This is a heavy, confusing and upsetting subject, and not one in which I purport to be an expert. Please bear with me while I ramble & muddle through this post and feel free to comment with your thoughts (rudeness will be deleted).
It was brought to my attention recently that one of the artists I featured on Scoutie Girl has been accused of stealing ideas and artistic styles of other artists. Not wanting to appear as judge & jury in this instance, I will simply make a general statement about my posts: While I do *not* condone copying, determining if every single work of art I feature is original is just not possible in the span of my day. My finger is on the indie pulse, but I will never catch everything. My sincerest apologies to those whose original work was not acknowledged b/c of my ignorance. Scoutie Girl will never knowingly feature an artist or artwork whose ideas have been copied directly from another.
Having said that, this is where it gets confusing on the broader scope of this issue. Where is the line between inspiration and copying? How do you know? Is there a hard & fast rule as far you're concerned, or do you think it's a case-by-case basis? One person at one moment in time will always be the originator of an idea, a thought, an artwork, an invention, a musical arrangement, etc. Patented and copyrighted material aside, when ideas are in the public domain and have been repeated again and again and again - is that still copying or is it inspiration? Here are a few that come to mind: scrabble resin pendants, collages with birds-on-a-wire, sad-faced artwork, crocheted food, silkscreened tees with stock graphics/brushes, aged b&w photography, totebags with Amy Butler fabric. Seriously, I could go on and on…and so could you…we could be specific or general…there are 1000s upon 1000s of examples. Some of these involve a similar motif, technique or style. In every case, one person in one moment in time conceived and executed an idea, put a pricetag on it and sold it as artwork. Does that mean nobody else, ever, can make a pretty paper flower or wrap wire around a gorgeous bead and sell it? Of course not! That's silly. The original idea becomes diluted when it is tweaked and repeated by another - then 2 other people interpret the second and so on and so on. The exponential effect is that now that idea or motif is in the public domain and becomes commonplace. But what sucks is blatant, exact, carbon copies - that is so wrong and unfortunate. Do something, anything to make your work uniquely yours – you are unique, aren't you? Well let the world know!
Here was my comment to the post, and I think I'll stick by it:
"Great topic. Great opening statement. I agree there is a wafer-thin line that often divides inspiration & imitation. I think, tho, that imitation comes in a few forms: coincidental, incremental and blatant. The last of the 3 is the easiest to say is out-and-out wrong, illegal (all artwork is copyrighted whether through formality or not), distasteful and opportunistic.
Coincidental imitation happens when creative divinity strikes more than once. We are snowflakes, to a point, but I do believe our common experiences, educations, habits, backgrounds, lifestyles, etc. propel us in similar directions more often than we think.
The last kind of imitation, incremental, happens when certain styles, designs, motifs, genres have already become a trend – the status quo so to speak. When you’re exposed to the same thing again and again and again like a broken record, the novelty wears off, the elements become commonplace, and we completely indoctrinate these designs and ideas into our psyche. They become part of our creative fiber, and sometimes they start to seep back out into our own work."
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree? Do you have a completely different take?