The Line Between Inspired by and Copied from

I have seen the argument be made that, for instance, David Kibbe did not come up with yin/yang, or even the basic types he uses. Similarly, Carol Tuttle goes into detail about how she came up with her system in one of her early books (she went to a four-type seminar, tried to partner up with the person who gave it, and started her own thing when that offer was rejected), and David Zyla draws heavily from Caygill, with some of the names for his archetypes being exactly the same. So where is the line, and why do I come down hard on some people, while promoting the work of others that some say did the same thing? There are some important distinctions for me that I will attempt to explain here.

1. Originality of Point of View

Now, this doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel. This just means, to me, that you may have taken some inspiration from your forebears, but you’ve added enough to make it your own. David Kibbe may use Dramatic/Natural/Romantic/Classic/Gamine like McJimsey, but the way his system works is very different (I think Kitchener is the closest to her, actually). It’s a different way of using yin and yang than she presents, and is closest to Northrup, in my opinion. I don’t think I could get the same thing that I do from Dressing Your Truth from other four-type systems, and going to see Zyla is a very different experience from seeing a Caygill analyst.

2. Originality of Materials

Along with this, I look at whether someone has created their own materials. There is a tendency to, for instance, take David Kibbe’s Image IDs, change the vocabulary surrounding them, and continue to use the test from the book to type clients. It sounds unbelievable that people do this, but it’s true. People run businesses, pretending to have created something, while using the literal test David wrote and putting excerpts from his book on their websites with no citations. Are you doing something truly different, or are you just giving it a new coat of paint?

3. Distinctness

Lastly, the work should be original enough that for the most part, you can’t really have the systems be synonymous. Four-type systems have been around for millennia, so this applies less to DYT and more to something like Kibbe. If people tend to consider, however incorrectly, a typing from someone in the new system to be a typing in the source system, the systems are too close for my taste. (With DYT, though, I still find that the combination of the style and energy work to be original enough that I consider it distinct–I don’t come out a 4/3 in every single four-type personality or style-typing system that I’ve looked at, for example.)

Factors of Quality

There are also systems where I feel like the system is original enough, but the systems just aren’t as good as the people they drew from. A major factor I’ve identified is whether the creator of a new or “new” system has a good enough understanding of their source material. This is something I’ve noticed a lot with people who have created a system after finding Kibbe. They feel like what they are doesn’t exist in Kibbe, or that they can’t be what they want, so they create something around this concept. Generally, they just don’t understand yin and yang and how David applies it. These systems are always going to be weak, in my opinion, because they come from a place of misinterpretation.

So I’m not totally opposed to systems based on other systems… in fact, I would like to make a system family tree–I think it would be fun! If you find something old and make it new again, I think that can be good, especially if the originator is no longer working. But if it’s simply a cheap imitation, then that person is better off going back to the drawing board.

These are just my thoughts on the topic… where do you draw the line when it comes to whether or not you consider style systems to be originals or copies, and does it even matter to you?

3 Comments on The Line Between Inspired by and Copied from

  1. Elizabeth Stewart
    October 28, 2019 at 5:17 am

    Yes, the idea of making a “family tree” of style concepts is intriguing. I find different systems give me different truths, and I take from each whatever will be helpful. I like Kibbe’s system best, because it has the psychological component of making peace with our body shape, and nobody else does that. Building on his style types has been very liberating for me. But other systems can also be helpful. I do think that those which link colour and personality, such as Sci/Art, all of which seem derived from Suzanne Caygill, can be misleading. Even though the colours may be correctly analyzed, there is absolutely no genetic basis for associating them with our personality types. This theory seems descended from the ancient concept of the four humours, and I like very much that Kibbe does not use it and neither does House of Colour. Our colours and shapes, and our personalities, are completely different and unrelated parameters. In our family, I am a quiet and introverted Spring; one daughter is a very extroverted Winter; the other an introverted Autumn! My husband is a dynamic and extroverted Winter – so none of us fit into Zyla or Sci/Art, or any of the Caygill type theories. Also, I abhor plagiarism. If someone draws from Kibbe, for example, and acknowledges their debt, fine. If they just copy and claim it as their own, that is just dishonest.

  2. LC
    November 6, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    I totally and whole-heartedly agree. This is just my high horse self-righteous option I realize, so please anyone reading this know this out the gate and not read this if it will offend you. I’ll just say what I think…I think it is stealing. This is a man that has come up with something original, unique, brilliant, and has done so with a beautiful serving heart. Only belonging to the Strickly Kibbe group for a couple of short weeks now, it didn’t take long to see how obvious his true intentions are to simply serve for Our highest good. Given this, I have zero trouble to have a strong moral issue with a person(s) that would find stealing a man’s life’s work acceptable. Explaining this fact away and justifying it to ourselves or others that this isn’t stealing does not change the Facts of Truth. I so agree! … It Has to be such an original twist that the original is hardly recognizable in order to call it your “own”. I personally think it is unconscionable. I wonder how these people would feel If the shoe was on the other foot to see THEIR hard work and ingenious ideas stolen from them? So I applaud you on speaking so eloquently about the elephant in the room. My hope is that more will speak up and bring to light the very foundational lack of integrity that sadly seems to be lacking in this regard here. Thank you for your post.

    • stylesyntax
      November 6, 2019 at 6:10 pm

      I agree! <3


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