Is copying flattery or theft?

There's nothing new about copying in design; Computer Arts covered it in its very first issue, and it was an age-old problem then. We've explained what to do if someone rips off your work, but what do top designers feel about copying in general? We asked them just that.

Eve Duhamel

"Plagiarism is a complete waste of time, and so boring. At the speed information and images travel nowadays, it will hardly go unnoticed. Inspiration, on the other hand, is filled with curiosity, taste for exploration and affinity with the beautiful. Getting inspired by everything around you, mixing it all together and spinning it in your head until you truly make it yours is not copying. It's evolving."

Eve Duhamel is a co-founder of ValléeDuhamel

Michael Johnson

"It's often a shock when our work is copied - most recently Mandagrams (Chineasy) and our St David's identity (Cancer Research). That's swiftly followed by the realisation that 'going legal' will cost upwards of £30k. Then there's the nagging doubt in your mind that even that project on your screen could itself be a copy. You just don't know it's a copy. Yet."

Michael Johnson is a founder of johnson banks

Marian Bantjes

"Where there is further exploration or distinct transformation, it's relatively fine. But if the copying is direct - the overt recreation of the source - it falls somewhere on the spectrum between lazy and illegal. I constantly have people telling me that someone has 'ripped me off' and nearly every time I look, it's perfectly fine. I have to explain that I don't own certain aspects of style that have been associated with my work. That said, I've called the lawyers three times to deal with issues of plagiarism and won a settlement each time."

Marian Bantjes is a designer and illustrator

Becca Allen

"One guy was copying a lot of my work a few years ago - it took a lot of stern emails for him to stop ripping me off, but in the end he turned out to be harmless. He was just an admirer, and thought by practicing exactly what I did he would get better at design. Now he emails me quite regularly for advice - he just wanted a bit of guidance."

Becca Allen is a designer and illustrator

Shadow Chen

"Mostly I feel sorry for the person who's doing the copying. It won't really damage or affect the original author because his or her style will always be evolving. It's more like cheating yourself, because being original is the first step and the most important part of any creative process."

Shadow Chen is an illustrator and digital artist

Richard Turley

"People are a bit angsty about always having to have the original idea, but I think it's good to admit we're a link in a chain. It's good to admit where ideas come from."

Richard Turley is a creative director at Bloomburg Businessweek

Illustration: Karin Soderquist

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 227. Tell us your views in the comments below...

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