...serenity in motion
Educate, support, redirect, and forgive
I had a strange experience a few days ago. A woman called me looking for past studio tour brochure books. Seems she had missed a few and was looking for the ones she didn't have. Her friend who was autistic copied them to occupy his mind. She told me that most professional artists wouldn’t let you download art from their web pages, and she was looking for material for him to work from.
I was taken aback; He was copying art and we were all supposed to be alright with that? I calmly explained that not every artist would be comfortable with this activity. I counseled her to not even mention that she was helping her friend to do this. It could be considered copyright infringement an might be illegal. She said she understood and would talk with her friend about how some people might be uncomfortable.
I took to social media about it and found the closed group where I posted the situation to, had a mixed response. I was told; people had a right to copy your work, if they weren’t selling it. I was being mean to not understand where the autistic creative was coming from, and this was a learning exercise. While I could see their point, I also had seen others who thought they were helping someone out by selling these copied works for the budding artist. Not this one, but other well-meaning people have done it in similar situations.
When our work is copied, it loses some of the professional protection that we maintain for it. If someone who isn’t professionally savy; copies our work for their education, they might sign their own name because they did that work. They post what they have done on Facebook and if it is really good, an unscrupulous individual steals that image for their own financial gain. Thus, the original artist is out and will have to fight to gain back control of their copyright, which was washed away by this person who was learning.
Professional artists also understand that they need to cite their sources. When a student copies a master’s work to learn, generally we can tell that it is “Girl with a Pearl Earring” or Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. But when someone copies a current artist, the public at large won’t know who actually designed the composition, light, balance and found the material. Students might be told to give credit to the original creator, but others do not always understand that.
Well-meaning intentions aside, I did try to educate the woman and I hope it helps. Helps her friend and all the artists he has worked so hard to copy. In situations like this, it is better to help her redirect her friend. Autism isn’t a joke or a simple situation. Finding joy for someone on the spectrum can be difficult and I wish her the best trying to be there for him.