The "No New Ideas" Justification for Unethical CopyCat Behavior
June 07, 2012
Every so often, the ugly head of a monster in "maker land" rears its hideous head. The "No New Ideas" justification for Unethical Copycat Behavior. The horrible monster blows hot air and says, "we can all agree that very little is truly new," or that "there is nothing new under the sun."
While I agree that ideas are often culturally, historically, and socially based, and usually build on some precedent, this is no excuse to justify copycat behavior. Copycat behavior is not OK and it is time we stopped thinking it should just be overlooked. If someone copied you, it is not OK, and if someone else is copied, it is not OK.
Even if we did not act in the past, I hope we have learned our lesson. Past behavior does not have to be a model of future performance. While materials can not be copyrighted, there is a point where appropriating someone else's signature use of material is copycat behavior. Rampant examples abound of copycat twigs, stones, touchstones, beach stones, beach glass, earplugs, retro-romantic, wrapped wire, or fixtures that fit in your mouth. This is not an issue about sincerity, insincerity, like or dislike. It is lazy, self-serving, and misinformed. Any rationalization for adopting someone else's signature style is unethical.
It is time to say, "STOP the copycats."
Some people say they were "inspired" by someone else's work. Read, COPYCAT. There is a difference between inspiration and copy. Impressionists were inspired by Japanese prints, but they did not make copies of Japanese prints. Cubism was inspired by African art, but they did not make wood masks
The source of inspiration is not a template to copy but a departure point for personal exploration....moving well beyond the original territory of the idea. If you haven't moved far enough...then keep going, keep trekking on your own path, develop and experiment. Don't show, sell, display, publish or exhibit work "inspired" by another maker until your work has clearly moved beyond the inspiration with your own signature style.
In a related scenario, a gallery or store that sells a maker's work one year, and then a year or two later comes out with a similar line of their own work... that is too close to unethical for me. I really can't justify such behavior. It is copying, it is wrong, and a line in the sand should be drawn.
Related posts include:
A Twig Is A Twig Is A Twig*
Preventing Copycat Behavior
This post was updated on March 31, 2022.