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Idea theft: Is the client or the creative to be blamed?

One Melbourne-based photographer, Jack Hawkins has come out and accused fashion brand CK for possibly copying his work.

In a post on photography blog site Petapixel, he says he recently saw the My Calvin’s campaign which resembled some of his work. After talking to several intellectual property lawyers, he found that there was indeed a case but since legal work isn’t cheap he will not be able to go further with the case. He also reached out to CK on the matter only to be snubbed by the middle management, he explains in the post.

“I just can’t afford the quoted couple of thousand dollars required to even start that process […]The system is broken. If one of the big boys takes something of yours, you can’t doing anything about it unless you’re already a big player yourself and can afford the expensive legal fees. Depressing I know,” his post read.

Here’s the CK video with the image:

 

A+M has reached out to both CK and Hawkins for more information.  The issue of idea theft is not an unknown one – and certainly not in a market such as Malaysia and Singapore.

Only recently Dentsu Utama was embroiled in a highly controversial case and was later disqualified from a number of Kancil Awards they won. Meanwhile in Singapore, several years ago local design agency DoodleRoom blasted the Singapore Tourism Board(STB) on its Facebook page saying that the government agency has recycled its work without informing the agency.

A+M speaks to several agency leads on their take.

Lara Hussein, managing director of M&C Saatchi defines the line to be a rather “fine” one and hence the debates over “copy” versus “original” are endless.

“The only real answer lies in the conscience of the creators,” she says adding the lines of Benjamin Franklin that today originality is the art of concealing your sources.

“It is definitely important to define who “the big boys” are,” she said clarifying that it is generally not clients who scour art, design and photography blogs or who trawl the wide waters of the internet, hoping to haul in some last-minute inspiration.

“It is agency creatives who do that. Clients in most cases accept in good faith that what they are presented with, is a product of the agency’s own creativity and not a re-hash of someone else’s.”  she said adding:

“So here’s a novel thought – if we stumble across something we like online, why not just commission the original artist to do the work for the client? They have to make a living too, after all.”

Graham Drew, creative director of Grey Malaysia says today nothing is really original. Quoting Picaso he says, we are all inspired by the world around us and it’s a truth that all creative work is derivative whether intentional or not.

“As creative folk, our skill is taking as many random inspirations as we can, connecting them and making something new.  When you look at something and find yourself playing ‘spot the difference’ then the only creativity is not getting caught,” he says.

He adds it ultimately comes down to respect for your industry and the people within it and a moral issue.

Lee Kai Xin, interactive director of Singapore-based independent creative agency says often to pursue a case against idea theft is indeed a grey area and a lengthy and costly exercise that many smaller agencies or freelancers cannot afford.

“However the good thing is that in today’s day and age, the court of public opinion is way more powerful and accessible thanks to social media, just as it has happened in this case. Calvin Klein’s team will now be forced to address this to manage their brand image and cannot sweep the issue under the rug,” she added.

(Image above photo courtesy: Jack Hawkins’ Facebook)

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