I recently discovered that a design project of mine was taken from the internet (where I posted and shared it last year) without my permission, and then used to create an uncomfortably similar design for a client I could only dream of working with here in Kansas City. I did this design as a side project for fun (a.k.a. free) and got a lot of positive responses for it, which is more than I could ask for. The subject of the project is something that I really care about, something very close to my heart, and I truly feel that the time and effort I put in this project were stolen from me. If you’ve ever had something stolen from you, you know it’s a very unpleasant feeling.
I should also mention that I have worked with the person who took and used my design. I really regarded them as a role model in the Kansas City design community at one point in time, which makes the situation all the more sour.
After my initial feelings of shock and violation, I realized I needed to take a step back to see what I can gain from this experience to make up for the mountain of stress it has caused. These are the life lessons that I’ve extracted for both sides of this story:
To the taker:
If you’d like to use something that belongs to someone else, just ask.
Maybe the idea of sharing will infuriate them. Or maybe all they want is credit or acknowledgement of their good idea. Either way, you will protect yourself from trouble and embarrassment down the road.
It is a small world after all.
If you think that you can get away with wronging a person without them noticing, remember, it’s a small world. It might seem like there are so many people out there and so much information on the internet that your misstep will go by unnoticed—it very well might—but sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
To the maker:
Take joy in the knowledge that you can create something original.
It doesn’t have to be art or design. Maybe you cooked a meal without a recipe or came up with a great solution to a problem at work. I’ll take creativity in life over fame or money any day. It’s a rare gift.
Don’t be turned off from doing the things you love because of one minor set back.
In a perfect world, we would all get paid handsomely to do the things where our talent and passion intersect. But since we don’t live in that world, you have to ask yourself “is it worth it?” and if the answer is yes, don’t let anyone get in your way.
In the end, the person’s mistakes will end up hurting them more than it hurts you.
Stealing, plagiarism, copying, counterfeiting. These things might be hurtful and wrong, but in the end, they do more harm to the person who does them.