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Alondra Flores

Ms. O’Keefe

English IV

2 April 2018

Plagiarism in the art world.

Plagiarism is a problem that many industries have to deal with from education all the way

into the field of medicine. We are taught in school that it’s wrong to copy but as time progresses,

some think it no longer applies to them or simply don’t care and plagiarise. Plagiarism has no

limits to what it can be applied to; from a scientist taking credit for a discovery or a well known

artist copying a street artists artwork and claiming it as their own. Plagiarism can exist in every

aspect of our lives and in some cases, it’s normal to plagiarise to the point where we don’t even

know that we’re doing it. Plagiarism in the art world is one of the things that isn’t normally

thought of when speaking of plagiarism. Art plagiarism, however, is a very big controversy in

the art world with many debates due to disagreements on who’s to blame for plagiarism existing

in the art world and also stems from a disagreement on what plagiarism really means and applies

to. Some believe what we were taught in school and apply it to every aspect of their lives and

fully believe that plagiarism is wrong in every case and also believe that plagiarism is the fault of

our society for not doing enough to spread knowledge about the harm of plagiarism. While

others think that There are other people who only think plagiarism applies to certain situations

and that there are certain ways to get away with “plagiarism”(in this case they would call it
“taking inspiration from other work”) without actually causing any harm. This point of view

believes that plagiarism is the fault of no one due to misunderstanding created by us about what

is plagiarism and what isn’t. And still others believe plagiarism isn’t harmful to anyone. These

people who think this way believe that no idea is original so nobody can claim that their work is

being plagiarised because they can’t claim to be the originator or an idea due to their own

inspiration of others. They also believes that plagiarism is the fault of the artist for posting art

online for everyone to see. They believe that once it’s online, it’s fair game to anyone.

The first point of view believes that plagiarism is plagiarism no matter what. They see

plagiarism in this light because,“Many students who plagiarise do so unintentionally, often

because they don't have the academic skills to avoid over-reliance on the work of others or

because they aren't sure what constitutes plagiarism”(UNSW Sydney). Quote shows how

professional institution acknowledges that plagiarism can exist as a mistake but it doesn’t make it

any less of plagiarism. What this means is that there is no limitations or exceptions whatsoever

to what is plagiarism. The students in this case who plagiarise by mistake will still receive the

same amount of punishment as someone who plagiarised intentionally because at the end of the

day, it’s still plagiarism. This first point of view also views plagiarism to be the fault of society

and the lack of control taken over plagiarism. An article written by a professional tattoo artist

writes, “So in the end, it’s up to both sides (clients and tattooers) to stop this plagiarism from

happening. The Internet isn’t going anywhere so it’s up to us to draw the line between what is

acceptable idea-sharing and what is plagiarism”(G.Douglas). What this quote shows is that it’s
our fault as a society that plagiarism keeps happening because instead of taking ownership of our

own contribution to plagiarism spreading, we blame it on someone else. Instead we should

accept that we contribute to the spread of plagiarism by not raising awareness of what is

plagiarism in whatever industry we work in. Because of this, it’s our fault that us as a society

don’t teach the difference between plagiarism and what isn’t to prevent plagiarism from

happening again. Instead, we just punish the people who plagiarise without really making them

understand why it’s wrong.

The second point of view sees that there is a difference between plagiarism and taking

inspiration from a work of art. There are unspoken words about what you can and can’t take

from a piece of work we as artists must follow in order to not plagiarise work but instead just

“take inspiration” from work. Due to this, they also believe that plagiarism it the fault of no one

because of the unspoken rules. Because the rules aren’t spoken and explained, how is anyone

supposed to know? We can’t just expect everyone to just know these rules off the bat so it’s no

one’s fault that plagiarism happens because it isn’t made clear what plagiarism is and isn’t. The

second point of view sees the difference between plagiarism and drawing inspiration from other

work because, “The golden rule applies: Steal in the way you’d want to be stolen from, with

credit, respect, and transformative new ideas”(N. Douglas). This quote demonstrates that in

order to avoid plagiarism when taking inspiration from works is by giving credit for inspiration

drawn to the original artists even if it doesn’t look similar. You still have to give them credit for

your idea that originated thanks to the original artist. What this quote revealed that made this
point of view see that there is a difference in plagiarism and taking inspiration is that there is a

correct way of taking elements from a piece of work that you like and translating it into your

own work. Because there is a correct way to do it, it also means that there is a wrong way and

that would be the definition of plagiarism for this point of view. This point of view sees that in

order for someone to be at blame for plagiarism there first needs to be a set standard of what

plagiarism is. An example of someone setting an example of what plagiarism exactly means in a

specific situation is, “We want our students to create original work, so we have various

expectations about what sort of copying is allowed”(Purtee). This quote is a good example of

what this point of view means by setting an example of what to do and what not to do because

Purtee lays out for her students exactly what isn’t allowed so that there is no excuses about not

knowing what is plagiarism and what isn’t.Without these set expectations, no one can be held

accountable because there were many blurred lines in what the artist and teacher thought was

plagiarism.

The third and final point of view believes that plagiarism isn’t completely harmful and if

an artist's work is plagiarised, it’s at the fault of the original artist. This point of view thinks that

plagiarism isn’t harmful in every context because plagiarism in some aspects of our lives have

become so normalized we don’t even notice we’re doing it. For example, “As tattooers we are all

guilty to a certain amount of plagiarism. Many tattooers work from photos, tattoos, flash,

tattooer art and non-tattooer art as reference”(G.Douglas). This quote shows how plagiarism isn’t

harmful in every case. In this case, a flash sheet is a traditional practice in tattooing and causes

no harm because it was meant to be a very typical design. Because of the unoriginal designs on a

flash sheet, this plagiarism isn’t harmful because it isn’t a unique design by any means because
the original creator of the ideas behind the designs from the flash sheet cannot be pinpointed due

to its unoriginality. This point of view believes that if an artist's work is plagiarised, it’s at the

fault of the artist because the internet is open for everyone to see so if an artist posts a picture of

their work it’s already exposed to millions of people. Some people who view it might just take

inspiration from the piece but others could just blatantly copy the piece but the artist can’t

complain because they posted it online anyway. If the artist doesn’t want to get their art copied,

they can just not post original pieces online for everyone to have access to. An example of this is,

“Based on the network of artists stolen from, most of whom are very popular artists on

Instagram, we believe that Zara may have used certain hashtags to discover our art”(Gallier).

This quote reveals how by posting artwork online it’s immediately at risk of being copied. Artists

like Adam J. Kurtz and many other small, indie brands had Zara under fire after discovering that

Zara plagiarised their work and sold it as their own with no recognition. One of the artists Zara

copied from was Tuesday Bassen and they took it into their own hands to sue the company. In

the end, Zara denied having plagiarised the work but removed the items from their website. What

this shows is that once art is posted online it’s at the availability of everyone but action can be

taken and can create change. An artist can either be angry that their work was stolen or fight for

their work to get the recognition it deserved like the artists Zara stole from.

There are many debates over who is to blame for plagiarism and what plagiarism

is in a given context. Some people side with the idea that plagiarism is the fault of our society as

a whole on why plagiarism continues to happen because instead of spreading knowledge about

how and why plagiarism is bad, we just punish them. They believe that plagiarism is plagiarism

no matter what the given context is. Others believe that plagiarism can be done in a way where
it’s harmless and isn’t plagiarism at all, instead is called taking inspiration. They also believe that

plagiarism is at the fault of no one if there is no set rules in a situation that shows specifically

what and what isn’t plagiarism. Still, others believe that plagiarism isn’t completely harmful. In

some situations plagiarism is normalized and doesn’t cause any harm to any artist. This point of

view also believes that plagiarism is at the fault of artists, meaning that artists can control

whether their art is plagiarised. Through this research, I formed my own opinion on the

controversy. I believe that plagiarism definitely depends on the context of the situation and is at

society’s fault for not making it a bigger deal when artwork is plagiarised. In order for plagiarism

to no longer happen, I believe we need to speak out against plagiarism in the art world to let

artists and others know that it won’t be tolerated by any means. The same way we were punished

in school for plagiarism, we would be punished for plagiarism in our careers.


Works Cited

Berman, Eliza. “Everything to Know About the Shape of Water Plagiarism Controversy.”Time, 1

Mar. 2018, time.com/5170613/shape-of-water-plagiarism-controversy/.

Carson, Shelley H. “Plagiarism and Its Effect on Creative Work.” Psychology Today, 16 Oct.

2010, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-art/201010/plagiarism-and-its-effect-creative-work.

Douglas, Guen. “How to Avoid Tattoo Plagiarism.” TAM, 15 Mar. 2012,

tattooartistmagazine.com/2012/03/15/guen-douglas-how-to-avoid-tattoo-plagiarism/.

Douglas, Nick. “An Artist Explains What ‘Great Artists Steal’ Really Means.” Lifehacker,

Lifehacker.com, 26 Sept. 2017,

lifehacker.com/an-artist-explains-what-great-artists-steal-really-me-1818808264.

Gallier, Thea de. “Independent Artists Claim High Street Chain Zara Is Copying Their Designs.”

BBC News, BBC, 26 July 2016,

www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/36884063/independent-artists-claim-high-street-chain-zara-is-c

opying-their-designs.

Kurtz, Adam J. “Shop ZARA's Art Theft Collection.” Shop ZARA's Art Theft Collection,

shoparttheft.com/.
Purtee, Melissa. “How to Deal with Copyright, Plagiarism, and Original Ideas in Art Education.”

The Art of Ed, 30 June 2016,

www.theartofed.com/2016/07/07/please-copy-copyright-plagiarism-original-ideas-art-education/

“What Is Plagiarism?” What Is Plagiarism? , UNSW Sydney,

student.unsw.edu.au/what-plagiarism.

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