Plagiarism vs Inspiration


Artists, writers, musicians, designers, businesses, even the creative DIY blogger mom at home must decide for themselves where to draw the line between being “Inspired” and “Copying” other’s hard work.

I suppose it is just instinct to absorb what catches our eyes and be influenced by it. The Internet has bread a new era of copycats, most of which are not deterred by legal warnings or ethics, leaving one to wonder who has the original ideas anymore?

Big companies are not immune to this either. Companies on a tight budget or simply opportunistic are quick to jump on the creative ideas of bloggers for example, and leverage their considerable amount of resources to defend their position if discovered.

So, when then do we make a stand against plagiarism and cry foul and threaten copyright-infringement?

One to one copying or slight changes - I suppose legally that is for a copyright lawyer to decide but justifying the need to plagiarize the work of someone else who put days, weeks or longer of blood, sweat and tears to create their original piece of work for monetary purposes, IMHO is the same as forgery.

Unfortunately most online original creative people do not have the legal knowledge or experience to protect their work, nor do they have the resources to track the vast online world who may be copying them. Not to mention even if they have the legal knowledge, getting a Lawyer or copywriting your work, branding etc.. is expensive..

In the blogger world, timing is everything. If a piece of work is posted to the (public), copiers are quick to pounce and replicate, then hope the blogger population as well as anonymous visitors shower them with adoring comments, and likes, not noticing or caring who was original creator and then often capitalizing monetarily.

Exposing these copiers online carries a risk with it however. Suddenly your professional and positive persona, who all know you for, has a dent in it and trust can be negatively impacted going forward.

Having your work plagiarized over and over takes its toll on a person, drains away creativity, and robs you of energy to the point that you even consider giving up on your dreams. It is like having someone constantly standing behind you, breathing down your neck while waiting for your next idea to pop up.

As graphic design professionals, I am assuming this is something you have come across, so I ask you for your thoughts so I can ultimately find a way to bring peace my dear wife’s mind who has here photography and designs copied regularly.

5/16/2018 1:45:00 PM

Accepted Answer

It is virtually impossible to prevent people from stealing anything unless you keep if offline. DRM doesn't work. When you share anything, you automatically put it at risk. Look at the music industry - they aren't doing so well.

How you express an idea can by copyrighted, but the ideas itself can't. That's what a patent does. If you do a great design, someone can legally do a very similar design that uses the same style and elements. Many books and movies have a similar plotline, even though the original author tho pioneered the style might not want others to do so. It's an ethical thing - many people simply don't care and don't give respect. That's why people pirate software, download music, and cause the big mess we have.

My suggestion to you is to keep doing what you do best. As Scott said, be the trend setter and lead the path, not follow it. Think of sharing as a promotion, not a burden.

1/7/2014 2:15:00 AM

If you don't want something stolen, don't put it online. It's that simple. If you feel you must put it online.... come to terms with the fact it will be stolen. You can't prevent it. If I do put something online, I purposely hide secret codes and items in the artwork - things only I know are there - items which I can point out to clearly indicate how I created the work - items no one else would ever think to look for much less remove.

You can write emails/letters asking for removal of your copyrighted material. All major sites have a link to report infringement. I've done this several times. Blogger, Google, Facebook, etc., have all been very responsive and removed the material. Anything more than that you need to hire the legal team.

I don't see the theft as anything other than flattery really. If my work is lifted that frequently, clearly I'm the trend setter not the follower. After all I can recreate anything I've already created... most who "borrow" items can't even come close.