Your Craft Business: The Fine Line Between Artist Inspiration and Exploitation

Understanding the Difference Between Borrowing and Stealing . . .

Even the most creative people run out of ideas.  It can become almost automatic to take a look at what your peers are doing when you’ve run out of steam in your craft business, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting a bit of artist inspiration from those you most admire.  There’s a very thin line, however, between getting artist inspiration and exploiting the hard work of your fellow crafters and it’s up to you to know the difference. 

It’s very natural that people who are drawn to the same aesthetic may come up with very similar, or even  almost identical, pieces through no wrongdoing at all.  It happens.  The tricky bit is when you knowingly begin to adopt elements of another crafter’s work in the name of artist inspiration. 

Whether it’s just a matter of incorporating new colors into your own product, or creating a new product altogether for your craft business, it’s important to examine your actions and motives.  When borrowing ideas from others you want to make sure that the ideas you borrow are only enhancing something that is entirely your own creation. You never want to change your business into a knockoff of someone else’s hard work.  You may gain a few sales that way, but it will eventually become apparent that you are not the mastermind behind the art, and that is a very embarrassing, and potentially expensive place to be. 

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If you suddenly create an entirely new product based on someone else’s work, think twice before putting it up for sale.  Is your new product really, genuinely different from the artist inspiration?   Making the same exact product in a different color does not mean that you have created an original product.  Try to be objective when you look at the two items next to each other.  Think about what it is you love about the piece where you found artist inspiration.  How can you incorporate the elements you love into work that you have already achieved?  Is it a color that calls to you, or is it the function of the piece?  Use the inspiration to jog your own journey of creativity.  In other words, you should use your peers’ work as a starting point to find your own voice, rather than as a template to be traced over.

Unfortunately for entrepreneurs and craft business owners, there are no copyright police patrolling the corners of the Internet or wandering the aisles at craft fairs to look out for misuse of artist insporation.  This doesn’t mean that you won’t be held accountable for inadvertent thievery.  Crafters and creative peers are all very sensitive to potential idea theft and keep their eyes and ears open for offenders.  No one wants to cut off fantastic working relationships for the sake of an accidental, or not so accidental, theft.

Copyrights and legal repercussions are usually the last thing to come to mind when you’re innocently shopping for new ideas for your craft business. But you should be aware that as soon as you attempt to sell something that did not come straight from your brain or use someone else’s words to sell something, you may indeed be committing copyright infringement.  Remember to respect the hard work of your peers, just as you would want others to respect you!

An excellent place to educate yourself on copyright and the difference between artist inspiration and exploitation is at www.copyright.gov  where you’ll find an extensive FAQ section, plus information on how to protect your own work!

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