Steal like an artist. Deal with theft like an adult.

Plagiarism is lazy. A person who snags another designer’s work and passes it off as their own lacks ingenuity. All creative work on the internet is vulnerable to being stolen. But it’s not the prevalence of theft that defines our community as much as our reaction to it.

Too often I learn about acts of plagiarism from social media: A designer discovers their work has been taken and their first reaction is to alert the masses. “Grab the pitchforks everyone, it’s time for a witch hunt!” I get it; social media becomes a place where we want others to authenticate our feelings of hurt or anger. But there is no need to publicly lambaste the thief for stolen work.

Most of the time when someone steals work, it’s a rookie mistake. The person who committed the crime is usually young or doesn’t know any better, and they often have something to prove. The act is purely flattering imitation. If the thief has nothing else to gain from my work, other than inflated ego, my response to the situation is simple: one message sent to the curator of the stolen work and one to the thief, asking both parties to take the artwork down. Now if the thief has anything monetary to gain and does not respond to my plea for removal, I take the next mature step and involve a lawyer.

I don’t, however, round up my followers on social media to help me take down someone I perceive to be an art stealing kingpin. I don’t post the thief’s contact info on a design community forum for all to bully and chastise. I treat the mistake with discretion because if it were me, I’d want a chance to rectify the act, learn a lesson, and become a better designer/person.

So the next time you discover your work has been taken, put down your pitchfork. Don’t be insensitive. Deal with the infringement like an adult and move on.

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