Nothing is truly original – it’s a simple fact. Humans have been around for some six million years. There have been over 100 billion human beings in that time. Even if each one only ever had one creative idea in their whole lives, there’s bound to be some considerable overlap there.
We’re also now living in an age where we’re exposed to loads of different ideas – if the average person spends around two hours a day on social media that’s a heck of a lot of things we will see and – sometimes inadvertently – be inspired by.
I’d say that 99% of people in the world are good, honest souls, who would never intentionally copy anyone. I will stand by that completely. My initial reaction whenever anyone says “this is a copy of your work” is to question myself – “have you seen this before, did you inadvertently copy it?”.
I’ve been alerted to goodness knows how many Dinosaur Alphabets. I didn’t invent dinosaurs - or alphabets - and although I didn’t find any others online when I completed mine, it’s definitely not to say I was the first person to draw one. There are loads of other folk out there doing them and it’s no problem if it’s genuinely their own work. I actually love seeing other people’s take on different alphabets. I’m a proper alphabet nerd.
Over the weekend I saw a good friend of mine attacked on Social Media because she had created a design, which – by her own admission, when confronted with the original – was very similar to another local artist. She’d definitely not copied it; it was a genuine coincidence. She was really upset by the vitriol and abuse directed towards her by the “original” artist, and a group of her friends. It was pretty distasteful, nasty name-calling - and totally unproductive. At the end of the day, why the heck would anyone publicly share a work in progress if they’d willfully copied someone?
Which draws me to the main point of what I feel about copying – it’s not the being copied, it’s the way that you deal with it that really counts.
Coincidences happen. And people will have the same ideas, at the same time. Artists will also draw similar subjects – food, alphabets, skylines. That’s been going on for centuries. That’s not copying. Heck, I’ve been accused of it myself – so I know how utterly distressing it can be if an unfounded accusation is made.
But when you see someone copy the exact wording and layout of a bestselling card design, you know damn well that it’s a copy. So my general strategy in this instance is to deal with it quickly, privately and discreetly. I think that causing a big fuss on social media just isn’t very dignified, and it’s going to cause ultimate distress for all concerned.
The middle one is a particular favourite - my actual illustrations have been used on this one!
It’s also very telling, how someone who has copied you responds. Some are very gracious and remove the product in question immediately. I have, however, had a number of copiers argue with me “well I re-drew the cheeses, so it’s not a copy”, or “someone asked me to copy it” or – my favourite - “I’m just a sole trader trying to make a living”, are just a few that spring to mind. Great, thanks for that guys, maybe just think of your own ideas in future, huh?
I have seen blatant copies of my designs in several high street stores – which really really hacks me off. But if I am honest I don’t have the time or energy to pursue a lengthy and stressful campaign against the big boys. I’d rather spend my precious time drawing new things, cos, well, that’s what I like doing.
I’m also not going to name and shame, it’s just not me. I don’t want these ratbags to get any more publicity than they already have. But even I have limits, and there are certain high street stores I keep a close eye on, especially round Valentine’s Day. But I’m not going to be consumed by negativity. My time’s more important than that - and I hate the drama and outrage that comes with it all.
So, copying. In conclusion. It’s not flattering, its downright bloody rude, and it’s stealing. But, I have the capacity to come up with new ideas – out of my actual brain – so basically, I win.