This week assistant editor Liv Siddall looks at the hoary issue of plagiarism and wonders whether maybe we all get a bit too het up about it. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below.
If you work in a vaguely creative environment, you may get the sort of email that occasionally circulates around the office alerting everyone of a possible case of artistic plagiarism. More often than not it’s a big corporation that has been “inspired” by the work of a small-time creative and sometimes it seems as if it’s someone unabashedly copying another person’s work for their own gain.
Speaking as someone who’s been through the art school system, I can wholeheartedly confirm that when you’re in a creative community, the idea of someone thinking you’ve stolen someone’s idea is mortifying. When I was at university, it was quite common to come up with a great idea only to find (usually online) that it had already been done by someone else somewhere else in the world and scrap it altogether.
You’d rather not do something at all than be thought of as a copycat — it’s just the un-coolest thing to be, ever. Seeing that being an illustrator is kind of a trendy occupation to have, and quite often involves being part of a tight network of other artists, why would you ever want to deliberately copy someone’s work knowing full well that it is only, in the end, going to ostracise you from the community you’re trying to fit into and probably make people troll the shit out of you online?
The problem is, sometimes illustrators and designers can be accused of plagiarism when it’s coincidence. We’ve all seen people on Facebook indignantly mouthing-off about how their friend’s work has been copied by some guy in Venezuela who’s used the same brush effect on Photoshop, or by a woman in Sheffield who sticks eyes on fruit in the same way as them. But isn’t that just because a few years ago, no one would have even seen that man’s brushwork, and the woman who sticks goggly eyes on to fruit would never have bothered showing anyone anyway?
Perhaps before we begin trolling people for creating work and publicly exhibiting it online we should consider that, chances are, it might be the same as someone else’s, and as long as the “copycat” in question isn’t a grizzly, money-making corporation, then perhaps it really isn’t a big deal.