Social Media and Makers: Copy Cats, Thievery, and Inspiration

With so many talented people in the creative community it’s very easy to find inspiration. But when is that inspiration considered copying? Should you be hesitant to share your work for fear of accusations of copying? Should you be concerned about people copying your work?

I’m happy to say that I’ve inspired people with the things I’ve made. It thrills me to no end knowing that someone was inspired to create after seeing something of mine.

I’ve been inspired by others, as well. Many, many times.

Where do you draw the line between copying and being inspired? How do you prevent accusations of copying? How do you handle people copying you?

For myself (I can only speak for myself and my own experiences) I feel that copying is using the exact same colors, techniques, products, in the exact same way. I also feel that inspiration without acknowledgement is the copying of an idea.

Inspiration is when you take things you like from someone’s work; color scheme, composition, general idea, and you make it your own.

As an example this is a card I was inspired by recently.

It was created by the incredibly talented Nancy at @made_by_nananas and you can find it in her Instagram post here (card and link shared with her permission).

This is the card I created after being inspired by hers.

Do you see the similarities? Do you see the differences?

Now, had I posted my card and not said it was inspired by the card made by Nancy, some might say I was copying. I would certainly have felt that I was copying her idea (obviously not the entire card) if I hadn’t given credit to her for inspiring me.

Sometimes you can’t give credit, though. Sometimes you don’t remember where you saw something, where the inspiration came from, etc. In that case, if you are unsure but you know it came from someone else you could say something like “I was inspired by an item that I saw but I don’t recall where I saw it or who it was created by”. That way you’re covering yourself by acknowledging that the inspiration came from a source other than your own imagination.

What if someone accuses you of copying their work but you genuinely didn’t? This has never happened to me but if it did I would have to stand my ground and maintain the fact that I hadn’t been inspired by nor had I copied their work. Let’s face it, there are only so many ways to use particular products and eventually people are bound to create similar things.

What if someone copies your work? Or what if they’re inspired by your work, create something similar, but don’t give any acknowledgement that your work inspired theirs?

This has actually happened to me and my first reaction was to be angry. After all, that was my idea.

Then I thought about it. How could I be 100% certain that they hadn’t had an idea similar to mine? After all, it’s going to happen when people are using the same supplies.

Then I thought that if they had been inspired by my work, even if they didn’t mention it, that that was pretty cool. How awesome is it to make something that someone likes so much that they want to make something similar?

After some consideration, I decided that it wasn’t anything to be angry about. If they had taken my photo and passed it off as their own, or if I’d trademarked my idea or had it copyrighted or patented then that would be an entirely different matter.

So remember:

  • If you were inspired by someone and you know who they are, tag them when you post your art.
  • If you were inspired by someone but don’t remember who, mention that when you post your art.
  • If someone accuses you of copying them but you hadn’t, stand your ground. If you are telling the truth you have nothing to hide.
  • If someone copies your idea, you could message them and tactfully express that you feel they copied your work.
  • Alternatively you could roll with it, bearing in mind that your work may have inspired them and isn’t it awesome to inspire people?
  • Don’t steal people’s images and pass them off as your own.
  • Don’t use people’s images without their permission.
  • Treat people with the same courtesy with which you would want them to treat you.


Until next time,

Computers, phones, octopus bones,



3 thoughts on “Social Media and Makers: Copy Cats, Thievery, and Inspiration

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