Simply C Photography questions the line between inspiration and plagiarism

Simply C Photography questions the line between inspiration and plagiarism

When it comes to sharing your work there are hundreds of platforms and methods to choose from. And every time you post on social media, add to your blog or update your website you are sharing your brand, your products and your ideas with thousands of people.

“I Simply love sharing photographs from recent projects, and connecting with my followers” agrees Cherry Beesley of Simply C Photography, “it helps get my brand out there as well as supporting my clients, telling their stories and demonstrating my passion for photography”.

However, there is one big downside to being so visible and open and it’s something many creative professionals understand all too well. Where do you cross the line between imitation, which in Cherry’s (and others) line of work can form an important part of career development, and outright plagiarism?

“No photographer develops their style in isolation. I could list hundreds of people who have inspired me over the years. I’ve studied methods, and even been fortunate to join personal heroes on a shoot and I watched their every move, to learn everything I could”.

“On the flip side of this” Cherry continues “I have no issues with anyone studying my work and applying some of that information to what they do. It’s flattering, to say the least”.

And accusations of creative theft aren’t reserved for smaller organisations, just this month John Lewis have donated an ‘undisclosed sum’ to a charity after they were accused of plagiarising the arrangement of the song used in their Christmas advert (although the brand strongly denies that they copied the song).

“Over the years I’ve experienced a variety of blatant attempts by people passing off my work as their own” Cherry explains, “My image of the Orwell Bridge was even used in a photography competition by a photography student!”

But recently Cherry’s online content has also been re-used.

“In recent times, I’ve also spotted my blogs and social media content being repurposed, sometimes word for word, by other industry professionals. I’ve even had my website completely copied by another photographer.”

But what can you do in these situations? Especially as a smaller business. “Sometimes, it’s Simply a case of accepting that a well-meaning stranger, perhaps a student, hadn’t realised what they were doing was wrong, and moving on”

“Other times, where the theft is particularly brazen, and has been done by someone who should know better, it’s a case of speaking to the perpetrator directly and then”, Cherry adds, “if it continues, looking to your  legal copyright. This is never an action I’d take lightly mind you but quite often the people who do this type of thing don’t take kindly to polite requests to give credit where credit is due (or they think it hasn’t been seen and they can get away with it)”.

Cherry is also keen for people to understand that the effects of plagiarism are just as bad for the client, customer or end user who has bought into an idea, service or product only to find the supplier can’t replicate their promises.

“Of course, it’s hurtful to have your hard work and unique creative voice used by someone else, and time consuming in sorting, ultimately it affects income. Legal costs are also expensive. However, it’s probably worse for clients. Imagine you commissioned a ‘professional photographer’ to produce your website images, headshots, property shoot, or product catalogue, based on the strength of what turned out to be a plagiarised portfolio. You’re going to be sorely disappointed when you see the finished results”.

“I feel sad for the people who feel they have to copy work in the first place” Cherry concludes, “if they instead applied their time to, you know, honing their own craft, investing in their own voice, developing their own style and creating their own brand they might stand a chance of actually getting the clients that they deserve”.

Who knows, if they followed Cherry’s lead they might even find that other people start copying their work and passing it off as their own, “and when that happens, you know you must be pretty good at what you do”.

“If you’re looking for a great commercial photographer, Simply ignore the copies, and get in touch with the original today”.

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