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With great power comes great responsibility

The lowdown on crediting images properly

Don’t get caught by the image police!

If art, illustration, or photography was your livelihood, you wouldn’t want to have an image you took or made show up on someone’s blog without your permission.

So it’s basic decency to be considerate and check carefully where images come from before you use them willy-nilly on your website, blog, or newsletter.

As someone once said “With great power comes great responsibility” – and publishing online content is a real responsibility.

It is in fact the image below that got us started on this topic (though it’s been covered before over on the TLD blog, many times)

Puzzling Image

I found this image and thought to myself – something seems off the mark here!
It has a quote in the image that it has attributed to Batman and yet featured right next to it is an image of Superman!
Is this deliberate irony? Is there a deeper message behind this image that the author wants to convey?

It inspired this post about image attribution. As designers we use images every day and are very careful to find images that we are legally able to use. Either we took them ourselves, made them ourselves, or used a photo library. Sites like have added so many more images to our toolbox which are actually free.

But the image above confused me, so I asked one of our interns, David, to do some research.

Digging deeper – Where is this quote from?

The origins of the quote of “With great power comes great responsibility”:

  • This quote has been widely popularised into public consciousness from the movie of ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ as Uncle Ben’s message to Spiderman and in the comic books of Spiderman only the narrator of the comic uses this phrase.
  • However, the message behind this quote has been used long beforehand by different people in various different forms by figures such as Lord Melbourne, Winston Churchill, and Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • QI attributes the origin of the quote to an anonymous French writer from 1793 during the French Revolution period. See here for reference
  • One comic book blog claims that this phrase was also used by Superman’s father in the first Columbia movie serial of Superman in the first installment in 1948. See here
  • It is not attributed anywhere to Batman’s own character neither in the comics or his character in the movies.

Quote images and branded quote images

Quote images are images that contain a quote attributed to the author with a background image with it. This makes the quote easy on the eye for the reader and will catch a reader’s attention more than just a quote in text. See below for 2 examples (images made by Keren in the TLD office).

If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it
If we doubted our fears instead of doubting our dreams, imagine how much more we'd accomplish!

Branded quote images are quote images that you use to help promote a brand for a product or service. The idea behind it is that it will make it more relevant and familiar to your potential client if you have a quote from either a member of the team or someone famous. See below for an example.

Leadership quote

Troll quotes are image macros that feature a quote from a popular movie or TV show and attribute the quote to a character in another popular movie or TV show. Often the background image will come from a third unrelated pop culture source. These images are created in order to annoy or troll members of all the involved fandoms who will quickly identify the obviously incorrect attribution. This phenomenon started becoming popular in 2010. See here for reference. These 2 images are both from the blog
The Most Amusing Troll Quote Memes on the Internet
(you can see we didn’t design them at Top Left Design!)

Do or do not - there is no try
Wilson! From Woody in Toy Story

Origin of the Batman/Superman image and its use

  • The origin and author of this image is unclear, it’s the earliest use that David managed to find is from the Joy Reactor “fun and butthurt everywhere” blog from 30 March 2010. See here for reference.
  • This image has been used in approximately 30 blogs or image-sharing sites mainly between the years of 2012 and 2014 the earliest going back to 2010.
  • The majority of the time this image is being used in connection with the concept of troll-quotes which are images that have incorrect attribute quotes with incorrect images.

Importance of checking sources and crediting authors on the internet

  • It is important that when you are creating a blog or making content in a website and you are using content or material that you attribute and credit correctly to the author.
  • For both legal reasons and for peace of mind this is important, you don’t want to be accused of plagiarism and copyright by not attributing content from others correctly.
  • It is also important to maintain a level of trust and a sense of cohesion on the internet that you are giving credit where credit is due and people would return in kind.
  • Unfortunately, not all people are good at crediting the author so it is important that you do a bit of digging to find the correct source and give it credit. This also helps give credit when you are correctly attributing the content.
  • For the correct way to attribute the content and all the whens and how see here for reference.

In conclusion

  • There is a strong argument to say that troll quotes such as this Superman/Batman one can be taken as irony, humour, and light banter and are not aimed at seriously inflicting personal upset to anyone even if the images are “stolen” and therefore they can be passed off as harmless fun.
  • However, if you are using images for your business or if you are using an image someone else designed or photographed, try and give some credit. It is important to remember the image quote here “With great power comes great responsibility”. The great power of publishing in today’s day and age, anyone with access to the internet can write a blog or have a social media account and they can have a public forum for publishing their content, this greater power brings along a greater responsibility of the effect that you might have by inaccurately attributing quotes to the wrong people.
  • This can be conveyed simply with another quote ‘No man is an island’ a saying by English poet John Donne – humankind only succeeds in working together. Attributing correctly other people’s ideas, quotes, and content on the internet is an important acknowledgment of this fact and allows one to maintain this principle. Although the lines may sometimes become blurred let’s make sure those lines and boundaries exist. (Note the image below was labeled on Google for non-commercial re-use).
No man is an Island

Thanks to our intern David Kahan for his work and research on this blog post!

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