When is it acceptable to copy someone else’s work?

With KIKK Festival already come and gone, Impero was given the opportunity to watch a fantastic line-up consisting of well-established agencies and up-and-coming start-ups who shared their love and knowledge for the digital and creative industry during two very inspiring days — one of them being Huge, a worldwide known design agency. Andy Thomas, Creative Director of Huge, shared a quote related to his beginnings in which its content reminded me of a generally known subject that sparks intense and diverse reactions among creatives.

“I tried to copy, but I wasn't that good”
— Andy Thomas

The controversy in question is: when is it acceptable to copy someone else’s work?

This question isn't exclusive to the creative industry as it can be applied to just about anything out there that has started as an idea and then turned into something by an individual. Most of us in our childhoods tend to learn new skills by copying what we see so why, once we reach adulthood, are we seen as less professional for doing so and admitting it? The real question here could be where exactly do we draw the line?

Half of the people think it is an outrage and that such thing should never be done regardless of your intentions but I disagree – copying someone else’s work should be done with the sole intent of learning a process in order to become better at what you do but never published to the world while taking full credit of that same work.

Of course, this could lead us to the next controversy such as “being inspired by something” versus “straight-out copying parts of someone’s work and adding it to your original work by claiming all of it was your idea”. However, I’ll restrain myself from dwelling on that one but it does makes us realize that regardless of what side we support, it’s a battle that can’t be won.