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Thanks For Not Biting.

Picture this: the internet is your local aesthetic café, filled with a cornucopia of creative concepts and visual stimulation. You browse the selection, your daily feed, searching for inspiration to fill your appetite. One item captures your attention, so you save it to your basket. You know it’s not right, but you just saw someone else do it, and this café is huge, there are so many people here- who will know? You take a bite, and leave without tipping, without paying. You leave, and even recreate the item at home, sharing it proudly with your closest friends as your original idea. No harm done, you return to the café. Eventually, it becomes a regular thing. Everyone is doing it, even the regulars, so why stop?

A DIGITAL PANDEMIC

These days when I scroll through my feed I find myself wary. While we are suffering indeed from fakeness fatigue, I find myself compoundly tired of seeing the same content regurgitated in a slightly different (if at all different) format. Tired of being incensed at seeing art being shared with no credits. Tired of seeing references that turn out to be blueprints instead of points of inspiration. Since when did inspiration mean a lazy ‘reinterpretation’ of a concept, since when did crediting become optional?

The current pandemic of plagiarism is unique to the digital age where regurgitated/uncredited content is buried under yesterday’s feed with seemingly no harm done. That is, until an artist’s work is copied onto a brand’s product without royalties or an emerging artist’s concepts are mimicked by established creatives. The harm in it becomes very real, and not just on a monetary level, but motivationally.

GOOGLE KILLED ORIGINALITY

A common defense is the rhetoric that originality is dead; a redundant concept given the sheer spate of creative content we are able to access, post and share on a whim. It’s all debatable when a Google search can produce similar images. Anonymity, too, encourages brazenness. Another cause could be that ease of access to information and visual stimulation make originality a labour that generations raised on instant gratification just don’t appreciate. ‘We have the Internet at our fingertips… Having the answers to everything leaves little room for mystery’, writes a contributor for MUCH. ‘Without mysteries, there’s nothing to solve. And ultimately, nothing original left to create’.

But what does originality even mean? Oxford dictionary defines it as: the ability to think independently and creatively. Meaning if your thought was created free from influence, by yourself, you’ve done it. However, inspiration often births creativity (but isn’t essential to it) and given social media, influence from other artists is a common catalyst for creation. Which brings me to…

GENERATION REMIX

Let’s be clear: taking inspiration is nothing to be ashamed of. But there is a fine line between imitation and inspiration. It starts with crediting, and ends with paying for using intellectual property where applicable.

Biting is not flattering, not crediting is not cute. We cannot continue to hide under the cloak of online anonymity or in the volume of hashtags and remixes. If anything, it’s more important than ever to maintain creative integrity on the WWW where nothing is forgotten and receipts are not lost but living on clouds. In light of this, I’ve compiled a quick checklist on how not to get dragged for ‘flattering’ someone.

  1. CRED(IT): Give it where it’s due, boo. By all means remix and repost but for heaven’s sake just credit the original. If you can’t find the artist themselves or they are unspecified at least tag the platform or account you found it on. Where art is shared on social media by the artist themselves, tagging them is non-negotiable. If you are using the content for work, a brand or advertising (really anything where you make money from it), contact the artist about payment. And ALWAYS ask permission first.

  2. VARY IT: A moodboard or references are visual inspirations used to give direction for a creative project. To avoid your references from becoming a collection of someone’s work, make sure to vary your sources and take inspiration for different elements from different projects, not the same one.

  3. ADMIT IT: If you are going to recreate a look, project or idea then STATE that it’s a recreation. ‘Imitation always gets a bad rep, man’ (Toro y Moi – Freelance) but it IS flattering to an artist when someone is clearly inspired and plays on their work. But – you guessed it- ask first.

Welcome to the content café, thank you for not biting, we look forward to serving you more organic, inspired (debatably original) creative concepts.

This article originally appeared on Three Magazine.

Feature image: Andrea Liang (@andrealiangart)

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