Inspiration by other people’s work vs plagiarism: Where is the line?

Olga Zakharova, an illustrator selling works on photo stocks, shared her thoughts on inspiration from other people’s works, which sometimes leads to plagiarism.


Not so long ago I came across the portfolio of a girl who, for my taste, was too much inspired by some of my work. Her logos were not copied from mine one-to-one – that is, the lines did not match when superimposing one image on another, but the drawings are so visually similar that it cannot be a simple coincidence.

On the left is my work, on the right is not mine. Even the author was lazy to change the colors πŸ™‚

In general, I was ready for this – when you blog and your pictures creep out to the tops, at some point there are those who want to do something similar. This is inevitable, and I’m not the first one with whom this happened – Varya once talked about her butterflies, Lesha – about the little men. But even if you are ready for something, it does not mean that something does not cause negative feelings πŸ™‚

It is always disgusting when you sit, waste time and energy, invent something from scratch, and then someone clever comes to “ready-made” – and uses your ideas, and even with a clear desire to make money on them. You know, like in school – a poor student ran up at recess, stole your notebook, copied your homework, and answered “five”. And it would be fine that this homework was one for everyone, and this, say, was something author’s and that you had to come up with, and his answer seemed to spoil all the raspberries for you.

How to deal with plagiarism

I’m already looking forward to how commentators will split into two camps – some will say that it’s bad to copy other people’s work, others – what’s wrong with that, the elements in the pictures are different, this is not plagiarism.

And then I agree – yes, this is not plagiarism. Because the lines, as I said above, do not match. And it is useless to sue / complain to Shutterstock for such copying – copyright does not apply to the idea. But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical. And it does not mean that you can afford to be inspired in such detail by other people’s works.

For those who consider it normal to copy other people’s work, I suggest thinking about the following:

At first, copies are always worse than the original. Both in quality and in sales.

Secondly, copying other people’s work, you will never develop your own style and become a top author. Serious customers will not come to you and you will be forced to work in the manner of a Chinese factory that makes a fake Louis Vyutton. That is, it takes a long time and dreary to churn out other people’s tops until the “police” come and “arrest”))

Thirdly, The stock world is VERY small. Everyone notices everything and notoriety scatters very quickly.

There is a small percentage of people who copy other people’s work out of ignorance. Well, they do not know that this is impossible, and they have never heard of the existence of copyright. Is it any wonder in a country where pretty serious businesses do not hesitate to use pictures from Yandex.fotok in their promotions (well, what is posted on the Internet), and people who buy a licensed version of the program and not download from a torrent are looked at as abnormal? Probably not.

Therefore, when they ask me for the hundredth time, β€œis it possible to put a picture drawn according to the lesson on the stocks” (when at the beginning a picture is given and it is explained step by step how to do exactly the same), I patiently answer – no, it is impossible, because- then and for this reason.

And in general, copying other people’s work is a useful and good thing if it is done for training and development, and not for easy money.

After all, when people learn to play the guitar, they play famous melodies, and not something of their own from scratch. And when studying an illustrator, you can (and should) copy work from the lessons and just try to draw what someone liked in the portfolio – this helps a lot to understand what a person was thinking about when he drew a picture, how he organized objects, layers how he achieved these or those effects.

But! You do not need to strive for EVERYTHING that comes out of the pen, spread on the drains πŸ™‚ You need to leave something in the bins. All the same, people who are trying to make money from everything that is drawn, in practice, earn less (several times) than those who approach the process more thoughtfully and put only decent work on stocks.

To be inspired or not?

There is also a downside to the medal – they often write to me, they say, I’m afraid to look at the tops of Shutterstock, because suddenly I will see something like that there, it will sit somewhere in my memory, and then I will sit down to draw on a similar topic, accidentally repeat the picture and me banned …

So – if you do not have a goal to copy someone else’s picture and you do not draw your own, looking at someone else’s at the same moment, you can not worry. Accidentally repeating someone else’s illustration from memory so that there is something to ban for is unrealistic. And adequate people, before complaining to the support, usually try to contact the author and resolve the issue in an amicable way, so in the portfolio it is necessary to indicate the method of communication – a Facebook page, for example.

By the way, I also wrote to this girl. There was no answer, the work was not deleted, but I still hope that at some point she will feel a little ashamed of her actions and she will find the best use for her talents.

How to be inspired by other people’s work correctly and ethically:

● Look at the work of many authors, and not one or two – so there is less chance of accidentally repeating someone else’s style;
● Cultivate a sense of beauty – looking at other people’s work, answer the question: what did I like about this picture?
● If you don’t know how to draw an object, use photo references, not pictures. I will write about references in detail very soon.

And yes – you should not copy not only the works themselves, but also descriptions with keywords. Thoughtful attribution of stock files takes a lot of time, and it is extremely annoying when someone comes along and distorts one-to-one. Respect other people’s work πŸ™‚

PS I think that everything that could be said in the comments has already been said, so I consider the discussion closed – to be honest, I’m tired of wasting time on useless arguments. I ask especially zealous commentators to remember that this is my personal blog, and I have the right to express my personal feelings and opinions in it, and to do it in the format in which I think it is correct, and with the facts that I consider necessary to cite. If something does not suit you, no one drags you here by force πŸ™‚ Special thanks to all adequate people, I know that you are here and there are many of you πŸ™‚

Author: Olga Zakharova
Cover photo: ShutterStock

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