Between October and November of 2017, I learned of (1) a man in Cleveland claiming to be me, (2) a man in Akron claiming responsibility for my work, (3) two Etsy vendors selling photos of my work as coffee mugs, coasters, and pillows, (4) a non-profit plagiarizing my writing, and (5) a national organization plagiarizing my methodology.
This is not the first time that I’ve encountered any of these indiscretions, and I've been an artist long enough to know my rights. It just represented the first time I’ve suffered so many in such a short time. And you know what? It made me really, really angry.
Here are some instructions for stealing my work. If you're going to do it, you better do it right.
1. Pretending to Me
Good luck. Three people have tried. The first was for vanity, the second an ill-conceived con, and the most recent is a case of mental instability.
My recommendation: be yourself.
2. Claiming My Work
Easy to do, difficult to carry out. Nothing is hidden. Every time someone has claimed my work, their story has been shot full of holes. The most recent instance was particularly amusing because the perpetrator was trying to do it to my face. I had some fun with that one.
My recommendation: claim the inspiration, not the work.
3. Selling Copies of My Work
This is a tricky one. Photographers, videographers, and designers often sell my work without knowing it. Their photos, videos, and designs feature my creative content. A cease and desist can do the trick, but pointing out the offense is usually embarrassment enough.
My recommendation: give credit to the artist(s).
4. Plagiarizing My Writing
Laziness is a common cause of plagiarism. Sometimes it happens by accident. The most recent offense featured a screenshot from a strategic document I wrote which someone claimed as their own copy. I caught the offense and will never work with them again.
My recommendation: put it in your own words.
5. Plagiarizing My Methodology
Get a lawyer. If I prove that you violated trademark and stole a proprietary method or design, you're going to be in trouble. Imitation is flattering, but profiting off of other people's ideas is morally and creatively bankrupt. It will catch up with you.
My recommendation: ask for permission.
As an artist, it is impossible to list all of our sources and inspirations. They make us who we are and are part of everything we do. It is a telling sign that every guilty party was deeply embarrassed by the revelation, apologized sincerely, and immediately retracted the offending work.
The business of art can be fast and unforgiving. Creatives don't always have the time to be as original, thorough, and courteous as we would like. But we can do better and should.
If you steal one thing from this article, let it be this: always cite your sources. It's hard to be mad at people who give credit where credit is due.
– by Mac Love