Intellectual Property is difficult to protect because of its abstract nature. While it's easy to recognize a 1:1 copy, it may be hard to judge objectively if a similar illustration, code or any other piece of intellectual property is a rip-off or just was inspired by another piece. What does it even mean: to get inspired by the work of someone? I believe that in the modern world it means something like,
“I saw your work and carefully looked at it. Then I tried to replicate everything I saw in my own work.”
This happens every day in design. Some design education courses even make you replicate the work of someone else for the learning purposes. Sounds not quite fair, right? Someone was learning, sketching, thinking about the structure, experimenting, failing, prototyping, failing, improving and finally reaching something they are happy with. And now you just come and copy the end product to learn from it. Of course, this way you will understand every detail the author put into the work — the high level stuff, but what you will get not know is dozens of failed tests and experiments behind this work. Why is this even a thing?
Some people only need and are ready to swim on the surface, without doing a deep dive into the ocean.
Let's look into how our brain works. On the abstract level, in terms of information processing, it takes some information from the world, processes it and comes up with results. So there are three steps: Consume; Process; Create. (That's how I see it, which might not be how it is in real life; if you know better — let me know how I can improve my understanding.) So how does creation happen? Creation is the composition of everything we consumed and processed. You are taking everything you learned, experienced and processed, and turning it into something new.
The “inspiration” method works the same way, and it shortens the chain to make creation easier. You don't have to process all the low-level stuff, because you don't even know about it. You never consumed it. Therefore you just create something that works because it worked for someone else.
Copying is easy, creation is hard. Copying is a shortcut, creation is a long process. Copying gives you shallow results fast, creation gives you amazing results in the long-term. And what you should choose depends only on your goals and priorities.
On a chat with some other makers and founders tonight I understood why some people create amazing things fast, while others struggle or make a lot of mistakes...