Today, a Dutch graphic designer was discovered to have plagiarized the work of Friends of Type. To protect his anonymity, I will not use his name but instead call him Tim Risky. Specifically, Risky copied and took credit for the poster FoT did for Esty's 2012 Holiday Shop. The fraudulent graphic has been removed from the designer's web site, but it remains almost everywhere else, including Design Taxi and Pinterest. The copy was identical save for being a vector representation of the chalkboard original. He might as well have spared himself the trouble and just put his name on the original.
Now, there is absolutely no excuse for plagiarism, but I do see a bit of an overreaction here. The fraudster is young, and he probably looked up to the designers of the original. And it's possible he bad no idea how buggerish his move was. Of course, it's possible that he knew exactly what he was doing and is totally in the wrong. Nonetheless, I kind of feel badly for him. Suddenly everyone on Twitter and Facebook is marching to his web site with pitchforks and torches. Did anyone try contacting him first to get a better understanding?
I mean, putting one's name on a well-known piece of work that someone else did is such an obvious boner move that one has to wonder if there is some kind of mistake.
Wouldn't the right thing to do be to deal with it quietly at first? There's another popular poster that's been plagiarized a million times that says "Work Hard and Be Nice to People", which I'd bet every other Tim Risky hater has up on their wall. What does it mean to be nice if you're having a witch burning party at the first sight of plagiarism? Grab the reigns, folks. He's a teenager with 5 projects in his portfolio, not Wieden+Kennedy.
I say go easy on the guy. Besides, even the original poster borrows content from another work, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I realize there's a difference, but stop for a second and consider how much creative work we do borrows from and references other work.
It may also do us well to pay attention to the words of the quote in this now infamous poster: Life moves pretty fast. Stop and look around. Don't miss it. Take a deep breath. Don't get caught in a stream of fury. One might extend the quote to assure us today: It's not as huge of a deal as you think it is. In other words, get a life.
This reminds me of a thing I made once. It has since gone totally viral, and there is actually little I can do to prove I was the original. (Unfortunately, there's also little I can do to disprove it — it's not my best work).
I had made a typographic poster based on a Ghandi quote, and it resonated with people. My contribution was the way I worked the guru's idea into a new context. It has since become a meme of sorts on Pinterest, and some have adopted it as their own intellectual property to make a profit from on sites like Etsy (See images at the end of this post for some examples). I've seen it on T-shirts, painted panels, desktop wallpapers, baby onesies, and even on print-on-demand poster retailers. My initial reaction was to make sure everyone knew I was the original creator, but then I realized that such an act would go against the very nature of the message I had sent forth into the wild. Tooting my horn so that others can get out of my way is not being the good. Of course, I do feel annoyed that others are attempting to make a profit from my good intentions, but all the while, people come into contact with a very positive message, and I get the satisfaction that I was a part of something good.
I suppose if my quote was about getting my just desserts or telling thoughtless people where to stick it, I might have had more of a right to complain about injustice. And I think this is what is unsettling about the reaction I am seeing to the Friends of Type poster. I know they fully deserve credit and fully do not deserve to have someone else steal their glory from them. But the quote seems so nice on paper—why don't people take the spirit of these quotes and apply them to their own actions?