Monday, 30 June 2008

Plagiarism - It's A Crime!

You wouldn't steal a handbag. Check.
You wouldn't steal a car. Check.
You wouldn't steal an idea. Or would you?

Of course, the above sentence is in fact, already stolen, because it is what you have to sit through if you have the time and leisure to sit down at home and watch a DVD.

Nobody knows why you have to endure it, because by the time you are being brainwashed you are just about to watch a movie (or TV show for that matter) that you have legally acquired anyway. The stuff that's illegally taped in a movie theatre in Bangkok usually does not come with this type of warning.

The topic du jour however, is plagiarism. Stealing ideas, using other people's material without quoting adequately. Selling somebody's thoughts as your own.

In this day and age, everybody seems to be putting his or her thoughts out to the world. Are you stealing somebody's idea if and when you are just writing about the same subject?

Clearly, the Times reporter can't call his counterpart from The Guardian and tell him not to write about the Euro 2008 Final because he had already done a piece.

However, let's say that I have written something very random about movie posters and how the quotes on those usually have nothing to do with how good (or bad) the movie really is (which I have) just to find somebody else shortly afterwards writing about the same thing. Should I be upset (knowing through Google Analytics that my piece has been read)? Should I feel plagiarised?

I would in general think that once an idea is out, it is up to everyone to pick it up, be inspired by it and do their own take on whatever they have come across. From my past in academia, this is how science works and ideas progress. Here of course, the cause pursued is considerably less worthy, but then again, we can't save the world all the time I suppose.

Maybe, the right approach (unless somebody is genuinely being copied) is to go with the Muppets who would say: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

On this note, I shall feel flattered.