inspiration vs. imitation: are you being copied?

Imitation vs. Inspiration / Are you being copied? image via Pinegate Road

I always knew this day would come and I feel like it’s a day that all creatives dread. The day when you find a copycat – when you’ve been imitated.

There is a creative process to making inspiration boards and it is different for everyone. That’s why they all come out looking different, only similar in that they are photo collages. Each person, when they look at an image, feels something different. It spawns a creative process whose outcome will vary; the tangents taken will differ – even if everyone has the same starting point and the same source of inspiration.

Imitation vs. Inspiration / Are you Being Copied?photographed by Lara Jade

If you’re an inspiration board fan then you’ve probably learned to recognize the different styles of inspiration boards out there. When I first discovered inspiration boards (and that wasn’t that long ago – I remember the moment I fell in love with them. It was February of 2012) I eagerly consumed inspiration boards from those I considered the greats: Chrissy of The Perfect Palette, Kathryn of Snippet and Ink, and Kate from Magnolia Rouge.

I then discovered new styles of inspiration boards from Lauren of Limn and Lovely, Gaby of Southbound Bride, Rose & Ruby Paper Co. for Bridal Musings, and Ami over at Elizabeth Anne Designs. I can recognize, without clicking through, an inspiration board on Pinterest and know exactly who made it.

The way the images are cropped, collaged, sized, spaced, and styled – those are the telltale signs and it’s fabulous that there are so many unique variations of inspiration boards out there.

Imitation vs. Inspiration - Are You Being Copied?  / Elizabeth Messina Photography via Kiss The Groom, photographed by Elizabeth Messina 

But I’ve recently found a new site – a new bridal inspiration blog that crops, collages, sizes, spaces, and styles their inspiration boards exactly like mine. It was so uncannily similar that I discovered them when I saw an inspiration board on Facebook that I thought I’d made and clicked through with excitement to see who was raving about it.

I have a very unique size of inspiration board because when I started creating them I was not tech savvy – I didn’t know how to use photoshop or idraw… so I used a keynote (powerpoint) slide. I’ve since learned those programs, but still keep the same dimensions, spacing, photo placement, style etc on all my inspiration boards to give them the continuity that makes them unique to me.

Inspiration vs. Imitation / Are You being Copied?from a 1950 December Issue of Vogue – found here

And the more I looked through this new site, the more creeped-out I felt. The name of her blog, the way she watermarks, the images she uses, the galleries that I used to do… everything feels eerily similar.

Too similar. So similar that I was duped into thinking that one of her inspiration boards was mine. And for someone who lives and breathes them (crazy, yes, but I’m obsessed – what can I say) to be duped like that… that’s something. So I have to ask myself – is this inspiration or imitation?

Inspiration: an example, model, muse, catalyst.

Imitation: copy, reproduction, forgery, counterfeit.

***

So this is my one bristly personal post for this year. I think that it’s important for bloggers, creatives, industry professionals, (everyone!), to bring these issues up when they occur and to discuss them, decide if they are even issues, amend them, and then brush them off and move forward. And brushing it off and moving forward is exactly what I plan on doing.

For another great read on this topic head on over to Fab You Bliss to see her article on copycats.

 

About Sara Burnett

Editor of Burnett's Boards, which she founded to showcase global creativity in the wedding industry. Sara currently lives out of a suitcase while island hopping the Caribbean and beyond. Learn More // Follow on Instagram.

Comments

  1. oh wow – that’s a shame. Having someone use you as their inspiration is flattering, but flat out coping can be offensive.

  2. Being copied is never fun. I have had to drop a few of my signature touches due to copycats. You just have to move on and come up with something new.

  3. Great post Sara, we all know that it happens although it is a bitter pill to swallow. The best use of your energy is to use it as a catalyst to keep pushing your beautiful blog forward and never forget, loyal readers love your style and you xx

  4. Great post, Sara. Like you said, it’s an unfortunately inevitable part of being a creative, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less when it happens to you. Just keep being you, and the cream will rise to the top. 🙂

    • ah! Love the ‘cream’ metaphor. Yea I wouldn’t say I’m hurt… peeved/annoyed/etc would be more accurate at this point. It’s sort of like when you find an awesome dress to wear to an event and post a pic of it on Facebook, and some chic sees your post and shows up wearing it too – it’s like ‘oh common now, seriously?!’ 😉

  5. First off, thanks so much for the mention – and naming me as one of the ‘greats’ – I’m flattered! Now in regards to this post, I think when you’re a creative, being copied really comes with the territory. Does it make it right? Of course not! It’s upsetting to say the least. But I too have had to brush off similar situations. You’re not alone, my friend!

  6. Yeah, I definitely agree with Chrissy. As you grow and get more eyes on your site/work, it’s going to be easier for someone to mimic you. Perhaps they will do it thinking that you’ll never know, or perhaps they’re just viewing it as being inspired by you. I’ve been in a similar situation with a few posts that I’ve written. It was a shock to me to discover, but I decided that I just had to keep going- and if anything, it encouraged me to keep going and do even better. 🙂 And as I said before- if people know your style, they’ll know the copycats too, and it will make you look better. 🙂 xoxo

  7. I think what Chrissy mentioned as “going with the territory” may be the case for bloggers, but I’ve seen industry professionals (florists, planners, and photographers) steal other people’s work and pass it off as their own. I thing what Sara brings up is an industry wide problem and while it may, come with the territory, I think we have a wonderful opportunity as a global community to look out for one and other and peer-pressure people out of stealing ideas!

    I’m so grateful to Sara for bringing this up and encourage everyone to watch out for each other 🙂

    Great post Doll!

  8. Christie – you’re so right! Although it surely comes with the territory… It doesn’t make it right, and I’m all for the idea of watching out for one another! It’s definitely an industry-wide problem for sure. I never mean to make light of it.

    This is an issue I’ve personally been fired up over in the past!

    But for me personally, there just came a point where I had to brush it off. Was it easy to brush off? Nope, not at all! My work is my absolute passion. So I take it personally.

    That’s not to say that I haven’t sent cease and desist notices to webpages who were ripping my entire feed off with no credit or mention to my blog.

    I’ve seen some truly upsetting things go down in the blogging community when it comes to copycats. But in the end, I just had to make the choice to rise above.

    Sara – have you confronted this blogger? Might be worth an email just so she knows you’re watching?? Oh, and ps. I still use powerpoint for my collages (to this day!). ha ha. I thought I was the only one.

    • I have absolutely no doubt that you are copied ALL THE TIME – and I know exactly what you’re talking about with those blogs that rip entire feeds – I’ve been victim to those a few times and they’re super annoying because they usually don’t even have an email to contact them with. Those are the ones to totally brush off – google spanks them in search results anyway for duplicate content.

      I did think about emailing my copycat but a. she has to totally know what she’s doing so I doubt it would make a difference and b. she’s obviously over here all time so I bet she reads this post 😉

      BTW – for some reason it makes me so happy to know that you use powerpoint too! I don’t feel so alone in that respect anymore now 😀

      • Make that three for PowerPoint! (And I also thought I was the only one!) It’s one process that’s pretty much stayed the same for me since I started and ‘settled in’ to my standard format. Thanks for the mention by the way, and in such great company – I’d not really thought about how distinctive an inspiration board can be (and sometimes I worry that I’ll end up creating something that looks like something I’ve unconsciously picked up elsewhere) but you’re right – I’d also recognise the basic styles of the bloggers you mention, not just in format but in visual language as well maybe. And while I can completely understand where you’re coming from – we’ve all been there, unfortunately – I find that imitators tend not to go the distance anyway. It’s easy to run out of creative juice when you didn’t have much to begin with, I guess. Take a breath, brush it off and do your thing.

  9. I have to echo Chrissy in that the first time it happens, it stings, but you’ll see that the bigger you get, the more it happens. You’ll find people straight up stealing full posts and claiming them as their own. Or people will take a post you’ve written and pretty much recopy in their own words. It shouldn’t happen and we should all look out for each other when we see things copied, but the number of copiers out there in one form or another far outweigh those of us who don’t, so don’t let it get to you. Upside, when you’ve been copied you’ve made it 🙂

    I would definitely contact that site if you feel that strongly that they are copying you and it makes you uncomfortable, but be aware that unless they are taking your words or your actual inspiration boards, or unless they steal something you have trademarked, there isn’t a lot you can do. So try not to let it get to you. You might want to share with a blogger or two that you trust (I’m happy to take a look) at the site and get their opinion on the similarity before you email. While there are alot of wedding blogs, you’ll find it is actually a small community and when someone starts to make a bad name for themselves, their reputation will spread and everyone will know. Hang in there.

    • I’ll happily tell whomever wants to know the site! Just DM me on twitter. I didn’t want to pass pagerank and all that by linking or mentioning it here.

  10. I’m so glad you spoke up about this, Sara, and I’m so sorry that you’re going through this!

    What is sad is that clearly you inspired the copycat enough to think what you were doing was fabulous (which, of course it is) so it’s pretty disappointing that this person couldn’t have just a tad more of their own creativity/inspiration to do something that would make it unique to them.

    It their loss, though – if they had chosen to do something innovative they could have built something to call their own – now they are just following in your footsteps, and can never compete with what you’ve created. Plus, there are so many other facets to Burnett’s Boards and the relationships you’ve built with BB that I dare say they will not be able to replicate!

    Keep your chin up! [And, I too, use PowerPoint (still!) — getting such a kick out of learning some of my favorite blogs use it, too!]

  11. Glad to see you rising above! And yes, we powerpoint collagers need to stick together 🙂 That’s why all of my original palettes were rectangular! ha ha.

  12. It definitely hurts when that happens. We have a competitor in Australia who copies every idea we have. As soon as we make a change to our site with a new initiative a diluted version appears on her site a couple of weeks later. It is frustrating but you learn to rise above it.
    At the end of the day it is better to be the leader than the follower. I always think back to the movie Working Girl with Melanie Griffiths and Sigourney Weaver – one character tries to pass the other character’s ideas of as her own and when asked to explain how she came up with the idea, and what her inspiration behind it was, she couldn’t. She was exposed for what she was etc.
    Karma will come around and in the meantime you simply have to carry on doing what you do and know you have many loyal supporters who love what you create.

    • I think the key word in your comment is ‘diluted’ – that’s just it! People will recognize a watered down version of something (hopefully). So sorry that’s happening to you & thanks for your kind words! By the way – totally adding that movie to my Netflix list now xx

  13. You are the original and BEST. Stick to that and keep on keeping on!

  14. I’m glad you brought this up, Sara! Oddly, I just discovered that a website ripped off one of my posts this morning. They copied portions of the text verbatim and then mangled other portions of the text by trying to reword it. Clearly, they are not native English speakers. It’s irritating, to say the least.

    If someone is blatantly infringing on your work repeatedly, it might be worth looking into sending a DMCA takedown notice. The person probably isn’t going to get far very by creating unoriginal work anyway.

  15. Just know that you are an original of amazing inspiration and with that comes the followers that want to be just like you – it’s great that people recognize that, but it’s definitely no fun when you are copied as a result. I’ve been there and sent quite a few cease and desist letters when the initial emails didn’t get a proper response. We are stronger than the copier and our followers will definitely know that xoxo

  16. Firstly thank you SO much for the mention… truly honoured to be amongst such great company!! Not too long ago I saw a board on Facebook that was SUCH a copy of mine I truly thought it was mine for a minute or two. I’m pretty sure that my layout is quite distinctive and this was blatant. Someone spoke up about and I’ve since been in touch with that person who defended herself saying she was trying lots of different ways out, but it was just too similar to be a plausible excuse. It’s astounds me that people think they can get away with it in this global digital market!! Good on you for speaking up about it!! xo

  17. Great article! As a creative person it is hurtful when someone blatantly copies your work. Luckily inspirations knows no limits!

  18. Sorry that you experienced this! On a different and happy note, I am so glad to have found you 🙂 (and I also use PP to set up my images! hehe)

  19. Dearest Sara I have to say I love this message. I just found the most disturbing thing online. As the co-founder of High In-Style I welcome anyone that looks to us as a new company for inspiration and motivation, after all that is what we are all about. But when you submit your work to us as a photographer for a feature then right before we launch (all of a sudden launch a website geared towards the same things we are geared towards) makes me feel so disgusted. At this time we are still pulling our hair saying how, why did this happen? We started our company from our hearts, we’ve taken a whole year to get everything just right. Both my co-founder and I are young moms-(we had our kids as teenagers) and now have teenage sons, so this website / business/ organization / program…was not an overnight thought. To think someone would actually try and mimic exactly what we are trying to create! However, a message to all this has happened to as well as to myself…Never give them that extra energy. Focus on what you set out to accomplish, continue to be yourself, yourself is good enough. Thanks Sara seeing this post made me realize that we are not alone…xoxo Nicky

    • Oh my gosh – I’m so sorry that this happened to you! But have faith that copycats will NEVER be as fabulous as the original, just keep doing what your doing, innovate, create, and your readers will know the difference between the real thing and a knock-off. Don’t let anyone get you down!