If Johnny said that and he truly believes that then he deserves the issues he has with the guy trying to copy his line. If he copies other peoples copyrighted work why put up a funk when someone copies his work.
Because Johnny Cupcakes cares about business more than ethics. Or at least, our version of ethics. It's just about money.
Personally I think ethics has a place in business. Just as you might weigh up the chance of getting sued, cost of getting sued, potential profit, potential publicity, etc. into the risk vs. reward equation of whether or not to infringe on somebody else's work, I think you can also weigh in the ethical questions.
How are you going to feel about yourself if you rip-off another designer's work? Will you sleep at night?
Not to mention the marketing questions: How will you be perceived in the wider community? What will this tell people about your brand? Will it invite problems beyond just legal issues?
Disney, Nike, etc. might seem like faceless wealthy corporations ripe for the plucking... but underneath all that some individual human being just like us made the work with their own two hands. It didn't spring out of a magical evil corporate well, it was made by a person. Other people built it up into something of value.
It's a personal decision, but that's
what I try and respect.
I've done design work that could potentially get me sued, and I am just fine with that. I've elected not to make easy money off other opportunities because I felt they were unethical.
Johnny draws that line somewhere different to where I do.
Other people will draw it different to either of us. Some tighter, some looser.
The law will draw it somewhere different again.
It's up to the individual whose line they want to go by, and they will suffer the consequences of that choice accordingly.
But to be sure, we all make ethical decisions in business -- whether that's to pay attention to our actions, or to ignore them to make a buck.
I think Johnny Cupcakes' actions look hypocritical from one perspective - but that's only if you assume there was any integrity in the first place. Fact is, protecting from infringement and infringing yourself have one thing in common - profit motive.
I think the easiest money in this world is usually the illegal money.
Realistically, most people will operate in the grey area to a greater or lesser extent. If I had a dollar for everyone who responded to that "I don't!", only to look at their website and see they're lying... well that's probably only a few hundred dollars, but it'd still be nice
Personally, I just try not to get too
Where I draw the line I've never had anyone question why I'm doing what I do (i.e. "Hey, that shirt there... did you have to get permission to do that?"), and I like it that way.
The two biggest pieces of advice I would wish to impart on these issues are this:
1) Know the law. Make an informed decision.
2) Ignore what other people are (apparently) getting away with. Breaking the law just because other people are doing it is mob behaviour, and we should be better than that. Examine your own ethics, and make your own moral choices.
In the end it's not up to us to decide what someone else's moral choices are. If someone asks me directly what they should do, I can pretty much only say "Obey the letter of the law."
(or, you know... what I just said)
It's a complex issue, so I do resent having to boil it down to black and white sometimes (hence this post instead). On the other hand, most people don't do well with shades of grey.