Posted by: nallen123 | November 5, 2012

Inspiration or Infringement?

As a designer, copyright awareness is often a daily reality for me. Whether the concern is about protecting my own original work or taking care to properly reference someone else’s pattern, design, or image, copyright can be a very murky area when it comes to creative endeavors. According to a University of Rhode Island music video, copyright exists to promote creativity and Metropolis magazine offers that, “it protects the manner in which an idea is expressed.” For creatives with completed, original works, copyright is a very good thing.

But what about sources of inspiration?

The creative process relies on inspiration and/or the learning of new techniques, before a work can be made. Unfortunately, there is a fine line between inspiration and outright copying. According to conversations on various design blogs (e.g. papernstitch, benzie, decor8), simple ignorance of that distinction perpetuates copyright infringement. The consensus among designers seems to be that if the work is for personal use, it’s okay to replicate. But if it will garner a profit, it’s infringing on copyright.

Much of the responsibility of following the rules and educating the public rests on designers. One commenter, Jen, said, “I’ve had clients who will tell me they want ‘that exact flower’ and I just have to talk to them about the process of creating illustrations and graphics.” The reality of intellectual property in today’s internet-saturated culture is easily overlooked. Just because creative work is easy to access, doesn’t mean it’s available to copy.

How can creatives better educate ourselves, our clients, and each other to be better stewards of intellectual property?


  1. […] Inspiration or Infringement? ( […]

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