That tricky subject I've been avoiding blogging about. Actually it's two in one - inspiration versus copying.
Firstly, a word about copyright. In the UK (and many other countries) an original artistic work is automatically copyrighted. You don't need to register it - you need to be able to prove the work is yours, of course, but it is automatically protected by copyright. This includes your own photographs - so if you lift a picture from the internet, you need to find the source and ask their permission. Of course I know this doesn't always happen, but it should. If you use an image without gaining permission or crediting the source, it's breach of copyright.
And so to copying a design. What is the difference between taking inspiration from someone's work and copying it? Inspiration is an idea forming in your mind in response to something you've seen. That does not equate to reproducing the item exactly. If you copy the form and style of an original work it is just that - a copy.
So how do you define an original work? That is tricky. In the jewellery world, most ideas and themes have been represented somewhere along the line. It's all in the detail. An example: I make tree of life pendants. So do thousands of other people. It is not a unique idea, and you couldn't possibly copyright a standard design. But here is something I made earlier:
I am happy - no, more than happy, thrilled! - to inspire others in whatever medium they choose to create with. But I will always speak out if I see my images or those of others being used without permission - nicely, as I'm not confrontational and the whole thing makes me feel a bit sick, to be honest - and I cannot condone direct copying. Like many others, I work very hard to produce work that is original. I'm sure I don't always get it right - as I said, most things have been done before - but I never deliberately copy.
And lastly, watermarks are coming! I've resisted using them for so long, as I don't want to obscure my pictures, but I already use them on my artwork, and I've had so many of my own uncredited photos pointed out to me recently, that I can resist no longer. The only thing that worries me is all the hundreds of images already out there, that I can't retrieve ...