Imitation: Flattery or Violation?

posted on 19th of march, 2009

How often have you looked at someone's work and thought you could do better? When I see something unique I admire the creator. Sometimes I attempt to spin the image into something different that reflects myself as the illustrator. Maybe it's the competitive spirit in me. For better or worse, I think there is value in reworking an image to be more unique or to provide extra value.
However, sometimes in the stock world people will intentionally imitate an image down to the details. I guess the thought process is that by imitation you can create a productive portfolio. Is it the sincerest form of flattery? I question the value of this type of work.

I understand this is a free-market and there are no controls on imitations. I understand that sometimes with thousands of images in your portfolio that you might accidentally recreate someone's image by accident. I even understand when 20 photos of the same tourist attraction are sold at the same agency. Yet, somewhere there is a line. Isn't there?

As a freelance designer and former graphic artist in the print industry I know if I saw similar images, I'd simply choose the one that 'felt right.' Essentially, my choice was about aesthetics. Yet, I was never faced with choosing between essentially identical images. Micro stock has opened a door that never used to exist.

How do you as a contributor or buyer feel when you see almost identical images? Do you think there's value in the art of imitation? When is it a violation of copyright to have a similar image?

(Please don't feel singled out if I've used your image in this article. I'm simply demonstrating similarities and chose some images that I recalled as being similar.)

Comments (6)

Comment by Markogt on April 18, 2009