It usually begins when some close friend or follower from your audience makes you aware of the problem. It looks like there is a person out there taking advantage of your ideas for his own benefit, claiming to be the only author of the work and even talking about how hard it was working on it. Wait, what? That’s right.
In my experience, I don’t know why exactly this precise year 2018 is taking the cake in the field of being robbed by strangers, creatively speaking. The sure thing is that most of the time it was related to my Hidden Numbers project, which because its peculiarity, got a lot engagement online when I uploaded it, becoming the project with most views and comments from my portfolio so far.
It’s quite common sharing with peers and mates this kind of unexpected and unfortunate event that all of us go through once in a while. If someday you struggle with something like this, the best way to clarify your ideas and seeing the problem with perspective is talking with a friend or a colleague, preferably with one from your creative social circle. He or she will give you a more accurate point of view according to your work.
I personally lived several of these unfortunate experiences. Each one had its own peculiarities, so I should have dealt with all of them in a different way. But, instead of boring you with all the little details of every case, and making the feeling of this post too negative, I picked out one short story to show you my point.
What you are about to read next is my personal opinion based on my professional experience and my feelings and thoughts regarding the (sometimes) blurry boundaries between inspiration and copying.
Well, let’s hit the road.
In 2017, I was invited as a special guest by the team of 36 Days Of Type for developing the number five of that year’s series. It was such a pleasure! I had so much fun, that I finally did the whole numerology on my own.
The project received a Behance’s Blue Badge, so the views and engagement of the project increased x100 at that time. Many people saw the work, and some of them got so inspired that they tried to copy it, or as in this precise case, literally take it, deconstructed it and re-do it again.
It was just luck, probably I would never have realised about it if the actual “thief” hadn’t directly commented on one of my Dribbble posts. In fact, one related to the illustrations he took from me. Can you believe it? What was there in the mind of this guy? Maybe he didn’t realise that he acted wrongly... There are too many people thinking that they can take whatever they want if it has been uploaded to social platforms. They don’t understand about the Creative Commons or author rights. They don’t understand about all the effort and passion all of us put in on a daily basis.
The thief (listen to this) took every little frame of some pieces, which I used to create the shape of the numbers, and he put them together again to build the word DABBY, removing the filled colors and adding other little illustrations to fit everything again. What a huge amount of work hours just to copy to other person’s idea instead of creating something new and unique completely by yourself!
Btw, he didn’t only rob me, but also sold the illustration to a real company, which used it to install a big mural in their offices and used it for other branding purposes.
Fun fact. The guy commented back to all his followers, claiming all the effort he put into it, and how difficult it was building up the whole composition.
He removed everything and, in theory, contacted the company to do the same. But apparently, he did it just because I told him that I sold one of those numbers (illustrations) to a Chinese company call “Tiger Pan” and they registered the artwork to own the exploitation rights. So he told me then: Oh sorry! I didn’t know that the project was registered! I will remove it right away!
Yes, that’s right, he only felt sorry and apologised to me when I told him about the copyright violation.
From the moment you put your work online, you are vulnerable and susceptible to be copied. It’s something that you must face. It doesn’t matter if you did it in a low resolution. Anyone can take it and change it a little to improve the quality with Photoshop, or maybe that person only needs to do stickers or other small pieces who knows. To be honest, the fact of adding a watermark is not a valid resource here.
What should you do then?
The only thing you can do is keep working daily as hard as you can, or as hard as you want to make a living from it. Work hard to keep evolving your style, your resources and your ideas about how to translate your thoughts into real things to communicate and connect with your audience. To keep showing what you make through the social platforms, nowadays is the fastest and most reliable way to get attention. Don’t forget that these kind of people will always be behind you, eating the leftovers of your creativity andcheating themselves. And I know it’s tricky sometimes. It feels terrible to know that there are others ripping you off after all the love you put into your work, indeed it is. But we are in a perpetual loop. We need to upload our work online to show to the world what we are capable of to get commissions and grow as creative professionals. However, most of the time we are helpless against what others can do with our images, taking profit from it and not giving any credit to the real author.
For that reason, we should keep helping each other to tip the scales in our favor by contacting the person you think is being robbed, sharing the profile of the thief with your audience and reporting the abuse to the support department of the social platform. But, never forget to act carefully at first and depending on the case to start the conversation with respect.
So, forget the fact that there are vultures out there and just keep moving forward towards your goals and profesional dreams.