We have always had that passive fear of our work being stolen by somebody. No matter if you were a researcher, musician, an artist or a writer. Sooner or later in your lifetime, you will come across this act. As a writer, I too battle constantly with this sense of protecting my ideas and content with an iron fist. But still, I would be lying if my idea is totally original but the work you do will be inspired by something that had already been done by someone else. So, does everyone is guilty of stealing from somebody’s hard worked content? Well, it is not that easily defined.
First of all, we have to know what Plagiarism is about. According to Wikipedia:
Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work. The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules.
One thing we have to keep in mind, as stated above, is that it is problematic. If plagiarism is the theft of one’s ideas then, we call say all say that every content is plagiarized as it must and will contain something which will match the language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions to some degree of similarity. So logically, the whole thing is totally subjective.
Whether it be art or science, we are only pointing out what is already there. Plagiarism really refers to who was the one to point that out and who stole that idea and said she/she looked for it and found it. It is basically ‘first come, first served’. If you publish your work first, you will get the credit for it. If somebody else submits a work similar to yours, then they will become it’s founders. That is just the way, this will work.
To cite an example: Take the classical Leibniz–Newton calculus controversy between French Mathematician Gottfried Leibniz and English Scientist Issac Newton over the rights of being the inventor of the Calculus method. To put in mind, their invention of the method is to seen more as a discovery than creation of something original. They both worked separately and independently on Calculus and sadly, published their findings at different dates. These caused a huge scandal over the ownership of the method which still in obscurity till this present day. If you want more information on this, please refer to the link below:
Basically, both were given credit for it but, Issac Newton got more credit in a personal value. If the facts are taken straight as they are, both are innocent of plagiarism. They did not claim another’s work as theirs, they calamine their work as their own. But, both work were so similar, that looking at it in an different way, only one was to be given the ‘deserved’ credit and the other one to say, ‘I borrowed it from him’. And that is just heart-breaking. To work on a idea so long and so true and to say at last, “No, I borrowed it from this and that source.” is the most disappointing of one’s life.
You may now think that it is just about the science field of logic and certainty and that it really holds little basic ground in arts where the plagiarism is seen in downright amoral stealing and not some who-did-it first basis. But that thought is wrong too.
We, as artists: writers, poets, singers, musicians, composers, are inspired by others to start our own artistic endeavors. This is which where we say we are inspired by others and most of us are humble enough to give credit to these people. Let us focus on one type of profession. Writing. There is a thing we are guilty of performing, even I am not innocent, and that is ‘subconscious imitation’. When we read a good story, our mind stores the story’s plot, way of writing and structure for later reference. When we write our own story, we will somehow put what we have read in what we are writing without even our own notice. This is a real phenomenon. It may be subtle as one or two sentences, jokes and quotes, to as large as similar characters and plot arcs and the thing is we think we are making it ourselves. Even proof reading through the whole draft will not jog our memory. A similar occurrence happened to the author Helen Keller (eleven years old) when the short story she had published ‘The Frost King’ had been compared to the story ‘Frost Fairies’ from the book Birdie and His Fairy Friends. Miss. Helen was accused of plagiarism and fraud. She claimed that she had never read The Frost Fairies but, her substitute mentor Sophia Hopkins had read it to her through finger-spelling. Miss. Helen still denied about hearing the story
Non the less, ‘subconscious imitation’ seems to be the most logical way of taking this problem. Miss. Helen, still a child, heard the story during bedtimes and forgot all about it. But her subconscious mind retained the information and it betrayed her into thinking she was writing a new story. Even so, accusing a child of fraud and plagiarism is the most offensive thing ever omitted. Miss. Helen, never wrote fiction after this traumatizing event, even though the original author of The Frost Fairies, Margaret Canby called Helen’s work superior to her’s. Mark Twain commented on the scandal as “owlishly idiotic and grotesque”.
It is true that some of us love and adore an art form so much that we try to imitate it. As said, ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery’. I can write about this subject on and on and it will keeping twisting and turning. Personally speaking, if somebody was to take some elements of my story, without my permission, or his noticing of the fact that they had taken it and make it something amazing then, I would approve. I would certainly would be envious of them, but I would approve their act.
Basically, to all the budding artists and ripe literary geniuses out there, I want to request you to be patient and be gentle. We all want our work to be acknowledged. We all want to make sure our work brings others the same satisfaction we had writing it. Sometimes, we do get carried away in our goals. So either you are plagiarizer or a plagiarized one, both of us are victims in one way or another. We are victims of pure connection to each other. So please be gentle.