DIY is not Duplicate It Yourself!

March 12, 2010

Hello friends! I think that today I’ll go light on the blogging because I’m ready for the weekend and feel more like relaxing vs. writing! But first, I thought I’d kick off my Real Talk column, which also was called Talk It Out, and well regardless of the column name it will be called Real Talk going forward and the column will appear once weekly on any given day — it really depends on the community and what issues you email me that you’d like to talk about here. I have always supported the online community but this afternoon I was shown that support in return in a business matter — and it made me think how it feels to be on the receiving end — when I felt helpless and someone came in to help. It was wonderful and that is one of many reasons why I’ve decided to get the Real Talk column up and running again on a weekly basis.

DIY is not Duplicate It Yourself!

The purpose of this column is for all of us to share our personal opinions on the chosen topic to offer advice, ideas, constructive feedback and anything else that we can do collectively to show support and friendship. Truth is, we all need each other — we are part of a circle. So to celebrate this spirit of independence but also interdependence, Real Talk is back!

Today my guest is Erika Firm who is the president and designer of Delphine fine stationery and design. Erika wants to talk about unethical requests that would lead to possible violation of copyright (copying hurts real people out there), requests that many of us experience regularly as small business owners — especially designers. Here is what Erika has to say on the topic, I hope you’ll chime in because together our voices can possibly get others thinking… and the intended goal here is to educate and offer support and even a possible solution or several.

Erika — take it away!

“Lately I’ve noticed more and more clients asking me to copy other people’s work (they see an invitation in a magazine and want me to duplicate it one to one, and I won’t). It’s my policy to refuse, and to explain copyright infringement. Friends and colleagues of mine in the wedding industry (not just other stationers) have also told me that they’re experiencing an increase in these sorts of unethical inquiries. I think part of the reason I’m seeing more of these unethical requests is that my business has grown and the studio gets more inquiries overall than ever before, so the number of “icky” inquiries is also growing. But perhaps it also has to do with the proliferation of DIY (which, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do love and support), and the proliferation of things like “inspiration boards” on blogs (which I also love, and post myself on my own blog). The DIY movement and things like inspiration boards are meant to foster creativity.”

“Because of my personal experiences (and thanks to many similar stories heard from friends and colleagues) I feel like there exists a disconnect between the artist/blogger/designer’s intent (to inspire) and some people’s inference that this inspirational content is free to simply be copied.”

“Perhaps some people feel like their homemade invitation (or cake or dress or bouquet or centerpiece or curtains or pillow…) that looks exactly like the original couldn’t possibly change anything in the world or hurt someone else. While I think that the vast majority of bloggers understand the difference between inspiration and copying, and act professionally and ethically, I’m not sure that many are doing an excellent job of pointing out the difference—and the real effect that copying has on the people behind the businesses that supply creative content and products—to readers. The simple fact is that when somebody decides to “duplicate it yourself” (instead of getting inspired to “do it yourself”) it hurts a real person.

What do you think we as a creative community can do to address this issue? I feel the frustration rising. I know there are hundreds and hundreds of examples of how copying has affected someone’s business, and there are lots of ways of addressing the issue after it’s already happened. How do we spread the word that there is a huge difference between being inspired by something and copying? Any ideas on how to do this?

– Erika Firm

(Images: Delphine product shot styled by Erica Firm, taken by Heather Vallentyne)


  • Reply Carey March 12, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    This could not be more timely- the recent rash of DIYers “inspired” by or out and out copying another designers work is just wrong and copyright infringement. No matter what you’re using it for, it’s illegal and unethical. Thank you for bringing this to light.

  • Reply linda March 12, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I’ve encountered the problem of folks asking me to recreate a design as well and it’s unethical and also sad for me because they just want a worker bee not a designer! I’ve also encountered folks who think if they are using something for their personal needs they can actually ask me if they can copy it by sending them the files directly – it’s for my kids birthday, etc. I think many just require education on what’s okay and not okay. Certainly there is nothing wrong with trying to make your own something or another, whether directly copied or inspired if you are just learning and playing around – but if you are taking the work to a professional it’s a whole different story. Everyone has a different interpretation of what’s inspired and what’s a copy, but in the end I don’t think copies are ever as good as the original because it didn’t come from the heart of inspiration…
    .-= linda´s last blog ..TGIF thoughts…Get to it! =-.

  • Reply Dandelion & Grey March 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Well said! I couldn’t agree more that this is a growing issue. Where is the originality? I’m glad you stand your ground & are opening this up for discussion!
    .-= Dandelion & Grey´s last blog .. =-.

  • Reply Stina March 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    My only advice would be to talk about it and explain it, again and again and again. This is something that won’t go away if you only adress it once. People seem to have no concept of copyright and creative property anymore, perhaps thanks to the internet. If I can copy anything with right-click-save, why ask for permission? The anonymity on the internet helps with that, sadly. The person I am stealing from will probably never know I took her design and had it printed on my wedding invitation. We should also make a point in always mentioning the name and possibly the website of something we find pretty or interesting. That way, it’s not just a nameless picture, but something that was created by a real person.
    .-= Stina´s last blog ..Photoshop 101. =-.

  • Reply pruh March 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    O I hate it when people duplicate.
    My friend has this beautiful brides blog and people just copy everything she writes. Don’t they feel bad about themselves if they just copy!

  • Reply CapreeK March 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Hoo, boy! This topic is definitely the elephant in the design/art/craft/inspiration blog room, isn’t it? I honestly think that people just don’t understand that what they are asking others to do (or are doing themselves) is in fact COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. The key to solving this problem, I feel, is education about the topic. And posts like this are the first step in that direction. So kudos to Holly and Erika for broaching this subject. And I have to repeat what Linda said, because it was just so good: “in the end I don’t think copies are ever as good as the original because it didn’t come from the heart of inspiration…” Amen!
    .-= CapreeK´s last blog ..Fly Font =-.

  • Reply Jessica March 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Linda, I love what you said at the very end, “in the end I don’t think copies are ever as good as the original because it didn’t come from the heart of inspiration…” It really cuts right to the chase. The people who want to copy are missing that point entirely. I wonder if it comes from lack of confidence in their own creativity. I have many friends who say point blank, “I am not creative” and I just don’t believe it. I think every single person has an ability to be creative but it takes effort to learn about yourself. You have to be motivated to explore, try and fail at different things. It makes me sad that people write themselves off altogether. Maybe you are creative in the kitchen or in the garden or some other area of life that you wouldn’t consider “art.” Art comes in all forms and it makes the world go around, that’s what I believe. I’ve always been sensitive to the issue of copying, I am not sure where that got instilled so deeply exactly but I absolutely hated it in college when I found out people in class were using their sorority “files” to turn in their papers when I had just stayed up all night to write mine and we both got As. What’s up with that? Copying and cheating are definitely pervasive, consistent problems. It is frustrating and sad.
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Spring Color Week, Poppytalk =-.

  • Reply jen March 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Great topic! I design wedding invitations and encounter this problem all the time. I have put language on my website explaining upfront that I will not copy another design. I tell my clients, if they find the perfect invitation somewhere else, they are welcome to contact that provider because I won’t recreate it. I’ve had clients who will tell me they want “that exact flower” and I just have to talk to them about the process of creating illustrations and graphics for their invitations.

    I’ve also been upset when I have seen some of my designs replicated within the community. Replicated so closely that they used the same fonts and designs in many cases. One of them is on the homepage of a major stationery site right now! I don’t have the answer to how to fix this problem other than to set a high standard for my own work and do my due diligence in creating new and innovative ideas for my clients. I think having these conversations is helpful too! Thanks for doing this.
    .-= jen´s last blog ..Mad Men Barbie =-.

  • Reply Maddy March 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    As a designer myself, I’m painfully aware of copyright violations and the wedding community, but as a blogger, I’m not really sure what we can really do about it. I like to showcase innovative, original designers on my blog, but I think it’s up to all of us who design, print, or otherwise reproduce to stand firm on protecting our competitor’s work as well as our own. Wedding blogs and communities probably won’t be able to drive that point home as well as a vendor doing his or her due diligence.
    .-= Maddy´s last blog ..Do It Yourself Challenge: Calling All Crafty Types! =-.

  • Reply Ricki Mountain March 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    As a published and licensed artist for more the 15 years. I have had my work reproduced on several occasion without my permission. I have had to take legal action in some cases and did not in others. It was more the intent of the person, or company using my work. Those that took it and used it for monetary gain without my permission, I went after. Those that wanted to incorporate in their own way for personal use, I have no problem with. Inspiration is one thing, plagiarism is another.

    Unfortunately in today’s digital world nothing is safe from being replicated. Their are measures you can take to protect your work, but in the long run, if someone really wants to use your work and flip it in Photoshop, there is nothing you can do to stop them given the 20% difference rule.
    Here is an organizations you can join to fight this movement.
    For artist by artist : The Artist Copyright Coalition
    This particular group is dedicated to artist in the art publishing world

  • Reply Heather March 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I feel this problem also stems from clients not having the dialogue or confidence to express what it is they want and so, it’s can be a lot easier to ‘link the dots’ with examples of other designers work. It’s up to us, as the designers to educate our clients, introducing them to a new language (forgive me if this sounds in any way grandiose), from which to work with. The better our clients understand what it is that we do and how we do it, the better it is for our industry. It’s a win/win situation, and there’s plenty to go round.

    Of course, there are those with a more sinister intent (and really, copying equates to theft) but, in the same way that there will always be people that cheat, there will always be those who steal ideas because they don’t have any of their own. And it’s not always the small clients, no, the big guns are just as guilty, if not more so.
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..and now for some quiet time… =-.

  • Reply Ann March 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Excellent post. Recently I was disappointed to see a craft website award a contest prize to someone who had replicated a design made by a paper artist. To her credit, the person who made the very nice replica named the original artist as her inspiration on her entry statement. She did the right thing, but I don’t think the contest deciders showed the best judgment in choosing a non-original entry as the winner.

    So that would be one way to nip this sort of thing in the bud… don’t award copying.
    .-= Ann´s last blog ..Beringer Wine Commercial =-.

  • Reply Lynn March 12, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I agree…but as far as I am concerned…copy me… thats fine….. take what you like thats fine…..but please don’t sell it!!
    I am happy to inspire or provide anything from ideas to images…. to anyone. I think sometimes admirers can’t always afford my crafts ect so if they want to copy me I really don’t mind, but if they are selling directly from my idea I would be sad.
    Have a happy wekend xxxx

  • Reply Jen March 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you for posting this. Just this week I was contacted about making some items for someone, and when I quoted a price, was actually told that instead the person would try and make it themselves. And I have had more than one “artist” cite my work as inspiration for a tutorial! My work isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s mine, and everytime this happens it’s hurtful to me and my business. (ironically, they never get good results using cheap felt and glue!). In a way, it forces me to keep moving forward, but that’s my eternal optimism speaking. My business supports my family, it’s important to me, and the reality is, copying sucks.

  • Reply sarah March 12, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I don’t see any problem with trying things out yourself at home – but when it comes to selling or asking a professional to copy something else… yeah, that’s not cool. Now I just wrote a giant comment here about elitism and whatnot (you know, copying by those who cannot afford it…), but I think if I’m going to get into that I should just write a blog post.

    Interesting topic!
    .-= sarah´s last blog ..Project: Cut the Chaos =-.

  • Reply marlie March 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I completely understand that there is a very fine line between being inspired by something and outright copying something. Since I am not at all well-versed in the minutiae of these, when does it become copyright infringement?

    I should first say that I have never, nor will I ever copy – or ask someone else to copy an artist/designer’s work.

    But how do you as designers determine what is ok and is not ok within all of those gray areas?

  • Reply sarah March 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Oh, I like what Jessica said about being creative. I am often one to say that I’m not creative at all. Every so often, I see that I can come up with something new and different…(of course, then I realize it isn’t – there is SO MUCH out there – darn internet – overstimulation).

    I’m trying! Really, I am! And I also agree with Linda that the original is almost always better than the copy.
    .-= sarah´s last blog ..Project: Cut the Chaos =-.

  • Reply Lauryn March 12, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I always thought DIY was more renovation than decorating/stationery/etc. Like, remodel your bathroom yourself not duplicate someone else’s work. I think graphic designers have the most trouble with this. My problem is when it comes to home decor DIY. Like making over furniture to mimic a high street designer piece, okay or not? Then you run into the trouble of if that’s okay why isn’t this. I think as long as there is design there will be copies, even if someone thinks what they came up with is totally original it never is. We’re always influenced, whether we realize it or not, by everything we’ve ever seen and with hundreds of years of art and decor and fashion it’s hard to be truly original.
    .-= Lauryn´s last blog ..Little Bit of Nature =-.

  • Reply Kelly @ Notable Inspiration March 12, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    This is a great, great post. I am constantly appalled by people who don’t see the wrong in copying other’s work. In fact, I’ve been starting to see more and more vendors appear on Etsy that simply post pictures of Vera Wang or Monique dresses and say they will recreate them. As a huge fan and supporter of Etsy and as a designer, this is unbelievable to me.

    I agree with those comments above that there needs to be a distinct separation between inspiration (like those that many bloggers like myself provide) and duplication. Thank you so much for bringing this to everyones attention!
    .-= Kelly @ Notable Inspiration´s last blog ..I’m Off to Paradise! =-.

  • Reply Joan@anythinggoeshere March 12, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I have experienced it with doing the show circuit. Because “real” antiques are harder to find, more and more of us and making things. A good idea that sells “travels” fast around the circuit of shows and isn’t new anymore in a matter of days! It has been very frustrating for me personally, and without sounding like someone expressing “sour grapes” it has been hard to deal with. I always try to put my own “spin” on things that inspire me, but not everyone does. It has limited what I put on my blog, because I am afraid to set up for a show and see my idea in someone’s booth before I get set up! I don’t know what to do about it, but it is making me uneasy about being a part of the blogging community.
    .-= Joan@anythinggoeshere´s last blog ..Three Months of Work… and this is WHAT I have to show for it?????? =-.

  • Reply Tricia Rose March 12, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Creativity is a dance, and people who copy only ever get a freeze frame. But if they are profiting from that freeze frame, first ask them politely, then if necessary, sue them.
    .-= Tricia Rose´s last blog ..LOL =-.

  • Reply Amanda {Mocking Bird} March 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I think this is a problem in all creative fields.
    I shoot photographs and often see blatant copies of photography work on places like flickr. I’ve never been asked to replicate someone else’s work but I certainly see lots of people “copying” other people’s work.
    The saddest part about the whole situation is that it’s boring! Why do people want exactly the same as what someone else has had anyway?
    I think this conversation also leads into a topic that a few of us bloggers have been talking about lately…that people just downright steal others’ work (artwork/photography/photos of fashion) and put them on their blogs without any credit to the artist.
    .-= Amanda {Mocking Bird}´s last blog ..Road Trip Time! =-.

  • Reply Desi March 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    One thing I’ve learned over the years is once the idea is thought it’s out there. I’ve come up with what I thought were “original” ideas and seriously moments after it was printed, published I saw one that was a lot like mine already out in the marketplace. I know fellow designers that don’t read design magazines, blogs, etc. to protect themselves from being influenced and (I would never tell them this) sometimes I see their work…and I swear I’ve seen it before.

    I would never copy something for a client because I don’t want to be a wrist and usually it’s just something they like not something that is 100% write for them. I just try to set my ego aside when I see things that are like things I’ve designed.

  • Reply susan March 12, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    this post is wonderful. i’m glad you’ve chosen to speak out about it.

    i have several friends (or acquaintances in some instances) who have been selling on etsy for some time, and are having their shops and items duplicated and sold by somebody else. it’s really horrible. i also just read a couple of blog posts this morning about people stealing photos and recipes from cooking blogs and passing them off as their own. it’s so sad. they see someone who has success, and instead of going out and making their own personal success, they chose to steal. i know that they do it based on the idea that, “hey, it’s a free country. they’re not the only person who can make dresses out of that pattern and material, or they’re not the only ones who can sell cupcake liners and stuff, or they’re not the only ones who can…” when, really, it’s about the money they can make i’d guess. very sad that people are so willing to sacrifice character for money.

  • Reply Tor March 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Of course I absolutely agree with all the copyright arguments outlined already and I for one HATE people copying me (and no it’s not a sign of flattery), I do have this issue with unintentional copying. I’ve only recently entered the blogging world and prior to this just plugged along doing my own creations privately in my studio without looking at blogs or writing my own. However, now that I have entered this exciting world I’ve been a wee bit scared of showing any of my work for fear of being accused of copying, even though I haven’t intentionally. It left me pondering the notion of originality and if there really are many truely original designers/artists/photographers etc out there? Do we not all unintentionally copy? In the end, aren’t we all just sheep? One of my first ever blog posts I wrote outlined these exact fears.
    .-= Tor´s last blog ..Cornwall Day =-.

  • Reply susan March 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    “Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.”
    -Pablo Picasso

  • Reply will March 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    i agree with others who have noted that the dividing line between acceptable copying and unacceptable copying is whether or not the copy-cat sells their work for profit. i recreate things all the time that i see in magazines or online for my own home, for my own use but would never ever list them, say, on etsy or similar sites.
    that said, i have seen several items on etsy that were duplicate-it-yourself versions of expensive designer items and i have to wonder whether those items don’t also have a place in the world. part of me says – design for the masses! why should we all have to shell out $150 for a lampshade which could also be made using some wallpaper? the maker bought the wallpaper right? the designer got paid already – who is harmed if the person uses a remnant to make a new item?
    finally – does anyone know of any attorneys who do work defending the property of artists and designers? that was what i wanted to do when i started law school … but maybe that was because i just want to be paid in paintings instead of cash :)

  • Reply Katrina Lynn March 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I’m with Lauryn when she said that “I think graphic designers have the most trouble with this.” It is much easier to steal their content and use it “as is”. With an interior designer, you can steal a “look” but it is more difficult to recreate a space exactly. I mean, is it copying if a client says, “I want that KWID look” or “Give me something Jamie Drake would design”? Unfortunately, if you put it out there, there is a chance it will get copied. That is the risk you take when you publish your work. There isn’t much you can do about it except hope that someone else will run their business with integrity. Even at this point, if they change your design the designated 30%, they still have the customer and the $$ in the end. The reality is that there will always be someone out there who needs to survive and if someone is willing to give them their $, then they will do whatever it takes to keep the business running and the customer returning. I think the best we can do to solve the problem is be stronger in other aspects of the business; Better customer service, a more timely delivery, listening to customers needs, etc. There are a million talented people out there, any one of which could easily copy exactly what they see. Many of which are inspired by the same things. We all live in the same world and it really isn’t that uncommon that someone has the same idea as you. (My mother thought up the squeezable ketchup bottle when she was young lol) It’s what you do with that idea that counts. Survival of the fittest! In this DIY world, you need to have more to offer then just a good design.

  • Reply Jen March 12, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    love that u posted about this issue. it’s every artist’s worst nightmare and so many of my friends are dealing with this problem right now. one answer is to keep educating our contemporaries and customers about this issue, and have the courage to speak up when the occasion arises.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Giant Turquoise Honeycomb Ring by Yummy and Company =-.

  • Reply Sasha March 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    As a consumer, I hope that artists and designers continue to educate clients who ask them to copy others’ work. Many people just aren’t aware of the issues surrounding copyrights.

    I would urge artists and designers to quickly move past the issue of copyright infringement (this might make some folks feel defensive) and instead use whatever a client presents as a jumping off point for a conversation. Ask what drew them to the piece, ask what they think could be better. Maybe even tell them that you want to create something that reflects their uniqueness…
    .-= Sasha´s last blog ..Guest Room Decor Ideas =-.

  • Reply Diane March 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Such a very timely subject, and one I’ve heard many designer friends discussing. As a victim of this myself I can say whether it is for re-sale or personal use it IS infringement and it IS hurting someone. Why should someone benefit from hours of a designer’s sweat and toil just because they aren’t copying it for re-sale? For those who create you know it’s a process, and to think that someone can swoop in with a targeted internet search and take it simply because they aren’t making money off it is so frustrating. Yes you aren’t making a profit off it, but you ARE taking profit out of my pocket through unethical practices. It’s so simple if you want that exact thing, pay for it and appreciate and respect the source.

  • Reply Sui March 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    This is such a great and layered subject matter. And the grey area is much larger than the black or the white on either side. I think that blogging and the internet and the availability of new ideas not only to designers but also to the masses has great influence. An idea that used to take months to go from conceptual to mainstream is done in a matter of days and a few re-posts in the blog world. As such, you have this dynamic of consumers with a much more mature and refined taste (and opinion) in the design world— but still no real means to afford such items. While they once were able to lust from afar, the community feeling and approachability of the blogging community has made them feel more a part of it. The resources and tutorials, etc have empowered them to feel as though they are a part of the design dialog. And this is great…. and not so great… and really, a double edged sword.

    It means that many designers have it easier in terms of appealing to a wider market- to having their work showcased and applauded and building a following… and being able to apply a real live price tag to the sentimental worth of one’s work- in short, small fortunes can be made for artists who would have starved otherwise a decade ago. and with this also comes the other side…. the more coveted that one’s work becomes, the greater influence it will have in the dialog at large. and, if you are not the one fulfilling the need of the market- someone else will. that’s life… the down and dirty of it.

    I will never argue that copyright infringement is okay. But once a good idea is out there- in the open – through print or online or whatever medium they are using to market the idea/product/etc, you have to accept the indirect exploitation as well. At some point, the Knock-offs for the masses simply become the new “trend”… and while it is the ugly step-child of the design world, it is a necessary part of the conversation. It allows the originals to have greater worth, for brands to be elevated, and for those shining creative stars to always be at the top of their game. It means that designers are kept on their toes- constantly one-upping themselves and are no longer able to ride on the coattails of a one-note great idea…. this little ego check is good and character building. (And remember, the client who was looking to buy your product for a fraction of the cost was never YOUR client to begin with…)

    (stepping off my soapbox now and expecting the stones to be tossed my way at any moment…)

  • Reply Jenny N. March 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Goodness, I get requests often to make bags “similar to [such and such]”. Do customers realize how unethical it sounds when they type it in a message?

    I’m glad you brought up this topic as it does need to be more apparent to the handmade community for buyers and sellers a like. I see many sellers on Etsy who severely under price their goods (because it’s their hobby, and they have a full-time income elsewhere), which in turns devalues the sellers who work hard to earn a living with their handmade business.

    Great article, Holly and Erika!
    .-= Jenny N.´s last blog ..Clutch in Dark Plum =-.

  • Reply Clare March 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I’m coming from the bride side, not the designer side. I’m confused about the line between “copying” and “inspired by”. Does it have to do with a bride straight out asking you to copy something exactly, or is it more subtle than that? For example, I brought a picture of a cake I really liked to my baker and said “I want something *kind of* like this”. So we talked about different colors and some additions or tweaks I wanted, and she put the picture in my file. I don’t care if the cake comes out looking exactly like that picture; I brought it in as a starting point. But it may end up looking very close to the picture because I didn’t specify a ton of changes and she might not take any artistic freedom with the design. Are we copying or inspired by the original picture?
    .-= Clare´s last blog ..Step-By-Step Tutorial For Doily Petal Toss Cones =-.

  • Reply Viola March 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I have found that certain “Text” is being copied and I am not sure if this is right or wrong. For instance I have found these encouraging words copied in exactly the same style font with the little crown symbol the same. “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.” Is this copyright or free domain usage. I like the saying, just saying it calms me down and keeps me going. So, when is something like this alright to use in your own creative products? And on another point, in recent years no one has reinvented the wheel. Our creative inspirations come from somewhere else, a little piece from there, a little something from over there. I think it is paramount to put your own creative touch on something, so it’s not an exact duplicate. But to say something is a one-of-a-kind, from start to finish, from our own studios . . . well I don’t think so.
    .-= Viola´s last blog ..Single White Peony – 8×8 Fine Art Photograph =-.

  • Reply Zom March 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Just want to chime with a few questions, similar to what Susan and Lauryn mentioned… is there really much out there that is “original”?
    Don’t most (and the best, most famous, least famous, most innovative, least mimicked) artists learn by copying what they admire?Aren’t we all just conglomerations of the people and ideas we run in to? Isn’t pretending otherwise pure folly (or arrogance?)

    Truly, how often are you overwhelmed by a convention-breaking, conceptual-shift work of undiluted originality? Crack open an art history text if everything looks shiny & new to you…it won’t or long. Sometimes these arguments seem a case of protesting too much (with all due credit to Bill S ;) )

    {You should stick to your guns about refusing to copy on-request or letting others profit directly from wholly quoted works…after all you aren’t a 3 in one printer. I support intellectual property rights too… these are just questions that float around my mind in the wee hours…}

  • Reply Beautymist March 12, 2010 at 3:20 pm


    I’m so glad you brought up the subject. I am about to launch an etsy shop of my own, and I think it’s a good thing to be aware of this problem!

    .-= Beautymist´s last blog ..Spring Colour Week : Blue(s) Day =-.

  • Reply Miriam March 12, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    I am hearing you on this topic and absoletely agree. What to do though? So far I haven’t found anything that works. I confronted someone who was copying and her answer was, she got the idea and was improving on it! A lovely insult to the designer ! The copyier didn’t see anything wrong with what she was doing and continues to copy others work and also another business project my daughters and I are involved with. Then she has even gone so far as cyber bullying on a public forum. She has quietened down a bit with the threat of legal action, but seriously is totally clueless in these matters. It takes a lot of brainstorming and going through the design process, then for someone like this to come along , makes you want to give up !

  • Reply Jessica @ BudgetSavvyBride March 12, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    very good post about such a timely topic. I’ve seen more and more of this popping up lately and it’s just disappointing.

    I’m a graphic designer/wedding blogger and I remember being so angry after receiving an email from a reader who asked if she could HAVE my templates I used to create my wedding invitations. Um… excuse me? I do this for a living! I think the internet has played a big part in this because people think if it’s just out there for the world to see then it’s fair game.

  • Reply heather March 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you Holly and Erika for opening up the conversation once again about this very vexing issue. It is a big one and well worth discussing. It is a huge problem for all of us in the online creative community. My motto about DIY is this: KITY. Translation: Do it Yourself – KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. Do not post it on your blog or share it with the world online. It can be a very unpleasant experience for the original artist or designer to see their work copied and posted on blogs. Especially when it is a tutotrial on how to copy the design. It is so disheartening and frustrating for those that are generating fresh and original work. I say support the person who created the work you admire by actually purchasing the work or hiring the designer. Otherwise we won’t be able to sustain our small creative businesses. And my motto on inspiration is this: use whatever inspires you to create something original, not a sad and poorly executed copy. Copying happens all over the place and on all levels…..from the DIYers to the big retailers and none of it feels good to the one being copied. I agree with the comments that nothing is completely original in the world of art and design. We are all influenced and inspired by so many things, but there is something to be said about timing and context. There are certain designs that come to the market that feel fresh, new and trend setting in a particular moment in time.
    Something I have been thinking about and not heard anyone else talk about is the fact that many of us with online shops use site tracking data that tells us a lot about who visits our sites and where traffic comes from. This is why I always see the copies and tutorials out there that do link to my work and site as the inspiration. I try to ignore the copiers but when I get refers from blogs, I like to check it out and see who is posting about my work. It is fun and a way to get connected, but it also leads to seeing the things I don’t want to see. And I always get nervous when I see that I have had traffic on my site from places like The Gap, Williams Sonoma, Target, Urban Outfitters, Paper Source, etc….It is so easy for them and anyone to “shop the market” for inspiration these days online….thinking they are anonymous? But they are NOT anonymous. We can see when you visit our sites! Maybe it is an employee doing a little personal shopping while at work? Or maybe they are just keeping up with the trends? Either way it makes me uncomfortable.

    • Reply decor8 March 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm

      These comments are all great. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts — you are all AWESOMENESS squared. :)

      Even I deal with this — I’ve had a few copy my template nearly one to one and then when I asked them about it they told me they absolutely did not copy my template. I mean, everything from the page elements to the layout — all the same, but because their blog had a different name or maybe the colors were a little different, it was not considered copying. Perhaps they were inspired? To me, if you can go to one website and immediately think of another one because it looks and feels so similar then it went beyond inspiration.

      I’ve also had some dear readers who obviously did not think about it because I know their intentions were good, but some wanted me to tell them exactly how someone makes or designs this or that product that I’ve shown and quite honestly — it bothers me. For instance, I recently featured an interior designer who makes art out of the work that kids bring home from school art class. In addition to her design practice, she is an artist who sells this work. A few readers asked me to if I can give them a tutorial of how she did it — as in, step by step. I replied that I couldn’t imagine asking her for that but if she reads their comment and wants to post about it that is up to her but not at all something I would even ASK her to do. If a designer freely wants to reveal how they’ve done something that is one thing, but forcing them or even making them feel as though because we’re all online and the web is one big free happy space so they SHOULD do it, they are expected to, naw… not my approach at all.

  • Reply Janick - Nea March 12, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Ohhhhh how I’ve been totally absorbed in this subject, more lately!

    I used to do and say nothing.
    Not anymore!

    A few weeks ago, I caught someone on copying a stitch pattern I created by hand on grid paper (stitch by stitch, each one was the same) and selling it at 15% of my price. It got me soooooo mad, I thought I would burst from anger, hurt and frustration. I talked about it with a few friends, and decided it was enough, that I had to defend myself (or try, at least). Who will if *I* don’t, right?

    I was really direct with the copycat, but of course polite. At first, it didn’t taste good at all. But, within a few hours, the item was down from selling. No apology, but at least I like to think I got her to realize a few things, on a primary level anyway, because she did not remove her other items which are “strongly inspired” by some more of my work.

    One thing I wrote to her that I think other people who do this need to know: “Just try and create your own, I’m sure you are more creative than you are showing and than you think you are. You’ll see, it’ll be so much more gratifying!”

    It’s a touchy subject, but I’m so glad it’s being put out in the open right now over here. Together we can open a few eyes and hopefully help make a turn in the right direction eventually!
    .-= Janick – Nea´s last blog ..RESERVED Autumn Necklace =-.

  • Reply ArtShades March 12, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    If more designers took your stand Erika and made it clear to clients that such requests are unethical that would be a start. There is an action group in the UK called ACID – anti copying in design but membership cost is considerable for small designer/makers.

    In the blogging world I am surprised there is not a membership group where artist/designer/maker bloggers can sign up to declare their commitment to anti-copying and display the appropriate badge – to help promote the principle and help educate those new to the concept. Holly?

    As someone else mentioned, it also happens at real-life craft/design shows, so often I hear visitors say – ‘wow, now that’s clever, what an original idea’. Their friend then whispers, ‘ooh, you could do that at home’ and off they go without making eye contact with me, but not forgetting to take one of my postcards with them as a reminder!

  • Reply Afi March 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Well, sadly we can never stop the people who are doing things behind our back…The only thing that we can do is to explain it to people that it’s not right and it’s stealing. Maybe they understand :(
    .-= Afi´s last blog ..Illustration Friday – Brave =-.

  • Reply Ashley Hicks March 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    I love the differentiation that most overlook. The Golden Rule is the golden rule. I have seen this happen to florists, photographers, and many other wedding vendors. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

  • Reply FLavia March 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    In Argentina many business have made a living by stealing from designers (I live in Arg).
    I believe it´s quite hard to fight the “fakes”, from a LV to an ETSY product. People do not like paying for the idea (illegal movies, china´s fakes, etc.) It´s cheaper to just pay the copy. That destroys any mode of art!
    Luckily there are still some honest people like you….

  • Reply emily March 12, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    What a great post! I really think this is a major issue and a very difficult one to address. I also love that decor8 separates itself from being ‘just another pretty blog’ by creating dialogue like this.

    There’s a website that also deals with bringing this to light that you may be interested in:

    While I’m not necessarily one for shaming the culprits, it is interesting to see how many people are being affected by ripping things off or tweaking it and claiming it as their own.

  • Reply Jackie March 12, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I think a lot of it comes from not knowing how to trust your designer and keep an open mind. I think a lot of folks, maybe brides especially, are too afraid of losing control over every single detail. They have trouble imagining the possibilities beyond what they see right in front of them.

    I’m not a designer, but when I got married 3 years ago I knew I wanted something original for our wedding stationery. As a client, I found a designer whose style I loved and *trusted* her to come up with something wholly original for us. And she did, and we loved it so much that we changed our original color scheme to match the design. And I will say, out of all the details and elements for our wedding, the stationery is what we still to this day get the most compliments about. I can’t imagine wanting to use someone else’s work for something so personal and individual.

    I’m not sure of the solution to this. But I know that as a client, I loved that our designer surprised us and showed us things we’d never be able to come up with ourselves. That was the coolest part of the whole process!
    .-= Jackie´s last blog ..Ugh =-.

  • Reply Amber March 12, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I would have to say that I think a huge issue with this (as some of the other commentors have said) is simply the lack of knowledge. Most people just don’t think twice about it. They don’t understand everything that goes with copyrights and why it’s so important to not violate that. I think people just need to be educated. I think a lot of people don’t necessarily mean any harm by it. They just truly don’t know better. Thanks for posting this! It’s an eye opener and the best way to get the word out there!

  • Reply Amanda @ Ruffled March 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I think this happens more often than we think. As a wedding blogger, I can see brides trying to recreate a wedding they saw being featured. Most often they also dream about being featured on a magazine or on a blog, and that’s when trusting your vendors matter. Creative vendors, such as stationery designers, photographers, event designers etc have the talent to use the unknown to create something completely unique.

    Speaking of copying website design, I recently got a heads up from someone who pointed it out a blogger who tried copying my blog – from colors to layout, from fonts to graphics. We can all view source and pretty much copy a site, but that only hurts them more so than the original site.

    Inspiration is what moves a creative artist! If it’s hurting the entire industry you’re in, it’s not inspiration. It’s copyright infringement.
    .-= Amanda @ Ruffled´s last blog ..Happy Camper =-.

  • Reply Valerie March 12, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    I’m going to risk being unpopular here and say what I think….

    Blatant copying – like copying a dress an invitation or a design exactly is definitely wrong.

    But I think there is then an area that’s fuzzy. For example, I recently played around by making a painting of an Orla Kiely stem print. I didn’t duplicate it exactly and I wasn’t trying to. I wanted it to look like a painting, imperfect. But I felt a little weird about it, like I was being inauthentic or something. Like, why couldn’t I have come up with my own thing?

    To that, I feel the need to say… Well I’m experimenting with art and still trying to learn and get comfortable and try things. Copying someone is sometimes the first childlike stage of learning, then you branch out and learn to do your own thing.

    But if you are copying someone and making profit off of it – so if I started making Orla Kiely copy paintings and selling them on Etsy – that would be so wrong! And if I take your design and claim it as my own, that’s also wrong.

    Here’s another fuzzy scenario… I’ve seen TONS of DIYs lately around making your own wallpaper, painting stripes or chevrons on walls, for instance. You could say well who “owns” chevron? Is it wrong of someone to do their own DIY chevron painting or wall for example? Yet someone, somewhere, really started the chevron trend, yet they’re not profiting from the proliferation of chevron DIY. So I think the line is not always so clear.

    Some of us want to decorate our houses and we have more flash than cash. We don’t have money to buy high end wallpaper or fabric, so we take inspiration and make our own version. You could argue that by painting your own chevron stripes on the wall, you’re robbing the person who created chevron wallpaper. But I’d say the person who painted the stripes on their wall never would have bought the high end wallpaper to begin with, because they can’t afford it. And the people likely to copy them are people who also can’t afford it. And it probably won’t erode into the sales of the high end wallpaper, because the people who buy that, have the money and no time to dilly dally with DIY.

    I’m not at all defending blatant copying and ripping off, but I guess I’m begging a little understanding for people who are really on a budget. Which is most of us! I’m not saying I’m on a budget so I go to someone and ask them to copy something exactly for a cheaper price, but I’m saying for example “I’m on a budget, so I decided to use a stencil to get this look instead of high end wallpaper.”

    Overall I believe originality should be encouraged and praised and aspired to (and it’s what I want to aspire to) but originality is relative, some people are more original than others and we all influence each other and it’s hard to stop the spread of something once it becomes a wildfire trend.
    .-= Valerie´s last blog ..What bohemian means to me =-.

  • Reply abbersnail March 12, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    While I absolutely agree that it is unethical to steal someone else’s creative capital and profit from it, I would like to offer a counter story. I recently read a post by a blogger who sewed a sun dress for her daughter out of a very common fabric and posted the photo on her blog. The little dress was an incredibly basic baby pattern, the kind that can be downloaded for free from Burda Style, etc. When she later saw a strikingly similar baby dress in the store, she threatened to sue the store owners. She was so vehement about it that she posted multiple times on the topic, going so far as to name the store and post photos of her dress next to the admittedly-similar garment for sale.

    I think sometimes we get very caught up in thinking that we are the sole creator of something, when it is possible for multiple people to have similar aesthetic sensibilities. As creative people, I think it is difficult to admit that we might not be the only person to ever come up with an idea. We love to believe that our creativity is completely unique, when often our creations are inspired by various things we’ve seen in our lives.

    I’m saying this, not because I disagree with any of the beautifully written comments above, but because I do think that it merits some thought.
    .-= abbersnail´s last blog ..Because this is what my brain can give you. =-.

    • Reply decor8 March 12, 2010 at 5:15 pm

      abbersnail – I don’t know of that instance but wow, that’s something else. And your thoughts are so well stated — “I think sometimes we get very caught up in thinking that we are the sole creator of something, when it is possible for multiple people to have similar aesthetic sensibilities. As creative people, I think it is difficult to admit that we might not be the only person to ever come up with an idea. We love to believe that our creativity is completely unique, when often our creations are inspired by various things we’ve seen in our lives.” Well said!

  • Reply Jess March 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Its an interesting topic – I have an understanding of copyright, and I can appreciate the hard work someone puts into creating their own product.

    However there have been times when I’ve seen something on Etsy, or a blog, or a magazine, where I’ve thought “hey, I could do that too”. Sometimes, I struggle to see the point in paying top dollar, expensive postage, and having to wait, for something I can make myself, to my colours, at a cheaper price, and I can have it straight away.

    I dont sell what I create, its just for me, but am I still cheating the artist by doing this?

    Someone mentioned the ‘KEEP CALM & CARRY ON’ posters. To purchase one unframed from the proper people is over $30AU not including postage. I can get one exactly the same for half the price from Etsy. Its the toss up of, do I pay the cheaper price for the copy so I can have what I want, or do I save up for the proper one and not get it straight away?

    I think that sometimes its hard to purchase ethically, especially if you are on a budget but still wanting to surround yourself with things you love. I guess its just one of those things where you have to remind yourself constantly to do the right thing.

    If you are thinking about copying something, it might be worth contacting the artist and saying hey, I’m thinking about having a go at recreating your cool thing, its just for me, I cant afford yours, do you mind?

  • Reply harkinna March 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I love this movie about copying not being theft:

  • Reply Sarah March 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I have no idea how this could be stopped. My personal feeling is that pride should dictate that you don’t copy another’s work but use inspriration to develop your own. However I think that the line is very easily crossed nowadays with the internet, and people who don’t have pride or scruples probably think it is fairly unlikely that anything will be done. I am talkinga bout doing it for profit not for personal use. And then-how do you define personal use? My definition would be a one off thing to be used for yourself-not, for example, 500 wedding invitations in the style of another artist. It is sad as there are so many great artists and designers available for use these days via the internet-a double edged sword to be sure!

  • Reply marlie March 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I do wonder if there are a limited number of “ideas” out there. For example, right now, leaf motifs are popular in knitting. An acquaintance created a pattern for something based on a leaf motif. When she posted it on Ravelry, she got grief from all sides, claiming that she’d copied another, very popular designer (whose pattern she had not yet seen). My friend ended up removing her pattern, however when she shared it with me (mind you, I’d already purchased her competitor’s pattern), I realized that while the finished products might look similar, the techniques used to make the two items were completely different.

    So who’s right/wrong in this situation? Does any individual artist or designer have a “claim” to leaves, or the color pink, or barnyard animals, or chevron patterns?

  • Reply fumi March 12, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I feel when the clients ask us about copying other people’s art work is they just don’t have a great imagination of what they really want That is a part of reason why they hire us to do art work for them – I believe. If we understand what the client actually need or want, we can create something better than what they are expecting to see without using other people’s art work.

  • Reply Angie March 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    As a costume designer I run into this a lot. There’s a lot of grey area in ballet costuming too. Parts have very traditional costumes, and you have to be careful not to imitate too closely.

  • Reply Janice March 12, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    It is not fun to be on the end where someone is copying you.

    Last fall a multi-million dollar scrapbook company copied outright—with NO changes—approximately 20 of the vintage products that I offer in my business, having had the products manufactured overseas.

    This “product line” available in plain sight at the local big box craft store.
    I walked my husband into the store, without telling him what for.
    Slowly walked along the end caps of the aisles.
    Pretended I was browsing at a particular spot.
    “This is ours!” —didn’t take him but a second to realize this.

    I have their original order, made via an employee whose title was “Design Team Member” (imagine!) so it was incredibly easy to “compare and see” what was copied.

    It was obvious enough that several customers also contacted me.

    “Congratulations on working with _________. How great for you!” –was one comment from a customer.

    Perhaps if they contacted me.
    Perhaps if we worked on something within the free domain.
    Perhaps if they licensed the designs and worked with the companies affected.

    These particular products from my business came from 3 U.S. and Canadian owned family businesses who still maintain the design rights and/or product molds to these products.

    The “unethical company” tried ordering from me again approximately 4 weeks ago. I refunded and refused to process the order.

    Times are tough.

    I would have loved to have included that $700 order in my sales log.

    I did not even have to think twice about doing what I did.

    If a company is reputable they would contact and license the artists’/ designer’s work.
    If someone doesn’t “know” their work is being copied it still hurts them—lost revenue possibilities, loss of work opportunities, employment, etc.

    Sadly I do not think the customer base would exercise this same restraint and “not buy” the copies (I am just being honest)—even though we’re offering a better price point!
    My shop is not an Etsy shop, but it also sickens me to see almost every single time without fail a “Featured Seller” being knocked off within days of their being featured in an Etsy spotlight—by another Etsy seller!

    I do feel very strongly about this issue. There are many different perspectives to take and not every one “gets it” or wonders “what all the fuss is about”.

    However, when it has affected you personally, or your small business’ bottom line—believe me you get an opinion about it fairly quickly.

  • Reply Lora March 12, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    You all might find this interesting…as an emerging photographer and a self-learned graphic designer, I frequently go to blogs and other sites looking for inspiration. And sometimes, I’ll admit, I go in with the intention of duplicating someone else’s style or idea. But guess what…no matter how hard I try, I always end up with something different. Usually quite different…and it always makes me laugh and then I have to realize that I’m just being true to myself and that even though it doesn’t feel like it, I do indeed have a style all to myself.

    I understand that this is far, far from actually contacting a designer and point blank asking them for their files – that’s ghastly. But I thought it was important to point out that you bloggers out there really do INSPIRE! So, thank you!

  • Reply Mary & Gabrielle Events and Design March 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    beautiful images, gosh I love dainty stationery!


  • Reply erika at delphine March 12, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Hi everyone. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments!
    Certainly, not all copying can be prevented. Unfortunately, there will always be people who choose the easy way out, who lie, cheat and steal. There will always be big box chains who troll Etsy and trade show booths to find the next big thing and then choose to manufacture said product “in house.” (But, like Heather mentioned, be warned: we can see you lurking on our sites! One of the scariest weeks of my business career was the time I noticed that more than 75 percent of all visits that week were coming from a big box chain’s HQ).

    Absolutely there are trends (look for circus to be a new one, in my opinion). As a creative community we are exposed to many of the same influences. That’s perfectly wonderful, I think. As a manufacturer of goods I’m especially HAPPY there are trends … they allow me to refine my designs so that they are more marketable. This is, after all, a business.

    I have nothing against a client coming into my studio with a mood board, full of things they have pulled from magazines and blogs. Sometimes they even come to me with samples of other invitations or logos they have seen and like. As a graphic design professional, it is my job to take inspiration from these things, interpret them, and come up with something new for my client that addresses their needs and communicates the message they need to send.

    If you want to use the same font as I do, fine. I certainly don’t hold any copyrights on Mrs. Eaves or Helvetica! If you want to use a stitched floral pattern on the left hand side of your invitation, fine, but please draw your own. If you want to take inspiration from a color palette I post on my blog, or from a sample I have printed, lovely. If you want to copy my invitation design exactly … unacceptable. (And no, changing the names, date and location is NOT enough to protect against copyright infringement).

    Which brings us back to the original intent of this discussion: there IS a difference between being inspired by something and copying. I think it’s a pretty clear, straightforward and obvious difference. My question is how do we, as a creative community, get others who might not see the difference to understand why copying is wrong (and get them to stop asking us to do it! and get them to stop doing it themselves).

    Of course a good first step is to refuse to reproduce someone else’s work. I think most of us already do that. When I refuse a “customer” on this level, I also very politely explain why I am refusing, and try my best to describe not only what copyright infringement is, but also try to describe that copying someone work from someone else affects a real person’s livelihood.
    .-= erika at delphine´s last blog ..foxy wallpaper by ashley alexander =-.

  • Reply Jessica March 12, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Emily, thanks for that link, I find sites like that amazing.
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Spring Color Week, Poppytalk =-.

  • Reply cara March 12, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    i’ve been thinking a lot about this as i try to find my own artistic “voice” so to speak. . . by noticing what things i’m drawn to. in growing as an artist, i’ve duplicated a lot of other people’s artworks (just like the training you would receive in an artist apprenticeship and at an art school) Now, to some degree, each piece I do still has my own twist on it. But I hardly ever (or never) advertise any duplicated work and if i do, i cite the source.

    I’m curious, though, what is the defining characteristic of drawing inspiration from something vs copying it? sure, there are things you can get away with when it comes to copyright laws, but i think it’s a matter of the heart. am i duplicating something only if i try to sell it? am i duplicating something if i use the same font or fabric? the handmade market is only powered by, not that someone else can’t do your skill, but that they won’t.

    this is such a confusing topic. i can’t say i’m on board in either direction. is it ethical to steal someone’s idea and then sell it as your own? no. but what if you do it better or slightly different? i’m a believer that there is nothing new under the sun, one idea comes from another comes from another comes from another. there are billions of people in the world making things. there are millions of internet/advertising resources people are constantly filling their goods with. i mean there has to be an overlap in there somewhere, right?

    i hope you post some follow up on this.

  • Reply sideoats + scribbles (Lisa) March 12, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Hi Holly and Erika,

    This is a great topic, so glad that we are all talking it out in such a constructive way.

    I really do think that we are all influenced by each other — like there’s a big collective pool of trends, colors, and patterns — and while we process it in our own way, sometimes we each come up with similar things honestly and independently. I’m okay with this — it’s even happened to me — I thought I came up with something original and found a similar thing flipping through a magazine a few weeks later. I knew the magazine went to press long before I came up with the idea, and I hoped the artist didn’t think I copied it from her! :)

    Marlie, I think you gave a great example of this — who “owns” chevrons, or circles, or leafs? I don’t think your friend was wrong at all.

    It’s all so complicated, isn’t it? I’m trying to think of what would make it less complicated and I really don’t know the answer.

    Hope everyone has a super great weekend! :)
    .-= sideoats + scribbles (Lisa)´s last blog ..Sweet, tweet spring! =-.

  • Reply Petra :-) March 12, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    it happened and still happens many times that people asking me for making a dress like on of these haute couture dresses shown on the runways…and it is always hard for most of them to understand that it doesn´t works…for many reasons…for the copycat reason, for the reason that they just want to spend less money and for the reason of respect another designers work.

    fnally I made for myself and for my products along time ago the decision that I prefer using most of the time rare vintage fabrics/materials and special silk colours & creating more one of a kind pieces/limited collections, working on *slow products* and writing in my blog more about my inspiration. All of this never avoid me to be copied by anyone but I think it makes sense…probably…

    I also think that another reason for all this copycat stuff is just money….we say in germany that “people jump on the driving train” just for the reason trying to making quick and easy money but finally I believe that the fact listening to clients, respect and offering more service also is making a different from those who just try to making money and working without their hearts. Clients and customers are not stupid, they feeling this if someone is working with the heart or not.
    .-= Petra :-)´s last blog ..*moroccan colour flash* =-.

  • Reply heather March 12, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Amen Janice! Well said. Did you ever contact the company that manufactured the copies?
    And Erika I so relate to that fear that strikes when you see all of those visits from the big box stores. Truly scary. You feel so vulnerable. Does anyone have input or ideas on how to deal with the big (and little) box trolls?

  • Reply nicole gerulat March 12, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    interesting this was written today!

    today google alerts alerted me of a couple who “DIYed” it off MY images.

    My original images:

    Their knock-off:

    Just because it’s called DIY inspiration doesn’t make it right.

    {EDITED March 13, 2010, 15:26 GMT +1 } Nicole asked that I do not approve this comment as the issue above was resolved. However since I had already approved the comment and then checked my email hours later, I did not see her request until now. Since many have read it I decided to simply place 0000000 where the text that she is uncomfortable with originally appeared. Thank you readers.

  • Reply cassie March 12, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    To quote the greatest rock band of all time…

    “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
    Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
    Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
    It’s easy.
    There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made.
    No one you can save that can’t be saved.
    Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
    in time – It’s easy.”

    -The Beatles

  • Reply Viola March 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I am curious and with all due respect I want to ask this question. How many creatives here have in their shop the poster style of “KEEP CALM & CARRY ON” reused into your own products? Now these are just words, however the gold crown on top makes this an original design, created by someone else. If this poster with these words are in your shop with the crown, is this not copying? What would make it your own design is by changing the crown to something else or removing it completely, because the words are just free speech. So copying is sometimes done innocently . . . I’m just saying!
    .-= Viola´s last blog ..Single White Peony – 8×8 Fine Art Photograph =-.

  • Reply kelly rae March 12, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    this happens to me all the time with folk replicating my paintings. i wrote a very firm post about it that resonated with many.

    it’s called WHAT IS AND IS NOT OKAY:

  • Reply kelly rae March 12, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    this has been a big issue for me. it happens all of the time.

    i wrote a blog post about WHAT IS AND IS NOT OKAY to give people specifics to think about and it resonated with people. here’s the post:
    .-= kelly rae´s last blog ..somerset studios march cover =-.

  • Reply natalyn March 12, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for posting this. As a musician and a photographer, I am constantly inspired by the work of others. But it motivates me to try and think outside of my own box and come up with something that is truly unique and different. I think education is the key; helping all of these budding or would-be creatives to understand that they all have a unique vision, and helping them to access it. So many through various circumstances have come to believe they haven’t a creative or artistic bone in their bodies, and that simply isn’t true. We all have something special to offer, and I think the more we are helped to recognize that the less we will desire to copy someone else’s vision.
    .-= natalyn´s last blog ..inspiration. =-.

  • Reply tracey j March 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    feeling the urge to throw my two cents into the ring here: and i have to agree with the concept that though people may copy to the paint hue or pen flourish someone elses design, creation, whatever- it never has the soul of the artist in it. I used to have an “friend” that trolled etsy and blogland printing out every picture possible to take back to the studio and copy. be it painting or creature- to the letter it was copied- the philosophy being “if they can do it so can i”- this person wanted to be an instant over night artist sensation.guess what. it didnt work. the art work was, for no better phrase, dead. it had no life, no soul, no breath. it might as well come out of a zerox machine. and no amount of discouragment to copy, or encouragment to find their own voice would change them. I have cut this person out of my creative world- but still see them around now and again, trolling for ideas, befriending “famous” crafters and artists to try to get ahead. The kicker for me was about a year ago- i found apost this person had done, with one of my creations, taken from my studio when we were still friendly, and credited as their own. I believe in karma. its been three years now, and this person has gained no foothold into the world of recognition- because i believe it is quite obvious that their work is lifeless and frankly- if anyone wanted to buy lifeless art – they could go to the mall. I dont think it will ever be possible to stamp out copiers. But people can tell when work is authentic. And that is what i believe will save us from these walking, talking copy machines. in the end- without the personal life emotions artists put into their work- its just paint, or clay, beads or wire or paper with pretty doodles- its not art. i’m just saying.

  • Reply kelly@the blue muse March 12, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    this really is a huge issue for artists everywhere…i think the internet has had such a large impact, but one that is twofold, we are able to sell our pieces online and get more exposure, even worldwide, than ever before, but with that comes less ability to protect our work…I think in the end these things will work themselves out, all we can do is ask others to have integrity and hope that it will be so, and that our customers and/or our audience will also become savvy enough to recognize originality and true artistry…

  • Reply simone March 12, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I’m an indie designer and had a client email me a link to an etsy listing that was a bag literally EXACTLY like one of mine, minus exchanging ribbon for ricrac.I prompotly and politely emailed the seller and she sent me a very curt response back that a customer had requested that she make the bag that way. I do believe her, but could not believe she would “knock off” my bag! I completely agree that I will NEVER knock off someone elses design at the request of a customer.
    .-= simone´s last blog ..Give me Liberty! =-.

  • Reply Mindy March 12, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    It’s crazy that I came on this post right now, because this is something that has really bothered me lately. How many of the same things are in the blogging world whether people “tweak” it in their own way or what not. That is fine, but when they go and put their “tutorial” on how they made it, when they really copied the idea from somewhere else. I hate people that take credit for something they copied.

    I have a story. I have an at home business that I honestly created in my head inspired from a few different things but mine was way different than the things that inspired me. So I got going and it was awesome. I was becoming very succesful with it and very busy.

    I received a facebook message from a wife of a guy we met and became friends with and she told me she was starting a business of baby hair accessories and stuff, and wanted some advice on how to start her business since mine was so successful. So of course I did, I helped her a lot. I was so nice.

    Low and behold a couple months later she had a brand new business doing EXACTLY what I did!!! I was ticked! It caused a lot of drama because I was not letting her get away with it easy and she insisted she actually had this idea before and after seeing my work it made her want to do it too? How do people feel ok with doing that? So she literally copied every detail of my business. I could of copied and pasted my site onto hers and nothing would be different.
    I felt so defeated and wanted to quit. It was hard so I totally know how this is so bad. It’s hard to really see where the line is drawn but people know what’s right and wrong and they know in their hearts if it’s acceptable or not. We just have to hope that they will be the bigger person and try and be their own person and be original.
    Everyone is different so we need to show it!!
    GREAT POST!!! Thanks :)

  • Reply Lollipop Events & Designs March 12, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Such a valuable point to bring up Erika and a very important one at that! The luxury of being able to work with an artist to have gorgeous artwork custom created for each individual client is the very thing that makes artisans and designers so special. When clients instigate or graphic technicians (not artists) condone blatant rip offs of other creatives work its a slap in the face to artists in general. Inspiration is drawn from anywhere ranging from fashion to nature to textiles and of course other artists. But, when another artists work is the exact look you’re trying to achieve (Ie: Max Wanger photo groupies) and not just used as a creative springboard then you are guilty of artistic plagiarism.
    .-= Lollipop Events & Designs´s last blog ..Voyage of Love – Jessica Claire’s Workshop Students =-.

  • Reply Aloquin March 12, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    I am just letting you know that I feel this is an important issue that needs to be made more public, so I’m going to tweet it here:

    Great blog, keep it up!
    .-= Aloquin´s last blog ..It’s a Fabulous Night for a Moondance Glitter Button Ring =-.

  • Reply Sherry Ball Schoenfeldt March 12, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    I remember working for a fashion designer and finding out their works are NOT copyright protected – the very reason you would see knock-offs of designers at fairly expensive stores in Dallas.

    Nor are my ideas copyright protected for the very reasons mentioned in many comments – several people can come up with the same idea at various times. You can patent the invention you come up with from the idea. If you physically create a piece of art from the idea, your copyright is protected.

    I’ve stopped reading several interior blogs becuz everything was Pottery Barn Copy this and Anthropologie Copy that. Yes, I love the recycled bottle stuff on Anthropologie and am thinking of a way to design something of my own. But even Anthro showed how to do it – and THEY didn’t come up with it, the artists in Africa did. Too much.

    I have a friend who copies scrapbook paper – I finally told her flat out YOU’RE STEALING. Don’t know if it helps of not.
    .-= Sherry Ball Schoenfeldt´s last blog ..I’m still here =-.

  • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode March 13, 2010 at 12:31 am

    I think this is a tough issue that will continue to rear its ugly head more and more as the DIY craze continues. I do believe it’s great to be inspired by something – say, an invitation with a cherry blossom design on it – but then the consumer should design their own “inspired by” the original. Not copy it exactly.

    Of course it gets even trickier in the sense of what happened over at Knockoff Wood this week. . .
    .-= Jane @ The Borrowed Abode´s last blog ..Friday Freebie: Take the Cake =-.

  • Reply Princess Lasertron March 13, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Thanks so much for this article. I am loving the discussion as well–very good points made that I couldn’t say better myself.

    What I hate most about seeing my work copied (usually poorly) is that I worry someone will see it and think it was me who produced it, and then think less of my workmanship.

    I disagree with the notion that “nothing is original anymore.” I still see things in print and craft and other media that blow my mind. I think that many people come up with vaguely similar ideas but that is often the natural progression of creative thought. I think we are smart enough to know when we are copying someone else, or when something is a flourish-for-flourish, typeface-for-typeface, stitch-for-stitch ripoff. I totally agree with Abbersnail’s point about this.

    I wish that we designers had more knowledge and resources to learn how to deal with copiers. How do you professionally communicate disappointment? If legal action is appropriate, what do you do then?

    I love ArtShade’s suggestion for a commitment group to original design.

    I made a post on my own website about my thoughts! xo
    .-= Princess Lasertron´s last blog ..micki’s flowers =-.

  • Reply diana strinati baur March 13, 2010 at 3:00 am

    A couple of months back, I was having lunch with a friend who is an artist, restaurant owner and designer. We were eathing lunch at her restaurant, where she had created a wine bottle holder on one wall using rusted wire and little else. The effect was so cool that I immediately thought of photographing it and somehow recreating it in our private wine cellar. Then I thought twice only because copying my friend was the last thing I wanted to do.

    She turned around to me and said. ” I know you would not copy it. You would take the idea and transform it.”

    And that is really the difference for me. To take the colorboards and other inspirational material (like what we find here on your website) and use the ideas in combination and make them our own to bring our own work to the next level is the trick.

    Awhile back you had a post which involved some colorful candlestick holders. It led me to experiment with making them out of ceramic. The results at first were not satisfying — until I realized I was trying to duplicate and not create using the inspiration. That’s when the idea started to become more successful to me. When I took the idea and made it my own.

    I do not think there is a true artist out there that is satisfied with duplication. The people who duplicate the work of others are interested in one thing: creating a source of income. Any artist who tries to deal with individuality in her work finds out very quickly — to start by wanting to make money NEVER works.

    The roots of one’s work need to come from the desire to express authenticity. Inspiration and transformation are the truth. Copying is just another lie.
    .-= diana strinati baur´s last blog ..Gratitude Friday: Loyal Friendship =-.

  • Reply juliette March 13, 2010 at 3:39 am

    this is a fascinating discussion! I’m really enjoying reading people’s thoughts.

    I wonder about Erika’s original questions though: *”How do we spread the word that there is a huge difference between being inspired by something and copying? Any ideas on how to do this?”*

    I think one way we can do this is to talk about, or reference, it often. I’m not a designer, but a person who gets ideas for my own private craft projects (not for resale), via many sources. Leslie, from A Creative Mint, got me thinking more clearly on ‘inspiration’ by saying pick aspects that you like about something and use those aspects (not the whole thing) as a take off point for your own project.

    Just this week I posted a project where I mixed elements from two inspiration sources to make my own. I freely admit the original sources have lovelier end results, but I had fun working with what I had and coming up with my own thing. This conversation has me thinking about doing a post of my own on this topic, relating to things I post on my blog. I think that’s a step in the right direction.
    .-= juliette´s last blog ..Miniature Worlds: Handcrafting for little people =-.

  • Reply Ilaria March 13, 2010 at 4:05 am

    The very big different is copy to ourself and copy something and then
    sell it..All these blogs are really very inspiring and it happened also
    that I tried to “copy” something that I found really nice. But just for
    me, for my house.

  • Reply Carrie @ CarrieCan March 13, 2010 at 4:32 am

    I think one of the problems is in a way the rise of computers and the internet. Nowadays everybody has a way to see great design examples and someone who isn’t creative isn’t always able to look at a design and look further, to see it as just an inspiration.

    What I also find as a designer is that clients don’t see the computer as a tool, but as some little wonder box that can do everything. It’s almost that they think that just by hitting a button on your keyboard, your design pops up (I blame shows like CSI for this, since computer skills are always so exaggerated on them, but that’s another topic). Clients don’t see the hard work that goes into the designing process. They don’t realize the time it takes to come up with a good concept, a good font, a good paper etc. But I have experienced that when you explain this process, most of them do get it, and if they don’t then they’re not worth working for anyway because they’ll never appreciate what you do.
    .-= Carrie @ CarrieCan´s last blog ..Design that makes me smile: Switch me! =-.

  • Reply Katherine March 13, 2010 at 5:14 am

    I agree with what someone above said… there are certain parts of the creative industry that would suffer more then other parts… I am an artist type thing and I feel it is hard to copy the soul someone puts into a painting… I am sure it can be done but it would take a lot of practice. But then I also think it is very hard in these times to have an original idea… I work at an art school and hear so often when students say “I was sure that hadn’t been done before”!!!
    .-= Katherine´s last blog ..There are answers in these moments ART PRINT By Katherine Quinn =-.

  • Reply Steph Bond March 13, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Wow, great discussion everyone, and such well thought-through responses. I am thrilled that this issue has come up and have been tackling it myself recently – the brooch design of a great indie design label Made By White here in Australia has been blatantly ripped off by a major UK fashion label, and there is not much that the designers can do about it. Looking around a little bit more, I’ve found another 2 instances of major international corporations purchasing designs and product that are exact replicas of original artwork by independent artists. I feel so bad for Janice (commenter above) and artists that find cheap imitations of their work turn up in stores with “made in china” stickers attached.

    My solutions have been to write about the issue and make it public, and to give my readers purchasing information so that they can buy from the original artist easily if they like the product. Just a tiny step, but hopefully something that makes a difference.

    Good luck designers and artists out there who are fighting for their IP rights.
    .-= Steph Bond´s last blog ..Aussie Indie Artists Ripped Off =-.

  • Reply I heart colorz March 13, 2010 at 6:53 am

    hi everyone,

    I’ll start with the general:
    from the consumer’s point of view, he only wants the product. and if he wants it enough, he’s gonna find somebody willing to deliver it as a final result, even if it implies copying somone else’s work.

    from the creator’s point of view, he feels offended he doesn’t get the credit for it, the recognition. it has to do with culture and society also, in asian societies copying is not perceived as a bad thing, but as a good one. it means that people appreciate your work, they copy you and not another one.

    now moving to a more specific next point – the handmade public/is special, cause they mainly know and care about the uniqueness of an object. they’ll theoretically have much more respect for this and criticize anything going against this idea. the creator does have to educate them in any way, he just takes the benefits of having an indulgent target who is aware of the rules. :) all he does is trying to protect his products (with the help of logos, registering the brand etc)

    but the handmade public is only a part of the mass-market. so the creator doesn’t only have to protect his product from “nasty people behind the wall”, but he has the duty of educating them…you know,…those nasty people.

    I don’t wanna sound like the bad cop, but as long as you have mass-production, you’re gonna have replicates. they have been in this world before the industrialized era, but ever since then, the general mentality has been invaded with the possibility of duplication. people are interested (for different reasons: economical, indifference etc) in the product and not the inventor/creator.

    in the end it would be nice to come up with a brilliant idea to cure all this. :Dunfortunately my brain produces none at this moment :P

  • Reply I heart colorz March 13, 2010 at 6:58 am

    and now for a more personal approach. no matter how awar you are of the general principles, it hurts soooo much when somebody does it to you.
    I remember I was in college when I found on the internet a replika of something I’ve made. it wasn’t the same, it was transform. :D first I thought that mm ok, somebody had the same idea as mine, without knowing, no problem. but it was so close to the original you cannot couldn’t have been done without copying it.

    I got soooo furious, so mad…..chilled down after 2 days. but the moment totally sucked. :D

    maybe in schools, while growing up, we could emphasize more the idea of not stealing and expand it to not stealing other people’s ideas. :D

  • Reply Janice March 13, 2010 at 7:25 am

    I do not think an artist/small business should feel defeated and think “there’s nothing I can do” and so nothing is done when they find their artwork being duplicated.

    I would also recommend NOT encouraging the copier to “find your own voice”, or “I’m sure you’re a great artist in your own right”…type of comments in a letter or email.

    A cease and desist letter is a first step.
    To the point.
    Not sweet.

    You are not trying to be their friend. You are making them aware of a copyright infringement. You and your business have been affected. You need to proceed on these issues as a business person.

    You do not have to hire a lawyer to do this.

    Unfortunately there will always be companies and individuals who will copy and take. I really do not feel the problem will ever go away—it happens in every sector of our daily lives, has always happened and will continue to happen.

    As a business that often supplies goods to artists/creatives I do not name names of those individuals and businesses who use us as a source for their smaller scale product lines. Why? Because I know their products will get copied. From a marketing stand point this would not be considered a smart move. However, it is something I have chosen to do from the beginning and something I have never depended on to get my business ahead. If the customer chooses to disclose sources that is different.

    I think being aware and proactive can go a long way with how you operate your current studio/small business and maybe your larger business one day.

    p.s. Also wait a few days after discovering your work has been copied to write your cease and desist letter–a clear head and a cooling off period can be your most proactive tools.

    ; )

  • Reply Anna March 13, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Such an important topic as you all know, may I inject a little “but”? Being a Journalist I am a little removed from your very specific areas of artistic creativity, however when it comes to ideas I don’t think they are always as unique as we often think they are. So it is plausible that a number of “copying” incidents may actually just be coincidence. I guess my point is to give the benefit of the doubt just in case but get to the bottom of it.
    That being said I applaud any creative who firmly refuses to copy anothers work, lead by example and stand tall.

  • Reply FantasyDreamKnits March 13, 2010 at 9:22 am

    The first idea that came to mind is to create a widget or a mini-banner with the phrase above: “DIY /= Duplicate it Yourself”. THAT can be shared, among designers, not works.

    Secondly, I will make sure to post in my studio website announcements that I will NEVER duplicate someone else’s work.

  • Reply Winter March 13, 2010 at 10:05 am

    As a non artist this is very interesting to read. I will make sure I am aware of the progeny of art, graphs and designs that I buy. Good luck all.

  • Reply Lupin March 13, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Great to see this discussion – this is an issue I see cropping up over and over in our community lately! Big companies taking designs from the little guy, people opening up copycat Etsy stores, individuals copying things they see on Etsy or on blogs etc, treating the internet like a big scrapbook of ideas they can take for free.

    I definitely agree that makers can get a bit hysterical about “OMG she’s copied me!!” and that coincidences do happen (I’ve been accused of copying someone in the past – whose blog I had never seen and whose product like mine was based on a very simple and classic shape), but there is also a lot of intentional theft of photos and artwork and designs and text, and a big grey area when people are “inspired” a bit too heavily by one person’s work.

    The moment someone is *trying to make money* from duplicating something it becomes more serious but it’s still depressing to see people copying, especially if they are suggesting to others that they do the same.

    I think it’s vital as a community that we stick together in this, talk about these issues publicly on our blogs etc, give each other support when one of us discovers a “copy” and make the effort to support original artists and makers.

    I also really hope that blogs like this one which feature a mix of products and tutorials take more care not to blur the lines between the two, and don’t encourage their readers to copy the products featured (this has happened to me more than once, on some big blogs which I would have hoped would know better), or run tutorials which are obviously “inspired” by the work of one or two crafters in particular.
    .-= Lupin´s last blog ..New prints for my walls =-.

  • Reply Jenny March 13, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I am a professional artist. I wish to do work similar to an artist named Donald Roller Wilson. He has these amazing monkey portraits with classic dutch style stillifes on their heads and beautiful subtle background landscapes.His work has totally inspired me.(my blog portrait is my version of his idea).
    I have been doing paintings inspired by this monkey series for several years now. Unfortunately my portraits could be mistaken possibly for his. I love doing them. I would like to market them but how do I continue doing them and not become a plagiarist?

  • Reply Jenn March 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I used to make toys for extra income. I was copied all the time. As soon as my shop came down, as a matter of fact, someone began selling math gnomes EXACTLY how i made them. it was very sad to me, but i had grown used to it. it’s like they were waiting until i was gone so they could pounce. within weeks of doing a new product, i’d have a copier almost always. i would actually watch and wait. and it never failed. it was very hurtful because my shop wasn’t real successful and almost always, the shops who copied me would become huge successes, get the “front page” and all this acknowledgement for “THEIR” design. they’d sell tons and i’d be sitting there for weeks with no sales.

    then i got a brainy idea to sell wooden buttons. from tree branches. i scoured the place i was selling my stuff to see and no-one else on there was making them. no-one! i waited weeks for my debut, continually checking because i wanted to be sure i was the first person to sell this on there. i had gotten that way because of all the copying that had been done to me.

    it sounds too good to be true, but my idea soared on there!! i could not keep up with orders. i sold $600 worth in less than a month! i opened a shop just for selling them, pictures were gorgeous, if i do say so myself and i spent as much time, if not more, taking the photos (because it was fun!) as i did making the buttons! within a month or two of selling them, a guy on there started copying me. EXACTLY! upon seeing his pictures, i thought i was looking at my own. the way he photographed them, the same layout, the same props even! i contacted him and asked “why?” he was nasty. i didn’t want to play that game so i ignored him.

    before thanksgiving of that year, his business has really sky-rocketed and mine was dwindling. the facts are: i am a homeschooling mom to six kiddos, i don’t have as much time to devote to my craft as an old, retired man does! so he had more supply and could whip it out quick. i knew it was getting to a point where he was going to “take over” and it just devastated me. on thanksgiving he wrote me a nasty letter…”i am selling more than you and i am fixing to lower my prices so i’ll keep selling more than you…have a merry christmas!” it was so bad that he would attack me in his shop announcement and make fun of me in his listings (without ever saying my name in print) but i knew he meant me, as he was referring to our conversations or things i had written on my profile page about myself, etc. it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me in the crafting world.

    i contacted the place where i was selling and they would do nothing. they said if i couldn’t get a lawyer and state “copyright infringement” and if he didn’t outright say my name, there was nothing they could do.

    i eventually closed that shop too. not because i am not creative…i still design and come up with my own things for my children, friends and family. i closed both shops because i was so tired of everyone copying everything i made and me never getting credit. and my shops never being the success they could’ve maybe been if everyone else wasn’t flooding the market with mass-produced imitations.

    i am happier now. i truly am. i wish i could make money doing what i love because our family could use the extra income…i am just so nervous about ever trying again. i know, i gave up and that shows weakness i guess. i should’ve fought harder. i just didn’t know what to do and in the end, the copiers win because they can produce more or offer it cheaper and then you are just left by the wayside.

    i’m going to go now and help my ten year old girl knit something.
    that is one of the joys of having no business to attend to, i can spend more time with my children and stop stressing over stupid people!!
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..March Giveaway! =-.

  • Reply Ginger March 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    i do not advocate copying, but realize that we are inspired by each other. And yes, there are people who copy for malicious reasons, but for the most part the time and energy spent worrying about them is wasted.

    “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality
    will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth
    (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will,
    nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
    ” – C. S. Lewis

  • Reply Moop March 13, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Great discussion points. This is something I deal with on a daily basis. And, after reading through some of the comments, it looks like I’m not alone. I won’t add a whole lot to the discussion because I get “all het up” when I think of the number of times I’ve seen our bags “influence” (or one to one copies) in so many other shops. Ultimately, the viability of our business and career requires our attention to our product, not the people who are ripping it off. I could spend my days dwelling on the number of times I’ve seen our Market Bag re-created in someone’s Etsy shop or I could spend my days making our product better and growing our business. Still, the conversation is one to be had and as a blogger, it is a great opportunity to use the voice you have to educate and inspire. Thanks for using your platform to do just that.

  • Reply Cassie March 13, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    In the end, I think it comes down to your own personal integrity as an artist/designer/creator. I am sure that most of us can look at a piece of design in our field and have a pretty good idea on how to replicate it. But whether you do or don’t is based solely on your own guiding principles. There’s no pride and joy in copying someone else’s work and I for one can’t live with knowing deep down that it wasn’t my own creation even if others can’t tell. As for great mind’s thinking alike here’s some great advice from Paul Arden, a famous creative director, “Don’t covet your ideas. Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you. Ideas are open knowledge. Don’t claim ownership. They’re not your ideas anyway, they’re someone else’s. They are out there floating by on the ether.” I am wholeheartedly against copying and if nothing else, it keeps us moving forward creatively, forcing us to search for new ideas.

  • Reply Melanie March 13, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Everyone raises great points, and I appreciate artists’ and designers’ perspectives. I especially empathize with people navigating the waters between inspiration and copying – it can be tougher than one would think.

    All that I would add, however, is that some concepts and ideas are so broad that someone cannot ethically claim to “own” them. Brightly colored silhouettes on stationery? Serif text mixed with flowing script on invitations? A chandelier wall decal? Faux mounted antlers? Mustachioed wedding guest photography? The list goes on…

    My opinion is that transparency is the solution to all of this. When everyone attributes, the observer can decide for herself whether the final result is too offensively close to the inspiration. Honesty is the best policy.
    .-= Melanie´s last blog ..Dried blueberries, yum =-.

  • Reply Fiona Richards March 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Wow! –
    I have lots to say on this subject but, as I am a seriously slow typer, I could be here all day !
    I just wanted to say that I got chills when I read the Beatles lyrics – comment #70

    The total value of all these comments is incredible.

  • Reply Elisabeth Klos March 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    I am a new for-profit artist and I find this topic interesting because I’ve already run into the conversation in the mere 2 months that I’ve been working. Based on my experiences so far, I really believe that many people who aren’t in the arts, TRULY don’t realize or understand how wrong copying is AND how much hard work goes into making something original by hand.

    One of my friends, who is normally very business savvy asked me if I had traced/copied a painting that I had up for sale. I guess it was meant to be a compliment of sorts but I looked shocked when she said this because 1. I would never think of tracing something that I paint, and 2. because she actually thought that one could profit off something traced/copied. I believe that she was truly ignorant about the creation and sale of art in general.

    I have also run into people being stumped by how much original items cost. The price question probably goes hand in hand with the thought that an artist could just download something and trace it. People don’t understand the how hard and time consuming the creation process is.

    I think you guys are right in that we need to educate people at all times. We need to talk more about art, design, the process, what it’s like to be an artist. For some reason, art & design careers seem to be very misunderstood. Posts and conversations like this can only help!
    .-= Elisabeth Klos´s last blog ..Know This Or Die Of Frustration =-.

  • Reply ninainvorm March 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    A very interesting post and so much has already been said. However I have one more experience that I like tho share, because on the one hand I found it rather ridiculous, while on the other hand it has confused me and even worried me quite a bit…

    It started with someone on etsy reporting to me that she had seen a flyer for a local American art show with some images on it, including an image that obviously had been based on what I ironically like to call my ‘signature bird’, a bird image that I’ve been using on my ceramics for a few years. It’s a very simple design and I don’t consider myself as such an extraordinary drawer or designer, so when I first saw it I started to laugh: who on earth would like to copy that simple bird design? How hard would it be to draw a more or less similar, but different one? There are hundreds of bird designs out there (I wouldn’t want to claim the bird design! ;)) but they’re all different, there are so many interpretations possible…

    Anyway, at first I found it sort of funny and didn’t want to do anything about it. Then the person who told me about it in the first place said: ‘you should confront them and maybe even consider legal action’. Now you have to know that I think people in the USA are more familiar with taking legal action than people in Europe: I think it’s less common here and we are a bit more afraid of it. So I didn’t consider legal action, but thought I could at least send them an email to confront them, and ask them to delete the copied image from their flyer.
    After mailing them I received a very short and unfriendly mail: ‘we’ll discuss this with our lawyer’. And a little later: ‘do you have a copyright registration number?’ I received a few messages about ‘talking with lawyers’ and I felt like the guy was trying to threaten me a bit.

    I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable. I’m just a small designer, of course I don’t have a copyright registration on every drawing I make. It didn’t get any better when I told my boyfriend about the situation. In fact he got sort of mad at me, saying: ‘It’s stupid of you that you sent that email! What if they say the image is theirs and turn things around by taking legal action at you! They’re Americans, they may be much better at that kind of thing! You don’t want to become part of a lawsuit, would you?’

    Of course I didn’t, and I started feeling a bit worried. What prove did I have that the image was mine, besides some pictures of my products with the bird on it from earlier years? I really didn’t want to play this very hard, I just wanted them to remove the image from their flyer (and if they wouldn’t listen to my kind request I guess I would have let it go).

    In the end I did receive a message from them: ‘Though we don’t think our image looks like yours, we’ve removed it anyway.’ And on their website they had replaced the image with another one. I felt very relieved. But I have to say the situation had also frightened me a bit. You think you have a strong case when you haven’t done anything wrong and you feel they’ve obviously been stealing from you. But I have no idea what happens when you confront for example a big company that has been playing copy cat of your work. Can they bully you with legal action in a way that in the end hurts you more than when you just let it go? Do you win when you are small but have a just case, or can you end up being the victim of this kind of conflict and therefore better keep quiet?

    I’d be interested to hear your views on this kind of thing. Maybe Holly with your knowledge of both America and Europe you have something to say about this kind of thing? Maybe I’ve been much too worried and react based on a completely wrong view of the American legal system (here in Europe there’s this probably incorrect view that in America you can be sued for almost anything), but I’d find it interesting to hear a bit more about this specific part of this discussion.

  • Reply Brancoprata March 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I totally agree with everything that you wrote! I’ve also been asked to duplicate invitations and i never did that and i DON’T intent to do so in the future! I also was contacted by people who “became friends”, came to our office to see and learn how we work (under false pretenses) and then started their own business… has you probably know that made me extremely sad and confused! Sometimes i get the feeling that this is going to get worse before it gets better! Here in Portugal you often find blogs and sites with similar designs and copied ideas. And is very common to find uncredited images on blogs, which also makes me real mad!!

  • Reply deb@accessoryalamode March 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    This discussion is right on que. I so appreciate it! As a designer, I think and come up with designs that I am so proud of, even writing my own poem and inscribing it into my jewelry. And then about a month later I see my designs popping up all over. It is really heartbreaking. The worst is that they undercut you a few $$ . This subject meant a lot to me that you shared it. I, as you do, refuse to copy another’s work. It has to mean something to me as an artist and merely copying someone else’s idea is not where the passion lies. THANK YOU so much for writing this article!!!!!

  • Reply georgia March 13, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    i’ve designed three wedding invitations for friends. i’m working on two more. although this is easier to do with a friend than a unfamiliar client, i have always designed my invitations purely on my friend… who they are. how i see them. how they see themselves. what message they want to send at their wedding. what style they are trying to achieve in their wedding. i take all those things into account and blend them with my own ideas and creativity, and then come up with something so unique to them, it could not have possibly been copied by me of someone elses designs. but i have to be honest. other designs i see and love will influence my designs. but i could never do a straight copy, as you said. it would only be cheating myself. no money is worth cheating my own creativity. now, perhaps that is why i have never gotten my custom wedding invitation design dream off the ground… that and i’m not very entrepreneurial. but i do agree with what has been written here. visual quotes are one thing. but straight copying another. if i were the bride, i would not want that done. i would want something tailored and unique to me.

    on the other side of the coin, if someone had taken one of my three designs to another designer and said, please make me an invitation just like this, i would be flattered. but i still do not think it is right. i really don’t.

    great post. i rarely come here to read, but another blog i visit linked to this post and suggested i come read it. glad i did.

  • Reply leni March 13, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Imitation is flattery, but not when it comes to business. It’s definitely a fine line and people don’t know the boundaries.

  • Reply Shari Berkowitz March 13, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you for bringing up this subject.

    I’m a jewelry designer and run into this problem from both my customers and my colleagues who then become my competition. When a customer asks me to duplicate a piece of jewelry, I encourage them to allow me to create something with the elements of the piece that they like. If they won’t go with my design, then I simply won’t do it. I won’t copy someone else’s work.

    When I see someone else has taken my design, my heart sinks. These designs are personal. They come from my heart and soul; my mind’s eye. They are a part of me that I share with others and am grateful for it! When I see a colleague has taken my design, then they become my competition and I don’t like that. Competition exists, but we don’t have to be competitive. There are enough clients for everyone! Once a design is copied, then it become direct competition.

    Again, Thank you for brining up this subject.

  • Reply Angela March 13, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    It breaks my heart when I read about artists giving up and letting someone get away with copying their ideas, products, etc. Bullying takes many forms, and the person that sends you a nasty email because you have the NERVE to stand up for what is right and legal- that person is a bully and should not be tolerated. Women must learn that not only is it okay to stand up and protect yourself- it is the right thing to do.

  • Reply lisa :: the red thread March 13, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Great discussion! Holly, I’m glad you’re reviving this series.

    Contrary to what some have said, I think that blogging about your work is actually a form of protection. It is a dated documentation of your creations. So if some big company was to bring out a copy of something I created at least I’d have some proof of my original work, which most importantly has an irrefutable date on it.

    A number of commenters have discussed people copying well known designs for personal (not commercial) use. But what about the reverse? I recently had a very well known shop/brand do a direct copy of something I’d designed. I walked into one of their shops and there was my design… it was the weirdest feeling. The copying incident came to the attention of the owner/director of that company because one of her friends read my blog post about it. Kudos to the owner – she got in touch with me immediately and bent over backwards to apologise and financially compensate me for my design. She couldn’t have been better about it. BUT, the excuse her designer gave her (and I) was that she had complied reference sketches while surfing the net, and she never would have used my design IF SHE”D KNOWN IT WAS ALREADY BEING USED COMMERCIALLY. So what she was saying was that she thought it was OK to copy someone else’s work if they were unknown. What a terrible way of thinking! I also don’t believe her ‘reference sketches’ line – when I overlayed her design onto mine it was a direct trace, not something that came from a sketch. I truly hope the “designer” learnt a lesson from the incident.

    The thing with the internet is that there is so much around to influence us (and to copy if that’s what people want to do). But, it’s also a great way for people to uncover unoriginal works and to blow the whistle on the copy cats. Last year the saw a design of an American artist who’s blog I read on a sweatshirt by an Australian clothing label. I took a photo on my phone and emailed it to her. She was shocked and of course had no idea she’d been copied half a world away. You can see it here:

    It’s posted on a great blog/website which does a great job of exposing people and companies who rip others off:

    One other thing that I wanted to say was that once something is ‘out there’, particularly if it’s successful, it’s likely it will be copied. I think that’s the unfortunate and depressing reality we have to face. I recently exhibited at my first trade show and had an experience that I feel uncomfortable about. My business partner told me he’d had a long conversation with the product development manager of a well known and successful chain of stores. He said they were very interested in my product, but they didn’t place an order. They just took all my printed info. At first I was really excited at the possibility of getting into their stores, but now I am feeling upset about the possibility of seeing my idea copied. This shop has been outed a few times in the past ripping off other people’s designs (which my biz partner didn’t know about until I told him later).

    The advice I hear often is to stay fresh and stay ahead of your competitors with new ideas and products, which may be easy for big names with lots of capital behind them. It’s so much harder for us small businesses who put our heart and soul into our creations and take a long time (and personal finds) to develop an idea and make it into a viable product.

    I agree with what others have said: we need to try to educate people about copyright, and to keep exposing those who do copy.

    Sorry this turned into such a long comment!
    .-= lisa :: the red thread´s last blog ..Friday on my mind =-.

  • Reply Peta March 14, 2010 at 1:18 am

    I think whether you’re a designer, photographer or anyone putting original creative material ‘out there’ for the world to see, unfortunately you need to spell it out to people. I think having a tag line that states it is copyrighted etc helps reinforce that it’s not OK to use or copy other people’s work. I honestly believe that most people (including many people in professional creative industries- believe it or not!) are not familiar enough with copyright laws and what they mean. It’s sad that people don’t feel they can come up with their own ideas because there are endless ideas out there waiting for someone to action them- there’s plenty to go around for everyone! The line between ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Replication’ is definitely very blurry…..

    Another thing of interest to me is the use of other people’s images on the internet. People seem to think it is OK to go ahead and use these images without permission and then include a disclaimer note that usually states ‘if you find your image on my blog and you would like it removed please contact me’- but what if the owner of that image never finds it and would not have been happy for it to be used? I think this is kind of a cop out on the bloggers part. You should always ask someone permission before using/publishing their work – if only out of simple respect.

    Again, I think it is up to each individual to familiarise themselves with copyright laws and ways in which they can protect themselves and their creative ideas. We then need to continue to spell these things out (short statements/tag lines and or the copyright logo on all creative work) and the more people that state these facts regarding copyright etc. the more it will begin to sink in and hopefully there will be less and less of this disrespect! Education is key.

  • Reply Anali March 14, 2010 at 1:32 am

    I read an article on last week which might interest some of you. Below is an excerpt and a link to the article.

    “Books, music, film, and art are protected by copyright law,’’ Suk says one afternoon in her law school office. “But fashion is not. I wanted to question all of that. Lots of people take for granted that fashion is an area where creativity is involved, and they also overlook the fact that there is no protection for designers.’’

    The lack of a fashion copyright law here has given rise to an entire industry that reinterprets – fashionistas call it blatant pirating – high design on the cheap.
    .-= Anali´s last blog ..List of Movies – Oscars 2010 =-.

  • Reply Elaine March 14, 2010 at 1:38 am

    This is definitely a timely topic. Just yesterday the same topic was addressed on the Dingbat Press design blog.
    I’m not a designer. I definitely look online for project inspiration, but I like to make projects my own. Really, I think even if I tried to copy someone, it would end up different in my hands.

  • Reply Genevieve March 14, 2010 at 2:03 am

    The Keep Calm and Carry On saying and crown image are public domain.

  • Reply Jessica March 14, 2010 at 3:47 am

    I have seen an etsy shop be copied, almost to the name, and it’s horrible. The original shop is so amazing, so creative, so successful. There is NO WAY that the copy cat will ever make as beautiful things as the original, or make as many sales.

    I have *tried* to copy her work too. (for myself) I simply can’t. It’s not that I am not creative, it’s just *her art* that makes it so special and successful.

    There is another artist that I have “copied”. I found, by accident, the same die cut that she uses. In a public place. But I didn’t use her exact one, because I didn’t want mine to look exactly like hers, so is it really copying? And, I don’t sell mine. I make them as gifts and for ME. So I am not competing with her “business”, am I?

    I really want to know where the line lies. I get inspired ALL the time when I see beautiful things, and since I CAN make them myself, is it really wrong? No, they are not my ideas. I will not take credit for them. But if I see something I really like, but not love, and want to take it and change the colors, the medium, or whatever, and make it just for me, is it stealing?

    And what about KITY? If I get inspired by something, change it up, make it by hand, is it wrong to post it on my blog as something that I am proud of? I have a blog that I just post what I create. I do sell some things, but nothing that I have “taken” from someone else. Example: I made a stuffed animal from a pattern that I bought. I took a photo of the finished toy and posted it. Ok or not?

    I know how shitty it is when you get copied. My story is a little different- I have some tattoos, and they are all original art by my tattooist. He refuses to duplicate any original art that he makes. A few years after he had done a large piece for me, I kept getting mistaken for some other girl. Because we had the SAME tattoo. I know my tattooist didn’t give it to her. I don’t know how she got my design, or who did it, but it made me furious. It’s one thing when someone copies your hairstyle and clothing, but a tattoo is forever.

    Anyway, I just want a clearer answer, if someone is willing to give it. I love making things, it makes me happy and keeps me busy. I would love to make money in the process, but realistically, it won’t ever happen. I don’t want to make anyone mad, or hurt them.

  • Reply lisa :: the red thread March 14, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Re: my comment no.108

    when I said in the 3rd from last paragraph:
    “put our heart and soul into our creations and take a long time (and personal FINDS) to develop an idea”… I meant to say personal FUNDS.
    .-= lisa :: the red thread´s last blog ..Friday on my mind =-.

  • Reply Emma Jo March 14, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I live in sweden and we have a world leading furniture store with four letters. I was exhibiting my lamp at the stockholm furniture fair in february and they came in to our cubical, snapped a picture of a friends product and left without saying a thing.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll see her design in that store soon…

  • Reply sara March 14, 2010 at 11:29 am

    holly- great subject matter. I, along with many others it seems, have been copied over and over and over again. But after a lot of anger I decided to go with the attitude that ‘imitation is the best form of flattery’. It has pushed me to me more innovative then I would probably otherwise be, since as soon as I put something out there it starts to get copied. As upsetting as this is, I decided that the anger was a wasted emotion- why make myself so upset over something that is bound to happen again and again? Yes- we need to educate. But as long as we have the web with ‘free’ material and constant ‘inspiration’, I don’t see this nasty practice coming to an end.

  • Reply maria @ {ritzy bee} March 14, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I recently found out a brand new wedding + event planner in my same city had stolen all of the content from my website for her own. It was jaw dropping to me that she did not think it would be noticed and that she calls herself a “designer”. I called her out on it and she immediately removed the stolen material. It really makes me sad for her that she is in a business where maintaining your UNIQUE voice and brand is critical to your business’ success!

  • Reply Justine March 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    I completely agree with the insanity of someone asking you to copy another’s work… but here is the issue I’ve seen with lots of etys owners and such: You think you’re the original person to come up with the idea that our grandmother’s and their mothers and their mothers have been making for years and years. It’s one thing to an originality to your product, something that makes your product yours. So just keep that in mind, look at your product, is there something original about it? Felt flowers is not originality. Using napeleon dynomite font and doodles on stationary is not original. Think about your product then proceed from there.

  • Reply Vanessa March 15, 2010 at 1:41 am

    This is a really touchy subject. I am in the process of bringing my long festering ideas to my soon-to-open shop and this issue terrifies me but from an artisan point-of-view. Because what defines “imitation” and “inspiration” entirely depends on what side you’re on and in my opinion it starts to get really fuzzy.
    There have been times that I come up with what I am thinking is my original concept and before I can bring it completely to fruition or am in the “tweaking” stages, I find a version of it somewhere. So now even though it was simmering in my sketchbook for months and I can’t do it because someone beat me to a similar concept and it’ll look like I copied them, even though I had my own original idea outside of their creations.
    Or even something like eyes for amigurumis: if I use plastic safety eyes, x seller does that, if I do buttons or felt or embroidery well y and z sellers do that.
    I do agree that nothing is original and everything has been done for years now to a certain extent as far as the basic general concept of an item, from dolls, felt flowers, embroidery, jewelry making. But different creators interpret them in very different ways and when it touches you I agree that that’s mind blowing.
    But seriously who had the very first idea of felt flowers? Of putting them on headbands, pins, shirts, embroidery hoops, bouquets, in monochrome or color schemes? Each person has their certain asethetic but how many artisans do that in so many different and similar ways?
    And when you look at how many artisans are looking at the same Etsys, the same blogs and shops and the same art, it’s no wonder the same ideas are festering and “imitations” crop up.
    What about the crafter who sees and item and thinks she can do that and isn’t necessarily copying the design but the general concept, and maybe they don’t have the same honed skills set?
    When it’s used for “evil” (and even the definition of this is broad) it can be like I’m going to undercut you or blatantly copying stitch for stitch or idea for idea, entire ripping of of products and lines and web presence and worst of all for profit is of course it’s wrong.
    But it’s a really fine line as far as like a person honestly trying to save money or a person trying still trying to hone their own skills set and learning how to do their own business. Even “improving” on something is somewhat fuzzy and isn’t necessarily an insult to the “original” creator.
    Everything eventually gets recycled and even if an artisan’s concept is copied that artists gets annoyed but eventually cycles to new inspiration, and that’s really what keeps true artisans in business, being constantly on the cusp of newer things. Blatant thief copycats never have staying power, TRUE artisans do, regardless of how “similar” their concepts are.

  • Reply Peta March 15, 2010 at 4:22 am

    I agree, Angela (#111). Unfortunately there seem to be many insecure and talentless people in the creative industries (interestingly, many are bosses abusing their position of power) who think they can steal ideas from genuinely talented people and take credit for it as their own. In the end, these people are the real losers. As for bullying- the people who are twisted enough to inflict this upon others will end up very sad and very lonely.

    Creatives need to stand up for their rights, protect themselves and their work. The more people do this and put the message out there, the more powerful (and consequently, effective) this message becomes.

  • Reply Vanessa March 15, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I would love to see more people in the design community talk out this issue in the public space!

    In my personal life, I’m irritated that, when I post an image of a beautiful painting available in a gallery, the immediate response is “Oh, you could easily copy that!” which completely misses the point of celebrating/examining an instance of creative expression by an individual. If we all made copies to hang over the sofa, the message has changed and we’ve done it without the artist’s permission. It’s the same as photocopying a published book without permission, then cutting and pasting the text to say something other than the author’s original intention.

    Fine art aside, as the “good at computers” people in the family, my husband and I have received requests (more like demands) to copy invitation proofs created by designers that were then determined to be too expensive to execute. You can try to explain that this is like waiting tables in a restaurant and stealing tips from another server’s table, but to no avail.

    Otherwise really lovely people simply do not get it–makers and consumers alike. The focus is all on the having, with no understanding of the creative work. I don’t mean to sound elitist because I’m not, at all. I just respect people who do things better than I can. Sometimes it’s enough to appreciate what they do without having to possess a piece of it at any cost–including stealing ideas and executing them poorly.

  • Reply // Sarah March 15, 2010 at 10:17 am

    “Duplicate it Yourself”, as you’ve so aptly described this movement, devalues the work we do. Why hire someone to create something original, when you can copy something at a fraction of the price or for free?

    Hopefully, the more to educate our clients, our peers and our friends about this, the less it will happen?

    Great topic & post — thanks!!
    .-= // Sarah´s last blog ..// Music Monday: Coeur de Pirate & Ben Sollee =-.

  • Reply Jessica March 15, 2010 at 11:51 am

    This is such an interesting topic to discuss and, unfortunately, not one where there is an easy solution – as many others have pointed out.

    I wonder what people’s thoughts are on sites like Apartment Therapy that post DIY versions of designer lamps, posters, headboards, etc? I am not a designer and find these How-Tos to be helpful, not because I want to exactly replicate something but because I can learn a technique to do something my own way (ex: oh! I never thought of crocheting a lampshade, I can go do one of a different pattern).

    Also, I’m really intrigued about the lines of copyright. Where does it stop being someone else’s and start being mine? I would love to start a food blog but this question haunts me and I’m terrified of putting up a recipe and getting accused of copying. Almost everything I cook comes from a blog for inspiration/technique and then I change the recipe around – when do I credit the original blogger and when don’t I? I feel that there are only so many ways to do some things (baking is chemistry, after all) and any change to a recipe has probably already been done and is out there somewhere – am I required to search the vast internet for my version of the recipe to ensure it’s not out there before I post anything? Should I not start a blog until I can be sure that I’m a good enough cook that I won’t need recipes?

    These questions keep me up at night and are the reason I haven’t started my own blog. The last thing I’d want is to not credit someone appropriately or to come off as simply a copycat.

    What I’m trying to say is – there are a lot of people who really do care about artistic ownership and the originality of things but simply don’t know/understand where the lines are. Some things are obvious, like selling someone else’s idea for profit, but other things aren’t so clear.

  • Reply Renee Burroughs March 15, 2010 at 11:56 am

    We are in a bit of a different situation. We provide wedding & event floral design & decor. Our designs can’t be protected as invitations are.

    I can’t tell you how many times a bride had come to me with another quote from a designer to “price” with me. Floral design can’t be compared apples to apples as each designer creates within their own style. We explain that in our profession, we respect the relationship the bride has already developed with the other designer and it is clear the other designer has taken many hours to develop a design plan for the bride. I would be happy to work with her to create an offer unique to what we could provide, but I would not be able to offer a price to her with this first proposal in mind. I always suggest she continue with the original designer and if the quote is out of her price range, she communicate that to the designer to further her options.

    We have chosen to NEVER create the same design twice. Making our events unique to themselves. We will NEVER copy another designer’s work… be it a magazine photo or a snapshot from another wedding. We ask clients to show us the images that inspire them however we are very clear that these are to just to communicate a style and feel for the wedding.

    In creating one-of-a-kind designs, when we are copied… and we are, we know that we were FIRST in putting it out there. We will never do it again, so that shows WE CREATED that specific design initially. We will never replicate another wedding, nor will we ever duplicate theirs.

    I do hope you continue to stand up with integrity to continue educating the public as you do. Professionalism will always set you apart from the pack.

  • Reply Jessica March 15, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Just finished catching up on my Google reader to see where Holly posted on crochet lampshades a few days ago – yikes! I was referring to the Apartment Therapy post on it the other day but just another example of how things appear in several different places all around the same time…

  • Reply Amberdawn March 15, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    It is frustrating to have your work copied. As an artist and a writer online, keeping tabs on copycats is time consuming and frustrating.
    .-= Amberdawn´s last blog ..Considering Different Venues for Weddings =-.

  • Reply Jesyka March 15, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Almost all comments above are well spoken and contribute to this discussion greatly, but I think there is a point that has only been slightly touched upon.

    In art school, there is great debate about “what is art” and “who owns it”. Some people argue that the second you put art out for all to see — whether it is to be paid for or not — the creator is no longer the sole owner of the image. This is because each individual interacts with the art on his or her own level, and therefore creates his own interpretation and ownership of the image. The tangible art may belong to someone, but each viewer owns the image in their head. As artists and designers it is literally impossible to say that anything and everything we do is original. It all comes from some influence, from some place. All we can do is bring a fresh perspective and/or interpretation and build upon what has been done by the billions that came before us for about a hundred thousand years. The only way to create something completely original would be to live “in a bubble” and even it if that were possible, it would be likely that they’d create something that is similar to something that already exists.

    Moreover, consider how copyright laws could be used to HINDER creativity. I can’t believe this hasn’t been mentioned yet. Imagine if someone actually could copyright shades of color or the use of a circle. Of course, these are base principals of design, but consider if the laws became more stringent how some of the more truly original or exciting designs might not ever be seen. I don’t think anyone one of us wants to be responsible for stifling our society’s creativity because we are so paranoid about people “copying” us. If you have a good design, you are going to be copied. In fact, doesn’t whining about people “copying” you sound a little elementary?

    That is not to say that blatant and true replications of designs, specifically of things like character designs (as I assume is the case of the designer whose work was copied by the large scrap-booking company) are even remotely acceptable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into Urban Outfitters (just as an example) and seen how they have shamelessly ripped off many small designers, from Etsy and elsewhere. It’s the sort of thing that makes my blood boil. And don’t even get me started on Forever 21. However, in these cases, law is usually on the original designer’s side. I believe the current copyright laws in the US state that something needs to be 70% “different” when it comes to artworks (how they determine that 70% is beyond me!). If something is copied 100% percent the law is definitely on your side.

    Yet, I tire of small designers who fight amongst themselves over the use of something like a wedding invitation with a damask background. Give me a break. Or that woman who wanted to sue a store for putting out a dress similar to her simple baby dress. It’s like someone trying to copyright a button up shirt. And let’s not forget the masses of designers taking ownership of many a vintage pattern or print (which, in some cases, the legality of this make actually stand if you buy from studios who specialize in finding vintage prints).

    Also, everything everyone said about money is right on. Especially the bit about “if I make it myself, I don’t see how it’s hurting the designers because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it in the first place”. Now it can be argued that maybe if someone loves something so much they might just save up and buy the real thing, but I honestly doubt that would happen in the majority of cases. Why tell people they should be ashamed for enjoying their own capabilities and their own spaces? Also, more often than not, many “designer” items are OVERPRICED. I say more power to the people for creating beautiful things for themselves, and not letting money get in the way of their happiness. Why some people think that beautiful spaces or things should only be available to the wealthy or to those willing to go with out food is beyond me (perhaps it stems from the idea that rich deserve their wealth and the poor deserve their depravity).

    Finally, I’d like to add that the point that an individual somehow owns their art or design is a modern concept. In the vast majority of cultures, art was merely craft or artifact, it belonged to the community as a whole. Part of the amazing thing about the burgeoning DIY trend is that amazing sense of community. If people are thinking of DIY as “duplicate it yourself”, I suspect that aspect of the movement will eventually be seen for what it is, and it will slowly drift aside into it’s own thing. But let’s not get to the point where we stop sharing our thoughts and ideas because we are paranoid other people will copy our work. I hate to think of what a dreary world that would be.

    TL;DR: Blatant Reproductions ARE BAD, and are/should be protected by law. But let’s not hinder creativity because of our own egos and paranoia. :)

  • Reply Phoebe March 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I work at a design studio, but I’m also someone who loves DIY, so this is particularly interesting to me.

    Take, for example, this KEEP CALM CARRY ON poster…it’s been around for decades, literally, thanks to WWII, and was developed for the British government by an unknown designer. If we’re all so against copying, then, how could we “ethically” purchase what are really just copies and interpretations of an original? It’s another one of those grey areas to consider.

    As far as “it’s not as good when it’s a copy”..sometimes that is simply not true. I think it’s disingenuous to say across the board that copies are never better than the art they seek to be like. The difference is really just integrity, and unfortunately an artist’s integrity is difficult to ascertain. That’s why we have laws–and as is apparent from all of these comments, even these laws don’t always work.

    I also agree that in the world of DIY, if you’re making it for your home, not for sale, then it’s unfair to say “think of your own design, you copycat!” I think this vilifies the spirit of DIY, which is in essence a spirit of learning. We go home and make things we’ve seen before not because we want to steal, but because we want to know HOW it is done, and most importantly: because we enjoy getting to do it ourselves.

    The line is crossed when money changes hands. While educating your clients and the public on the moral difference between being asked to copy something and actually creating something out of inspiration is important, it is also important to back up your work!

    Create records of the things you create, take photos, keep dated letters and emails, dated blog entries, and save your sketches and prototypes. I save all my emails and I confirm phone conversations through email, too, to make sure everything is in writing. I also back up and save that data later, even when a project is complete. Protect your work as best you can, and be firm (and coolheaded!) if you see someone publically benefiting from something that is obviously your brainchild.

    Copying for profit is just another word for being professionally lazy, whereas making something you saw that you liked at home for personal use is actually a growing dialogue within a discipline–it is how new skills are learned, how new trends are supported and emerge, and how new things come into being.

  • Reply heather March 15, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Jesyka: I don’t know any designers or artists that arbitrarily OVERPRICE their work. This is part of the problem in my opinion. People don’t understand or value the immense inner resources, time and energy that goes into creating design or art and turning it into a viable business. Just think “what a dreary world it would be” if none of the artists or designers were able to make a living. What would happen to all of the beautiful “inspiration” we are talking about?

  • Reply MichelleP March 15, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Wow -there’s so many well thought-out responses here!

    From my perspective (as a designer), the onus lies with artists & designers. Many clients will need to be educated about what is & is not ok, that’s part of the job. I don’t think it’s fair to expect people who are not familiar with the rules around copyrighted works to know that they are making an unethical request. Most designers clearly avoid infringing on the copyrights of others, but Copyright notices need to be on all of our own work as well, & we have to be diligent about enforcing those rights. If someone copies & sells your work, at the very least, send them the cease & desist letter!

    Personally, I have no problem with DIY, but come on – don’t try to sell it.

    For anyone that is creating & selling work that they feel may too closely resemble something they are inspired by, here’s a cute faq page from the Library of Congress:
    .-= MichelleP´s last blog ..What did the Photographer say to the Accountant? =-.

  • Reply Sandra March 16, 2010 at 11:47 am

    That is a really important discussion and I think that talking about it it’s a great way to spread the word! I’ve tried to do it: Thanks! Sandra
    .-= Sandra ´s last blog .."DIY" não é "CIY" =-.

  • Reply lauren March 16, 2010 at 11:48 am

    i’m so glad that i saw this… just yesterday i received an inquiry to duplicate something. now, since this request for “replicating” was for something that came from a very high end company, i didn’t really think of it like this… like i would actually be copying someones work. i would have had a completely opposite {negative} response if this person sent me a picture of another person’s work from say, etsy. but it IS the same thing whether that request was for something made by versace or something made by an independent artist on etsy… someone created it and took time to do the work. copying is copying and i’m glad that i am NOT “replicating” that item for the person that requested it.

  • Reply Katarina March 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Heather, I do agree with you!
    And it is up to all of us to explane and tell peopel how we are working and why it is so wrong when they ask somebody to copy others disain, just to get it cheaper.

  • Reply Karen March 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I agree with what was said by Erika and most of you here!

    And I take my opinion a step further: I do not only dislike it when artists/designers are directly copied. I also find it irritating when new products were made to look “old”. I think adding a worn or used “shabby chic” look to something new is like trying to achieve an effect that only can develope over a longer time. To me all these “faux antique” and “shabby chic”-items that come from factories or workshops are like cheating. When it comes to a design I either go for the original or (if I can not afford it) I find something else to please me. If I desire to own something old/antique: If I do not find something authentic I do not go for a false.

    Mankind can not create an authentic “wear and tear”-look. Although loads of people think this is possible. I know that when buying products which were made to look old/used you do not harm a designer the way you do when you buy a copy. But you are cheating yourself and are disrespecting the natural cycle that only time can bring.

    I don´t know if I expressed what I mean properly. But maybe someone will understand me!? :-)

  • Reply Morgan March 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    This is an excellent topic.

    I’d like to propose a view from the other side, because recently I have heard quite a bit of commentary in my circle about ‘how horrible it is when someone steals their idea’. There are times when I couldn’t agree more – but more often than not I have to remind my blogging friends that we are in the business of inspiring one another.

    Design blogging by it’s very nature is for the purposes of sharing great ideas – inspiration is at it’s core. If we were never allowed to duplicate or replicate someone else’s brilliancy (through our own projects, inspiration boards and posts), what on earth would we share? And I mean that in the sincerest of ways – if you think you have a new idea, I challenge you to find someone else who hasn’t done it before you in some similar shape and form.

    With that said, there are certainly boundaries. Selling someone else’s design is wrong. Replicating for the purpose of claiming as your own is wrong. Sourcing is essential in our business, and readers take that seriously.

    Anywho – just another thought to add to the mix.
    .-= Morgan´s last blog ..Event Inspiration Board: {St. Patty’s Day} =-.

  • Reply Nichole March 16, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Wow! I have read every single comment. I am not and artist or designer or crafter and had no idea this was such a problem. What I immediately thought of when I originally read the post were those websites that show you how to knock off furniture from big brands with tutorials and the blogs where people come up with their own tutorials for accessories from big name stores. Now I learn that lots of those same stores are stealing from others. This is insanity! I have no constructive thoughts about how to solve this problem. I can only say that while I feel a little ill after reading this, I am also more aware.

  • Reply Penny March 17, 2010 at 1:50 am

    I understand the frustration that we as artists can encounter when we put our work out there, but I think people need to realize what a copyright means. Copyrights do not protect an idea or a style. It is not copyright infringement to see photo booth album on a website, go to you tube and learn how to make one, and then turn around and sell it. Even if you used the same color paper and embellishments. However, it is copyright infringement if someone wrote out the directions, and you printed them out and made a how-to book out of it and sold it. I know it’s frustrating, but there are just some things we cannot claim a copyright to. I think bad manners to copy other people’s creativity, but it’s not necessarily copyright infringement.

  • Reply stitchalicious March 17, 2010 at 6:53 am

    About a two years ago I created a set of needlwork designs inspired by the current zeitgeist for retro themes etc. I have all my original sketchbooks, my notes, my drafts… but after getting them finished and specialty printed overseas last year, I discovered there was a very popular designer who has things out there that are so similar as to be ridiculous. I know my designs are mine – inspired of course by many other things in popular culture, as are this other designers – but there is no way I could sell any of them now. I can’t afford to have a popular designer accusing me of theft. So I’ve binned them all and had to swallow the cost.
    As with the chevron comment earlier – a lot of art out there is inspired by current trends and tastes, which means it’s GOING to be derivative, it’s going to be related. How many different ways can you draw and/or colour a heart for example? What’s the due diligence for a designer, in creating their own design and marketing it, to research what other people have out there that might be similar? How, if our works DO look alike, can we defend our own creation?
    .-= stitchalicious´s last blog ..Pekin Knot Hell =-.

  • Reply Jane March 17, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Great article!

    We started a small independent blog in the beginning of 2010 called copycatornot to shed some light on this unfortunate matter.

  • Reply Becka @Studio222 Photography March 17, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    This week alone I’ve seen 5 images of ours copied on other LOCAL photographer’s blogs. Some even say as a caption “the brides request” as if that makes it okay that they copied it and posted in online. It’s really frustrating. If a bride requests something like that sometimes we’ll do it but we’ll put our own spin on it and we won’t post it online. I wish other’s had the same level of creativity and professionalism.

  • Reply yasmine-aprintaday March 18, 2010 at 11:50 am

    oh i’m late in contributing to this discussion.

    my images have been taken, copied, stolen, whatever you may call it way more than a handful of times by companies and individuals both big and small. the most blatant examples are, one time i had walked into a gallery in phoenix, surprised upon seeing my artwork framed on the wall. the “artist” used my work and claimed it as his! needless to say, i was livid. i’ve also had my work lifted and placed on apparel sold in department stores and boutiques here in the US, and some parts of the world. it had gotten so frustrating i had to hire a lawyer.

    but with this said, i personally don’t mind it when my work is being used as inspiration. hey, if it helps you become creative, so be it! but of course, credit should be given when credit is due! my frustration with this is that many don’t credit my work so i feel that people get the impression that it’s okay to copy, use or sell my work. infringement comes when another copies, lifts or is so “inspired” by your work, that they emulate it enough that others would think that it was still your image.

    sometimes a client doesn’t really know the dos and don’ts of copyright and certain things need to be laid out. it should actually be included in an agreement prior to executing work. i mean ultimately, respect and common sense towards others should be the rule. if it’s not yours, don’t take it. if you’re inspired by it, don’t copy it and do your own thing. the best designers are those who aren’t afraid to go outside the box and do their own thing :)

  • Reply yasmine-aprintaday March 18, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    stitchalicious: if you have records as to when you designed your work, and if you know that your designs were done way ahead of the other designer’s, you shouldn’t have a problem selling. if you designed your stitches on the computer, for example, files have date stamps, and it’ll prove when you created it. and are your designs line for line similar to the other designer’s? i mean, for example, a red rose is a red rose. it’s when the stitch template interpretation of it is mostly line for line similar, of course there will be issues there.

  • Reply lolita March 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I am so agree with Jesyka!! (comment #131) well said!

    “El arte es subjetivo”

  • Reply Anna March 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    I guess you’ve hit a really sensitive topic for many many designers/bloggers. Another blogger just got on the topic of the same sort – an interesting read:

  • Reply Jacqui March 18, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I haven’t had time to go through all the comments above so I hope I’m not duplicating myself! As Anna mentioned in the commet above, I did a blog post about this sort of thing (though more on selling the results of someone else’s pattern) and the comments were quite enlightening, espcially in regards to the copyright law. If I got it right, in the States you can’t actually, legally, stop people from copying anything other than your pattern. I don’t know how this applies to an invitation or a print (which I can see might be more like a pattern), but if you sell a pattern to someone they are perfectly entitled to sell what they make from it. People can and do sue over it, but it seems the only reason they succeed is because the defendent won’t or can’t go to court. But having said that, I think the ethical side of things is entirely different. Sure you can legally copy an idea you’ve seen somewhere or sell something you made from someone else’s pattern even if they say you can’t, but ethically it’s a massively complete minefield! I have no idea how to solve it in my own mind, letalone develop some coherent outline in text. Sometimes you just know it’s wrong. But sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you think it’s ok and someone else doesn’t. Sometimes it’s ok for a home hobbyist to do it but not a professional. Who can define where inspiration stops and copying starts? I think it’s so important that it’s a discussion that the community has as a whole, even if we can’t agree on the answers we might at least start to get some consensus on some things – even if it’s just the legal side of things (like the myth that you only have to change it 10% for it to be your own work).
    .-= Jacqui´s last blog ..Felt finger puppets =-.

  • Reply Heather March 18, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    I totally see your point and I agree with you on this topic, but since sewing is my medium I see the opposite side of it as well. I see so many bloggers/pattern makers/sellers out there that are attempting to copyright a design that’s been in production for ages. Like a simple elastic-waist skirt. Or reverse applique t-shirt. Or a zippered pouch! I’m sorry, I think crafters/artists need to start getting honest with themselves about what they’ve really “designed” and what they’ve simply copied themselves.
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Clothing construction question =-.

  • Reply Elizabeth @ Dapper Paper March 19, 2010 at 9:45 am

    We actually had a client contact us about finishing up some work another designer did on her Save the Date! Evidently they gave up on trying to create it one week before they were supposed to send them out. She wanted us to fix what they couldn’t finish: basically use the existing design and complete it.

    We told her “we are not going to use someone else’s work or copy any one else’s design, but we can create something for you with the concept you like and our design style and vision, from scratch.”

    Then she showed us the inspiration for the design, And it was an EXACT rip-off of another design she had seen in a magazine. So the other designer was wililng to totally copy another’s work.

    Needless to say, we did not end up doing it.

  • Reply Elizabeth @ Dapper Paper March 19, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Also, we recently feel like one of our invites has been ripped off on etsy. But what is the protocal for this? Can you approach someone? should you say something? should you notify Etsy?

    It’s just hard to know the line between “oh, we have similiar styles” or “that is too close to be their own”.

    I would love some advice on this!

    I understand the similarities with subject matter (hot air balloons, hearts, records, etc..) there are themes and objects that are in and these are fair game. It’s just we have to use our own vision of these items and not replicate other’s visions.
    .-= Elizabeth @ Dapper Paper´s last blog ..NO MORE STORE-BOUGHT CARDS =-.

  • Reply CJ March 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I agree that copyright is an issue and should not be tolerated, but that is the world we live in today, there is SO (too) much stimulation. It’s extremely difficult to be original today and everyone is super keen to show off what they can do. Suddenly everyone is a designer/photographer/blogger and they utilise the internet to take advantage of opportunities that they would never have had before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning copying, but maybe you have to take the good with the bad in the business world.

  • Reply Nina March 21, 2010 at 12:54 am

    In the creative realm, what idea is truly original? “Original” ideas are just the culmination of bits and pieces of someone else’s inspiration that we’ve collaged into a “new” idea and convinced ourselves it’s our own.

    Great design in any form (graphic, fashion, home, etc.) will always result in admiration. That, in turn, will always trigger imitation. In this internet-driven, blog-laden world, it’s unavoidable. We will never be able to draw the lines of what is or isn’t acceptable. Simple solution? If we don’t want our work to be duplicated, then don’t publish it for the world to see.

    The catch-22 is that we as creative people love to be praised for being so darn creative. We want the world to stand back and admire our ingenuity and talents, to recognize how much more creative we are than the next person. We love that people oooh and aaaah over our work but can’t stand when they pay us that “highest form of flattery” and imitate us. We can’t have it both ways.

  • Reply Michelle March 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I have worked in the fashion and high design industry before deciding to work on my own as a freelance designer. Both of these industries have a ton of copying. In the United States there are few laws that protect the designer. We live in a society where it is felt that design that is replicated is what creates a trend…a style. Unless someone copies your artwork(illustration) or a pattern that you created it is not considered to be unlawful in the US. This is knowledge I learned while working for a few designers in the interior design and fashion industry. Now in Europe its a whole different deal, they value their designers in a different way. It is frustrating as a designer, but you do need to watch what type of info you give out and how detailed of a photo you give for copying purposes. Don’t make it so easy and give ideas instead of exact how to’s. but remember we have spent years watching Martha Stewart.

  • Reply stitchalicious March 22, 2010 at 8:47 am

    @yasmine-aprintaday comment #146

    Thanks for your feedback. I have got files which are datestamped so that *should* be okay… but it’s more the issue that my name would first be dragged through the mud and I’d be labelled a thief. In the fast-moving internet world, and with a competitor with such a huge audience, that would happen extremely quickly and that kind of damage to my reputation would be almost impossible to repair.
    .-= stitchalicious´s last blog ..Pekin Knot Hell =-.

  • Reply Junker Jane March 23, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Great Post! After being informed by many in the art community and seeing them for myself, I recently did a post about my works being copied. Please feel free to read it and post it if you like. It is titled Copying Vs. Inspiration.
    Again; very well put..Great Post

  • Reply Emma Jo March 24, 2010 at 7:27 am

    I have to share something with you. As you know Apple is a big company due to their design BUT it’s not all new and shiny, Ive’s found inspiration from Dieter Rams design

    And I find it interesting that there is almost no criticism to IKEA who “gets inspired” by other designers for instance Alvar Aalto:

    So, what is original creativity and what is stealing?

  • Reply DesertNana March 26, 2010 at 3:37 am

    Such a critical yet tip toed around issue because a s so many wonderful commenters have said the more available visual information of a designs illustrations and or photographs we take into our minds everyday the more likely they will translate into our own individual creativity.
    As a photographer a blogger and shop owner,online friends and sometimes stranger to me,- will let me know when my work is being stolen. I have seen 3 of my wild life photos being sold on various stock companies just this week. I spent over an hour just going to the various sites,signing up then trying to get to the sellers for information. I became so frustrated realizing the time I was losing, knowing legal recourse is ultimately far more expensive then I can afford, I just gave up.
    Several folks mentioned seeing one design being directly copied and sold by various sellers on several online venues. I have seen popular shops,who are strongly promoted selling works that are not original selling like hotcakes and being featured by highly read blogs,which as you know , ensures more sales and affirmation
    Which leads to a final question
    What can a person successfully do to stop copyright infringement, that does not require enormous amounts of time and money? ??
    I feel particularly bad for artists who are supporting themselves and a family on what they create.
    Thank you for tackling this topic collectively Holly

  • Reply MsUnreliable March 26, 2010 at 4:48 am

    Walk around any fair or market, or even any modern art gallery, and you’re almost assured to hear someone mutter “Oh, I can do that!”, so to the people who ask why they should pay for an original when they could simply do it themselves (or get a cheaper replica), I show them this:

    Yes, it’s all well and good to look at the final product and ponder how easy it would be to make, but there’s no telling how long an idea took to finally be formed into that amazingly simple final product.

    This doesn’t just apply to prints and paintings and handmade items, it applies to web designs and graphic designs, furniture designs and even entire buildings. In the architecture field, I’ve actually witnessed a client approach an award winning architect, show them a picture of one of their most lauded and internationally published buildings (an art gallery), and then say, quote unquote “I want that, but as a house. Can you just shrink it down?” When the architect politely said that wasn’t how they worked, the client was shocked and offended. That building went through countless iterations and over 4 years worth of design and development (not to mention hundreds of thousands dollars worth of labour!) and the client simply couldn’t fathom why the architect wouldn’t just scale it in Photoshop and plonk it on their residential block.

    In my own experience, I’ve had people coming to me and asking for Web Design X, pasting their header image at the top, and asking me to “design” that for them, at which point I apologise, explain to them that Web Design X belongs to Client X and I’ll happily design a similar (but appropriately different and client specific) layout. I then quote for my time and effort, and have actually received comments like “Oh, don’t you just have to change the colour? Shouldn’t be that hard/take that long.” More often than not, I never hear from them again.

    Sadly, there always seems to be someone who isn’t quite as ethical. I’ve had one web design copied, pixel for pixel save for a different header image, and when I contacted the “designer” who was onselling MY hard work and MY clients investment, she replied that one of her clients had asked for MY layout, so she had recreated it on her own and decided to sell it as a packaged design. Even that would have been bad enough, but when I checked her coding, it was 99% MY coding, line for line, silly mistakes and all! Eventually she agreed to alter her version to a reasonable extent, but she has recently posted a new “design” that once again reinstates all the obvious design elements.

    The solution? There isn’t one silver bullet, but I would suggest at least standing up for yourself AND for others. If you see something that looks a little too similar to be coincidental, speak up and ask some questions. Be polite, but be straightforward.

    Also, don’t support those who knowingly produce or promote infringing work, whether it be a far-too-similar Etsy item, a “Steal This Idea” type DIY/tutorial based on someone elses hard work, or even a replica designer chair or handbag. If you love and respect the original enough, the additional cost is a worthy investment.
    .-= MsUnreliable´s last blog ..I Love Lavender =-.

  • Reply Brooke H March 26, 2010 at 4:50 am

    Wow, did this post stimulate a conversation or what!

    I think its important to talk about and make people aware of the problems that DIY and copying bring about but I also feel like its one of those things that are just inevitable. It sucks, don’t get me wrong. I find people using my images and art work pretty regularly and I try to contact them to take it down and explain that its my work and I own the copyright but being a small home based business there’s not much else i can do and often people ignore my requests.
    .-= Brooke H´s last blog ..And the winner is… =-.

  • Reply zenzhey March 26, 2010 at 7:05 am

    A teacher of mine had offered this wisdom:

    Always let people copy you. If they do a good job people will think you did it. If they do a bad job, they will just look like bad designers.
    But the main reason to let people copy you is that while they are busy duplicating what you made, you are busy coming up with new ideas. It a great way to make sure you always stay a head!

    Understandably it”s a hard thing to do when you see sites offering wares based completely on your designs. And of course, that should not be allowed..

    Just trying to see a silver lining on this very black could…

    • Reply decor8 March 26, 2010 at 7:28 am

      Zenzhey that is SUPER. I really like what your teacher said, “Always let people copy you. If they do a good job people will think you did it. If they do a bad job, they will just look like bad designers.
      But the main reason to let people copy you is that while they are busy duplicating what you made, you are busy coming up with new ideas. It a great way to make sure you always stay a head!”

      I hope everyone reads this!!!!

  • Reply Amy March 26, 2010 at 7:39 am

    As many of you have already pointed out, I think there is a distinction between a professional copying someone’s work and then profiting from it, and a hobbyest recreating something for personal or educational use. I definitely think there is something problematic with a client approaching a designer and saying, “I want you to copy this”. If nothing else, it shows a lack of understanding about the role of a designer. That said, shouldn’t a good designer be willing to guide, inspire and educate their clients, even those who may be inexperienced? I think calling these kinds of requests “icky” is somewhat alienating and might result in a missed opportunity. If anything is widens the divide between designers and their clients/ potential clients.

    Happy weekend everyone!
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..British Oddities – Behold the Chip Butty =-.

  • Reply trin March 26, 2010 at 7:42 am

    You asked for stories…

    Relative of mine hired a “Wedding Photographer” based on photos on the “photographer’s” website, and in the portfolio shown to her in the office.
    Photos she got were a SIGNIFICANTLY lower quality. (many photos where the views are 80% ceiling for example, bad lighting, low resolution…)

    The photos she was shown as samples of the photographer’s work, were NOT the photographer’s work, but now she’s found those photos (from the portfolio & website) on the websites of OTHER photographers. She’ll be taking the photographer to court, and now has only snapshots from friends and family of her wedding.


    Years ago, friends of mine put a lot of work, and money into their tiny company that designed and sold their cross stitch patterns. People started buying the patterns, and then selling photocopies (they still appear on Ebay occasionally), and selling FINISHED ITEMS at craft fairs.

    Result, they never made enough money to keep their business going. After about 10 years of trying to make a going concern of it, they quit.

    Each person selling photocopies probably made about $10 -$200 each… but there were hundreds if not thousands of them. People selling finished items, probably made $100- $2000 each, but there was MANY of them.

    It costs a LOT to defend your copyrights, and all told the artists went under BECAUSE of the copyright infringements.

    One of the former owners recently moved out of state… she found a lot of old stock (printed patterns/kits they had assembled) and decided to sell them on Ebay, and not haul them cross country. AS THE ARTIST who had done the original piece, as well as the designer who turned it into a pattern, SHE WAS the one who was reported to Ebay as the copyright violator!

    Of the three artists who were working in that small company, selling their work, now NONE of them are producing or selling their work… ANYWHERE.

    You may also want to search for the “We thought we wouldn’t notice” blog… if nothing else it is educational.

  • Reply trin March 26, 2010 at 7:44 am

    dang, the website is “You thought we wouldn’t notice”

    I should just go back to bed now. :D

  • Reply lindsay March 26, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Here’s another angle I haven’t seen mentioned…

    Have you noticed all the bloggers/artists doing online classes lately? Teaching their techniques, processes, etc. I have been approached to do this too, but quite frankly I see how it’s being misused. As in, here’s what I learned from so and so, now I’m producing work almost exactly like theirs and selling/publishing it. For someone with a decent following, it might sound nice to be able to charge $60 a head to teach these people a few things…but then their work ends up seeming so diluted and spread all over the place once the students start putting their learned skills to use. I’m wondering if teachers let their students know exactly how their learned material can be used, and if they limit it so much, would they have any takers? You host an online class, so perhaps you have some input in this area.
    .-= lindsay´s last blog ..Stir Crazy. =-.

    • Reply decor8 March 26, 2010 at 8:16 am

      Lindsay — Such a great comment! I think it’s important that those who teach online classes have the background as well as teaching experience behind them so as to pull together a class that is worth the time and money for all involved. I see e-classes as becoming a trend because people tend to think that just anyone can teach an e-class but it’s actually not true. I stand behind my class because I have the experience and also classes taught by Marisa and Susannah, because they also have the background and teaching experience. I think knowing how to teach in a real classroom is critical to teaching a successful online class. I also think that it’s important to tell students that while certain subjects will be discussed and explained that it is up to each student to take the knowledge and apply it their own way — not to copy ideas. For instance in Blogging Your Way I teach students basic blogging skills and give ideas on how to make blogging a more rewarding experience but I stress time and time again that it’s important for bloggers to customize and personalize their sites, be authentic, and look at what is out there currently and not reinvent it but to see what is MISSING and then think of ways that one can fill the void. That is exactly how decor8 was established. A blog like mine, back when I got started, did not exist. The design blogs that were there did not do home tours, did not feature a range of styles, and did not lean towards feminine eclectic handmade homes — it was more about mid century modern, contemporary design and classic design as well as a few shabby chic styles. I did not fall into those areas and so I decided to write about what was missing — and so I did and things worked for me. I think that’s just it — try to identify what you WANT to see more of (or less of) and then go and make it happen yourself. That is what I really stress in my class as my students will tell you as well. But then again, my topic is BLOGGING which is something that can be taught — in class, in books, online, etc. But then there are photographers and artists and crafters teaching how, exactly, they do their work and then I’ve noticed they become upset with others start to duplicate it nearly one to one. Honestly, it’s to be expected. I personally would not teach exactly how I did something that I earn a good living from. Blogging is different — but art, well I don’t know how I really feel about artists teaching their exact technique to students on the internet. In a classroom setting it’s one thing, you have a limited number of students, most of the instruction is oral (not written), and also very one-to-one and the teaching is usually done in a way for students to learn certain techniques and the student guides them to mix their voice with the techniques taught to create something original. But online, where most instruction in an e-classroom is written, and where there is no real accountability from student to teacher, well it’s tricky with art in that environment I think.

  • Reply Emma Jo March 26, 2010 at 8:04 am

    @zenzhey: while that comment is very nice of your teacher to say, it is a dream scenario. What if (and this applies to a lot of D.i.yers ) you’re not yet famous for your design and a big company steals it. Then YOU’RE considered the copy.
    @MsUnreliable: I too say “I can do that” but for me that means the art/design is crap :P not that I’d actually would want to make it myself. But thats just imo.

    with that said, I think it stinks when big companys copy small businesses and get away with it. Shame on them!

    • Reply decor8 March 26, 2010 at 8:18 am

      Emma Jo – Another great point — that is actually very true as well. If you are “Camilla Engmann” and your work is copied this applies. But if you are Jo Schmo from smallville, USA and get copied by a massive company, there is no hope….

  • Reply craftytammie March 26, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I don’t do graphic design, but I think about this subject a lot in what I do – sewing and knitting. I get excited when a new sewing book comes out – and then it has the obligatory instructions for making a cloth napkin, or a tote bag, or baby blocks. I agree with several of the commenters – there’s not much out there that is truly “new”. I’m sure a lot of what I think of doing has actually been done before. And since I am constantly reading magazines, books, and blogs on design, I always wonder if my idea is actually my own or a mishmash of all the things I’ve seen that inspired me?

    How much of handmade copyright is the work that goes into making something with your hands? The choosing of materials? The idea itself? If I decide to make a cloth doll – what it ends up looking like depends a lot on my handiwork and skill at embroidery and sewing. I guess what I’m saying is that for me, handmade is about the experience, not taking the credit.
    .-= craftytammie´s last blog ..keep the benedryl close. =-.

  • Reply Katy March 26, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I just want to comment that the opposite also happens which I find even more ridiculous and heart breaking. I’ve worked at big companies with lots of money who ask designers to copy exactly from small independents designers on sites like ETSY. It makes me sick – these companies with all this money don’t want to pay designers enough money to design themselves they’d rather just copy someone who is working their butt off to create designs and probably barely making a cent from it.
    .-= Katy´s last blog ..A Fine Frenzy =-.

  • Reply Helena March 26, 2010 at 8:23 am

    I’ve just come across this article and even the number of comments shows how passionate we are about this theme. Dear Zenzhley, your teacher is wrong. To be inspired by somebody’s work and create a new product based on it – is one thing, this is how art moves forward. But copping is unethical, it is that simple. Neither good nor bad copy of your work will bring you new customers or better reputation. And it never stops there. What will you do, when a big corporation copies you design in China and start selling it in department stores for a fraction of the price you spend on materials?
    It is not just the piece you created being stolen. It is a part of you world, the way you think being invaded. And at some point you wouldn’t be able to stay a head, because people who leave of stolen ideas are very creative in their own way.

  • Reply 9flights March 26, 2010 at 8:42 am

    If you are an artist or designer, you should understand copyright law. Designs like fashion and fashion accessories (purses, belts), soft housewares (sheets, pillows, etc.), are not copyrightable unless they are a significant new form that changes the way the item works. Like a new type of hardware or a brand new way to zip. Alternating green and white Chevrons on a sheet are not copyrightable.

    So while it is illegal to stand on a corner in SOHO and sell bags with Prada logos on them, it is not illegal to stand there and sell the exact same bags with a Prado logo on them.

    Same idea with a graphic design: the way you’ve executed the idea is copyrightable, not the idea itself. This is why reverse engineering is acceptable in the technical world. You can make something look like something else, but if you did it a different way (i.e. made a piece of stationery w/ a cherry blossom smack in the middle using a letterpress vs. laser printer), it’s not copyrightable.
    .-= 9flights´s last blog ..Hungry Princesses =-.

  • Reply country girl March 26, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I am on the verge of opening an etsy shop and made a point of researching other shops, making sure I am going to be offering things which don’t already exist there.
    I think the main reason why there are co many ‘copycats’ is the anonymity we have here online. It’s the same reason why people download music and movies for free…they don’t think they will be caught.

  • Reply Serita White March 26, 2010 at 8:50 am

    This topic makes me sad. I really do understand how in the current system people are hurt by such requests. BUT the real culprit is business & the “need” to make a profit (whether monetary or opportunity/acknowledgement).

    If you took “money” out of the equation and we were all just doing what we should be doing because we enjoy doing it, then very few people would care. It would be about creating for the sake of it and sharing/enjoying creation.

    Any original owner is NOT the primary source of their creation anyhow, we all stand on the shoulders of giants as they say. Everyone is inspired by someone or something that created something wonderful before them.

    I’m working to pave the way to a future where we all realize we are co-creators and can stop being so protective of “our” art/creations.

    But yes, until then this type of thing will continue to happen and we’ll all just have to struggle through. Just keep it in perspective. We’re being pitted against each other in the name of silly paper that we’ve given way too much power to.

  • Reply Janice March 26, 2010 at 9:13 am

    ‘Sell, sell, sell’ seems to be the underlying crafting mantra.

    I think people are seeing something for sale on line and instantly think “I can make this and sell it!”–instead of perhaps thinking “I can purchase this and enjoy it for myself”. Or in the situation where you were taught a new skill–make it + put it in your home. Just enjoy it for what it is. Something you made. Without a dollar sign attached to it.

    These days it seems that seeing an online seller become successful makes people think ‘it is easy’ and that they can be an ‘overnight’ success–just by taking ‘that idea’ and it will work for them too. This is akin to thinking your retirement fund will come in the form of a lottery ticket.

    I find it very disheartening to see the amount of work and effort put forth by a business–all of the leg/ground/grunt work–only to have it ‘lifted’. I don’t want to cloak the ‘thief’ in the word ‘business’. Some individual somewhere made the decision to do this. Some individual ‘encouraged’ a staff member to copy. Some individual within that ‘business’ made it known that this is how their design department ‘designs’.

    There very well may be truth in the there are ‘no new ideas’ school of thought. However, the execution of an old idea always has the opportunity to be fresh.
    .-= Janice´s last blog ..tiny spring crafting bits =-.

  • Reply fforeverme March 26, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Finally, I can be again thankful for being a floral designer because with everything I’m trying to master in this new marketplace, I do not worry about being copied. What a relieve. Working with silks is not as care-free as fresh, unless I work hard with my placement and design so the arrangement looks casual and fresh. Actually, I have more fun with my color combinations than design. I read an earlier blog about price comparison or shopping bridal designers, but in today’s economy, everybody shops for everything. Some designers are simply desperate for any work, even if they are not getting paid for the job cuz they went too low. I have a couple of decades in retail, design and ownership and it seems to translate into every marketplace. And, COLORS keep you young and open-minded. God, now I sound ancient! Enjoy!!!!!

  • Reply lucykate crafts... March 27, 2010 at 3:13 am

    really interesting post, and very relevant to me at the moment as I’ve just been through and posted on my blog about a duplicating incident!,
    .-= lucykate crafts…´s last blog ..Mother Swan, =-.

  • Reply Zelda March 30, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I wanted to weigh in after hearing your podcast today.

    Copyright laws exist to protect original works of art. One way to determine the likelihood of your creation is being original is to envision the thousands of years of recorded history, then think of the six billion people who are currently residing on the planet and ask yourself “Do I honestly believe that I am the first person to create this work?” If you have just finished a painting of the sunrise from your back porch, then the answer is probably “yes”. You have captured a moment that is unique to your personal experience and that work belongs solely to you. If, however, you have just finished making yourself a lovely pink dress then the answer is “no”. Most iterations of “pink dress” have already been made.

    I recently saw a pattern for a set of nesting rectangular baskets with handles. The maker of the pattern had added the warning “for personal use only”. Frankly, I thought it was rather presumptuous! Did this person actually believe him/herself to be the original creator of nesting fabric handled vessels? Only if he/she has been living under a rock since birth! That, in turn, begs the questions “By what authority does that person tell everyone else that they can’t make and sell their own set of nesting fabric baskets!” The answer is that they do not have that right and it is very, very wrong to assume they do. The only way that copyright infringement could take place would be to purchase the pattern, make EXACT copies of the pattern and then sell them. You could make a pattern of your own that follows the exact same construction method without running into legal trouble as there are only so many ways to assemble these items and they have all been done before.

    This goes to the crux of the matter: original works of art are copyright protected but crafts are not. Take the example of Knock-Off Wood. You will notice that there are no photos from the Pottery Barn catalog or website on the site. That is because the photos are copyright protected. They are designed for PB, styled for PB, and photographed specifically for PB. They are original and belong solely to Pottery Barn. However, PB does not hold a copyright on a bookcase, chair, picnic table or any other piece of furniture. In fact, they often borrow designs from the past. Can you imagine what would happen if someone owned a copyright on stripes, chairs, blue, lamps or any object that’s common to us?

    I think that some of the anger over copyright infringement stems from a misunderstanding of what it actually is. If someone makes a duplicate of your painting of your sunrise, be angry! If someone makes a copy of your pink dress…

  • Reply Courtney April 1, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    This is such a timely post. I read it yesterday and didn’t comment at the time, but felt obligated to come back and comment after waking up this morning to find that another website has been copying and pasting our articles daily to their site and representing them as their own, omitting any reference to our site or to original authors. Arrghh – it’s disheartening!

  • Reply Sly_Fox April 6, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    A complicated and sensitive topic with many thoughtful insights already posted !
    But to me copyright infringement and outright theft is one matter, and inspired DIY for private use, another. So many ideas, themes, motifs, and colorways are reinterpreted and circulated ad nauseam that we need to acknowledge the cross-pollinization and ultimately derivative nature of everything we do, and this is NOT meant to be disrespectful of everyone’s unique interpretations, just rigorously honest.

    What harm is done by buying thrifted furniture and sprucing it up with a new coat of paint and new upholstery, which make-over choices in color and fabric, even shape or period of furniture, may have been inspired by interior design blogs, a magazine, or an incredible store display ? If I create an assymetrical hodge-podge display of images on a wall in my home – who am I stealing from ? Dare I drape a strand of twinkle lights over my bed without asking someone’s permission ? Will I burn in idea-thief hellfire for appliquing pieced hexagons to an old cardigan to restyle it or creating a yo-yo quilt or granny square afghan ? … doubtful …

  • Reply Heather April 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I agree with the recent comments by Sly_Fox and Zelda. I, as an artist myself, believe that we all are inspired by others, by nature and by our everyday surroundings. It is hard to determine who has a copyright on what.

    I would like to ask who on this thread can honestly say that they have never bought anything from Target? Because quite honestly, almost everything you have purchased from there (clothing, furniture, home decor, art) is a knock-off of someone else but at a lower price. If you have bought something, aren’t you doing what you accuse others of – buying something identical for a lower price?

  • Reply Sly_Fox April 9, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I’m sorry, but I can’t resist adding another comment (intended to be impishly illustrative, not offensive) … but shouldn’t we be busy mobilizing an international brigade of irate grannies to storm Squint London for co-opting “their” patchwork quilts as upholstery ;)

  • Reply Anna Spiro April 10, 2010 at 3:15 am

    I face this same problem all the time but I just don’t know why people want to copy? Why don’t they want to come up with something original? I like trying to think outside the square and I love coming up with new ideas?! I just don’t get why other can’t think in the same way?

    Great post Holly & Erika. I really think this topic needs to be brought to the attention of the copy cats!!

    Hope you are well Holly!

    .-= Anna Spiro´s last blog ..Inside Out Art Auction =-.

  • Reply Brandi April 10, 2010 at 4:40 am

    Viola said…
    “I am curious and with all due respect I want to ask this question. How many creatives here have in their shop the poster style of “KEEP CALM & CARRY ON” reused into your own products? Now these are just words, however the gold crown on top makes this an original design, created by someone else. If this poster with these words are in your shop with the crown, is this not copying? What would make it your own design is by changing the crown to something else or removing it completely, because the words are just free speech. So copying is sometimes done innocently . . . I’m just saying!”

    That print you speak of is actually property of a now defunct wing of the British government. The design you see replicated everywhere is exactly as the original poster looked. Each royal has their own crown design and the crown on the poster was that of George IV. Under George IV, Britain tried to quell fears of the citizens during WWII. This was their wartime propaganda, which was abhored by the Brits, who were being raped and pillaged in their own homes at night in London. The repsonse to that by the government was “Keep Calm and Carry on.” Condescending and patronizing and the posters were seen everywhere. It was just as recognized as the “Uncle Sam Wants You” posters in America, except it had zero patriotic sentiment, according to British historians.

    This may be off topic, but my problem with that print isn’t that Americans would “copy” or print replicas of another’s work (which technically doesn’t belong to any one designer or entity). My problem is that Americans would WANT to or don’t understand why it would be inappropriate to use as a trendy pop-art thing. It isn’t cute. The history behind it makes it not cute. A lot of people were hurt by the government’s response to the fact that people were being terrorized nightly by Nazi raids.

    • Reply decor8 April 10, 2010 at 7:39 am

      Brandi – I knew that history of the poster (it was created during the second world war) but one thing to note is that the poster was not used in Britain according to this:

      Read more here:

      With British design magazines showing the poster in their spreads and also with British book shop Barter Books bringing the poster back first it’s more of the British reintroducing it — and then Americans seeing it as interesting and follow their lead.


  • Reply Viola April 10, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Thanks Brandi and Holly for really clearing up the copyright and origins of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster.

    For me, its such a relief to see that the poster is in the public domain and that the history as described on the Wikipedia website, gives the poster’s history a much more positive purpose.

    The history as described by Brandi made me extremely uncomfortable.
    .-= Viola´s last blog ..It’s A Boy Baby Stroller – Scrabble Tile Pendant – (067) =-.

  • Reply Katherine April 10, 2010 at 11:56 am

    This is not to in any way discount the seriousness of copying/plagiarism, but I wonder if part of the issue is that artistic, well-designed anything feels largely inaccessible to the average person. Most Americans do not make a six figure income and I admit that it can be frustrating, as a well-educated person with fairly good taste, to be inspired by all kinds of beautiful things in my favorite blogs and magazines knowing that I’ll never be able to reasonably afford the price tag on that kind of style. Whether true or not, there is a sense that style is elitist and I think that some may feel justified in copying high-end products for their own use (like expensive wedding invitation designs). I don’t personally feel that way, but I do certainly appreciate the occasional tutorial teaching how to make those things that I would otherwise be unable to afford.
    .-= Katherine´s last blog ..Chocolate Mousse Pie =-.

  • Reply Sarah S. April 11, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    In an answer to your question. I believe education is key. You must educate your clients on what an original design is. I have been in the Interiors field for 25 years and have seen this copying on a grand scale in my practice. Luckily, I believe most of the clients begin with a sense of something they see that they like as a starting point and hopefully as a good and ethical designer I can take that design and move forward with something original and my own. I have not come across any clients that have knowingly asked to copy someone elses work. If they did, I would kindly ask them to seek services elsewhere. So back to my original statement-education is key for your clients; honesty and ethics are key as a designer; always acknowledge your sources and ask for permission if your sources require you to do so.

  • Reply Sly_Fox April 11, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    More thoughts on individuals who DIY something for personal use … some makers/designers above have stated variants of “you are taking money out of my pocket by not buying the orginal from me” referring to “inspiration” and personal use (as opposed to piracy and unauthorized duplication which difference is very clear to all of us in terms of legality and ethics etc.)

    IMHO, perhaps you’re really upset by the DIY phenomena/zeitgeist and imagined/real loss of sales as a result. It’s a double-edge sword. On the one hand, the OOAK market is now legitimized and publicized, which means more people can find your product and understand its intrinsic value. On the other hand, it does stand for “do it youself.”

    One of the reasons DIY is hugely popular is that many people are discovering yes, they CAN do that, too. DIY is multi-valanced – it’s not just about producing objects, it’s a mentality, it’s about joyful self-sufficiency and competency and the inherent pleasure and mastery of making. Yes, it can also be driven by thrift, which is nothing to apologize for. And it’s also how most people used to live – growing and cooking their own food, making their own clothes and home furnishings, renovating the home, etc.

    Your clients can afford your price points. If all I can afford is my yarn and paint and beads and fabric – I’m probably not the client you want anyhow :) which is partly why I have learned to DIY or do without.

    We DIYers pay for our own materials and tools and supply the labor. Some of us learn by buying “how to” books, magazines, tutorials, patterns, taking courses, thus supporting makers who publish and teach. We legitimately acquire knowledge of techniques. We source our own supplies – which may include up-cycling some grubby cast-off seemingly beyond redemption, scored at the thrift store or abandoned on the sidewalk. Then, we sat down, and on our own time, made “it”, whatever “it” was. It sure wasn’t free – there’s hours of sweat equity in my projects – even though it may have been affordable.

    At the end of the day, many of us do this because this is – quite simply – how we live – with ingenuity, skillfulness, artistry and soul that defy limitations with creativity.

  • Reply Chloe C April 12, 2010 at 8:06 am

    a couple of thoughts:
    The cream will rise to the top.
    There will always be legions of mediocre busy bees flitting around grabbing what they can.
    eh, swat ’em.
    Yes, large companies that hire “designers” copy everything they can from small creative independants. Hence my speech about “all designers are whores” which I think I offended Holly when I first wrote that. (since then, Holly, I tried to think of another analogy, and now write “designers are trained seals who do tricks for fish”)
    In house designers are handed pictures printed from the computer and told to make the pieces. fast. Worded very carefully “something like this”. Where I am now I can make original work, but for much lower pay. sigh*
    What helps me not get too discouraged is knowing that of my original stuff, there is more where that came from. So I try not to expend energy on watching who the heck copies. The worst is when it’s copied badly and someone thinks that it was your piece.
    Good discussion. Now get back to work everyone!

    • Reply decor8 April 12, 2010 at 8:08 am

      Chloe C – Ha! Not offended at all! Say what you want — you can express yourself freely here. It’s funny to hear you’ve turned whores into trained seals. ha ha!!

  • Reply Chloe C April 12, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Thanks, Holly. Ork Ork!

  • Reply kate April 15, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    What I find curious is that many of the same decor designers who don’t want their ideas “copied” use knockoffs of famous furniture designers in their work. You don’t want to have someone else “steal” your ideas but you have no problem using an Eames knockoff? I don’t see the difference. But I think perhaps I’m in the minority. I guess I think that big companies deserve the same protections that little mom-and-pop or etsy shops do.

  • Reply Gedichte May 19, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Hello from Germany! May i quote a post a translated part of your blog with a link to you? I’ve tried to contact you for the topic decor8 » Blog Archive » Real Talk: DIY is not Duplicate It Yourself!, but i got no answer, please reply when you have a moment, thanks, Gedichte

  • Reply Shannon May 22, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    As a consumer mostly and a tiny burgeoning DIY-er I see this as all about money. If were about art and art alone then you will do like all the other great artists and keep making art no matter what. You quit because of money. You let your art die because of money. If it is squelched by outright Plagiarism or Copyright Infringement then that should be fought for.

    But the truth is that there will always be someone who cant afford a beautiful house, a perfect wedding, the best clothes/toys/furniture… and they will try to do it for the cheapest they can find. When you live pay check to pay check, have kids, or a crappy job you aren’t gonna save your money for $500 chair. I’m sorry thats bull. You are not gonna pay thousands of dollars for invitations when a friend will copy it for you, not when your not sure how to pay for the food or the honeymoon.

    It is sad but with the economy in the US looking like this and other countries in similar states, your wealthy, easy life, can-spend-high-dollar customer is dwindling. You say we don’t know the value of your Work… We say you don’t know the value of our Money.

    But we appreciate your pictures. They give us hope we can have a beautiful life, that we made.

  • Reply Emma Jo May 23, 2010 at 5:17 am

    Dear Shannon,
    The value of a product is the hours spent thinking it up, the hours making it, spending money on the materials needed and finally have enough money over to be able to pay the bill with that income.

    I don’t know where you’re coming from, but stealing is stealing.

  • Reply Hannah May 31, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Whilst on one hand, I can see where you are coming from. I think applying the ‘stealing’ label to people at home who DIY a concept is extremely unfair. This is why I actually like Martha, she shares ideas and makes people feel like they can do it too.

    Fact: There is very little originality left. Fact: I have a bouquet of felt and button flowers that my grandmother made in the 30s. They’re bright, happy and remarkably similar to Princess Lasertron’s work. Fact: Creativity often comes down to the chicken and the egg debate.

    I am a photographer and, frankly, I get frustrated with the ways in which a fear of ‘copying’ stifles my creativity. I had an idea to do a themed shoot – I had everything set in place (models, location, props, etc etc etc) and then another very famous photographer posted something EXTREMELY similar on their blog. I canceled the shoot because I was scared. I have decided that next time, I won’t. Balloons and lollipops and Louis Chairs and paper hearts in photos can’t be owned by one person and the photographers who insist on saying that they can are simply being pigheaded, in my opinion.

  • Reply Carmen June 16, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Do it yourself is Duplicate it yourself. When a website gives you instructions on making curtains and says “Do It Yourself” you follow the directions and make yourself some curtains. When a blog shows you pictures of a home or something inspiring. I see comments of “Oh, I’ll try that at home.” and it gets duplicated.

    I think that everyone who is against the DIY ethic is a hypocrite. Why did you buy a sewing machine and a glue gun? What about that printing press or silk screen? So you can do it yourself. Look around your home, at what you are wearing, the robin’s egg colored kitchen walls and “spa” bathrooms. You all have been inspired by someone else and then decided to duplicate it yourself.

    Do you have Ikea or Design Within Reach furniture? You supported a “Duplicate It Yourself” company. They are “inspired” by more expensive designers for less money. In this budget minded economy, to duplicate is to get more bang for your buck. Should I buy the $80 designer couch pillow or copy the design, make it at home for $10, and have money in the bank?

    Simple designs breed reproductions. If you don’t like to be copied then create a product that cannot be reproduced without being noticed. A good example the FENDI spy bag. Karl Lagerfeld designed the spy bag with hopes that knock-offs would not be created. Well knock-offs were made (and sold on Canal Street in NY). Then he took it up a level and made it in velvet with insane embroidery and in denim with embroidery and sequins. Those versions were never reproduced. They were too intricate and expensive to copy.

    Design and business are cyclical. You create a design. The market gets flooded with that design. Then it starts all over again. Karl did what all you designers should do: Move on and create better things. Or would that be you doing what you’re against – duplicating it yourself?

  • Reply Catlynn July 28, 2010 at 1:40 am

    So, does anyone know who I am copying when I make hundreds of pillowcases to give to medically fragile children? I would like to give that person credit. I also will need proof that they are the orignal individual of the the idea. Please, get over yourselves. Your not an orignal, you copied to some degree!

  • Reply vector artan July 28, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Get Inspired but don’t copy. I think that this is the mos important aspect of design. Clients don;t allays understand how copyright works but they can be thought and educated :)

  • Reply Ickemixe August 17, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I’m a bit late, I know. I totally agree with your post and I just want to refer to a very good article (Yanko Design). It’s really worth reading!

  • Reply whispering doors September 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I agree that people should use thier own imagination and not copy other peoples work, but at the same time, i believe that it is ok to use certain things as a source of inspiration when creating something.

  • Reply Selina March 14, 2011 at 9:01 am

    It gets even worse Erika. Famous Etsy is not taking any action against people who copy other peoples work, or against resellers. I don’t think you can be protected once you go with your work online.

  • Reply Simon April 5, 2011 at 11:30 am

    There is nothing new under the sun!

    Whether you admit it or not, everything you produce has been ‘influenced’ by work done by others. The point is, whether you have added value.

    As a professional, if you have not added any value yourself, then you are stealing.

    But I would say, if you are an amateur and doing it for yourself, then you can copy anything you want. The original creator should be flattered that you are copying them.

    Otherwise we would be in a strange situation indeed. Imagine not being able to sing you favourite pop song in the shower, because that would be plagiarism!

  • Reply Vilma May 11, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    This is a good initiative, to let people know about copyright infringement and respect other people’s creation. But how about using it just an inspiration and use it for personal use not commercially? is it OK?

  • Reply Jworm January 11, 2012 at 6:36 am

    okay, I might be completely out of line here. Like, it doesn’t seem that this blog is even written to reach out to people like me-non artist. Here’s a perspective I just want to throw out there because I am planning a wedding and in the throes of temptation when it comes to this issue. I’m not arguing that theft or artistic recreation is a good thing. As a bride, it is COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS how I and my event are exploited by many in the wedding “business.” Wanna get your hair done? $40…oh wait, for a wedding $65. If you call a caterer and use the word “wedding,” jump in price. As a consumer, I feel exploited as much as you amazing artists. It’s usually not by the small operation independents but I am exploited all of the time. I cannot find a photographer for under $2000 and that gets me a whopping 4 hours. Many are trained professionals but I am too and I don’t charge my employer $500/hr. Engagement sessions are only $250 for 2 hours soooooo….you catch my drift. Unless you want to walk into the woods (which we’re doing) with 7 people, it is very hard to spend a reasonable amount of money. Even my most frugal friends dropped $15k.
    All I’m saying here is that many customers get gouged at every turn. We will do whatever we can to save that $800, $1500, even $5. I shop local. I am a fierce defender of the value of my talented friends and family. Art costs and I don’t need to be “educated” about that. I am using as many of you artists as I can. But I cannot afford oodles of debt for a wedding and yes, I use inspiration boards and plan to DIY a lot of things….we’re talking centerpieces and paper wreaths, not paintings.
    Anyway, this was long and rambling and I’m sorry. Likely, more a vent about my current situation than anything of worth. I guess as you all continue on your incredible journeys as artists, keep in mind that we’re little guys too. Living in studio apartments and commanded by our mothers to wine and dine 200 people for a night. Please stay reasonable in what you ask for your art and there might be a reduction in copyright infringement. ??sigh…
    Keep up the good work, all!

    • Reply decor8 January 11, 2012 at 11:44 am

      @jworm– Excellent comment — I applaud you for standing up and speaking your mind and on many counts, I agree with you. Some creatives are upping their prices depending on client or event though the work is no different. There is a lot of that out there. People want the real thing but the real thing decides because they are popular to charge unrealistic prices so people try to find shortcuts. I get it! What you said makes a lot of sense.

  • Reply Andrea Bledsoe January 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Copy cats s-u-c-k….
    As an artist/crafts person we all will run across parallels in one another’s work, that goes without saying. We also look to one another for ideas and inspiration.
    Unfortunately, from time to time, we think we have a completely fresh and new idea. Only to see someone has done it.

    I think there are 2 leading causes for the current rise in duplicating artist’s work.
    1. Economic reasons (still not an excuse)
    2. Rise in DIY everything.

    Just a thought.

  • Reply Andrea Bledsoe January 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Thanks for your comment. I completely disagree with vendors raising prices for weddings. If the same amount of work and time is going into a service, the price should not be any different.
    As far as I am concerned my art is my art is my art…….same price regardless of the clients venue/reason for needing such item(s) or services.
    Maybe someone who works or provides wedding vs. other special events could enlighten us?

  • Reply Betsy August 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I work as designer for a large fashion and home goods company.

    The first day of my first internship I was handed a pair of shorts and told to sketch them. After I was done my supervisor removed the trademark stitches I had included and off the sketch went to a vendor. It was disheartening and behavior I’ve seen repeated in the years since.

    I guess my point is this problem isn’t a new one. Large companies copy each other all the time, and sadly large companies copy the little guys a lot too. The little guys feel the hit of plagiarism harder in the bank account but all creatives are affected.

    Many of our customers and a lot of us are used to shopping for the best deal, buying the knock off from H&M instead of the real deal or buying items on sale rather than at full price. This habit of looking for the cheapest version is a learned behavior. I don’t know that this will bargain hunting at the expensive of the original creator will ever truly go away until we change what is social acceptable. After all we as a society have learned not to steal flowers out of the neighbors yard, so maybe we can learn not to steal art. As designers we have to police ourselves, work with integrity, educate our customers and remember that money in our own pocket at the expense of a fellow creative only reinforces bad behavior in our customers.

    But I will say that like Will,
    (@will: ) who commented above, I am considering going back to law school to help fight for my fellow creatives.
    I believe that transparency laws should be passed that require companies to explain why products are pulled off shelves and website because of a cease and desist. Companies big and small should have to own up to their less than honest actions. I have faith in people, in customers, that when given the facts they will make the right choice.

  • Reply Jayne P September 3, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    I believe all of you have a point; believe it or not, as a creative lay person I shopped craigslist until I found an easel for my flat screen television!

    Found one, told the guy what I was going to do with it…believe it or not he had a flatscreen on a bureau. He works for a big box company and had allof their furniture in his apartment. The next year?

    The store came out of a tv easel for over $1100. But, and here’s the interesting part… nothing creative is done in a vacuum, nothing is new under the sun, and nothing absolutely nothing done now has never been done before…

    people borrow all the time, and I don’t think it’s unethical to BORROW.

  • Reply M April 25, 2014 at 8:34 pm


    I agree. I’m a very crafty person, and have many of my own paintings and artworks. My fiancé and I are paying for our own wedding, and honestly, if I find something I like, and two different Artists have had the same or similar ideas, I will use it, but I usually tweek it to what works for my wedding. If someone asks, I’ll credit the artist who inspired me, but heaven knows I’m not selling it. But the fact of the matter is that many companies are far too many expensive for something I could do myself.

    I’d never bring something to someone and say, “I’ll pay you to give me this exact thing.” Because, again, I can do it myself. If someone has made a product that I can’t make, and it’s perfect the way it is, I’ll buy it from that person. Besides, I’m only doing it for my own wedding. Not anyone else’s.

  • Reply Ankit July 10, 2015 at 7:08 am

    I read your blog, and it was so much tantalizing. Well, I have a query therefore from the artist folks: one does DIY and post it freely on internet, in fact you could see so many posts on Pinterest, many of which says that make your DIY vases, DIY gift packing ideas, DIY turn your old furniture into beautiful piece etc. etc. What if one tries to really try making it oneself and put it on for sale while giving all due credit to the artist and also make some kind of arrangement where remuneration could be given to the artist based on whatever profits made?

  • Reply Ankit July 10, 2015 at 7:12 am


    I read your blog, and it was so much tantalizing. Well, I have a query therefore from the artist folks: one does DIY and post it freely on internet, in fact you could see so many posts on Pinterest, many of which says that make your DIY vases, DIY gift packing ideas, DIY turn your old furniture into beautiful piece etc. etc. What if one tries to really try making it oneself and put it on for sale while giving all due credit to the artist and also make some kind of arrangement where remuneration could be given to the artist based on whatever profits made? What if the re-maker takes a due consent wherein the remuneration and the no. of pieces that can be made are mentioned clearly? It is almost like giving production rights to someone who thinks that the idea is sell-able, where the inventor gets the fair share and most importantly the credit.


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