BlogCrafty Business Advice

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Worry About Copycats

Copycats are a fact of life in the business world. No one likes someone suckling at their creative teat (ick… bad metaphor), but instead of getting mad, get over it and get AWESOME.

1. You aren’t the only creative person on the planet.

The farting unicorn t-shirt I designed for my band is a perfect example.

I originally thought of the idea of a unicorn farting a rainbow several years ago. And I swear that when I searched it then, there was nothing. I was actually surprised. Surely I wasn’t the only person to come to the conclusion that a unicorn would most definitely fart a rainbow?!?

Now go google farting unicorn and see what comes up. Lots of unicorns farting rainbows! COPYCATS!

But not really. I didn’t actually get around to posting the shirt design until last year. When I googled farting unicorn then, lo and behold, I saw what you see now. MY IDEA, everywhere.

The point being: was it my original idea? Yes. But was I the ONLY person to have the idea? Clearly not. Did someone have the idea before me, even though when I looked for it, I didn’t find it? Probably.

Furthermore, all of the farting unicorn designs out there are quite a bit different from one another, so while the basic premise might be the same, and some may have even been inspired by others, they’re still not copies. The same way that drawing a rabbit eating a carrot isn’t copying Bugs Bunny.

It’s merely a similar idea, done differently. And that’s allowed. How boring would the world be if it wasn’t?

Bunny in a Sea of Carrots Card by bikeparts

2. Everything has been done before.

You know that awesome, original, totally creative idea you had? Someone’s probably already done it before. This applies to my farting unicorn above in the “idea” sense. And it applies to a lot of other things like clothing, bags, etc. in the literal sense.

I didn’t invent the circle skirt. It’s been around forever. So I didn’t even have the original IDEA for a circle skirt. I’d seen them a million times before, and literally said, “Hey! Circle skirt! I’m gonna make one of those.” 100% someone else’s idea. Whose idea? Probably no one knows.

That may seem fairly obvious, but let’s take it a step further. Let’s say it was a circle skirt… with a poodle applique sewn on. I know you’ve seen those. They’ve also been around forever. So am I a copycat for making one? I don’t think so.

50’s Poodle Skirt by hiphop50sshop

Let’s go less obvious. What if I made a zebra print circle skirt, but instead of the common theme of a poodle,Ā  I go with a skull. And then I see someone else doing the same thing. Copying? In my opinion, it’d be awfully presumptuous to assume that I was the only. person. ever. that thought of combining the two, even though it’s not the traditional poodle skirt.

Okay, sure, there are legitimate copycats out there, ripping off every little detail that made your design YOURS, and you know very well that they got the idea from you. Because it’s your EX-best-friend, or your arch nemesis who’s trying to destroy you, or your evil robot twin.

I’ve been there, but I’ve gotten to the point that I just don’t care anymore. I might get a quick pang of annoyance, and then I move on with my life. These are the reasons I was able to do that:

3. Worrying about copycats is unnecessary negative energy.

Unless someone copies your actual artwork or words or makes a mold of your sculpture (and in those cases, get medieval on their asses, by all means*), there’s not even anything you can do about a copycat.Ā  Someone could go look at my shop and replicate all of my designs and I couldn’t do squat, aside from get pissed and tell everyone how sucky they are.

At the risk of sounding like a hippie, I’m all about the PMA- Positive Mental Attitude. I know, unicorns, rainbows, and now happy thoughts? But it’s true: thinking positive generates positive energy. If you focus on all of the good things in your life, how can you NOT feel awesome? The exact opposite is true of negative energy. Worry, anger, bitterness… all those feelings result in misery, so why dwell on them?

But you can’t help how you feel, right?

You can help what you DO with your feelings. Take that GRRRRRR you’re feeling about that copycat and go make something really kickass. Or bake someone special some cookies. Or pet your cute snuggly kitty cat. Instead of wallowing in and/or spreading the negativity, do something positive. Just imagine how goddamned magnificent the world would be if we all did something positive when we wanted to do something negative.

I’ve been there, and I’ve done the negative thing, and now that I have more perspective, I wish I could take it back. It did zero good. What a waste of my energy! I could have made cupcakes instead! Unless you’re immortal, you’ve got better things to do with your time than to let a copycat mess up your game.

cupcake soaps by ajsweetsoap

*If someone is using your photographs, text, or artwork without your permission, they are committing actual copyright infringement.Ā  In such cases, I’d suggest sending them an email politely explaining that you are the owner of the work, that using it without your permission constitutes copyright infringement, and that you are asking that they remove it to avoid legal action. Most people will oblige with an apology, because they simply didn’t know that what they were doing was wrong. It’s a sad side effect of information being so readily available on the internet that many people just assume they can take anything they find on the internet and use it.

4. Copycats don’t last.

They’ll make quick buck off your idea and then move on to someone else’s idea. And then they’ll die. Figuratively, of course.

Every single instance where I felt I was copied- the shops were either gone within a year or the person stopped replicating my design very quickly.Ā  You know why?

Creative people are driven by the creative process. They would get bored very quickly with copying.

Copycats are driven by money. And sooner or later most of them will realize what all of us handmakers already know- if you’re in this for the money, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

copy cat cufflinks by whitetruffle

5. Publicly talking about people copying you makes you look petty.

And unprofessional. And full of yourself.

It didn’t occur to me until later, when I heard other people complaining about this or that person that copied them that I realized it. Even at times when I thought, “Yeah, that really does look like someone copied you,” the overall feeling I had was negative.

Is negativity what you want associated with your brand? Because mine sure as hell isn’t. So even if people are agreeing with you, “YEAH! THAT BITCH TOTALLY COPIED, LET’S GO GET PITCHFORKS AND TORCHES AND STAND OUTSIDE OF HER HOUSE!” … they might subconsciously be thinking, “Doesn’t this person have better things to do than whine about copycats?”

And they’re right, because you could be making super sweet shit instead! So go do it and stop worrying about copycats.

For more perspective on copycats, check out: http://pikaland.com/2010/06/01/copycats-lessons-we-can-learn

20 thoughts on “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Worry About Copycats

  1. I don’t care if people “steal my ideas” or whatever… it happens. In the end, though, they are thieves & I will always have more ideas.

  2. Yeah I think we all have experienced this and when I do it makes me want to scream. It can be annoying and disheartening but you just have to keep moving forward.

  3. Awesome article about how to handle this issue that, one way or another, every crafter deals with. Be positive and be awesome!

  4. Awesome outlook on the copycat situation! Most of the time if I see someone whining and complaining about someone copying their idea I “unlike” them on Facebook and don’t bother with them anymore because I don’t want to read complaints all day. BUT if someone is warning customers about someone who is using the “original” pictures to sell products instead of a picture they took of something they made themselves, THEN I 100% support the “original” and don’t blame them for getting mad.

    1. Thanks for bringing that point up, Jessie! Using someone else’s photos and artwork without permission is copyright infringement, and it’s illegal. Not cool at all. I’ve added a little clarification on that point. šŸ™‚

  5. Great article Smarms! šŸ™‚ I also really like this quote from Gala Darling:
    “In this world, there is no competition, no race; that’s just in your head. There is enough room for all of us to be happy, successful and utterly incredible.”

  6. Thanks so much for featuring my cupcake soaps in this awesome article – it’s all so true! Copycats always eat away at me, but I realized I needed to just move on to the next creative idea….

  7. People copy my chicken designs all the time and I used to get so cross about it. Now I acknowledge it and move on. I put that energy into my designs and make them better so that the copycats are always one step behind šŸ™‚

  8. Very nicely written article and very true as well. I once saw a rather sad back and forth between two sellers online. They both sold things made out of soda tabs, really neat stuff like corsets made completely out of soda tabs. One of them was completely pissed that the other had dared to copy her idea. Not designs, but idea. As if she was the only person that had ever thought of, or ever could make things out of soda tabs.

    In the end it made me not want to buy anything from her and instead give my business to the ‘copier’.

  9. This is a GREAT article – thank you! I have been doing my best to do exactly what you suggest because it feels much more right to do so than the wallow down in all that negativity. I actually took it one step further. Someone on Facebook used two photos of my work to say this was the sort of thing she could make if asked. I got in touch, asked politely if she could remove the photos, and then I sent her an email saying that I was sure that all her customers would much rather see photos of her own work, rather than of someone else’s. We ended up having a really good chat (she was in the camp of thinking that anything found on the internet was fair game), and now she’s one of my biggest supporters. If we don’t change our response to copy cats, nothing’s ever going to change!

    Love it! Thank you! Off to spread the word šŸ™‚

  10. Thanks for sharing this great attitude youve developed! I would just like to go a step further n put in a 180 spin on this also.
    most real creative ppl can make just about anything they have a mind too its in their DNA. Easy peasy. But a lot of the time dont realise, that when theyve made something, there is bound to be someone who wants to Immediately label them “COPY CAT” …… just because its something like what they may have been the only one around town doing this item for years, now suddenlly they feel a little threatened, and infringed upon. so, rather then embracing the newer person thats making a “similar style” etc, they simply shout and label “COPY CAT” …. that word just spreads n spreads like wild fire, and it just totally n utterlly damaging, cruel and narrow minded of small minded people. Do you have any idea how long, and how hard it is to come out from under that label?? it just sticks, and sticks, and grows and grows, even if youve moved on to another project to try and appease everyone. It causes reproach on the so called copy catter to the point where they feel like their nothing but a bad germ hanging around, n everyone deterres from them and ostrasizes them badly. especially in the craft world as it is a small circle really, and word travels fast. I was so depressed last year from this happenning to me, i couldnt get out of bed, for months, just did a few basic have too’s in the house n back to bed. i even wanted to end my life. mainly because i was misunderstood, and people just went on spreading n spreading, until i heard things that simply were not the truth. SO ….. Please, Please, Pleeeease, be careful before you label anyone a “Copy Cat” …… and give ppl room to grow to find their own nitch, and be big enough to take a little competition on the chin!! i know of a vast jewelry company around, that is so threatened at allowing any other stall holder turn up to any markets she does, that she demands full exclusive rights on selling this common well used technique of jewelry, that she says, if you want my big name at your market as a crowd drawer than …. no others are allowed to be here selling this line of (common) jewelry. sadly the coordinators are torn, and go with the ultimative. even at a market of 120 plus stalls. craaaazy!!! so theres just the other side of the coin to have a little think on. I know ill never label anyone that name, no matter what. i’d just rise above it! i truly would. Thanks xx

    1. I absolutely agree, Amanda. While there are certainly some true outright cases of copycatting, I think it’s a lot more common that two people have similar tastes and to quote the cliche: “great minds think alike”. Hey, two people had the same great idea! It’s not the end of the world.
      My advice to anyone that feels wrongly accuse of copying (been there, done that): You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. If someone is insecure enough to be threatened by your awesome presence, you must be doing something right!

  11. So true Lex, lets just rise above, and get on with it! keep designing from flows naturally, and let the whingers and insecure whiners sit in the corner n gather dust winging! so pathetic! in my case anyhow. šŸ™‚

  12. So true, being new to using my creativity to create things for others it is very nice to read this. So thank you for writing this post and writing what i was thinking but unsure off.

    Annemieke

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