We all knew the one annoying kid at school who would ask to borrow your homework to “compare”, and then they would copy some of your answers, somehow ending up with a better mark than you. Often-times this can be used as a parallel to copyright infringement and you’d be surprised at how likely it is that one of your favourite bands has been accused of or even charged with attempting to pass someone else’s idea off as their own.
Recently it has been Led Zeppelin’s turn to stand accused as the rock classic ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is the subject of a court battle over whether the introduction was lifted from the song ‘Taurus’ by Spirit. It’s difficult to picture big hits as imitations of songs we’ve not heard but there are sometimes also aspects lifted from already popular artists or songs: last year saw Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke lose a plagiarism battle for imitating Marvin Gaye in the already controversial hit “Blurred Lines”. A question arises often in these cases; to what extent is taking inspiration an infringement on the original creation?
Accreditation would appear to be the most obvious answer and anyone who has created something artistically recognises its importance. There is little more frustrating to an artist than seeing their work presented as someone else’s; as all the effort, preparation and dedication to creating a piece makes a creative feel as though their pride is earned. Billie Holiday worded it well by saying: “You can’t copy anybody and end with anything. If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling.”
When asked for her thoughts on crediting artists, Becky Simpson, creative and founder of Chipper Things said, ”To put it simply, it is our livelihood and we need to protect it. When art floats around without credit, it becomes a commodity and loses its value. Besides the fact that it’s usually not that hard to find the original source (Google image search and then dig a bit), it’s important to elevate the community by lifting each other up. When we acknowledge the person that created a piece that we find outstanding enough to promote on our own channels, we are saying to the world, ‘This piece is special. It has a life, a maker and a story.’”
Having the credit misrepresented, or not given at all, is comparable to training and sweating for a marathon, running your best time and having someone else take the medal. It needs to be noted, however, that there is a distinction between emulation and imitation; creatives pride themselves on both who they inspire as well as where they draw their own inspiration from. We shouldn’t be afraid to take elements from others work and apply them as creative motivation, it’s how art works. What we need to be wary of is not crediting our sources and showing people where your own input has come from.
The creative world in which we work is difficult enough to succeed in, without the worry of our efforts being attributed to somebody else and so we need to do everything we can in order to ensure proper accreditation goes to the right artist.