Every day I see evidence of copying. Throughout the pages of facebook, one business or another becomes victim to this crime. I have myself been through it, from my own photographs being used to promote work they can do, to designs that have been more than influenced by my own. Luckily, I haven't ended up in any disputes but plenty of people do.
Currently, a good friend of mine is going through a horrid case of plagiarism and it got me thinking about it all. What we are talking about it theft. Pure and simple.
When you see a picture of a new product or design posted on a facebook page, or on twitter, instagram, google+, that design hasn't just happened. It didn't just pop up without any effort whatsoever. It needed thought, process, evolution, practice, mistakes, learning, juggling, and finalising before agonising as to whether it is right, if it is finished, if it is good, if it is worth it. Sketches, workbooks, mock ups, templates. Every now and again something works straight away, without any mistakes at all, but a lot of the time, it takes more time getting the design right than it does making the item itself. And then there is all the shopping for materials, hunting for the right fabric, colour, paint, glaze, whatever medium you are working in, it doesn't just land in your lap without any research.
What I am saying might seem completely obvious to the majority of you, but there will be a few who see something they like and think 'ooo I could do that!' The amount of times I have heard people say 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' well, that may be true for some, but I don't agree. Imitation is lack of imagination and lack of integrity. It is lazy and selfish. It is unfair, both to the original designer and the customer.
I think being an influence to others is completely flattering. For people to say they have been inspired by your work is a huge boost. But to copy it, well that's just crap.