Engaged in a twitter discussion tonight regarding that delicate topic of copycats. People who take ideas and claim them as their own. Without crediting or acknowledging their source, or at least reference.
Earlier this evening, I opened my twitter feed to see this tweet from Jennifer Pastiloff:
Like a rat up a drainpipe i replied:
I am not usually so bold on Twitter, a bit shy, if you will. She replied:
It struck a chord. It’s something that’s been present for some time, a demon i’ve been wrestling to keep hidden and under control since i moved here. See, the idea of inspiring others in some capacity is one of the greatest benefits of my work, and i chose to be a teacher in hope of sharing something that may empower someone to make positive changes to their life. So hopefully that’s clear. However when it comes to straight up copycatting, spying, draining and milking every aspect of what someone does and how they do it with unsavoury intentions, stealing or taking something without credit, whether it’s my own work or someone else, gets my goat. Literally. My spitting goat.
It’s something i’ve noticed on my humble journey as a yoga teacher/student/writer/dj/human being that keeps recurring (perhaps i’m even drawing energy to it by speaking of it, but have reached a point beyond…) and being labelled as a yoga teacher (or insert other box here) and therefore confined by some people to ideas on how to behave (it’s not “yogic” to speak your mind about something) it’s come to the point where i have to lay down my shilling because “yogic” or not, justice and respect are of higher value to me than creepy thieving stealth.
But what are we really talking about here? Ideas?
Well, yes, but not only that. It’s a number of things. It’s the lurker who is spending an uncomfortable amount of time tracking your every move (and to trump the creepy, i’ll add that IP addresses make it possible to know just who and where, on most occasions). It’s the sneering and blatant troll that exists with only a negative calculated intention to “fuck you over” in some way. It’s the piss-taker, who you’ve patiently offered a lot of time and advice to along the way, who seems to think it’s ok to drain it all and then some, run with it, and never be heard from again. It’s the blatant copycatting of ideas, designs, techniques, music, and insert whatever is relevant that is taken by someone else who claims it as their own unique work.
Although i realise these copycats are missing out on the glowing feeling of creating something uniquely theirs, and therefore are missing out on that authentic and beautifully excruciating creative process, it still affects and annoys me. Which i’m working on because i’d much rather focus on my path, for i have too much to do. We all do. So i seek out means to “cope” with the fiery feeling that want’s to say… i don’t know what. The advice “a copy is no worth in comparison to an original” and “it’s a compliment!” are all well and good and my rational mind hears it, but it’s kinda hard to swallow at times, especially when your facebook feeds throws you some copycat furballs.
I guess i´m getting to the point now where i´ve worked so hard for so long to be brave and keep putting things out there. I feel the eyes on me and some of them aren’t with the kindest intentions. At times I feel vulnerable and exposed. Always watched. It’s not comfortable. And yet here i am writing about it. I rationally question whether it´s simply about ego, but conclude that it´s really just about being fair.
A discussion with my dear and very talented writer friend unearthed this gold:
“..I have this battle often…a desire to inspire and talk with people about ideas, processes and inspiration is a vulnerable position for a creative to be in. In the same way that I imagine entrepreneurs feel when they approach people to discuss investment only to find they have stolen their idea, patented it and sold it to Tescos. It can only take a moment for someone to absorb your enthusiasm and turn it into their own. Sometimes its because its just a brilliant idea. Other times its because they are just gits. For a creative person its so much worse because we pour our heart and souls into our work, its a labour of love and the development process can be intense and draining. Its not a business deal, its part of our being and thus it causes anguish when its stolen, its like a limb being nicked.
I always try to keep in mind something I read in a creative writing book. A teacher gave everyone the same sentence and asked them to write 500 words about it. Every single person wrote something completely different. THIS I think is when it is OK to borrow an embryo of an idea…when it isn’t anything except a smell, or a sight because ultimately everyone will produce something different. When someone copies a whole concept, something that’s more than an embryo, then it pushes past the boundary of flattery and ‘inspiration’ and into the realms of lawyers and spitting goats.“
Hurtful. Crippling even. Yep, i’ve been driven to shut down, close off, weep and behave in a mortifyingly angry and
jealous way (behind closed doors, sobbing into a pillow asking “why do i bother?!” in a whiny voice makes it no better), behaving like a victim and ultimately getting more distracted from my goal: to provide a service to empower people to change their lives. It doesn’t correlate.
Well, it sounds to me like a boundary issue…YOUR boundary issue.
Perhaps. And i’m working on that. I absolutely agree that boundaries are useful and important, making everything more clear and open. It’s good to know where we stand. However i don’t want to have to always suspect anyone as having some ulterior motive and behave in a way that is anything other than what i am. See i feel we are here to elevate each other. Lift each other up. Support each other in this sometimes astonishingly challenging world. Is that so naive?
So how do we share, yet deal with people who perhaps don’t feel like celebrating their own unique creativity?
Ignore it and keep moving forward becoming better and more focused?
Speak directly with them about it explaining how their actions made you feel?
Communicate with them only via your lawyer as you dive into legal action?
Watch pop songs remixed with goat vocals and pretend it’s not happening?
When you steal something from someone else, however “harmless” it seems, spare a thought for the hard work, determination, blood, sweat and tears that go into the effort of creating something. When you flat out disrespect, it’s just not nice!
Hang on a mo- let’s not get all fired up and attached to “owning” everything
That’s not what I said. We’re human, and thankfully inspired by what’s around us, and we are all ENTITLED as my dear friend Aida reminds me! No one can really “own” anything, and this leads to further questions about whether anything is really unique? Can we claim to be authentic owners of something? Is intellectual property of any worth in this day? How to we use new and old technologies effectively as sharing becomes “one click” easier? What about the virality of something, surely it’s about the message getting out and not whose it was?
I’m not really wading into this water. I appreciate similarities exist and the evolution of ideas is a positive thing for all of us, and i believe that there there is room for everyone, for we are unique and can offer a new perspective! But there is a difference between evolving an idea and outrightly copying without credit. I’m not talking about this, rather, a more open-source attitude – sharing ideas and tools, but with a mutual respect which, in my friend Ali’s words, “makes for an awesome community!” We are privileged to have tools which make sharing easier. As this grey area of protection and (dare i say) copyright loom uncertainly overhead, it´s up to us to use them responsibly and respectfully.
It’s a simple matter of credit where it’s due.
So let’s try to keep it respectful, kind and supportive eh? We don’t have to be shy to compliment or, as i like to say, “big up” (!) each other. That goes for “liking” something too. Be open-minded enough to appreciate great work/life/play when you see it. Tell someone if you like what they are doing (let’s erase this critical cultural bubble). Ask for help and advice, and accumulate your own truth. And if you take something from someone, a little acknowledgement wouldn’t go amiss. It’s not only respectful, but it reciprocates a beautiful kinship, thus encouraging more connection and hell, possibly even collaboration. At least a mutual respect.
I want to keep sharing, helping and supporting wherever i can, and in a way that is open and authentic. I want to support and champion others around me who, regardless or not (god/goat forbid) are doing “similar” things as me, because i believe in them and that it elevates all of us. I don’t want to do this with the hope it will be reciprocated, but because it feels good to share, to learn and to be inspired! I never want to stop learning and crediting sources from my teachers in whatever form. I want to create opportunities for more connection to others, complimenting each other in a way that also celebrates our uniqueness. Finally, i want to trust and be open to trusting.
So, over to you! Have you ever felt like shutting down through fear of copycats?
Thank you, Jennifer, for inspiring the conversation.
With thanks to all who inspire and delight,