I’ve blogged about the topic of copycats in the past and I wanted to bring it up again after seeing this post on instagram by Elizabeth Olwen. It’s always been a huge topic for creatives and you can’t help but be faced by the issue in your creative life, whether you have been ripped off or not.
No one wants to be a copycat artist, right?
And if you do… then there’s really not much else we have to discuss here. Because inherently, creatives want to put their own voice out in the world. It’s a constant struggle and challenge and what makes this life sort of an amazing, satisfying adventure. Creating something from your heart, in all it’s woo-woo sense is at the core of all artists, right? So you can say that copying is like the opposite of what an artist is living for.
So I think it’s safe to say we all agree that straight copying – stealing of work – is generally agreed to as wrong. Even if it’s gross and yucky, it happens and we just have to deal with the avenues provided for protecting work. Ultimately, the world goes on, because your true customers want the real thing, not a cheap spin off, so you really don’t need to waste too much energy on this. If you listen to this Ted talk by Johanna Blakley you’ll get what I mean.
But are you copying someone’s style?
Everything after the straight copy and paste scenario gets tricky. It’s hard to determine with any clearcut definitions what is in the wrong or not. Are you too much like your design heros? Are you too much into popular trends? Or is it just a collective consciousness incident where multiple people come up with similar designs? I mean, we are obviously living in the same world with similar inputs and when a million pineapple and flamingo designs come out with gold foiling and hand lettering, it’s not really a surprise, right?
But is it wrong? Do you have to bash an artist because they wanted to jump on the trend bandwagon? What if it just makes them happy to do trendy things. Why is that wrong or considered copying?
I don’t intend to know or have a say in these matters, because I’m just a little girl, doing my doodles and designs and hoping to connect with like-minded folks who like my work. I’m not in the big time and don’t have the spotlight on me, so who cares, right?
But I know that often when I hear of copycat cases, I cringe and feel extremely sad for all the negativity and shaming that happens.
Don’t jump on the social shaming bandwagon.
One thing I really dislike is the social shaming when a possible copycat case arises. It happens to independent designers and it happens to giant corporations. It’s all just bad voodoo. Why are we all so quick to shame people, as if we are superior and all knowing? Do you know all the facts? Is it really even your place to judge?
Can I please just ask that we all remember that we are all human beings with feelings. If a problem arises, go directly and confront to figure out the issue. Let’s not make more negativity come out of a tricky situation. Is that possible?
Is that asking too much… for you to be an adult, responsible, professional person – even if you have been ripped off?
Let me be clear that I am in no way saying that copying is okay. Of course it’s not okay to copy. It’s not okay to rip people off. It’s not kosher to mimic someone’s style or reference another designers collection to create your own. Come on people! If you feel even slightly icky or weird doing something, then you know it’s no good. I think your gut knows a lot, so listen to it.
But let’s turn the table’s around and make sure you aren’t crushing the little seeds of growth in this big forest of creatives. Just because someone has a similar idea, doesn’t mean you have the right to crush their efforts. Has it even ever occurred to you that we are all looking at trends and experimenting with similar topics and might have similar ideas? Obviously, the end result might be similar, but not the same. If you look at the technology world, there are lots of companies inventing similarish products because they are tackling similarish problems. Is that a bad thing? I would hope there will always be more than one solution to a particular need. Otherwise this world would be a really sad and template kind of world!
Sometimes I feel like artists who are quite famous feel like they own their style. And yes, in a sense you do… because only you can do it. If someone is blatantly copying you, they won’t get very far… no one wants the copied stuff when you are the famous one. You’ll have to deal with it, but life goes on.
As for all the other grey areas, I feel like… jeepers, let’s just stop wasting energy on this and just go create. Isn’t that a better use of our time and energy?