Skip the Rage: Jessica Hische on Dealing with Ripoffs
Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 17, 2014
Lettering and illustration rockstar Jessica Hische is also the author of warm, witty treatises on working and thriving as a creator. Her most recent article deals with the thorny issue of ripoffs. A designer wrote about discovering imitators – some working for large campaigns for major companies – and asked Hische “…how you personally deal. Frankly, I'm flattered and simultaneously depressed at any given moment and try not to think about it.”
Hische’s counsel is her typical blend of humor and practical advice. In describing the typical sequence of outraged reaction followed by regret and a more formal communication with the infringer, she recommends skipping the rage. She also distinguishes between an individual who is copying an artists’ style versus a designer or agency actually reusing work without permission. In the former case, Hische points out that the imitator may be inexperienced, and she advises educating them about the inadvisability of copying someone else’s style.
In the case of a work being outright infringed, Hische recommends sending a stern letter to the artist or agency that produced the infringing work. However, she cautions that taking on a large company can be expensive and time consuming, citing Modern Dog’s recent successful case against Target, Disney and Jaya Apparel Group. She sums up by stating that her best advice is to register the copyright on your creations: “While you of course ‘own the copyright’ to the images you create unless you're transferring them to the client in a contract, it’s difficult to pursue copyright infringement cases without having filed for copyright of the images officially.”
Note: While original images are automatically copyrighted to their creators, registering the copyrights confers a extra degree of legal clout: it creates a public record of authorship, it’s required before an infringer can be taken to court, and it enables the creator to sue for damages and be awarded legal fees. For more information on copyrights, visit our article in our Resources page.
The issue of fan-copying is a topic Hische addressed in a much earlier article, “Inspiration vs. Imitation.” The article was directed towards aspiring artists and fans who openly plagiarized Hiche’s work. In this article she makes a clear distinction between copying as a learning tool, versus passing off work which closely replicates another’s as original work. She advises new artists on how to move past simply imitating their role models: draw from many inspirations rather than a chosen few; dig into historical references; train your eye to spot differences and originality; and be aware that passing derivative work as original will ruin your reputation amongst your peers and potential employers.
How to Start your Very Own Communication Design Business!
Enter your email address below to receive a FREE download of "Starting Your Own Communication Design Business" written by Lara Kisielewska.
By signing up you will receive our monthly newsletter and occasional e-mails about our advocacy work. You will have the option to opt out at any time.
Looking to keep up with industry trends and techniques?
Taking your creative career to the next level means you need to be up on a myriad of topics. And as good as your art school education may have been, chances are there are gaps in your education. The Guild’s professional monthly webinar series, Webinar Wednesdays, can help take you to the next level.
Members can join the live webinars for FREE - as part of your benefits of membership! Non-members can join the live webinars for $45.
Visit our webinar archive page, purchase the webinar of your choice for $35 and watch it any time that works for you.