How to Deal with Plagiarism as a Creative Professional
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
You know when they say, “Be authentic,” they really mean for you to practice it as a creative professional.
All creators, anyone who is creative and creates a piece of work/art as a profession or otherwise, may deal with this at some point in life. You may come across an individual or a brand that may have seemed to imitate or copy your exact work or a part of it. Now, that is exactly what is called plagiarism. It is when your piece of work or set of ideas are copied or imitated by someone without permission. Plagiarism has many layers to it, but what remains a constant is that whether done intentionally or unintentionally, it can:
Be disrespectful to the individual whose work has been plagiarized
Land the individual who commits plagiarism in legal trouble
Lead to a tarnished image of the individual who commits plagiarism
Question the authenticity of all the past work of both the parties
Over the years, plagiarism and its importance have been coming to light more and more. And, not just for big brands, companies, or public figures but for every business, big or small. It can happen with anyone’s work and it is an unfair practice, whether done intentionally or unintentionally. As fashion designers or creators, you must be aware of this and understand it fully to be able to call your piece of work, rightfully yours.
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The Thin Line Between Inspiration and Plagiarism
So, this is the process most individuals follow to create something and produce work. They have an initial idea or a thought that is raw in every way. To build on that initial idea, many artists choose to seek inspiration from within or from external sources. This may include referring to another artist’s work or even some unrelated sources of creative inspiration. As a fashion designer, you may choose to refer to fashion magazines, fashion shows, movies, nature, songs, artworks by artists, or even actual designs from other fashion designers.
Now, this is a natural process of seeking inspiration that goes behind every creative work. But, the same may end up becoming a serious problem in two situations. One, when you tend to pick not just inspiration to build on your initial idea but pick actual ideas or elements from that source. And second, when you end up copying the entire work of others as it is or with some changes. In any case, whether it is an intentional move or an unintentional one, which it may be when someone is simply seeking inspiration, it is still an offence.
You see? There is an evidently thin line between seeking inspiration from someone else’s work and plagiarizing it. But, crossing this line can often cost you your reputation and a good sum of penalty. As artists, it is of extreme importance to be authentic and draw a distinction between what is originally yours and what is a recreation of someone else’s work or ideas. We know that it is important to reel in inspiration and a creative flow to help you kickstart your creative process. But, it is equally important to know and realize when you are close to crossing that line and when you are slipping away from originality.
Yes, others' work may have swept you off your feet, but it is a creation of someone else. A product of hard work, brainstorming, and a vision. Your job as a creative professional is to create something with your own hard work, ideas, and vision. The most you can do is feel motivated by others' art and let their work’s energy and creativity push you to delve within yourself and create inspiration for someone else in turn.
Photo by Thiago Barletta on Unsplash
How Can You Prevent and Deal with Plagiarism?
Sadly, not many people understand the severity of plagiarism in the creative industry. The offence can many times get thrown away under the rug in the name of ‘inspiration’ and many may not even acknowledge that it is wrong. So, plagiarism still does take place in the country and it is crucial for everyone to understand how to prevent it and later tackle it. Since it cannot be avoided altogether, it makes sense for creators to be armed with the right resources to deal with it as well.
Watermark Your Images & Videos
Consider this as copyright for your images. A watermark is a stamp of sorts that takes the form of a logo or text that is branded which goes on the original images/videos created by you, for you, or your brand. Marking your images with a watermark safeguards it from theft of your images/videos. You can watermark your image/video content using any photo editing app like Canvas, Photoshop, and other software tools available.
Disable Copy-Paste on WordPress
If you are a creator who owns a website for your work/brand and needs to safeguard your business/personal website content, blogs, and articles, this is one way to do it. Many users tend to plagiarize content by copy-pasting it directly from a website. But if your content is powered by WordPress, you’ll also have access to a tool that may help you disable copy-paste on your website. This can block all attempts of someone trying to right-click or copy any content from it, preventing plagiarism to some extent.
Copyright All Your Work
You know the copyright symbol you see at the bottom of most websites? That is the owner of the website restating that the content on the website is owned by them and cannot be copied or distributed without their consent. This is one simple way to safeguard your work displayed online. All you got to do is update the copyright stamp with the year of creation and owner at the footer of the website.
Besides this, what gives your work tight-knit security from plagiarism is by registering all your work for copyright. You can gather all your work, your designs, content, or any piece of work of any form that you want to claim as yours or your brand’s. Once you compile it all, you can fill your copyright form and kickstart the official process of copyrighting all your work. There are professionals who can take over this task off your shoulders like lawyers. They can not only guide you through the process and familiarize you with the relevant rules and laws but also execute the process for you.
After copyrighting all your past work, you must make sure you do so for your current and future work too. Keep gathering a bunch of work as you create them in the future and make copywriting them all a priority from time to time. This is an official and effective way to safeguard your creations that certainly helps ward off thefts, However, it is important to note that only work that is concrete and materialized into legitimate proof can be claimed for copyright. Ideas or unarticulated concepts cannot be copyrighted and hence, protected.
Document Your Work
This may seem to you like an unnecessary task to do as prevention of plagiarism. But, if things do reach a level where you have to present proof and pieces of evidence, then this will come in handy. Make sure you document all your work with the dates of creation. Moreover, make sure you have proofs like revisions, drafts, sketches, ideas noted down somewhere official like an email or a signed document with clients or companies.
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Build Your Community with Trust
A professional/brand with its own community that knows, values, and trusts that entity will naturally receive more favour and support than someone who lacks that community and in turn, loyalty, trust, and support. Consider building your community as a professional or business as an investment, not just to prevent and deal with plagiarism but also as a way to sustain a space in the industry.
A community is not simply built by selling your service or products. It takes individualism and authenticity. Whether you are branding yourself online through a website or social media, or simply participating in networking events and asking clients for referrals, you need to stand out with originality and transparency. That’s how you build a professional community that sustains and trusts you and your service/work/product. If not directly, this can certainly help one way or another with plagiarism.