We are all inspired by the things we see around us. It’s natural. In fact, it’s a good thing to take inspiration from your industry and from everything else that delights you. But, there is also a line between what is inspiration and what is stealing or accidental copying.
Sometimes that line can be hard to see. There’s the basic inspiration, there’s an homage, there’s a parody, and then there’s plagiarism or theft of another’s work.
Here are some tips for using inspiration to your advantage without stealing from others.
How to Ethically Get Inspired
1. Gather Many Sources
Inspiration is a good thing. Understanding what has worked in the past and being able to build on is an important part of the design and creative process. So, naturally, you’ll want to pull together bits of inspiration when you take on a new project.
Start by gathering loads of examples of inspiration. By pulling together a large number of inspiration pieces, you are less likely to “accidentally” create something that looks too similar to any one piece.
Pull little bits of ideas from several things that you can then craft into your own work.
2. Compare the Results
It’s not that hard to tell if you’ve ripped something off. Once you have completed work on your project, revisit the examples that you pulled for inspiration. Take a hard look at each of them and compare them to your project. If anything looks too similar to something that was already created, go back and refine or alter your work.
You have the opportunity to avoid issues later by taking a few minutes to review before releasing your project to the world.
It may not seem like practice would be the antidote for stealing, but it can help dramatically. Here’s why.
Many times when an artist “steals” work it’s because they don’t have the ability to create their vision on their own. They look for things that are already successful and they copy them to the best of their abilities.
The more you practice your own craft, the better you will get at expressing your vision without the help of others. You’ll also take more pride in the work you do and have more desire to have your work stand on its own.
4. Have a Heart
There’s an old saying that goes “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” This just isn’t true. In fact, attribution is a more sincere form of flattery and one that any artist would prefer.
When you rip off someone else, even if you think it’s some obscure piece that no one will find, you are basically saying that the other artist isn’t worthy of the attention and that you should get the credit instead.
You run the risk of not only angering another artist, and facing potential legal problems, but you also can cause stress, frustration, and financial loss to the other artist. Would you want to be on the other end of that scenario? If the answer is no, don’t put someone else there.
It’s not worth hurting other people financially or otherwise just to make a few bucks for yourself. Stand on your own two feet and make your own way. You’ll feel better about it in the end.
As we said in the beginning, the line between inspiration and stealing can sometimes be thin, but it’s easy enough to walk on the right side with a little thought, compassion, and creative spirit of your own. Draw from those before you, build on top of those ideas, and create something worthy of inspiration to others down the line.
And remember, if you aren’t sure whether your work is infringing on someone else’s, err on the side of caution and make changes to make it more original. It’s just the right thing to do.