Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Inspiration or Copying, where does the line start or end?

In college I graduated with a degree in Communications, but I emphasized all my studies in Media Production.  My favorite concentration within that field was videography of music. 

I loved the aspect that you could interpret an art such as music through the media of video.  Most of the bands I recorded were local bands who not only had their own unique music, but did a majority of their shows based upon cover songs.

This video has gone viral recently and is a cover of the song, “Somebody that I Used to Know” originally by Gotye, covered by Walk Off the Earth.  This band has been around for quite a long time doing covers and some of their own unique songs, but gained the most attention from around the world by their interpretation of this song.

Pretty amazing right?

A part of me has been reflecting back to my days of studying music and how bands can become widely known based off a cover.  This isn’t the first time it has happened, and now a days, with all the music inspired reality shows, contestants are highly encouraged to NOT use their own music and solely do covers for the contest.  It’s easier for others to relate, and they then can concentrate on how that specific musician is using their talents to produce their interpretation of that song. 

Can creativity be measured by interpretation of an original piece of art?

This applies to all fields of art, and has been one that I had a huge hurdle with recently.  In the blogging world, inspiration is all around us.  Most bloggers publish their projects and tutorials specifically so they can teach and show others how they did this creation so others can replicate them.  However it has been such a hurdle to overcome and learn to understand the difference between being inspired and copying.  To me, describing the difference as a grey area doesn’t even begin to describe it.  More like a blurry rainbow where there are no straight solid lines, there’s no white or black or even grey.  It’s all a big messy blur of colorful lines that can be heresay. 

A lot of my posts on my blog are DIY projects with tutorials.  Therefore, I don’t mind if others copy my projects, in fact it is encouraged, I want you to do my projects, I hope to inspire you.  Do I care if you copy bullet for bullet point? Nope.  Do I want you to take the idea of what I created and put your own creativity spin on it? Only if that’s what you want to do. 

But then we come to the other side of PB&J…. the creations side.  My business side on Etsy, where I create pieces of art for a profit.  And ever since I have opened that business the line of inspiration and copying has been a hard battle.  I am a little more protective over my signs in my shop, as I make those for others to decorate their homes with and I want them to make others happy.  But I also do it as a business, to make money.  So I am a more protective over how those inspire others to make their own creations.

It’s a battle to wonder how truly unique your own ideas are.  You may come up with a design, a project, an idea that you feel is unique to your style but may have become inspired from a different source and just not realized it, or remembered that specific original source.  A seed was planted in your mind, and you let your own creativity take over it. 

In a world where others’ products are seconds away on sources such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and especially Pinterest, inspiration is all around us.  How do you know when your creativity is within limits of inspiration or breaking the rules of copying and infringement?
Even within a couple months of opening my business I’ve already had to handle situations of copyright infringement and stealing intellectual property.  It’s not fun.  I don’t enjoy it, and I almost just wish that this niche we are a part of in the blogging/diy world was as accepting as the music industry is.  Why is it a band can do a cover of a song, use the exact words, perhaps even the exact sound (as the example given in the beginning) and not only not get in trouble for producing it, but is what they become famous for?  Last week I was hit with my biggest hurdle of copyright issues and it sunk me into a deep hole.  The finger was pointed at me this time, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything except that issue the entire few days after the first contact was made.  I even spent hours crying over it and my husband asked me are you this upset because you’re mad at yourself for doing it, or because she is blaming you?

Truth is…. a part of me was so upset because I felt attacked.  I felt like in the grand scheme of things what I did was nothing.  The sign in question was one I posted about on my blog.  I wasn’t selling it in my Etsy shop.  I didn’t receive money for it.  I just made it because someone asked me to make “this sign” for them and after seeing the original piece and being told they want the same colors, I sat at my computer trying to come up with my own design.  I could have copied it design for design, but I didn’t.  I took the time to use my own inspiration.  And yet, within hours of posting the images on my blog I was contacted by the original artist for accusing of copyright infringement.  Yet this seller is BIG, she is a seller of home décor signs and in so many different stores I can’t even count.  Most likely, if you walk into a home décor store, her signs are there.  Why did my interpretation of her sign given as gift to someone make her contact me so quickly in regards to copyright? Truthfully, she had the right too and I don’t blame her for protecting her work.  I mean it was her piece I took my inspiration from and my defense argument was not strong.  My biggest defense on why I felt attacked was because I knew of about 10 other Etsy shops AT LEAST that were selling complete 100% design replicas of her sign, and they were selling them, for a profit.  Why weren’t they contacted?

I almost threw my hat in the rink and gave up on it all.  I felt that if I was contacted for infringement for this sign…. I didn’t feel safe creating pieces anymore, worried someone always would be pointing fingers that it too closely replicated their design. 

I almost envy musicians being able to create covers of songs.  Having those covers make them more relateable, more appealing to more audiences, and perhaps what makes them famous.  My point isn’t that I want to copy signs of others and wish it was okay.  My point is why can’t the creativity of interpreting your inspiration be enough?  At what point does inspiration end and copying begin. 

Love is a battlefield? Try creativity is a battlefield.

In the end I will continue creating my own designs for my shop and try my hardest to truly make my signs unique and have my own personal style to them so they’re recognizable as mine.  I want when someone sees a sign on Pinterest, or online or wherever they can actually tell that it was created by PB&Jcreations.  In the end I think that is the most important when creating something, is to have your own true unique style on it.  Whether or not it is one of a kind, or was inspired by another piece if you can create it with your own style, then you are within the lines of inspiration.

My disclaimer: I am not an expert on copyright, or infringement or anything.  These are the words that have been sitting in my head the past couple weeks and I wanted to share with my readers.  An inside view to my heart and my mind, nothing else.




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24 comments :

  1. Ugh. So sorry you had/are going through this. I've only been blogging for about 7 months now but things definitely seem to get out of hand on certain topics. It stinks when you know you meant no harm and someone else thinks you do. I have found that the internet/email creates so many more issues for people/business b/c of the lack of human/face to face interaction. Hang in there! Hopefully you will feel better soon :)

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    1. Thank you so much Jessica, internet and email can be great for so many things but displaying true emotion is one if it's biggest challenges to correctly show. She was kind about it, and we had a very good conversation regarding it and in the end she wished me the best of luck in my business venture. I appreciated her kindness when talking about it so there were no biter sides.
      Thanks again!

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  2. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this right now. I struggle with the same thing when I'm creating the free printables. Sometimes I'll do an exact copy of something I love, just because I want it for me but I won't post it on the blog, because I don't want to look like I'm copying. But if someone requested a specific sign, what can you do? It's not like you're selling it! Bloggers copy each other all the time. I agree with the above commenter as well - you have to take emails with a grain of salt. It's hard to "read" the emotion behind it. And she may have written the email in the heat of the moment. Did you reply to her? And more importantly, are you going to tell me who it was??? ;)

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    1. I believe it's just as much of a struggle to come up with printables, especially when you make the free ones. If you're giving yours away for free does that give free reign for others to just copy you?
      Thanks for your support!

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  3. UGH!!! I feel your pain Pamela! I can tell you have done a ton of serious thinking. So sorry you had to go through this. You are a kind and genuine person and you are truly talented. Your signs are unique and beautifully made! Something similar happened to me once and it really shook me up. Hang in there friend :)

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    1. Thank you for such sweet words Ali, you're always such a great friend!!

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  4. I'm so sorry you are having this problem lately. I don't know anything about copyright infringements, but I wanted to just tell you to keep your chin up! Hopefully everything works out with the current issue. I feel like it's pretty impossible to know whether something you come up with or are inspired to create has some kind of copywrite on it somewhere. So hard to deal with! Just wanted to show my support *hugs*.

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  5. Keep your chin up and keep creating! :)

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    1. Means a lot coming from you! xoxo

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    2. copyright is so hard. lots of my designs get copied, sometimes to the font and exact letter placement. it's hard to deal with and i definitely have had my moments where i just think it's not worth all the stress.
      but i have come to the realization that it's just a part of this world we live in. i just keep trying to be as original as I can be and hope that my style and creativity shows in my work and sets it apart from the rest.
      stay positive!! it sounds like from your comment above that the person who contacted you handled the situation professionally and with grace! that says a lot about you and your business. keep doing what you are doing!! xo

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    3. and here is one of my favorite quotes. i have it hanging in my studio so that i can see it and remember it, each day. http://pinterest.com/pin/198017714835440409/

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  6. Oh no Pamela, It's things like this that makes me not want to open up an etsy shop. Nothing is original nowadays. I hope everything works out for you. Your art work is beautiful and deserves to be shown to the world :) Best of luck

    Mandy

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    1. You'll have challenges no matter what field you go into so don't let this reason be one that stops you from opening an Etsy shop, or even an online website to sell your products. In the grand scheme of things if you stay genuine to who you are, you'll only succeed!

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  7. I'm so sorry... I've never noticed anything of yours to be anything but yours and I do automatically think of you when I see one of your signs. Stay strong and keep making beautiful signs.

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    1. That makes me incredibly happy to hear Beth, so thank you so much!

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  8. Unfortunately, this is why I do not want to open an Etsy store. Stinks!

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  9. I'm so sorry to hear that Pam!
    I LOVE YOU and YOUR WORK!! Don't let this discourage you. I think your signs are unique!
    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE having your signs in my home! I've gotten TONS of compliments on them!
    Especially the one I asked you to make for my dinning room! :)

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  10. Pamela- you have wonderfully amazing product line and business! I am truly truly sorry that this happen, but also reassured in humanity knowing that the woman handled the situation very gracefully. Things will work out, and until then, try not to stress too much (easier said than done... I know). :)

    I'm working on starting a little venture of my own... and this honestly terrifies me!

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  11. These are great words for all of us to hear! Especially us blog readers - to keep in mind which things are tutorial (and go-ahead-and-copy) based and which things belong to someone's heart and livelihood. My husband has a graphic design firm and so we've talked about this issue from both sides of the coin as well. The design world certainly is a tricky place. Thank you for your words on this post and also for your lovely blog. It definitely brightens up my day and inspires me a lot! Just working up the guts to paint my curtains now... thankyouthankyouthankyou!

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  12. Oh my gosh, Pamela. I am so sorry for you!! It must have been SCARY to open an email like that. But you know what? NOTHING is original these days. NOTHING. And if people can make something for significantly less, why not? We blog to share ideas and give inspiration to others and to eachother. It should be a community of respect, not finger pointing. Pinterest is totally coming under fire because nothing is credited back to the original creator. But really? How can we? The internet is so huge, sources get lost. It's crazy.

    So, so sorry you are going through this. Hang in there!

    xoxo,
    Carrie@2friends2cities

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  13. If I understand the overall problem correctly, it really should only come to copyright infringement when someone tries to sell the copied product as their own. That can't ever be ok to a fair minded individual. It's really no different than when in school if someone took your paper and passed it off as their own, or copied your answers and claimed them as theirs. Nobody likes that, nobody every will.

    But DIYing things for our own homes has been around hundreds of years. Rarely are they exact replicas unless the creator has been generous enough to share a how-to. And therefore giving permission to copy.

    The difference seems to fall two places: (1) is it an idea, or is it already a particular product (2) is it for sale or for personal use.

    I find it an interesting subject. And one most people haven't thought much about, so it is good to see it being addressed from many different angles.

    kathy

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  14. First, I am so sorry that you are going through this! I know situations like this aren't fun, especially when you meant no harm by it. I honestly don't think you did anything wrong AT ALL! For what it's worth, I think this is such a great post because it addresses a lot of great issues, things I've thought a lot about since I started blogging less than a year ago. The line between copying and 'inspiring' is so messy, especially with recipes! sheesh! You are doing such great work and have built a beautiful blog, don't let anything get you down!

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Love hearing back from my readers, you make my day! Thanks, Pamela of PBJstories

 
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