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Dealing with Design Copy Cats

It isn’t a great feeling when you see something that you may have spent hours, days, weeks or even years developing pop-up being sold by someone else – But if you are truly doing a fantastic job, expect that you will attract copycats.

It is said that nothing is new and it’s true. Everything that is today is a spin off of something that came before it, the key is how much of one’s own character exists in these creations. Some, just dance a little too close to right out plagiarism rather than attempting to be original – Others might just have taken a little too much inspiration, so above all make sure that you do your research FIRST.

In your research, you need to uncover what kind of copycat they are in order to deal with them properly. Here are some of the most common copycats in the wild in 2023.

 

THE HONEST MISTAKE / COINCIDENCE

This is why research needs to be done whenever you see someone that you think might be a copycat. Working long hours and being steeped in great inspiring work for a new project is a recipe for disaster that some just overlook. Creating something so close to the research phase can result in ideas that run too close or even just outright trample on copyright, though this may not be the intention. There is also the possibility that, while your work and their’s are similar that they have just coincidentally created something close to your idea – the likelihood is low, but it can happen, usually this is more likely in niche industries that share only a few motifs ie. A radio companies logo having a similar looking microphone in it’s logo.

If it’s an honest mistake than the best approach is simply to say hi and let them know that their latest creation is a little close to something you had already produced. In the very least they will probably just be a bit embarrassed, apologise and go away to think more about their process of creation in future. If not and their reaction is immediately accusational or aggressive, it could be an indication that you actually have a different kind of copycat on your hands.

 

 

THE LIAR

This kind of copycat is either in denial or absolutely intentional in their actions. They have used a part or multiple parts of something you have created without crediting or assuming responsibility when contacted. They think that changing the colour of something constitutes a completely different creation and holds tightly to the belief that the 15% rule is actually a thing (hint: it’s really not).

The approach here could be a simple reminder about copyright and that legal proceedings are a possibility, though usually only mention the latter if they are being particularly aggressive. A little nudge in the right direction might be all they need to get them back onto the right path. After all, it’s a hard thing to realise on one’s own the internet when attribution is so scarce and meme’s that frequently bend copyright and so common that work you create has value, especially if that work in digital. It is also a lot harder to forcibly remove work that is taken on the internet, so it’s always the best approach to be welcoming and inform the copycat in a friendly way.. unless they are of another kind.

 

THE SCOUNDREL

This copycat doesn’t care what they take, what you got paid to create or what value they are stripping from you in their own work. They might even openly try to ‘borrow’ your identity as a marketing tactic – and yes, this does happen. These kinds of copycats are most common on third partly sites that allow you to submit and sell artwork for digital purposes or for prints and apparel, but are just as likely to be setup at the local markets selling stickers and other paraphernalia they have liberally lifted from the internet.

The best way to defend against this kind of copycat is to be aware and engage them immediately if they are easily identifiable. Don’t just openly call them out or engage your community until you have done all of the other appropriate lodgings, because this kind of copycat is being deliberately sly – you don’t want to give them time to change up their plan before you gone through the work of approaching the ‘authorities’. Most usually this will be contacting the service in question and lodging a DCMA – this is primarily part of US copyright law, but since most of the major services you use are likely based in the US this will work as a first approach. And, if these don’t work and all else fails – see a lawyer and talk about legal proceedings, if the scoundrel is taking away from your profits by using your work then you have grounds to.. and I know this in of itself is becoming a meme, but.. sue.

Moreover though, be careful about where you post work especially if it is online and think about taking simple precautions to at least make it harder for a copycat to steal your hard work ie. watermark on your images and don’t upload in hi-resolutions unless you need to (try close ups with a zoomed out versions instead). Your audience will not be harmed by the introduction of these steps if they are done properly either, so there is really no reason not to just be a bit safer out there.

 

So there it is, a few ways to approach copy cats of your work and if you have gotten this far, thanks! Hope you have an amzing day.

 

 

Chris Kirkby

Chris Kirkby

Graphic Design, Print Design, Web Design + Problem Solving

Hi! I’m Chris, a senior graphic designer based in Ipswich, Australia with over 15 years of industry experience developing and designing solutions to tricky business problems. In the course of my career to date I have worked in creating everything from large eccommerce websites and social media content online, to point of sale marketing materials, internationally sold products, packaging, catalogues and magazines. I’m passionate about problem solving and love to get into the bones of a project before helping to bring it to life.

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