Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Trouble With Being "Out There"

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but if you're out there someone is going to copy you or hate you.  Such is the nature of our species.  My point of view, take it with a grain of salt, decide that it's your opinion that matters to you and let the rest slide.

This post is inspired by one I just wrote about my thoughts on Pinterest.  In speaking to some artists and crafters I have noted a lot of nervousness we'll call it, about being copied or their ideas being stolen, or them receiving criticism.  My response?  SO WHAT!  As an artist & crafter, no I do not want you coming into my store seeing something I made, going to yours (or starting one) and saying that my idea is yours and you came up with it all on your own.  But if I don't know about it, and it doesn't ever come to my attention, what am I going to do about it?  Not a damn thing, that's what!  And really whatever, I mean I'm a little sick to death with any whining about being "copied" I hear.  There are no original ideas.  Chances are someone else thought of it before you did, and perhaps even did it.  So are you going to limit yourself to only 100% original ideas.  Sure, go ahead, but good luck finding one.

The problem I have with this whole issue is that people get entirely TOO sensitive about it.  Again, no you don't want your hard work "stolen".  But 1) imitation is the highest form of flattery, 2) even if you're "copied" or your work is "stolen" there's one key difference between yours and theirs - Their work IS NOT the same as Your work, so count on your reputation (or build it if you don't have one) and leave it at that.  3) Answer the question - if you didn't know about it, would you do something about it?  Exactly!  4) Be as unique as you can but true to you.  If you like an idea, you know what, use it.  But put your own spin on it.   5)  Realize that not everyone is going to like you and what you're doing and decide to be okay with that.  And finally 6) the most important...everything comes from something beyond You.  So really, you don't own any idea, you merely gained inspiration for something from some other "Source", so take the Ego out of it and let it be.   Release & Detach, it's just giving you a headache/ulcer/etc to hold onto it. many things, sew little thyme for ewe and eye...

Pinterest: A Love/Hate Relationship ?

This is my blog and thusly these are my personal opinions.  For the most part names will be excluded to avoid any backlash going to these people, but someone/thing may be reference for clarification.  If you don't like what I think or have to say, you're 100% free to stop reading and never visit again.

Pinterest to many people is "the coolest thing since sliced bread".  As humans we're mostly visual and it's the first sense that is assaulted often.  The one we place on which we put the most importance and active use.  It also makes us fixated in the look of things.  Marketing plays on this - with "eye-catching" being the scheme of the day, something catchy, something "unique", something memorable.

So it's not surprising that Pinterest is doing so well.  It's catering to our general lack of impulse control and visual sense, it's point and click easy, immediate gratification!  But for some this is a major problem, as it interrupts promotions, paves the way for copyright infringement, and in the eyes of some takes away ownership in its use.  (I don't mean this literally so much as people don't consider the concept of ownership of anything when they pin something.)

Now here is where it gets sticky.  While I normally leave business on my business' blog, this is rife with personal feelings & opinions so it's here.  Also I may come off as a bit to brash for some because even now, before I've gotten to the thick of it I'm getting a little heated about this.

I have been doing TONS of marketing research lately.  So much so that I have even invested in a few programs and have stayed up long hours researching articles, watching videos, taking notes, and doing training.  It's my belief that people knowing who I am - about my work - and being able to find it is what I need (I mean really that's what all businesses that sell anything need, but you get the point.)  So anything that can help I'm willing to try, why the hell not?!

In going through all this I start to consider Pinterest.  I talk to my crafting buddy, who runs her own business, and while not affiliated with me we do like to (as friends) convene a lot on things.  I bring up Pinterest and she outrightly states that she has no intention to use it for business, doesn't want her stuff pinned even, etc.  Okay...that's her right, but I can't say I agree.  And by the way the article I will be referencing later was shared with me by the woman in question.

This is where I diverge...

I use Pinterest (and this might just be me) for personal use primarily.  I pin "neat things" so I have a set of virtual bookmarks.  That said I have a ridiculous amount of bookmarks of "stuff I need to come back to".  Having the visual element makes it a little easier to remember exactly why I pinned something (sometimes titles are obscure and man times I just mass bookmark without editing because I'm in a hurry).  I don't in any way presume, assume, or make the claim that because I pinned  your article (which had a picture to make it pinnable) it's my work, the image is my work, or even that I endorse what you said.  I pinned it because I wanted to read it,  I wanted to point it out as a good resource for something/suggest it to be read/etc.  But maybe that's just me.  When I pin a product 99% of the time I am putting it on my "stuff I want" board.  And that's really seriously a visual shopping list (and something handy for me to share if someone wants to give me a gift!) and the pin goes directly towards where you can buy the item.

The article in question goes on about how one "doesn't have the right to pin other people's work" and "one can't do any self-promotion" - as per Pinterest's TOS (which have been updated since its inception, so this is not the case now).

Now I will again go back to my own use here.  I pin because I need/want to remember.  That's it.  I'm not even doing it really to "pay homage" or honor your work.  I'm not doing it to steal.  I am genuinely doing it because it's neat and something I'd like to remember.  And I know I'm not the only one out there that does that.  I'm sure there are a number of artists who pin something to "My Style" or something equivocal because they like what they see.  And honestly they may not even really be concerned with the image source or page connected to it because it's what they are looking at that caused the pinning to begin with.  To me that's perfectly acceptable.  Even if you are a clothing designer, and you pin a dress to a board, if your intention (honestly we're saying) is that you just are liking the dress then I really don't see a problem.  And I scoff at someone who does.

And okay, that's a bit off topic for the business aspect of this article.  And in no way is it ethical to take someone's image and "make improvements" and claim it as your own original idea - that's (in the words of Malcom from Jurassic Park) "standing on the shoulders of geniuses...without any understanding for what you're doing".  But as an artist & crafter while I don't think it's right to take someone's work/idea/image/product etc and say o hey I'm going to make that, use that, modify that, or what have you and then say that the idea is 100% their idea.  But if I go in a store, see a style of bracelet like it, think it's a neat idea but I don't like the colors, or the exact elements - just the concept (like beaded in a certain pattern or multi-stranded or with multiple charms).  In making something of my own style am I saying that the original concept was my idea?  Absolutely not.  But is the concept commonplace?  Is it done by a ridiculous amount of people - yes.  So am I outrightly stealing an idea, I really don't think so.  But that's just my opinion.

Now here's where we have to get real though.  Scenario...

A person walks into a brick & mortar store.  It's a commercial empire and it sells "popular jewelry".  Generally in the form of a line that is swapped out each season and doesn't return to the store.  Some items may be static, but most stock doesn't stick around.  Everything is pretty inexpensive, most things are plastic, with some metal interspersed.  But nothing is of a necessarily "high quality" (referencing to the actual materials used not specifically the craftsmanship).  You see a necklace that is multi-stranded and made of several different strands of beads in a general color scheme, but not the same size or shape.  It's pretty, but you don't like the colors.  You leave the store.  Now it just so happens that you're a crafty person.  You have at least a rudimentary knowledge of jewelry making and after a trip to the craft store you have everything you need to make your own version.

Is that "stealing"?  Really and truly I don't think so.  Multi-strand necklaces (and bracelets) are so very common.  There are only so many materials to use as well (wood, bone, stone, glass, clay, metal, paper, maybe something else I'm missing).  So they used plastic, and you use plastic.  They're both multi-stranded, they may even have the same exact type of bead (material wise).  You're not saying that you plucked this idea out of the cosmos and "came up with it yourself", at least you were "inspired by" another design.

Sure...if you say this a WinkieDot original, that's just hands down wrong because it's not.  But here's the other side to it...

You decide you're going to make this and sell it in your store.  Price aside, if the originator doesn't know they don't know?  HOW are they to do anything about something they don't know about?  Then take it further, you don't sell online, you only sell local and maybe even "under the radar".  So the originator becomes even more unlikely of seeing it.  Again - if you are going to say this is "your idea" you are in fact wrong.  But what I'm getting at is, that kind of depends on whether you are "found out".  (Pointedly this is not saying that if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, it didn't fall.  But if no one heard it, no one knows about it, no one is going to go and move it.)

Chances are you've done something akin to this, be you artist, crafter, or whatever.  You saw something you liked, but maybe you didn't like the color or the size.  You may have even "shopped around" for something similar that met more of your needs.  And if you're crafty, maybe you said to hell with it, I'll do it myself.  But honestly that's just the way of things really.  It's been said that there are "no original ideas".  I agree.  Perhaps you have a unique and interesting way of doing something, but if you make a necklace you're making a necklace.  If it's beaded, then you've beaded it - it's not stealing.  If you saw a design and exactly reproduced it, said it was all yours 100% idea and all...yea no.  But what I'm really getting at is that the idea that you can control an idea is an illusion.  We are "sold" the idea that having a copyright protects us in all ways.  Well for one, they run out and need to be renewed.  For another, after you're dead...uhm yea, who cares but whomever it passed to or buys it if anyone.  And for another - you cannot control what people think, and there is a large margin of inability to control what someone does.  Especially if they are doing it "under the radar".

I watermark my work as a matter of principle.  To say that this picture of this thing is mine.  As a way almost of saying I made this.  But if you are skilled at photoshopping that can be removed, heck depending on where the watermark/copyright is, you can crop it out even!  But I have no delusions that images of my work, or even the idea I used (be it my own or something I used from a pattern or tutorial) is never going to be reproduced, and at that perhaps even in an unethical fashion.  But you know what this is my bottom line stance on it.  That scarf, hat, painting, glass work, jewelry, etc is something I made.  I know it and really that's all the recognition I need.  If you steal the image, "alter it" to include your business contact info and logo...and you don't have the item.  You're the one who looks like a fool not myself.  (And I am not dismissing the fact that this can get you bad press, but that could be easily resolved with clarification, and a that point then by all means do something about the person "stealing" your work.)

As I'm saying this I note from another article that when one pins something they are saying they have the right to do so because they own the image.  Here's where I have beef with Pinterest.  I do not think that that should be assumed.  I think one should be able to express they don't own the image/work/content, and just think it's neat and that anyone if asked to remove content from a board should do so.  Again, that's just me.  Would that be the solution, I don't know, maybe, maybe not.  But it might be better than what's going on now.

I can honestly see this post getting some backlash, and that's fine, it's the Internet...there's not too much I can do about it other than ignoring it and that doesn't stop someone from saying it or thinking it. many things, sew little thyme for ewe and eye...