Dear Plagiarists and Art Thieves

Dear Plagiarists and Art Thieves,

I’m not mad—just disappointed.

Wait, no. I’m mad too. I’m not even just mad, I’m furious. I’m furious for me, and for every writer and artist like me who worked hard to create their work, who slaved over it, and who did not create it with the intention of it being misused and mislabeled.

It’s easy for you to swoop in and steal our work. You weren’t there during the creation of it, you didn’t see us agonize over it and spend our time making it into something we could be proud of. And, since you didn’t witness that firsthand, I’m sure you can very easily tell yourself that it didn’t happen. That it was an easy, short process. That we didn’t work that hard on it.

But we did. Oh, we did. And maybe, if you tried to create an original piece yourself, you’d understand just how long and tiresome that process is.

Maybe you think we’re flattered when you steal our work. I can assure you, though: we’re not. “Furious” and “flattered” are not interchangeable. The sick-to-your-stomach feeling we get when we see our work being used without our permission, cannot be described as the feeling of flattery. It’s deeply upsetting to us, and no matter your intentions, your age, your ignorance, it doesn’t lessen the sting of blatant thievery.

I remember the first time I really, truly understood that feeling. I was fourteen and had recently joined a site to post some of my writing. I’d never posted my writing online before, largely because of fears of plagiarism and thievery. Sadly, those fears would prove to be warranted. Seeing something I wrote being passed off as belonging to someone else—some random boy in Australia—made me feel horrible and sick. Seeing him receive compliments on my writing made it hurt even more. Then there were the writers who took pieces of my writing or storylines of mine and added them to their own work, which, while perhaps not as egregious as outright plagiarism, still annoyed me. Yes, it’s a fine line between taking inspiration from something and copycatting—but that line does exist. I don’t think expecting people to stay on the better side of it is too much to ask.

To the art thieves out there who trace other people’s work in order to improve their own artwork: I sympathize, to an extent. Certainly, I wish I could be a better artist; there are plenty of DeviantArt users I’d love to emulate. But that doesn’t excuse thievery. It’s one thing to take someone’s work and privately trace it to figure out how great artists draw, but posting that tracing online and passing it off as your own? Not okay, and never will be. When you do that, you’re taking a piece of art that you admire and sullying it; you’re disrespecting the person who created it, and the piece itself. And posting it online and claiming it’s your own will not make it so. At the end of the day, it’ll still be just a trace—not an original. Not something you actually made. Trust me when I say that a rough piece of art that you created, is far better than a flawless piece that you stole.

To the art thief who’s currently using my work to promote theirs: You can tell yourself you’re not stealing, but you are. Why else would you have removed my signature? Why else would you have removed every trace of me from the piece that I made? Do you know how long that piece took me? And do you have any idea how terrible and helpless I felt when I saw you were using it, without my permission and without my signature? I know my feelings don’t matter to you, but jeez.

And that’s the thing: Art thievery and plagiarism are not victimless crimes. Every time you take someone’s work, you’re stealing a little part of their soul, of their time and effort. You’re taking something away from them; you’re making them not want to post their work online, to put it out there, and as such, you’re ruining it for all the fans they may have.

So to the art thieves and the plagiarists, all of you, every single one: have compassion. Think about the writers and artists that created the piece you’re about to steal. Try—just try—to make something of your own, something original and different and 100% you. It will be hard, I won’t lie, but it will be so much more satisfying. People will admire you for creating something; no one will admire you for stealing.


Me (on behalf of writers and artists everywhere)