It’s Friday, time to get another punch on your Punchnel’s Punchcard. If you click on three links from this week’s Punchcard, you will win a free mustache ride.
Last week we talked about paying for content and why it’s hard for an artist to make a decent buck in this crazy day and age.
But what if someone doesn’t just steal your work to read, but steals it and tries to pass it off as their own? This is so common nowadays that there’s a group of vigilante readers on the hunt for plagiarized content, as detailed in The Atlantic. Self-publishing makes it so easy to steal a book and resell it that Amazon has a process in place for dealing with the situation.
And stealing content isn’t limited to the literary world. Jeremy Lim’s music was stolen, repackaged, and passed off as someone else’s. To add insult to injury, he learned of the intrusion when HE got a takedown notice from YouTube. This story is especially touching because Mr. Lim had his work on a project website to spur himself to greater creativity.
Then there’s the heartbreaking fact that the “arpeggiated melodies” in “Stairway to Heaven” may have been stolen.
And what the holy hockeysticks happens if someone steals your life? A New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell recounts the tale of psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis who thinks her life story was turned into a play (and the details are pretty convincing). Twist: The play features language that appears to have been lifted from an article Gladwell himself had written about Lewis and her work with serial killers.
When describing his feelings about his language being appropriated, Gladwell says that he did not feel upset, that he felt his words had been taken and transformed into something greater by the playwright. He talks about sampling, bringing The Beastie Boys into the mix, because of course he does.
“Under copyright law, what matters is not that you copied someone else’s work. What matters is what you copied, and how much you copied. Intellectual-property doctrine isn’t a straightforward application of the ethical principle “Thou shalt not steal.” At its core is the notion that there are certain situations where you can steal,” writes Gladwell.
Which makes it kind of, hmmm, interesting that Gladwell himself is the subject of some serious shade from the website Our Bad Media. Their last entry (from 2014) is a takedown of Gladwell as a hack and a plagiarist. What happened to Our Bad Media after their anti-Gladwell rampage? (We’re envisioning a political attack ad blaming Malcolm Gladwell for the disappearance of the authors of Our Bad Media, but we’re sure they’re Just Fine.)
Stanley Fish writes that maybe folks should just calm the eff down about plagiarism, within academia at least. It happens, it should be addressed, it is not the worst thing a person can do.
And here’s what Punchnel’s has to say: Stop stealing! Don’t submit stolen work to us. We do not like that.
Image by Dahn (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons