In light of my recent post on copyright, and a post last year highlighting a concept I call "the creative divine", I thought it was time for a new discussion on the birthplace of creativity and our rights as creative souls.
I received a comment today that suggested we are all "vessels" receiving ideas from something higher, greater, even entirely outside ourselves and can claim no real ownership of them. And, while I agree with this idea from a spiritual perspective, as expressed in my Creative Divine post, I'd like to discuss the intricacies of this belief. Because like with all things this subjective, there is no black and white.
While the idea of legally protecting your work might seem counter-intuitive to the concept that ideas originate from an external "divine" source, these two concepts (one spiritual, one material) work well to support one another in furthering a socially creative and balanced universal whole.
My response to the idea of "vessels" was such:
So what does this mean?
Ideas may originate from something removed from ourselves, but in order to realize those ideas, we each imbue them with our own life story. A belief that "there is nothing new under the sun", an ideology rampant in the creative community, really suggests the artist isn't expressing their own story... they are re-telling the stories of others. And I entirely support the belief that people have a right to protect their own stories.
I'm not saying it's not acceptable to learn through mimicry (with permission, of course). That is part of our story as well. But it is not the whole of it. That we should stop sharing our story because of a self-sabotaging belief there is nothing original to express... that is a sad silencing of our own voice. Even with permission or tutorials, I encourage everyone to push beyond that story, and make it your own. Consider it this way: that tutorial is only the first chapter in a much larger book.
So I suppose my advice is this: read the stories of others, appreciate them, absorb them and use them to further your own. No idea needs ever be repeated twice when the vessels are always unique. Don't deny your own vessel an opportunity to spill out your story.
Without the express written permission of the artist, it is never okay to copy their work.
According to the US Copyright Office, there is no such number or percentage of change expected (often called the woefully inaccurate "change 10%" rule) before a work is considered original, so to copy in any capacity in which you are not granted permission, is to open yourself to possible legal recourse. While I've done extensive research, read the laws, contacted copyright professionals and experts, I encourage everyone to contact the copyright office themselves to clarify these legal guidelines.
I had debated this post for weeks. I had considered my words carefully. Too carefully, in fact, because while I was thinking about what to say, I was saying nothing at all, and becoming a victim of my own reactions to the infringement of my creative efforts.
I had once made a conscious decision not to police every incident of theft I experienced, else find myself devoting all my creative energy to protecting my creative rights, instead of actually creating. But this is not to say that copyright infringement hasn't left its scars despite my best intentions.
When the conversation of infringement reaches from the shadows of public discourse, I often hear this: "You should consider it a compliment!"
Or: "Don't worry about them. Consider it a challenge to improve your own work."
Or (and this is the most troubling of them all): "If you put it on the internet, you have to expect that someone will copy it." And while you may expect it, you do not ever have to accept it.
And it is not a compliment. It's an insult to the creative process, to the hours each artist dedicates to improving their skill, creating designs and combining the elements of design into cohesive work that represents their creative soul and spirit. It is an insult to enjoy the work enough to copy it but not enough to purchase it and support the artistic vision of those who created it.
I understand these are not the subjects many like to entertain, that there is this belief we should focus on the beauty and art of creation, even at the expense of moral and legal discussion. However, as a victim to infringement more than a dozen times in the last month alone, I am finding it a distraction too constant to ignore. I decided it was important to discuss the impact this theft, no matter how innocent the intent, is to the artist who experiences it.... how painful it is to throw yourself into work, into pushing the boundaries of your talents, and find those efforts disrespected.
So what is the message here?
Common courtesy. It takes 30 seconds to ask for permission, and even less time to respect the response you receive.
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