Saturday, February 8, 2014
Imitation-- Not the Sincerest Form of Flattery
You may have heard the phrase “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. It's not. It's unethical and usually illegal. I'm not talking about an individual who sees something in a tutorial or on a website and tries a technique or copies a colorway. That's how we learn, as we grope our way to our own authentic voice.
I'm talking about an individual who deliberately took original content she learned in my workshop and then shoehorned into a mixed-media class that she then shopped to a major jewelry venue, with nary a change in that content (right down to using the same phrases used in my class description!) and most certainly not the significant amount that the US Patent Office would deem necessary to claim that a true innovation had been made.
And the thing that's most appalling is that the way many people choose to deal with this is to let the imposter get away with it. We are so averse to confrontation in our society these days that we would just let people steal our ideas, ideas which were so hard-won, that we birthed from our creative souls and nurtured so they could grow to eventually inspire others.
Things people have said to make me feel better: “Artists XYZ used to send “Cease and Desist” letters-- now they just laugh” (really? What's funny about being ripped off?) “Ms. Artist-Well-Known said people copy her all the time so she's just decided to 'let it go'--the implication being “better artists than you just 'let it go'-- why are you persisting?
Because it has to stop. And it won't by itself. It will stop because we, as a culture of artists, demand that original content cannot be used without permission. If I teach you a technique, you can use that technique for your own work but you may NOT teach that content, under any circumstances—not to your guild or to your niece or to your neighbor and definitely not to workshop participants at a national jewelry venue. I love that you were inspired by my class but what are you adding to the content to make it really yours?
As Harriete Estel Berman cautions:
“If you haven't made a significant leap, not a stepping stone but a leap onto a new path, then you're teaching derivative content and run the risk of being a “workshop imposter”. And if you don't really surpass the “workshop master” into new territory, everyone will see you as a “workshop imposter".
Here's an article from the American Crafts Council called "Ali Baba and the Copycat Thieves"http://craftcouncil.org/post/alibaba-and-copycat-thieves.
Lots of food for thought here.