Educating Creatives on Stealing vs. Plagiarism
The push to stop plagiarism is nothing new but it’s a growing issue in the creative world with the rise of social media.
Imagine you’re in school and you get assigned a paper on a topic you’re not so familiar with. It’s going to take a lot of time researching, creating an outline, writing and proofing. Thankfully you found a great resource online that basically will do the work for you.
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It’s so easy and available that that it must be okay, right?
We grew being taught that plagiarism was wrong in school—that taking someone’s work and passing it off as your own was unmoral, lazy and lead to negative consequences.
It’s funny we all know plagiarism is wrong, yet when it comes to the creative scene we see it all the time. Every day you see artists ripping off someone else’s work and claiming it as their own—while sometimes even monetizing off it.
So what can be done about it?
I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum of committing plagiarism and having my work stolen, so I feel it’s my job to educate those who lack the awareness of what they are doing.
In order to stop plagiarism, it’s important to understand:
- Why People Do It
- Educating Stealing vs. Plagiarism
- Stop Plagiarism
Why People Do It
There is so much work being published, consumed and shared via social media. It’s easy to see why you would feel it’s okay to “borrow” any design and pass it off as your own.
You may see this large universe of work out there to rip from and ponder who would ever find out?
Little do you know how tight knit the online art community is and how we stick up for each other. That drawing you copied off Pinterest is sure to be seen by someone who knows the original artist is on Instagram. Word travels fast through these communities and I see it happen near every day.
Another reason why people pass work off as their own is due to an artist’s work being shared on other sites and blogs without proper credit, which I’ll dive deeper into later. When there are no credits to the work, it must be free reign to claim?
By no means is it right, but the majority of these people just don’t know any better, although from the school paper dilemma you think they would.
When you see someone jacking your work or others, try to educate them privately and explain the issue instead of publicly shaming them with your social tribe army.
Educating Stealing vs. Plagiarism
There is a fine line between “Stealing Like and Artist” and “Plagiarism.”
I believe there is no original idea under the sun. Everyone is influenced by something in their work whether they admit it or not. In the creative world, it’s okay to steal. The greatest artists we know today were thieves. However, this type of stealing involves:
- using inspiration to evolve a concept
- studying others and making it your own
- honoring and crediting the original artist
Good artists copy, great artists steal – Pablo Picasso
On the other hand, it’s straight up plagiarism when you replicate someone’s work and label it as your own.
Not only do you look bad but you will surely piss off a lot of people and cast yourself in a negative light. You don’t want to be known as the social handle that rips off other people.
Like I mentioned earlier, I used to plagiarize other people’s work but that was before I had social media to broadcast my thievery. Present day, it’s brutal how people get treated when they are exposed—you would have thought they killed someone.
There are lurkers around every social corner just scrolling through the discovery sections waiting to prey on a poor uneducated sole. I admit, when I caught people stealing work of my own or of others, I was quick to call them out and feed them to the wolves.
My plot was to scare and humiliate them and then one day it dawned on me….would I want people to treat me the same way had my old ways been revealed?
I had no one to teach me right from wrong and many of these creatives don’t either. If I truly was unaware of the harm I was doing I would want someone to show grace and teach me correctly.
Back to the school paper analogy, many times we were told to provide references or an annotated bibliography with your written papers. The point was to give credit where we found our sources of information and inspiration…..so why can’t we do the same with our works of art?
So here lies two solutions. This obviously isn’t a quick fix but if the art community banded together on a mission to educate, this could benefit all of us in the future years to come.
1. Consult the artist
It’s simple, if you know the artist of the work you are inspired by, simply shoot a message their way and just ask for their blessing.
I’ve done this in the past and the people were flattered that I was inspired by them. All they asked for was that I gave credit when I published it to the world. I can say that being in that position where someone approaches me with their inspired work and asked for my blessing, it is a humbling experience and I am always glad they had asked.
This individual shows respects and gets respect. There is no harm done.
Now you may not hear a reply from someone who is extremely well known as they most likely get bombarded with emails and messages and rarely check them.
Regardless, always credit the artist when in doubt.
2. Always give credit
You can stop plagiarism by following this rule:
“Create or Credit.”
Giving credit is courteous to the original creator and puts you in the clear from lurkers who are waiting to publicly shame you.
You can have a clean conscious and rest easy at night by following this path every time.
If you didn’t create it, it’s important to credit.
If you ripped someone’s work off but made tiny adjustments, it’s important to credit.
If someone is clearly able to distinguish where you got the idea from, it’s important to credit.
It’s our duties as creatives to watch each other’s back.
Choose to Educate
In the meantime, it’s still going to happen. People are going to plagiarize and pass work off as their own. Some people are ignorant and will do it despite knowing better but they are a lost cause and karma will find them.
It’s our duties as creatives to not only watch each other’s back, but to educate the masses who are unaware of the harm they are doing.
Being a savage and ripping them apart is not solving the problem in the long run. If we can band together over time and teach the new wave of creatives the right way, it will benefit us all.
So I challenge you to seek out others to educate properly. If you’re guilty of plagiarism yourself, make it your mission to credit the necessary people that played a role in your work.
The only way to truly stop plagiarism is to adopt the mindset of create or credit.
Step up and do your part otherwise you can’t complain.
- Word travels fast through these communities.
- The majority of the guilty are unaware and just don’t know any better.
- If you’re reposting and sharing someone’s work, make sure to give credit.
- Good artists copy, great artists steal.
- Band together as an art community and educate the masses
- Consult the artist for their blessing.
- It’s our duties as creatives to watch each other’s back.
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