It’s been done before…

Some friends and I got into a spirited discussion today about people who don't really infringe copyright, but who create derivative work; basically building on someone else's idea, but so close an imitation that it's uncomfortable, at least for the first person with the idea! To be totally honest, we all build on the work of others, because there's nothing really new under the sun, as wise King Solomon once stated so eloquently. But what does that mean for those of us who are here 3,000 years later? There's no better way to learn your craft than from experts: art schools use the work of masters to teach art, and often have their students copy those works to learn those techniques...  In photography we often try the same shots with the same positions and try to imitate lighting that works, or a particular technique we like, but eventually as we grow artistically, we grow out of the imitations when we learn to see what we're doing, and put our own twist on it. At some point we have to quit copying, hopefully before we try to make a living at it. There are many incarnations of the individual with no originality. There's the simple imitator: someone who doesn't know any better or who doesn't think of creative efforts as intellectual property, something that is owned. They think "I like that thing, I'm going to make it too, or take it for my own use."  They want money, but they don't want to make the effort to think up their own stuff or do something different. They in effect say 'This sells, so I'm going to do it too' with no thought as to whether what they're doing is right or decent, just whether it might sell. Some seem to think that because something is on the internet or electronic, it doesn't count. And of course, we've talked about the "Art should be Free" guy that seems to think that art should be free until it gets to him, then he can charge for it, or take credit for it. Hate that guy. A lot. Throw darts at his picture. Blech. OK. So we're responsible people who respect others and don't want to rip them off. What do we do? Obviously in a world of almost 8 billion people, someone else has had your idea, or something close to it. So do you stop creating for fear that you're imitating someone else? No. Because if you're doing what you love, and you keep doing it and stretching yourself, you're going to build a personal style that stops being 'just another picture of the same old thing'. Here's a quote to think about that says the same thing far more eloquently: Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. C. S. Lewis What if what you're trying has been done before, and so very well that you're intimidated by it? 'I might as well give up because I'll never be that good" you say to yourself. If you give up, you never will be that good, you're right.... but if you don't give up, you just might one day meet that artist, and he might ask you 'How did you do that?? It was amazing!!' All that said, what if you're the one being imitated or ripped off? Remember that EXIF data we talked about last time? That's your friend. Make sure your camera or software records it accurately, and if someone rips off your picture, you will be able to prove it. Also, put signatures on your work that are not easy to remove. So in closing, please respect others. Even if you don't mind if someone takes your original work and uses it, others may not feel the same. Please respect that. 🙂

One Reply to “It’s been done before…”

Comments are closed.