You come up with a fabulous technique. It's so great, you can't wait to tell everyone about it. You go around posting to all the Yahoo groups you belong to, happily sharing your technique and examples with everyone who will listen. You see a few people try it, email you with how great the technique is, thank you for being the master wizard of art, and your ego begins to grow so big you won't possibly fit through the door tomorrow.
You continue working with your newly "invented" technique. You even begin to create a class around teaching your new technique. You're kind of mad at yourself for posting it all over the place in your excitement...but those other artists are "friends", right? It's fine, you decide. Nothing will happen to your new technique - besides, everyone knows you created it.
Your new Cloth Paper Scissors arrives. Ahhh life is sweet! You happily begin flipping through it...when it happens. You come across a page where the work seems strangely familiar. Looking more closely you realize someone else has written an article about your technique - the one you created. The technique you were going to teach in a class. You continue reading in total disbelief. Surely the person will credit you - or at least mention you - right? Nope. The article concludes, examples extremely similar to what you first created with the technique are shown, and there is not one mention of you. How could this happen??
That is a question a lot of artists find themselves asking. As the Internet grows, and groups made up of people with common interests form, information is shared more freely. Blogs and websites are created so people can share their lives, interests, and passions. People who wouldn't normally find each other, due to location or a myriad of other reasons, have linked up and formed friendships and exchanged information. Does that mean sharing what you've learned from these groups or relationships, goes against the creative code of ethics and morals? Do you need to find out who created every single technique you use, and credit each of those people whenever you create something?
Most artists would say no. However, and this is an important however, there most definitely is a line. Finding out who created a common, well-known technique is ridiculous. No one expects that. Publishing an article that introduces a new technique is a totally different monster. Which is a problem for any artist who "invents" a new technique - and either freely shares it with those in art groups, or teaches classes about it. You see, artists can "invent" a hundred different brilliant, earth-shattering, life-changing techniques...and can't copyright one of them. You can protect a piece of art - but you cannot protect ideas. And that has a lot of artists fuming. Including me.
Without "outing" the person who submitted my idea to Cloth Paper Scissors, I will just say that another artist wrote an article several years ago, describing and identifying a technique I came up with. That may sound ridiculous to some of you...how do you know she didn't just stumble across the same idea? Well, I know she didn't because we discussed my idea - and she came to me with questions about it. I helped guide her through it. Don't get me wrong - I was happy to do it. Until I saw the article. I felt betrayed - and totally infuriated. I realize I don't "own" the technique - but to not even mention me was like a slap in the face.
I stopped speaking to that artist immediately. Funny thing is, I never received another email from her, either. She knows exactly what she did. (Can you tell this still upsets me??)
I haven't brought this up until now because I still seethe every time I think about that whole situation. I decided to bring it up now after seeing another artist post a note in a message board about it. Apparently, she was confronted with the same issue upon opening a copy of Quilting Arts recently. Her anger was palpable as she "thanked" the person who had taken a class from her, learned a technique this artist only teaches in her class, and then wrote an article about said technique, passing it off as her own.
Some of you may be reading this saying to yourself, "Well, the author of this article paid to take a class from this artist, so the technique now belongs to her as well." I won't pretend to know what the legalities are of that situation...but I will say, from the viewpoint of another artist (me), what the article's author did is just plain WRONG. She would not have had that knowledge without taking the class - and the artist supports herself (in part) from teaching that technique to paying students. The author did not seek permission from the artist - nor did she mention where she learned the technique. To the reader it appeared the author came up with the technique. The artist is extremely angry - just think about the monies this artist lost out on due to widespread publication of her technique.
I'm all for the artistic community lending each other a hand, sharing ideas, and collaborating on projects. I'm also all for giving credit where credit is due. Why pass off something as yours when it isn't? Isn't that the same as stealing?
A lot of us make similar items. It's no secret how to use PMC, watercolors, or gel medium. But as a community, don't we owe it to each other to be respectful of anothers ideology?
I'm very curious to hear what my readers think of this issue. Is it morally or ethically wrong to pass off some one's technique as your own? Or is it too bad, so sad - ideas are not "property" and therefore cannot be attributed to a single person? Which side of this issue to do stand on?
Please comment and let me know. I can't wait to read your response!