and so forth, let’s honour what belongs to them.

If you’re a visual content creator, please feel free to share this article as a resource for your clients, your colleagues, or anyone else. For folx who would like to support creatives that add meaning and beauty in your life, we would also appreciate your help by sharing this with those around you. Please credit me (and tag, when applicable – but you knew that!). This functions as your prior consent given. 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read this. And other artists also thank you.

Mimi xo

Mimi Young
founder and Spirit Communicator

If you enjoyed this post, and would like more, please feel free to share with your friends. I also welcome you to follow Ceremonie on Instagram or the email list! My neurofeedback work can be found via Open Minds Performance, also on IG.