Ahh the blurry lines of inspiration vs plagiarism… but errr, is it that blurry?
I’m inspired by the incredible people around me all the time. For example, I have business besties that:
✨ inspires me to be the best version of my biz self.
✨ get me thinking on how to be more accessible & inclusive.
✨ inspire me to get off my butt & work on my website.
Inspiration is lovely. When you’re building on someone else’s work or ideas, credited inspiration is vital.
However, plagiarism and copycatting gives you the shivers like you’ve walked under a ladder or crossed paths with a panther.
When Scott & I first started along came loni, plagiarism was one of our biggest concerns. We were terrified that someone would copy our artwork and designs. And you know, ultimately we were worried they’d sell more of our copied designs than us. We flip flopped for ages about putting anything out there for people to like, and to steal.
In the end, we just had to risk it, because otherwise we were never gonna get started. Three years later, we’re award winning, moving into new products and have just accepted that seeing designs out there that are verrrry close to ours are just part of the thing. It does sting when we walk into Oliver Bonas and see some much bigger brands with cards that look very familiar but it is what it is.
inspiration vs plagiarism in creative work
Did you know my background is in brand marketing? Yeah, developing stand out, solid branding is where I got started over a decade ago.
And the funny thing about branding and an aesthetic that you’ve developed over almost a decade is when you see a version of it staring back at you with someone else’s words, it smacks you in the face. You’ll just be mindlessly scrolling at 10pm on a Bank Holiday when a rip off of your branding just pops up.
Oh, hello plagiarism, have you had a nice long weekend?
It’s can be so subtle that you might have to sense check, am I being too sensitive? Or is my gut bang on here?
Other times it’ll be less subtle, it’ll be your work literally lifted. Once, I had a friend use a piece of my poetry for a caption on her photography instagram account. She’d taken a piece of poetry I’d written and used it for her caption, with no credit or acknowledgement. When I saw it, I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest.
I very gently messaged her to say that I was pleased that she liked my poetry but could she please credit me or change it to something else, and she replied, oh, I’d just written it down in a notebook when I saw it because the words stood out to me, so I must’ve forgotten I didn’t write them. But anyway, they’re only words, does it matter?
Er yes? Yes it matters.
I replied, if they’re only words, maybe you could write your own? But can you please credit me, or remove the caption.
She removed my words from her caption, and we haven’t spoken since.
Not because she used my poetry without asking or crediting me, but because seeing my work lifted like that felt like a punch to the throat and she never apologised. Not only was she another creative, she was supposed to be my friend. My IRL, survived-the-trenches-of-our-first-workplace-together-friend.
Some people will say there’s no such thing as originality anymore, that every artist, creator, writer, is inspired and takes a bit of everyone that inspires them, and that comes out in their work. And sure, maybe that’s true.
Does it mean that we just recklessly steal others ideas and work without credit? Does it mean we should? Er no, there’s ways to take inspiration without stealing. We should have more integrity than that. We can be better than that.