Even my identical twins accuse each other of it.
“Stop copying me”
They come to me for judgement.
“Mom, I thought of it first. She’s always copying me. I cut my black jeans into booty shorts first! Its so hard being a twin!”
Sometimes I tell them that its not just identical twins who feel this way. Sometimes I tell them that copying is a form of feeling inspired by someone else. Sometimes I tell them that inventive, creative people like them will always be copied, that many adults feel the same way, that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who lead with creative ideas and those who follow and even copy creative ideas. Sometimes I tell the sister to take off her black booty shorts and wear something completely different. But mostly I tell them to just figure it out and be creative…
A year ago Humans of New York, HONY, a daily blog of the eclectic humans of New York City, as seen through the eye of Brandon Stanton, was brazenly ripped off by DKNY for a window display campaign.
Two weeks ago another unique and popular blog, Around the World in 80 Jobs, was even more audaciously appropriated and trademarked – name, content, goal and all, by Adecco, a large Swiss employment corporation. In both instances indignant supporters and furious followers of these free-spirited young men fueled a huge web movement that ultimately turned against the copycats and showed that the soul of true artists and innovators is appreciated and defenders of “David” will rise in their thousands against the Goliaths of big business.
Neither Brandon nor Turner seems particularly motivated by pop values like money, fame, revenge or even righteousness. The Fans, Friends and Followers were the ones who encouraged law suits, huge settlements, revenge, and full exposure of the culprit corps. All documented in righteous Comments and personal messages sent to the blogs. Turner had such a huge outpour of support and outrage that his REDDIT site crashed under the onslaught of Comments, which also contained valuable, and free, legal advice on copyright, trademark and ownership. Brandon too, benefitted from the professional advice of his outraged followers. He kept his laid-back attitude and stated on his site that he did not want to enter the negative energy of an expensive and lengthy lawsuit. As a result of much public pressure DKNY apologized after offering $15,000 for the use of over a hundred photos. HONY refused the offer but asked them to donate $100,000 to a summer camp program for inner city kids. DKNY donated $25,000 to the fund and Brandon started a Kickstarter campaign and raised another $100,000 from his indignant fans and thus turned a negative into to a tender positive and sent dozens of NYC kids to summer camp.
Brandon continues to touch hearts with his daily posts and tells us stories of New Yorkers – women, men, kids, teenagers, homeless, dandies, lovers, transvestites, elderly couples, homeys, thugs, junkies, etc. each with powerful images and heartbreaking, funny, sweet tag lines that astonish with their honesty and are always uplifting for their stripped-down humanity.
Turner’s public reaction was more emotional. He wrote that his dream job and blog had been stolen from him, the work he had done over the course of 3 years had been taken away from him overnight. He was clearly sideswiped and devastated by the heartless appropriation of his work. But he too, with the help of faithful followers, persisted and eventually Adecco backed down. They admitted that they were wrong, took down their identical (twin) site to Turner’s, renamed their Around the World in 80 Jobs competition, and, as instructed by Turner (and inspired by HONY), paid $50,000 into the Save the Elephants fund.
HONY helped Turner by publicly announcing the plight of Around the World in 80 Jobs to its million+ followers. Both Brandon and Turner figured it out. They somehow intuited their place in the complex virtual world of kindred spirits that have and will never meet, people with original ideas, people with passion, people who discern right from wrong or feel wronged themselves and see an opportunity to speak up and act. They somehow all came together and rallied, prevailed and added to the common good.
Kids and elephants were helped and saved.
But maybe more importantly Brandon and Turner shone a light on possibility and created a positive new paradigm for defending creative ownership.