With the world so linked and so small, finding inspiration from artists, designers, makers and creators is SO easy. Which is awesome, but that ‘taking inspiration’ can pretty easily turn into outright stealing, which is totes not cool. But where’s the line?

As humans we learn through imitation. When we’re children we learn to talk and walk through imitating our family. When we learn to draw or write, it’s by copying what we see other’s do. This is how we’re wired, to see something we want to do, and copy those we see already doing it. And it’s the same when it comes to art or design. To really learn a method or medium, we need to imitate what others have done.

But when you’re putting something out there, on social media or online for the world to see, you need to make sure you’re honoring anyone who deserves recognition. If you created a piece based on someone else’s work, ask their permission to share, and credit them. And when it comes to selling work, you need to make sure you’re being, at least mostly, original.

I love this quote from Ashley Buzzy, “creativity has always been two parts imagination, one part theft.” It’s almost impossible to do something completely original, there will always be some overlap, someone who paved the way so you can do what you do, but somewhere in there is a line, and when you cross it, you loose integrity.

This week there has been an explosion on Zara’s instagram of people supporting Tuesday Bassen after Zara ripped off a few of her badge designs. (If you’re after some entertainment you should totally check out the comments) As you can see below, Zara’s people haven’t even tried to add two (or even one) parts imagination. This, my friends, is what we like to call ‘total freaking rip offs’, and this type of copying is not EVER ok. Not even if the artist you’re stealing from (yes, it is actual theft) doesn’t have as big a business as you do, even if they only operate their creative business as a hobby, even if they live on the other side of the world. STILL NOT OK!!!!!

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Stealing is serious business, and although it’s an expensive and drawn out process for anyone pursuing legal action, you can get in some big bloody trouble for it if you’re caught. And in this age of social media, it’s more likely now, than ever before, that you will.

So if you’d prefer to stay within the realms of ‘legal’, not to mention ethical, then here’s your 4 tips to avoid. It may feel like a grey area sometimes, but there is most certainly a line, don’t give up your integrity for a few dollars.

1. Using a photo you found on google, and not crediting the original artist/photographer = STEALING

2. Tracing someone else’s work and attempting to sell it as your own = STEALING

3. Trying to get your design to look exactly like someone else’s = STEALING

4. Agreeing to a client’s request to replicate a design from another artist/designer = STEALING

These things, however, don’t constitute copying:

– using a unique method or process used by another artist (no you didn’t invent tie-dying) = inspiration

– taking elements that you love from several different artists and adding your own twist = inspiration

– sharing a photo on instagram and crediting the original artist = inspiration

If you’re still not sure, then check with people you respect and admire. Sometimes the desperation for some mulla (because as creatives, there are some seriously desperate times) can drown out your conscience. Make sure you give that little voice some space and time to rise above the desperation. And if it doesn’t feel right, then just don’t do it.

Respect people! It all comes back to respect. For yourself, for your fellow creatives, and the HOURS they’ve poured into their pieces. Being original is hard bloody work, but if you are a legit creative, then you learn to love and enjoy that process, and trust that people will notice your effort and appreciate your originality.

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