The word of the day is plagiarism. Or you can swap it out for copying.
This isn’t a new topic. It pops up like wack-a-mole every so often in the hobby.
Over the last few days, numerous posts on studio pages and in model horse groups have been devoted to this topic. So let’s discuss it. What is and isn’t plagiarism/copying?
First, let’s define what it is.
Anytime you pass work that you didn’t do as your own, you’re plagiarizing.
In school, if you had to write a research paper, you were told by your teacher to use sources. You used these sources to help support your thesis. If you found a paper online, slapped your name at the top, and handed it in, you committed plagiarism. You weren’t creating something original, but instead stole someone else’s thoughts, efforts, and expertise.
This can be applied to models very easily. Let’s say a person decides to sculpt a famous horse like Cigar. There are many photos of Cigar in all sorts of poses–racing, frolicking, and standing. Instead of finding a group of photos of Cigar or Thoroughbreds, they decide to grab Breyer’s Cigar and copy every muscle and movement down to the shape of the tail. Maybe the mane is longer. That’s plagiarism. It can be done with clay or digitally, it doesn’t matter the medium. The person stole someone else’s artistic vision instead of creating their own.
Here’s another example. A person is scrolling online and sees a familiar type of fantasy model( like a unicorn) in a dynamic and original pose. It’s the artist’s original creation and the person decides they need to have one that looks exactly like that. They save photos of the model and then find a customizer. The supplied reference photos are from that original model. The person didn’t come up with an original design. Maybe they asked the customizer to change one thing, but that small change doesn’t alter it much from that original model. That is plagiarizing. It’s the same thing as finding someone’s paper online and changing the paper from present tense to past tense. The other artist’s ideas and concepts are still the same. If the reference photo is someone else’s original creation, that artist is committing plagiarism.
Next, let’s define what isn’t.
You’re in school, and you’ve just completed a unit on Poe’s The Raven. Your teacher assigns the class to create a poem with the same structure. You write an original poem about a chair with the repeating word being nail. This isn’t plagiarizing because you took the structure but altered it enough to where it reflects your knowledge and abilities. You used it as inspiration before creating something new.
Let’s bring it to plastic pony world. A person is scrolling online–a model horse group, TikTok, instagram, or a blog. They see a newly completed unicorn and fall in love with the idea of making one. Their brain starts spinning about what their unicorn will look like. Bouncing off of the initial inspiration, they decide on a pose and go at it. They don’t try to recreate the initial unicorn. The person was inspired by an idea and made it their own.
Here’s a final example. Misty of Chincoteague has been around since the 1940s. The Breyer model has been around for decades. What if I want to create a model of Misty in her iconic stool standing pose? There have been numerous artists who have customized a model to look like Misty. There are many photos of Misty doing this. Does that mean I copied the artists who have done that pose before? No. I would only be copying if I didn’t use photos of Misty or another horse in that pose and instead just copied a completed model.
When learning particular mediums or techniques, it isn’t uncommon for one to replicate a piece by an Old Master. The artist may focus on a small section or the techniques utilized. Doing such a thing is fine. It’s a learning experience but not something that should ever be shown or claimed as one’s own work. Branch out and create something unique with the newly acquired skills.
Where do we go from this?
Creating the same model doesn’t automatically mean one is copying an artist. Inspiration is weird, and more than one person can be inspired by the same reference. This has happened so many times. It’s really cool to see the various styles of artists and their take on a particular reference photo. Perfecting a style takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth it. Plagiarism comes into play when one artist deliberately copies another artists’ work. Or if a person copies an artist’s original pattern or style.
There are some amazing models that artists have created. Mind bogglingly amazing. Sometimes the model is a custom and will stay one-of-a-kind. Other times it’s a resin edition that’s long sold out. What makes particular pieces of art special and amazing is that they’re one of a kind. Or that there will be no more produced.
Just because a person wishes for a rare model and wants it doesn’t mean that they have permission to copy it. Don’t do it.
You can experience spectacular pieces in photos or in person. The greatness in the piece isn’t that we own copies of it, but instead its existence. That’s what makes it special. If an artist doesn’t want to ask for permission to cast their custom, respect it. If they are not producing more of a particular resin, respect it. That doesn’t open the gates to creating a copy for yourself.
This is a long post, but the real takeaway is to not steal art. Don’t be a jerk and chase artists away. Mistakes do happen, but it stops being so if you keep doing it after correction. Be inspired by the world and create pieces that reflect you and your abilities.