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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Notes from a Designer's Logbook - by George Ledo » » On creativity, plagiarism… and ego (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

George Ledo
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There has been a great deal of interest here in the Café recently regarding the ethics of using someone else’s material, and what’s proper to do and what isn’t. Interestingly, a number of the arguments back and forth seem to focus on how much you need to change something in order for it to be “new” and “yours.” I’m not going to touch the issue of ethics here, but I do want to share some thoughts on how people in the creative professions think.

Although most of us certainly have high standards of professional behavior, our driving force, our motivation, is based on something else: ego. A lot of us have an ego that makes the Goodyear blimp look like a party balloon.

And it’s just as full of hot air, okay?

But, anyway, we honestly believe (or want to believe) that we can do better than the last guy. And that’s what we work towards -- with the accent on “work.” Because that’s why we got into this business in the first place.

Back in design school, in the latter part of the previous millennium, the absolute worst thing someone (professors or peers) could say about us wasn’t that we were copying someone else’s work. That was just plagiarism, and, sure, it was bad. The worst thing someone could say about us was that we were copying someone else’s work BECAUSE either:

a) We weren’t talented enough to come up with our own ideas, or,

b) We were too lazy to work on our own ideas like everyone else.

Granted, that was a fairy-tale, “Leave it to Beaver” world compared to nowadays, but either one of those comments, if it went beyond one or two people, was the kiss of death. It was like back in the days of the Inquisition: you had to prove you were innocent. And good luck.

Most of us want to do our own stuff. We’re not interested in loopholes, or in how much we have to change something in order to get around the copyright or patent laws. If we were, we would have become shady lawyers and made a lot more money.

When I say “most of us,” I’m of course admitting that there are exceptions – the black sheep of the trade. But those black sheep have a way of eventually smothering in their own wool. And the rest of us just looooove to see it happen.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine

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