Those who can, produce. Those who can’t, protect.


Her downright mean tone startled me and it wasn’t even directed my way. Her voice pierced the happy, sun-shiny atmosphere of the Columbus Art Festival like a very sharp poison arrow with a bullhorn attached. I had been perusing a reasonably talented photographer’s work when the artist decide to bust some guy for trying to grab a shot with his phone. She acted like the perpetrator had decided to climb on Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.

The poor guy quickly offered an apology. He felt extremely embarrassed and started talking very fast and very nervously in an effort to show interest in the artist and divert attention from his attempted “theft.” The voice in my head said a sing-songy “awwkwarrrd” as I edged away from the completely uncomfortable situation.

I understand where she was coming from. She was protecting her art. What she failed to realize is that she can’t. Nor should she even try.

In case you hadn’t noticed, everyone has a mobile phone with a pretty darn good camera in it. EVERYONE. How can you possibly keep them from taking pictures of, well, anything and everything? You can’t. So why did this photographer even try, especially in a public setting?

She’s afraid somebody will steal her idea.

It’s a common phobia among artists. “I created it, which makes it mine. So if you want it, or even a copy of it, you have to pay me for it.

The problem with that is, once you’ve put your idea out there, it’s out there for the taking. Anybody with a camera, or even a pretty decent memory, can copy your idea.

I say let ’em. Heck, I say if they want a picture, send them a good, clean digital copy.

Know why?

Because then you have to keep producing. You have to keep creating. You can’t be a one-hit wonder.

Plus, the Idea Vampires who want to steal your work are never going to pay for it anyway. And the chances of them reproducing your work and actually taking business away from you are incredibly slim to none. Face it, if they’re too lazy to create, they’re likely too lazy to produce, too. At least on a consistent basis.

If you’re a great artist, there are plenty of people who will want the real deal anyway, and they’ll gladly pay full price.

You know I’m not talking about just photography, right? YOU’RE an artist. You create something every day that other people value, something they wish they could do as well as you do. It could be the advertising copy you write, the management style you practice, the process improvements you come up with at work, or one of a zillion other forms of art. In Linchpin, Seth Godin refers to artists as people who recognize their art, continually develop it, and give it freely. Doesn’t mean they work for free, but they produce their art because it’s their art.

Why do you worry that someone will steal your idea or take credit for your work? And if they do, so what? Let ’em. Just keep making your art. When you keep making your art, the Idea Vampires will find it impossible to keep up.

By the way, I took the picture at the top of this post with my iPhone. It’s a really nice shot of Columbus, Ohio, taken during the 2012 Columbus Art Festival. It’s a pretty darn good picture and I could probably put a copyright symbol on it or blow it up and try sell it. But you see, I’ve published it now on the web and no doubt, some people have already “stolen” it. So, if you want a good, clean copy, send me an email and I’ll send you the file for free. After all, I can always take another one.

P.S. I never copyright my articles, so feel free to publish, reprint, and use this article in any way you desire.


Here you'll find ideas, tips, and techniques to help make your next offsite your best meeting yet.We've learned a lot during the 15,000+ meetings we've hosted, and we never stop learning (and sharing) because meetings and teams are always evolving. Be sure to leave comments and join the conversation!