It's very easy to be influenced by the things you see online. I personally follow about 400 blogs, all of them inspiring in one way or another. Yet I read different blogs in different ways. I know it's good business sense to know what other bookbinders and paper artists in my community (Etsy, blogs, Finland...) are up to but I conciously avoid viewing their work with the thought "I could do that" floating at the back of my head. I am interested to learn new techniques but I very rarely come across a bookbinding technique I haven't heard about before, and even when it happens, it's usually not something I feel would fit my own work. My point, however, isn't copying techniques from others, it's copying Ideas from others, something much more sacred to me. I cannot understand how it is okay to take someone's technique, aesthetics, choice of materials and their entire process, and present it as your own in a commercial environment. I do believe in being inspired by others, honestly saying how I got this great idea from reading X's blog so I decided to build on it. I'm a firm believer in giving credit when credit is due. Naturally there are things that cannot be traced back into a specific artist. Everything has been done before, it's just a matter of doing it again your own way. I am not the first person to make books or matchboxes but I do believe I have a distinct style in my work. So do all the other professional bookbinders I know. Heck, all the artists I know have their own style that I would recognize anywhere. That's what makes artists, their style. And I think it's a really, really mean thing to steal someone's style and ideas. Style takes years and years to develop, good ideas are hard to come by. When someone snatches it from you, it's not a nice feeling. All the hard work you put in your art is now pretty much worthless, someone else is trying to make money on your ideas without doing any of the brainwork themselves. I don't really worry about losing money - I don't think we share customers; the difference in the quality of work is pretty apparent. Luckily the quality of my handiwork is something no one can take from me, and it's hard enough to imitate that I find it difficult to believe that someone with the adequate skills would bother copying anyone's work. But I do feel offended by the fact that my ideas are copied and sold as someone else's. It takes the joy out of creating. It makes me doubt if there's any point in using all the time and effort in creating the things I do, if it's treated with this little respect.
There is of course also unintentional copying but it's usually less obvious, merely (subconsciously) taking influences from someone else's work and adding them to your basic stuff. I'm not a big fan of any type of copying but I think it's possible to honestly believe something was your own original idea when, in fact, it was something you saw and later forgot seeing. However, when your conscience is nagging about something you're about to do, it's generally a good idea not to do it.
Personal use is a different matter. I have no problem with people making their own version of something for their own personal use. Actually, I think it's awesome whenever people make stuff by hand. If I see something I like, need, and feel my crafty abilities are sufficient for, of course I'd rather make it myself than spend big bucks paying for it. And even if it's not about the money, I'd rather have something I made as long as I don't feel like I'm counterfitting stuff. "I could do that" -goggles are only for viewing stuff you don't make to gain financial profit. It's not the same to copy a lovely color combination from someone's outfit and use it on you book covers than to copy the colour scheme of another artist and use it to create the same type of art they do. There is a line what's good kind of inspiration and what isn't. It is a very hard line to draw but I think any artist with a little bit of self respect has a pretty good idea where it is.
Sorry about the long rant. I just think these are important matters. I'm a foolish girl for hoping people would treat each other better but it's a foolishness I'm not ready to give up.