I remember back in high school, we worked so hard not to “bite off” anybody. This was 90s slang for copying (seriously, it’s in the slang dictionary). You had to be careful not to copy the shoes someone was wearing, their hair color, backpack, you name it. We took being individuals very seriously. Imitation wasn’t flattery, it was “biting” and there was nothing more uncool than that.
Now in the real world, there’s some amount of copying that is acceptable. If you want to copy the design of someone else’s nursery, nobody is going to stop you. If a friend has a dress you like, unless she’s wearing it to the same event, there’s no reason for you not to buy one too. On the other hand (at the risk of stating the obvious), there’s a certain level of copying that is against the law. There are copyright protections and intellectual property rights that are protected in court.
It isn’t always easy to tell what’s acceptable and what isn’t. How do we know two similar ideas weren’t conceived completely independently? How can you be sure that an idea that seems unique isn’t just a copy of something that already exists? And do you even care or worry about that?
When it comes to things like etsy shops and artists, I do my best to highlight an original idea or style and not any derivative works. Is it possible that I’ve made a mistake?… Unfortunately, yes (but if I have, I don’t know of it). I put together this little case study to illustrate the issue. Browsing etsy, I noticed an owl clock that had a very familiar look. The bottom left owl clock reminded me an awful lot of the owl clocks from one of my favorite etsy shops, decoylab. Then I did a search and found a couple more similar items.
I’m going to leave it up to you to decide and discuss the question, “how close is too close”? What are your thoughts about how to find an original and whether or not you even care. I welcome any of the etsy shops in the case study to comment with their thoughts as well.
Top left- Modern Baby Clock – Owl from decoylab- $58
Top right- Buddy Owl Bamboo Wall Clock from decoylab- $86
Bottom left- Handmade Owl Clock – Natural Color Wood from WoodWell- $40
Bottom center- Owl Silhouette – Modern Wooden Wall Clock from Klokx- $26
Bottom right- Wooden Owl Clock from Say Hello- $30
I covered corporate copycats and ethics in a previous post but think this is a little different.