Deep Thought Thursday: Stealing your ideas

Deep thoughts happen even on Christmas Eve!

How do you handle it when you think another artist is “stealing” your ideas?

Caroline Douglas, The Chariot Race. Ceramic Sculpture. ©The Artist
Caroline Douglas, The Chariot Race. Ceramic sculpture. ©The Artist

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27 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Stealing your ideas”

  1. After reveling in the flattery, I’d e-mail them and anonymously ask them their inspiration! I accidentally saw and artist from Portland’s website one day on a random click through. She had a series of paintings that closely resembled a series I had done. My inspiration for the series was from a dream and was totally original……..I think I read she was inspired by a camping trip or something. Art will overlap, I’m too busy painting to worry if someone is “ripping” me off.

    I’m celebrating Christmas and Christ’s birth! I trust whatever you all are celebrating this season it is filled with loved ones and hope…..and ART!

  2. Many years ago, before i was a commercial artist, I read something about another artist who posted his notebooks online, fully readable, complete with all his notes for future projects. Someone asked if he was scared someone would steal his ideas and his answer was ‘they can drink the water, but I own the well’.

  3. Well, ideas can’t be copyrighted. *shrug* I see quite a few artists who are inspired by the same things as me and the images sometimes, small online or from a distance, look similar. But in the end I know my technique is different and have to have confidence in how I paint it. I paint something that is extremely over-used as a subject by artists. 😉

    To be fair I’ve never had a rip-off but would be extremely surprised if I saw something that actually looked the same. If it was clearly copying I’d get in touch with DACS for legal advice and go from there. But it would have to be really identical, with so many artists doing abstracts of the sea only a blatant case would be a worry to me.

  4. its all been done before, if an artist thinks someone is copying them, chances are some one did it before them too and prob done it better.

    just cuz an artist does something dosent make it “original”

  5. The only thing I recall was a college student painted a dorm room wall with my barn image – another one was a young artist took my postcard and returned the next day with their rendition and showed it to me. All very flattering.

    My hero Wolf Kahn expects you to copy him.

  6. I think that if it was a direct copy, that someone was marketing and selling, then you have legal avenues to pursue.

    I think it’s hard to steal an artist’s ideas – simply because those ideas aren’t firmed up until they are completed works of art (and sometimes not even then) and therefore are malleable. I think the only time you might have to worry is if you have a truly original and innovative idea, and someone swipes it from you and makes it public in their name first. That might sting a little, but, you wouldn’t realize how much impact the idea would have until it was completed and in the public eye anyway.

    That’s the really cool and fun thing about being a creative person. I can make more.

  7. I’ve always felt that fear from this sort of thing stems from feeling a lack of control of the circumstances around you. I would think that one way to help others quell their fears about ideas being stolen would be to help them get better organized. If you have a pretty good idea at all times where your work is, how it is being presented, how long it will remain in the public eye, etc., then you feel better, and in more control, of your work.

    If something does happen that you aren’t comfortable with, at the least you can look back over your records and determine where and when the idea or image was probably swiped, and make changes and adjustments to prevent it from happening again. It could also help you track down who did the swiping.

    Good record keeping really does seem to help in so many facets of my art business (and it took me a long time to figure that out).

  8. All: I’m loving your attitudes. This is what I want to hear! Now, how can we convey this to those who are more fearful? Of course, there are a number of artists who have legitimate gripes, but I think the cream always rises to the top. Keep doing what you do best!

  9. I’d shoot them, or put out a contract with someone who would. 🙂
    Seriously, depending on how extensive it was, I would talk to them, preferably face-to-face and ask them where they got their ideas and how their concept was identical to mine. Of course I might be a bit flattered to think mine was so good that they felt they needed to copy it. Merry Christmas!

  10. When I used to fly alot, I always felt like my brushing my teeth…I had an idea for a toothpaste gum & told anyone who would listen…Sure enough someone came out with toothpaste gum & I was thrilled…For the past bunch of years I have been chatting up about my idea for a car toilet…I can’t wait till someone starts selling one…(Robin Williams actually mentioned a version of my full idea in his latest monologue which was that the car toilet could fuel the car)…In India, they use cow dung in gabar gas units which they then use for cooking & such…The ideas I want to promulgate, I love when they get copied…Those I don’t, I don’t talk about or show…

  11. Fabrizio Van Marciano

    Its a bit like bake beans theory isn’t it… Heinz is the kings of baked beans but now there are hundreds of companies doing their own baked beans, looks the same, might smell the same, might taste the same but its not Heinz so thats my theory with artists doing similar works.

  12. It honestly doesn’t worry me. Firstly, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. Secondly, I always have a ton of ideas. Thirdly, I think that even if every artist in the world started out with the same idea, we’d all quickly put our own individual twist on it. Fourthly, I think that very few people would have the obsessive patience to make the work that I do and if they do, good luck to them!

    Can I also just confess that I’ve inadvertently nicked someone else’s idea! I was absolutely mortified when I realised that although I had no memory of seeing it, I’d obviously glanced at this image in a magazine, internalised it and then replicated the exact same idea months later. It was completely accidental but it gave me an insight into just how easy it is to do this without even realising it. Maybe the person you think is copying you just saw your stuff once and doesn’t even realise where their inspiration came from.

  13. I am not so worried about my ideas being re-used by another artist as it becomes another ‘masterpiece’. ;o)

    My problem is the digital coping and selling of my work which has become a problem recently. :o(

  14. I think the issue bothers many artists whose work is sold as reproducible items, for example people whjo work in stained glass, potters who often guard their glaze secrets closly, bead weavers, and so on. My work spans two forms – patinting and related media and off-loom beadweaving and related art jewelry techniques. In the case of the former, I would be upset if someone took my image and claimed they made it. Of course they don’t have the painting but they might decide they want to sell reporductions of the image and that is bad. In the case of the latter, if they want to go to all the work of reproducing one of my very time consuming art jewelry pieces I’d have to say they’re nuts. When it comes to smaller easily copied works then, well, I’m flattered.

    This past year I invented a new bead weaving stitch that results in something that looks like chain links but it done with a single thread. I explained the technique and devised a project using it that was subsequesntly published in Step by Step Beads. I WANT people to use my Vener Chain Stitch. Go ahead, copy it and when you’ve learned it, use it in your own works.


  15. Seems to me any art that is ambitious and rich in its visual forms is almost impossible to steal ideas from. How could anyone steal the “idea” contained in for example a beautifully painted hand by Rembrandt?

    Art that is primarily concept art, when stripped of its pretensions, can often be such a simple idea that it is vulnerable to stealing I suppose.

    I remember years ago when I was an undergraduate student at Oberlin College in Ohio the sculptor on the art department faculty exhibited a huge slab of ice in the College’s art museum. The idea was you were supposed to watch the ice melt (I don’t think the museum guards who had to mop up the mess every hour thought much of his piece).

    A month later I saw an article in Time magazine on “The New Art” with a photograph of a New York artist exhibiting a similar large slab of ice in a gallery that also was to melt during the course of the show. I don’t know if this was coincidence or not. But once you “got” the piece, it simply wasn’t interesting enough at its core to really care who came up with the idea first.

  16. AnnaMaria Windisch-Hunt

    ha ha ha oops ho ho ho, that is the ultimate in Ego . You can’t be stealing, the person who got the idea, got the idea from somewhere and technically everyone is stealing or use the words inpired.
    Inspiration comes from everywhere, it is a softer term for stealing. Arists start out copying Paul Revere out of a history books or learning to do drawings from comic books. As to the Wolf Kahn comment above, you can not tell a Wolf Kahn from an impressionist background. He just left off the people and did the background.

  17. I am blessed to be an original thinker, so I have been copied all my life. At first, I felt flattered, then chagrined. Then, I decided to teach people how to do what I do and make my living from that.

    It has worked very well, and since I expect my shared ideas to be copied, there is no reason for feeling negative about it.

  18. Hello Alyson
    Boy everyone sure is on their best behavior! I feel if you put your work out there it is bound to be copied. I would really bother me if someone was making a profit off of my work. I don’t think that will happen though. If one is jump starting or using my design as a jump start it would be nice to mention my name somehow- it really bothers me when I see full copies of others work without any notice to the original artist.
    I hope everyone is enjoying their family this weekend.

  19. Y’all are so noble! Not me, it annoys me…honesty is always good, right? I have been ripped off a lot…not much you can do about it, short of lining a lawyer’s pocket…then no one but the lawyer wins…not worth the bother.
    I have even had an “artist” tell me that his intent/goal in his “career” is to copyright as many images as he could and sue people for a living (get this….the guy was an art professor!!). He ferociously sketched at all of my solo art exibits in Dallas because he said he thought some of my forms were the closest to “the perfect form” and he tried to sound so philosophical in his crime.
    Once I was having a jewelry studio cast some original one-time-casts of my work and the owner of the studio looked me straight in the eye and said that he was making copies for himself and that he might even mass produce the design. When I informed them that they were copyrighted and that was illegal, he laughed and said, “so, sue me and see how far you get!” Needless to say, I took my models and left.
    Countless stories, but why bother….it just happens…not much to do about it. I take comfort in knowing that they can copy the physical image, but the impetus behind it, the meaning, the extension of myself… that, they can’t copy. So the copy is a soul-less clone. Logically, one wonders why someone would copy….kind of like telling a lie…it requires another lie, then another, to perpetuate the crime.
    But enough of that….let me ask: Of those of you who are teachers also, how do you manage to convince students that God made me and God made you. We don’t need another me. You have to do your own art…. your own expressions…your own messages. I really have to push this to my students and it almost hurts when they present something near identical to one of my pieces and I have to point it out to them. I feel like I have failed in helping them to achieve their own style, even though I drill it over and over. Just a thought…
    God bless y’all ! Lemme

  20. Hey, if anyone is on the fence about supporting John T. Unger, who is defending his original firebowl designs in a lawsuit by the knock-off artist who is suing for the right to knock-off originals- I just want you to know I got the small table firebowl today as a gift for my brother’s birthday & it is awesome…It came really fast, no duties, & I ordered off of Amazon…So if you want to support protecting originals & get a beautiful functional work of art…Go…Buy…& help him pay for his legal defence…

  21. Coke and Pepsi are very similar.

    Many paintings are of the same subject matter. But if John Singer Sargent were to paint a common subject, it would still stand out among the myriads of paintings.

  22. An artist friend spotted a collage at a village art club exhibition that she immediately recognized as mine — or so she thought. It was by someone else, and she urged me to see for myself. I had never heard of the art club but stopped by to have a look. The other artist’s style was almost identical to some of my collage work. The title was also the same as one of my artworks that had sold a couple of years earlier. But I wasn’t upset. It wasn’t a copy, it was her take on some of the ideas she may or may not have picked up from me. And a person can’t copyright ideas. In any case, my work is evolving all the time, and I’ve moved on from what I had been doing back then.

    It’s a different matter, however, if I spot someone photographing my art, say at an art fair. Most people don’t mean anything by it as they square up to one of my paintings with a camera or mobile phone and take aim. But I always explain gently that I can’t allow photography because I can’t control how he or she might use pictures of my work. And then, still smiling, I ask the person to delete the picture(s) he or she has just taken. I wait, expectantly and respectfully, until they do. After that, I like to try to shift the focus away from that “caught in the act” feeling and towards the art, and I ask the person what drew him or her to my work, and so on.

  23. “How do you handle it when you think another artist is “stealing” your ideas?”
    Oh man, they are more than welcome to have them. It is such a complex road from idea to completion, reminds me of the quote “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

  24. We also have to factor in the modern tradition of ‘appropriation’

    A very famous artist appears to have helped himself to 2 of my ideas- and a derived a 3rd hybridisation of those 2- probably he’d call it ‘sampling’- However there have been uncanny parallels between our ideas and practices over the years- we have similar mindsets- Never-the-less this doesn’t account for the blatancy of his act-
    I showed my work in the epicentre of this artist’s activity sphere- and soon, striking similarities showed up in two markedly diverse projects of his-
    There is also the famous quote supposedly from Picasso- “good artists copy- great artists steal”-
    Apart from that- there is no real protection under law concerning artists’ ideas and work- In this case i end up looking like the guilty party- it reduces my credibility and sales potential- whereas the paintings he derived from mine sell for upwards of about $400,000- He was already becoming very famous- and i’m not- He wins!

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