To Steal like an artist or inspire
To Steal like an artist or inspire
Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” I highly doubt that he meant take the actual work and not the concept. It’s true that history repeats itself, fashion from the previous decades ends up as a fresh style with a twist in future generations, artists will find inspiration from their kindred spirits and add their influence to the canvas, but it’s not theft. Being inspired is fine and hinting at what drew you to make what you made is okay, but let’s confirm this with a little guide.
Blatantly Stealing Earns No Respect, but a Broken Neck– Nothing is original and everything is a different take of the first idea, but that DOES NOT mean it is okay to directly rip off the exact art of someone and pawn it off as your own. Everyone has been in school where their teacher would fail a student if they plagiarized their paper and that does not fly in writing nor in the creative visual world. I had my design taken and slapped on an area this “designer’s” art and was getting credit for it. My design was the main focal point and made the rest stand out as his illustration was very amateur. If someone wants to collaborate, contact one another and see if that is cross promotion worth doing. Maybe both parties cannot agree or it does not benefit both equally and is a reason why the collaboration does not work. The only benefit from my situation was that I asked the person to remove the image and if not give me credit for my illustration. I preferred to have the image taken down, but if this person was going to get any business from my illustration then I should have it as well and therefore my credit should be shown. If there was any profit directly being made from that image then yes, legal action would have taken place. I chose the high road after I calmed down from wanting to beat this designer’s ass to come up with a situation where at least I could get some benefit from it. It is definitely best to make sure you have your designs trademarked and if not copyrighted at the least. It’s really a damn shame at how many low-lives really steal from an artist and will pawn off their work as their own to make a profit. Watch out and protect your investment.
Changing Minor Details is Still Stealing– It is still stealing if you take an image and barely change it where it is a ubiquitous compared to the original. It makes me think of the case with Threadless vs Rob Pruitt with the issue of the “When Pandas Attack” t-shirt design created by AJ Diramucot and Jimi Benidict. Those two referenced Ron Edmond’s photo, they created their own image similar to Shepard Fairey and his Obama piece, but while Fairey was sued Threadless the owner of the tee design was not. Instead, they were a victim to Pop Art from artist Rob Pruitt who created various collages using this illustration. Instead of creating a similar look referencing the panda, he stole the image and may have added a little detail here or there to make it “his own”. Could he have used his talent to create his favorite subject matter to be his own? I would assume so, but taking someone else’s time and effort is much more profitable especially when you need to know the right people to have your work shown in front of the right people all while doing very little work at all. Certain cases get very shady like when dealing with parody/spoof designs.
Is it a Parody or not?– This area is such a gray area that some print on demand sites will curate what is and isn’t a parody. It seems as though you want to reference the original, but not use any logos that the original may have. You could reference Batman with a figure looking like him, but showing the logo without permission to license the character can create some rough waves. It is best to secure the licensing to create works with popular figures. Johnny Cupcakes got lucky as he explained to Warner Bros what his brand was about when using their licensed characters when he got his cease and desist letter and avoided being sued. His brand was popular, so I’m sure Warner Bros so how profitable his brand was and what he could do for them by using characters from Looney Tunes and such. Sometimes if you question whether the design is a parody, it probably isn’t.
How to Improve the Concept?- If everyone is going to recycle ideas around, well then the question that needs to be asked is, “How can I improve it?” Maybe there’s a design flaw or the final product was not jaw dropping like it should be, what then? I had people argue for me on Instagram that the idea the person had was a rip off of my design. The execution was different with their own take, but since mine came out first and was sold online and in stores for awhile that they were the thieves. I’ll admit it was great and I was pissed, because a little bit of research would have shown that your idea was not original, nor better, plus it was seen and worn around the world.(It does make me feel good to know that countries on both hemispheres have people wearing this particular design, but that is aside the point.) I could not really get mad as I didn’t own the trademark at the time, so doing anything on my behalf wouldn’t have benefited much. The best part was that there were people who knew the truth and what was out first and defend what seems to be inappropriate. It does not hurt to be compared to the original if you’re version is a better take of the subject matter.
The bottom line is people work hard to put out their best work and to have someone take it is wrong. There will always be the leeches out there trying to suck out as much money as possible, you just have to protect yourself where you will come out on top. Being inspired by Alphonse Mucha’s Art Nouveau paintings may show through your work, but you own style will show that it’s YOUR original work and isn’t that more reputable? But then again who wants to be a starving artist?
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