A couple weeks back I heard Freddy Corbin speak at Creative Mornings Oakland. Freddy’s work went mainstream when he designed the logo for the Sons of Anarchy show, but he’s been a legend for decades.
In his talk, he shared with us how he started tattooing. Then the only way to get access to the equipment and learn the technique was by being an apprentice with an existing tattoo artist. So he went shop to shop, getting tattoos and meeting with artists until he found one that would teach him the ropes. What got me thinking was his statement about how because of that process there was a code of ethics among tattoo artists. And this code was handed down from master to apprentice.
This code of ethics was handed down from master to apprentice.
Freddy lamented that in our Internet era it is easy to get access to equipment and pigments. Resulting in this code falling by the wayside. I think that access isn’t the only reason that that the code of ethics met its demise. Nor do I think tattoo artists are the only ones that have lost their code.
My brain is constantly thinking about the law. (I’ll even admit to dreaming about it from time to time.) We are required to obey the laws. And the courts exist to enforce the laws when we choose to break them.
However, a code of ethics isn’t required. There is no punishment for breaking a code of ethics. No court to drag you into.
Why a code of ethics is important
But that doesn’t mean that a code of ethics shouldn’t exist. When a code of ethics is narrower than the laws, it can inspire us. It can motivate us to act better. It can draw boundaries and expectations for a community.
When a community adopts a code of ethics that is narrower than the laws and upholds it, then the laws become less important.
There are far too many instances of people and companies breaking the law out there. Several times a week I hear from a creative whose work was stolen by a copycat. (That’s why I wrote a guide to help you deal with it.) But I also hear just as many stories of people who are technically acting within the laws, but are pretty shady.
While I share Freddy’s lament about the demise of the code of ethics, I wonder if it’s possible to bring it back. If people won’t follow the “more lenient” standards in the law why would they adopt the narrower restrictions in a code of ethics?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, should creative businesses have a code of ethics? Would it even be possible to create/bring one back? How would we go about that?