Artists, writers, musicians, designers, businesses, even the creative DIY blogger mom at home must decide for themselves where to draw the line between being “Inspired” and “Copying” other’s hard work.

I suppose it is just instinct to absorb what catches our eyes and be influenced by it. The Internet has bread a new era of copycats, most of which are not deterred by legal warnings or ethics, leaving one to wonder who has the original ideas anymore?

Big companies are not immune to this either. Companies on a tight budget or simply opportunistic are quick to jump on the creative ideas of bloggers for example, and leverage their considerable amount of resources to defend their position if discovered.

So, when then do we make a stand against plagiarism and cry foul and threaten copyright-infringement?

One to one copying or slight changes - I suppose legally that is for a copyright lawyer to decide but justifying the need to plagiarize the work of someone else who put days, weeks or longer of blood, sweat and tears to create their original piece of work for monetary purposes, IMHO is the same as forgery.

Unfortunately most online original creative people do not have the legal knowledge or experience to protect their work, nor do they have the resources to track the vast online world who may be copying them. Not to mention even if they have the legal knowledge, getting a Lawyer or copywriting your work, branding etc.. is expensive..

In the blogger world, timing is everything. If a piece of work is posted to the (public), copiers are quick to pounce and replicate, then hope the blogger population as well as anonymous visitors shower them with adoring comments, and likes, not noticing or caring who was original creator and then often capitalizing monetarily.

Exposing these copiers online carries a risk with it however. Suddenly your professional and positive persona, who all know you for, has a dent in it and trust can be negatively impacted going forward.

Having your work plagiarized over and over takes its toll on a person, drains away creativity, and robs you of energy to the point that you even consider giving up on your dreams. It is like having someone constantly standing behind you, breathing down your neck while waiting for your next idea to pop up.

As graphic design professionals, I am assuming this is something you have come across, so I ask you for your thoughts so I can ultimately find a way to bring peace my dear wife’s mind who has here photography and designs copied regularly.

  • 1
    Much sense here, but the question itself is a little wooly. I find two questions; and are those the one you are asking us (not only for rhetoric effect?) leaving one to wonder who has the original ideas anymore? and So, when then do we make a stand against plagiarism and cry foul and threaten copyright-infringement? _
    – benteh
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 22:31
  • @boblet - Thanks for your reply and sorry if I was vague. Maybe I should have posted the whole thing as I tried to reduce the size for comfort of reading. Anyhow, my objective is to find answers to help with my wife's situation. I would like to call all the plagiarizers out one by one, or block them with special software I know about as my profession is IT management, so they cannot see my wife's work so easily. I tried to paint a picture of the problem here and in general hope to garner some ideas that maybe I have not thought about yet. Thanks..
    – Bryan G
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 23:13
  • I'm a little confused on what it is you're asking as well. You have put a strong effort into providing the background context, but I would struggle to give you any advice because I don't know enough of the actual problem that your wife is facing. I think if you restructured your post to the following format, it would help us understand: "Here is my problem / Here is what I've tried / Here is why that didn't work"
    – JohnB
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 1:34
  • Thanks JohnB, appreciate the advice. I think I made the mistake of copying and pasting parts of an article I wrote in another writers forum, into a Q/A forum. Was a late night knee jerk reaction. I will adjust my format going forward. Anyhow, I got the answer I am satisfied with, so I consider this question to be closed now.
    – Bryan G
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 9:09

4 Answers 4


If you don't want something stolen, don't put it online. It's that simple. If you feel you must put it online.... come to terms with the fact it will be stolen. You can't prevent it. If I do put something online, I purposely hide secret codes and items in the artwork - things only I know are there - items which I can point out to clearly indicate how I created the work - items no one else would ever think to look for much less remove.

You can write emails/letters asking for removal of your copyrighted material. All major sites have a link to report infringement. I've done this several times. Blogger, Google, Facebook, etc., have all been very responsive and removed the material. Anything more than that you need to hire the legal team.

I don't see the theft as anything other than flattery really. If my work is lifted that frequently, clearly I'm the trend setter not the follower. After all I can recreate anything I've already created... most who "borrow" items can't even come close.

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    I purposely hide secret codes and items in the artwork - things only I know are there Great idea.
    – Vector
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 3:40

It is virtually impossible to prevent people from stealing anything unless you keep if offline. DRM doesn't work. When you share anything, you automatically put it at risk. Look at the music industry - they aren't doing so well.

How you express an idea can by copyrighted, but the ideas itself can't. That's what a patent does. If you do a great design, someone can legally do a very similar design that uses the same style and elements. Many books and movies have a similar plotline, even though the original author tho pioneered the style might not want others to do so. It's an ethical thing - many people simply don't care and don't give respect. That's why people pirate software, download music, and cause the big mess we have.

My suggestion to you is to keep doing what you do best. As Scott said, be the trend setter and lead the path, not follow it. Think of sharing as a promotion, not a burden.

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    Think of sharing as a promotion, not a burden : If you don't get credit, hard to consider it promotion.
    – Vector
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 3:41
  • @d.free - Thanks.. You pretty much summed it up right there. It is what it is, and as I recited your comments to my wife, she seemed to have a sense of validation.
    – Bryan G
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 8:59
  • @ComeAndGo Instead of asking people to remove your stuff outright, you can try to ask them to give you credit instead. That's what Creative Commons does.
    – user12576
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 15:31

As far as the format of your question goes, it might be a good idea try and trim it down a bit to the core issue, although certainly the additional "texture" is quite readable and gives some good perspective on the issue.

As for a solution to the problem: I don't think it's really possible to do anything about it, although there have been some improvements that afford some protections, such as Adobe Flash Player, which has graphic content embedded such that's it not on your browser itself. Still, printScrn is always there, and an idea or concept can always be copied by another professional artist, and sometimes (not always...) that's entirely legal and ethical.

IMO, unless you want to spend your life chasing people around the world for copyright lawsuits, etc, the only thing that really can be done is to make sure you get compensated appropriately for your original work and be satisfied with that, knowing that once it's "out there", it's OUT THERE.

  • Thanks for the format tip and nice to see you over here. :) Regarding such protections as Adobe Flash etc.., in this case, does not help as copiers simply look at the photo, go out and buy the same props, etc.. and then post the copy as it were their own. With companies it is a bit more structured but we have to keep a close eye on them as well. They tend to want to get ideas, photos etc.. for very little or say they will give exposure.. Your last paragraph is what I tell her often among other things, which helps until the next time...
    – Bryan G
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 23:23

The Myth of Originality

"There is nothing new under the sun."

All ideas are borrowed, regurgitated, forgotten, rediscovered, adapted, reconfigured, improved upon, or badly copied. Art, like life itself, is an infinite tapestry of experiences & ideas.

Where once art history was divided into eras of different styles and philosophies, we now realize that these lines are much more blurred. For example, an artist of today could work on a Cubist painting because he/she feels that not all of Cubism's possibilities or questions were addressed. We couldn't say that they were copying Picasso or other artists of that era. Rather, it is likely that they are building upon similar ideas.

It is when work is being copied blindly, with ulterior motives & for profit that this becomes a problem. If the work is a counterfeit-like clone, that has no respect of the original artist's ideas, you stand a chance of seeking legal redress against the copier. However, it's important to note that there are rights to parody a work of art - that is, to appropriate an image for a particular reason i.e. in order to criticize an artist's ideas about religion, politics, gender, etc. If the copy is nothing more than an empty clone, you may be able to sue for copyright. If the copy defames the original artist, there may be defamation laws that apply to this scenario.


Perspectives on the "ownership" of artwork have been fraught with change in recent times. Much more so now that the internet has made ideas easier to share. Because of this, it is becoming more difficult for artists & designers to say that this idea or experience is "mine". When you publish work, you're effectively opening it up to criticism. And artwork can be criticized with other artwork which comments on the original. This is parody & satire, and usually this is legal.

Proof of Authorship

I'm no legal expert, however a tutor once told me this: If you mail yourself a copy of the artwork in question via registered post (don't open the mail when it arrives!), the date of the postal receipt should be sufficient proof that the artwork/design existed at a certain date.

If nothing else, a copy is a sign of flattery!

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