Copying, Copyright and the Creation of Trends within the Wedding Industry

This week I was all set to write an article about copying, copyright in design and what to do when you percieve your work to be ripped off. And then, when researching the topic, I came across this TED talk by Johanna Blakely, entitled ‘Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture’. Johanna questioned my ideas and flipped the whole subject on it’s head in my mind. I urge you to take 15 minutes out and watch this…

It’s slightly controversial thinking, but the facts seem to stand for themselves. I have always been fiercely defensive of people who’s work and designs get ripped off and replicated within the wedding industry. Stationers who see their ideas copied by ex-employees, dress designers who see versions of their gowns being sold for $100 by Chinese factories or $500 by David’s Bridal, wedding photographers whose editing style is copied and pasted… But in watching this video I have actually surprised myself with my thinking that maybe, maybe, it’s not always a terrible thing.

For example, and despite what you may think of it, the trend for vintage weddings has only be perpetuated, and in doing so been exceptionally lucrative for many wedding suppliers, because of copying!

It’s irritating to be copied yes, but the good news for the innovators is that it encourages them to continue to be creative – to force themselves to design something new to stay ahead of the curve. In order to remain at the top of their field, they are pushing new designs and ideas through with their unique and obvious stamp on it so that when (not if) it’s copied, everybody knows it was their idea first.

Being copied is frustrating, but hell, I’d rather be the iconic Givenchy shoe – the one that everyone wants to be replicate – than the cheap Steve Madden version any day.

Thoughts?

20 comments

  1. I was just writing a blog post about this very subject. Thanks Kat for posting the video, it’s given me lots more to write about =)

  2. You’ve flipped my head on this, thank you so much for sharing. I suppose the lesson to learnt is not to be too precious about your work, instead we should be constantly moving forward with design. I love the green room!

  3. Post author

    Alexandra – the video did the same for me! i still dont think blatant copycatting (i totally made that word up!) is right but there are lessons to be learnt from the fashion industry and this way of thinking i think…

  4. I’ve always thought that there is nothing new under the sun, but as long as you have an authentic and original voice then it makes you different anyway, technically all of us are working with the same content – it is just the voice/character that makes it original.

    After look how many wedding blogs here are, but each one is as unique as the owner. It’s like snowflakes and all that shizz, each one is different. I read something recently that said everything you do is original, because you are the origin.

    Also, people are always smart enough to know who came first, a friend was saying the other day you know that Usain Bolt is world famous sprinter – but can you name the people who come second and third? (I sure as shite can’t) Once you have a strong brand, you a memorable in any case. I only get annoyed when people rip off branding/trademark/logos and what not as that is never right.

  5. Post author

    Amma – totally. and when its a literally carbon copy rip off. you cant trademark an idea but a direct copy is something different. for example, someone else could go and start a alternative wedding blog but everyone would KNOW they’d stolen the idea from me. i couldnt do anything about it but who ends up looking bad? me or them!? However if they started an alternative wedding blog, called it rock n roll weddings and used my logo but replacing the world ‘bride’ with ‘weddings’ well, then we’d be having words!!

  6. I totally agree Amma & Kat. When we first started our photography business in February we did look at other wedding photographers’ work and took inspiration from those we admired but we would never dream of carbon copying a logo or a name or a picture. If somebody likes your work enough to be inspired by it it’s really a big compliment but you have to put your own stamp on something because replicas can never be as exciting as originals.

  7. “There’s no such thing as a new idea.”

    I tend to agree, in the caking world some designers are pretty fiercely ‘protective’ over their designs. In reality those designs are just copies of of less well known cake designers! I personally don’t mind if someone ‘copies’ my design as long as they’ve credited me.

  8. Great point of view.
    I think it is important as well to see the difference between copying and inspiring and trends being created. I don’t see the wave of vintage styled weddings as copying, it’s just the trend that comes once in a while, just like let’s say wedge shoes :)
    It can be a very good thing as well, as long as good stuff is being copied and not ugly, bad taste styles – makes the world better and more colorful place.
    Of course ripping off detailed designs and plagiarism in many areas is a whole other story..

  9. I worked in the fashion industry importing on behalf high street retailers and we are often sent designs that have been ‘inspired’ by high end designers, it’s rife but just part and parcel. Ultimately by the time the high st have got their pieces out in store the designers have moved on to something else, it’s how fashion evolves from catwalk to wardrobe by being diluted down.

    I am wholly against ‘passing off’ though as although the person who buys a knock off copy bag would never have bought an expensive original anyway thus not necessarily affecting the designers sales, seeing cheap versions of designer bags saturating the market does devalue the originals. The Chloe Paddington bag is a case that springs to mind!

    As has been said already, I personally would see someone copying me as a form of flattery and hope that my innovative skills would mean I’d already moved on to my next creation :). Passing off someone elses work as your own though is obviously just plain wrong.

  10. laura

    I had alittle experience with this subject recently. A photographer who I know approached my brother in law (a web design student) and paid him to duplicate my website. Her exact words were ‘I want it exactly like this website and I will pay you’. Wow -I was totally mortified at first but if it hadn’t had happened, I wouldn’t have been forced to start over and improve it/come up with something new and ultimatly something a lot better. Keep it fresh and more like me. Thanks to Kats workshop I have also learned a lot about building a brand that is more me and having your website reflect that. People can try and copy but if they’re not being true to themselves, others will see straight through it I think.

  11. great post!
    Amma, as always, hits the nail on the head…we all accept that there are elements of inspired by in all of our work but it’s the blatant ripping (or passing) off that’s so infuriating.

    iv even had recent (potential) clients sending in pictures of work they have seen on blogs or my own site or Facebook asking for a quote and telling me they are getting quotes from
    other designers…the buck stops with the ethics of other designers as clients are always going to try and get the best deal, not fully understanding the true cost of the creative process…

    I could go on about this for hours. but won’t ;)

    happy Tuesday x x x

  12. Great post Kat!

    Sometimes when I am looking at other photographer’s work I come across a photo and think, “that has influences of written all over it” which is absolutely fine. Or times I look at a photo and think, “wow, that is a complete rip off of that photo that took, which is not cool.

  13. Once again with complete sentences and improved grammar!

    Great post Kat!

    Sometimes when I am looking at other photographer’s work I come across a photo and think, “that has influences of written all over it” which is absolutely fine. Other times I look at a photo and think, “wow, that is a complete rip off of that photo that took”, which is not cool.

  14. Emma Meek

    Fascinating lecture by Johanna Blakely, really provoking. I think Tom Ford’s comment – ‘these are not our customers’ about people that buy direct rip offs is illuminating! A call to all design led companies to move faster, be more innovative – braver!

  15. It is a really interesting debate, although when you look at the chart she supplies, the three huge red bars that produce more money are necessities: food, shelter and clothing. Culture however, will always be lower in sales margins because people do not value it as a commodity. I’m sure many of us will secretly put our hand up to downloading free music, nicking an image off google for our desktop or screensaver, photocopying books in school with slightly more pages than ‘educational purposes’ will allow! How many of us buy art prints? How many of us donate the voluntary admission fee to museums and galleries? How many of us argued the price of our wedding photographer, but spent more than that amount on a designer dress and shoes?

    It would be interesting to see what effect removing copyright would have on the creative industries like photography and music, but until we start valuing the arts as a vital part of our culture and investing more in the industry, photographers and designers NEED copyright.

  16. Great post again mrs rock n roll, copyright in the arts is such a tricky one, influences cross overs, trends come and go, and like one of your other readers mentioned; no idea is a new idea. I guess as soon as its discovered there is a market for a certain style of fashion, or photography, or film then it would be foolish not to explore it for yourself as an artist. It certainly moves concepts forward and pushes creative boundaries. I’m certainly guilty of jumping onto the “alternative wedding photography” trend, not as a copying intention but more because it gave me the confidence and freedom to shoot creatively.

  17. My mind is officially blown!!! And yes, once again you are so right. We should always be driven to be innovative, this is meant to be a creative industry. You have totally flipped my opinion on this subject.

  18. I do like the approach to copyright that she talks about, it would mean that as professionals we would work to define ourselves. It would force us to create instead of duplicate, and all the while sharing ideas and concepts would be considered a good thing.

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