DIY is not Duplicate It Yourself!

Hello friends! I think that today I'll go light on the blogging because I'm ready for the weekend and feel more like relaxing vs. writing! But first, I thought I'd kick off my Real Talk column, which also was called Talk It Out, and well regardless of the column name it will be called Real Talk going forward and the column will appear once weekly on any given day -- it really depends on the community and what issues you email me that you'd like to talk about here. I have always supported the online community but this afternoon I was shown that support in return in a business matter -- and it made me think how it feels to be on the receiving end -- when I felt helpless and someone came in to help. It was wonderful and that is one of many reasons why I've decided to get the Real Talk column up and running again on a weekly basis.

Heather Vallentyne Photography

The purpose of this column is for all of us to share our personal opinions on the chosen topic to offer advice, ideas, constructive feedback and anything else that we can do collectively to show support and friendship. Truth is, we all need each other -- we are part of a circle. So to celebrate this spirit of independence but also interdependence, Real Talk is back!

Today my guest is Erika Firm who is the president and designer of Delphine fine stationery and design. Erika wants to talk about unethical requests that would lead to possible violation of copyright (copying hurts real people out there), requests that many of us experience regularly as small business owners -- especially designers. Here is what Erika has to say on the topic, I hope you'll chime in because together our voices can possibly get others thinking... and the intended goal here is to educate and offer support and even a possible solution or several.

Erika -- take it away!

"Lately I’ve noticed more and more clients asking me to copy other people's work (they see an invitation in a magazine and want me to duplicate it one to one, and I won't). It’s my policy to refuse, and to explain copyright infringement. Friends and colleagues of mine in the wedding industry (not just other stationers) have also told me that they’re experiencing an increase in these sorts of unethical inquiries. I think part of the reason I'm seeing more of these unethical requests is that my business has grown and the studio gets more inquiries overall than ever before, so the number of "icky" inquiries is also growing. But perhaps it also has to do with the proliferation of DIY (which, don't get me wrong, I absolutely do love and support), and the proliferation of things like "inspiration boards" on blogs (which I also love, and post myself on my own blog). The DIY movement and things like inspiration boards are meant to foster creativity."

"Because of my personal experiences (and thanks to many similar stories heard from friends and colleagues) I feel like there exists a disconnect between the artist/blogger/designer’s intent (to inspire) and some people’s inference that this inspirational content is free to simply be copied."

"Perhaps some people feel like their homemade invitation (or cake or dress or bouquet or centerpiece or curtains or pillow…) that looks exactly like the original couldn't possibly change anything in the world or hurt someone else. While I think that the vast majority of bloggers understand the difference between inspiration and copying, and act professionally and ethically, I'm not sure that many are doing an excellent job of pointing out the difference—and the real effect that copying has on the people behind the businesses that supply creative content and products—to readers. The simple fact is that when somebody decides to “duplicate it yourself” (instead of getting inspired to “do it yourself”) it hurts a real person."

What do you think we as a creative community can do to address this issue? I feel the frustration rising. I know there are hundreds and hundreds of examples of how copying has affected someone's business, and there are lots of ways of addressing the issue after it's already happened. How do we spread the word that there is a huge difference between being inspired by something and copying? Any ideas on how to do this?

- Erika Firm

(Images: Delphine product shot styled by Erica Firm, taken by Heather Vallentyne)