Am I a Xerox Copy?

Disclaimer: Welcome to my blog series on copyright! This is the third installment in a four part series in which I am exploring the spiritual and emotional context of copyright. I am in no way minimizing the legal and practical issues surrounding this complex topic, but would like to offer space to muse about questions and feelings that arise. To catch up on the whole series and read insightful comments by fellow bloggers, click here.

Ever been brainstorming with some people, threw out a great idea, but the group wasn't ready to embrace your creativity, so it fell flat on its face only to be unassumingly resurrected next week by someone else, who then becomes the hit of the party?

Haha!! You caught me! This scenario is one of my top ten reasons for whining, and though I have a detailed list in my head of those disappointing moments, I'm just as slow responding and acknowledging some of the great ideas from my number one collaborator -- my husband :)

Why does my ego need an acknowledgment massage? What is the benefit of being seen as the originator of a creative idea? For me, I've begun to understand that an inadequate formula exists in my head, trying to prove that I have value.

self worth = originality

Can you see where this is leading? I'm exhausted just thinking about it. If I believe that my value in the world is completely dependent on the acknowledgment of others for an original idea, I'm going to spend countless hours seeking something outside myself that is completely unattainable.

Am I a Xerox Copy?

Where do I go from here?
If originality isn't going to create value, what's left?

Letting go of being the originator

(Oops! Hope I didn't just cause a ruckus with all my lawyer friends!) For if I uphold the concept that I am truly a manifestation of the universe -- a xerox copy -- then every idea that exists within me has come from a greater source. I am therefore a divine instrument -- a fine-honed tool used by the universe to express its own wondrous existence.

By letting go of being the originator or creator, I see that my value rests in my willingness to serve humanity by allowing the creativity of the universe to flow through me for the greater benefit of all.


  1. Hmmm....I will definately have to ponder this and thank you for doing these.

    Funky Monkey Girl,

  2. Very Dharma, Beth! I also think that letting go of that need to be acknowledged to feel self value can be a path to a greater sense of well being and belonging. Not just for us creative types. Sometimes I think we are too conditioned to seek 'personal meaning.' I also think that if you open yourself to this, the creativity will flow.

  3. • Can you hear my stomach flip? • Maybe I'm just hungry? I had a design teacher in collage who would often tell the class "A good idea doesn't care who it belongs too!" I don't think the idea originator is too keen on that idea, but it is something to think about. The other gem we'd get weekly... "There is no such thing as a free lunch" Righty'O! As a business person, in a terrible economy, all you have is your possible good/original ideas to hopefully pull you though. It does start to sometimes feels like the originality owns you. Here's another favorite I've heard... "You're not reinventing the wheel!" We'll maybe I'd like to buddy! XO

  4. While I am struggling against the idea of the universe being a Xerox copying maschine, I will contend that the universe uses certain patterns again and again - which make them no less lovely in my eyes. Think about the ripples in the sand underneath the water at a beach. Haven't you seen exactly the same pattern in the clouds in the sky? I have. Or what about dendrites in stone - don't they look like ferns and moss? Or speaking of ferns - what about frosted window panes - looking like a frozen field of ferns. I'm sure there are many other examples. Using a good idea more that once does not necessarily mean it is a copy.
    On the other hand, people that do copy (and they exist, no question), will continue to do so and will be the least affected by any discussion of the topic.

  5. Jolene thanks for pondering this idea!

    LeAnn, I like your take on how often we are asked to find personal meaning...gosh isn't being here enough? :) I am struggling to let go of my little gold stars of acknowledgment, but once you start it seems to be so much more relaxing.

    Gaea, I love your professor's gems. That must have been schooling in life :) I'm holding onto "A good idea doesn't care who it belongs too!" I'm just laughing inside.

    Stregata, love all your musings on patterns in nature and seeing how they all interrelate/mimic each other. One of my favorite quotes from the Tao is "be a pattern." Just like no two snowflakes are alike, I heard no two Xerox copies are alike. I guess, I'm finding peace and solace that I am a copy of the most amazing original matrix.

  6. I believe that the painters of icons did not sign their works... it was like a "return of merits" as buddhists would say... I like that idea and it means a lot to me.

    Still, it seems important that we express our originality. I think we can do that even if we are influenced by others. Just copying something can be a sad thing for the person who does this, because that person maybe can't express herself/himself. But it can also be a way of learning.

    Of course it can be most irritating to find that someone is copying you, that arises this question that you bring up here...
    What is really ours? What do we have the rights for?

    What is most sad, I believe, is that we often learn to always watch our backs instead of being open, because it is easy to get robbed out there. And we all have to make a living.

    I beleive in openness and spontaneity and free sharing, but that is in the best of worlds that you are free to do that. If you do this you are very vulnerable. Nothing is wrong with being vulnerable, but you have to handle it in some way and have the strength for it.

    I beieve there is a fine line between letting go of ones "Self" and erasing oneself in a destructive way. I think I am always more or less walking on that edge, sometimes flipping over to that "erasing". But that is kind of equal to it's opposite ("ego massaging"), so I don't want to stay there.

    Thanks for bringing this up, this is a very meaningful inquiry to me. So happy to see someone else pondering this.

  7. "I'm finding peace and solace that I am a copy of the most amazing original matrix."

    I love this, Beth.

  8. I believe the ultimate originator is God who created us in His likeness therefore, creativity is passed on to us. It is our life's path to discover that creativity and how we choose to express it, be it writing, painting, clay, metal, music...We all have artisitic potential and practice is the only avenue to improve that potential and transform it into something magnificent.

    I remember a graduate level writing course I took several years ago. The professor had us read classic authors such as Aesop, Ovid,and Rochefoucauld, then write in their style. His reasoning was that practicing in this manner would improve our own writing style, and it did! Just as old masters had their students copy their paintings, we mimicked classic styles of writing. As a result, we had practice, and that practice led to development of stronger skills in our own personal writing style.

    Art is a daily struggle, a love/hate relationship between the self and the material, to will that material into our visions, to bring it alive, breathing and tangible. Copying is a by rote exercise, a repetitious mimicry of other's visions, a paint by the number canvas, if you will, but hopefully out of that practice we find our own voice.

    True art is an extension of one's soul, life experiences, our communion with nature and the divine, transformed.

  9. love it! thanks for posting your ideas!

  10. Petra I love that painters of icons didn't sign their works :) That's a new insight for me. I've always signed the back of a painting because I hate how it disturbs the beauty of the composition. And yes, I think it is interesting to ponder the boundary between having a Self and completely erasing it as you said. Such an intangible space to be in.

    Sharon, what a neat professor. Gosh, I'm having the hardest time trying to picture how one would write like one of these authors. You must have had fun trying! As a teacher I'm all for following a pattern until you start to see your own pattern emerge and develop. Thanks for sharing your point of view.

    Sandra, so glad to have you here enjoying the discussion :)

  11. I am also really enjoying your copyright series! I got a late start on it, but I'm getting caught up now. I am really enjoying everyone's comments...very insightful! I am amazed when people complain about other people copying them when I can clearly see what artists have inspired them and how it has influenced their art. We are constantly being influenced by everything and everyone around us, so it seems impossible for anything to be completely original. I think the wonder of art is the process, not necessarily the end product. The reward is in how we grow as artists through the process. I think another reason that people feel so threatened about copiers is the simple fact that so many artists are trying to make a living off of their artwork, and when they believe people are copying them, it threatens their source of income. I think that if someone is copying every detail of another person's art, style, descriptions, etc., it is still not reason for excessive concern. The copier will not be as successful, and that is just the way it goes. I think in most cases the copier will eventually discover their own style and realize it is more fulfulling than copying someone.

    I can definitely relate to the anxiety and fear (mainly provoked by others who complain about people copying them) that I might inadvertantly be copying someone. It would never be my intent. Just today I was browsing on Etsy and I saw a necklace that looked very similar to one I had made. I immediately panicked and worried that I might have subconsciously copied this person! Mind you the only similarity was that we used the same pendant in a similar way, but I almost feel paranoid from all the negative postings about copying lately. I felt relief when I realized I had created and listed my necklace several months before this person. Isn't that silly? My point is that I am glad you are giving a more positive light to this subject and helping everyone to "think outside of the box", if you will, on this topic.

    Hope I made some sense in my ramblings...I'm looking forward to the rest of this series!


  12. In the Middle Ages all books were hand-written works of art, copied out by religious monks in the monastery, and seen by very few. They were rare, precious and created by humble crafstmen who took no personal pride or stake in the finished results. Their goal was service.

    Now we can read books without paper, technology has made it possible. This makes it possible for all of us to have access to literature freely, at low cost, and conveniently.

    Still, the one is not a substitute for the other. I don't think anyone would argue that an on-line text file has the same beauty and glorious creativity as an illuminated manuscript page. And one would never be confused for the other, they are too different.

    Here is a quotation I like:

    The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
    (Carl Jung)

    The beauty of creativity is to be expressive, and for others to be able to know, inherently and immediately, that it is YOUR expression, to see the marks of your recognizable hand at play regardless of the original inspiration.

  13. Lisa, so glad you stopped by and shared your thoughts. I understand what you mean about starting to look over your shoulder and wonder if what's coming out of me is the real deal :) Also, I'm looking forward to your thoughts on my final installment next week, which will deal with the concept of sufficiency. I think this is one of the core issues related to copying -- access to resources (i.e., money, customers, etc.)

    Lynn love that Carl Jung quote!! Gosh, he was a beautiful human being. Thanks for sharing your insights on play and illuminated manuscripts :) Looking forward to continuing to watch you play and express yourself.

  14. Beth, oh I love how you view this world!

    I've struggled with this touchy subject for so long. I've gone from feelings of shock and horror to disgust and anger, to now accepting this is just how it goes. This is bigger than me. I don't want this to be the focus of my art.

    Thank you for this post. I will be sure to look out for the next one.

  15. Charlene, it's so good to hear another person's honest feelings and reactions about copyright. Just by saying "I don't want this to be the focus my art" feels so freeing. I'm going to hold onto that phrase, so thank you!! I find it so bonding to know someone else is feeling it too :)

  16. Your postings regarding copyright and other concerns have been enlightening and interesting to read.

    This post in particular reminded me of an article I read long ago in film school entitled - Art in the Age of Reproduction. http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm I had no idea that it was a Marxist article! It is heavy reading, but interesting. I hadn't thought about that article in years.

    This dilemma is nothing new, but it is refreshing to read about it and to learn how people feel about it.


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