There has been a lot of blog posts of late dealing with the copying of work, people appropriating styles, techniques and in some cases whole designs.
There are many issues involved in this. Sadly the blogsphere has a lot to answer for- if you put it out there, increasing the public access to your work, then there is an increased chance of someone seeing it and it being plagiarising, often half a world away.
I wrote some months ago about the cupcaking of craft and how it has made every hobbyist think that they need to sell their work in order to justify the time and money spent in its creation. I love people making, giving their pieces to their friends and family, but most of these people are quite probably using a pattern, instructions from a book, off the web, etc and they should be aware that most of these are covered by copyright- this means you may 're'-produce the design for your own use (for yourself, as a present for a loved one) but strictly NOT for re-sale.
Another area that annoys me dreadfully is the appropriation of the 'originality' of a design that may actually be something that has developed through a 'zeitgeist'-like creation, with many people exploring a design simultaneously. The dividing line in this case is the concept in which the work is presented. Some designs have a universality and this can often be seen in pieces that are often stylised and simple in form. I also know, from personal experience, that other people's work can inspire one to create and develop new work. Coco Chanel is quoted as saying "only those with no memory insist on their originality." This a great grounding philosophy to meditate on.
I was 19 years old when I had my first design copied. I was a textile design student working as a free-lance designer for Mariana Hardwick. It was strangely funny, annoying, ridiculous and flattering all at once. And it was not the last time. Because of my adventures in recycling and tea-towelling I am finding an increase in imitation, word gets back and the decision as to whether to take any form of action is a difficult one, involving time, money and emotion, sometimes just accepting the whole situation and letting go is for the best.
When things get too much, it is always good to remember that if you are a good designer, you will be on to bigger and better projects by the time the copyist is just starting out and if you are proud of the work you send out into the world, then you will make it with all the skill and quality that you possess. Remember, as much as we would like the world to be an honest and upstanding, it so rarely is. I do not condone copying, plagiarism or appropriation, there is no flattery involved but we must all accept that there are people out there who may not show integrity in their own creative pursuits.