What’s on the iPod: Ghosts That We Knew by Mumford & Sons (clickable link!)
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Note: This post was inspired by and dedicated to Keyboard Hussy.
Friday already? Time flies when you flat-out busy. I finished another project this week and made real progress on a project with a quick turnaround.
The other day I was talking to myself, and the topic of idea thievery came up. I say I was talking to myself because, well, I was. It’s a solitary career, you see. Plus when you hear what I was saying to myself (and arguing back and forth with oneself is an odd contradiction, not to mention a waste of time and scary for those who happen to walk in unexpectedly), you’ll understand the point of this post. Or not. I’ve convinced myself during my self-involved conversation that this is a good topic. You be the judge.
So, idea thievery. Why it came up between I and me was that sometimes I draw inspiration for new posts from my old posts. If I thought it was a good-enough idea then, would I still feel the same way now? And if so, why not expand on that thought? But here’s where it becomes thievery — if I don’t link back to or give credit to myself for the prior post, that’s bad. (I do have a point, so hang in there with me.)
But isn’t that okay? I mean, I see writers doing this to other writers all the time. So if they can swipe ideas or expand on someone else’s idea without attribution, I can swipe my own ideas in the same way. Right?
Well, sort of.
Let’s set the record straight — you can’t steal from yourself. You can’t claim you were unaware that your material was being used by, well, you. That is, unless you have multiple personalities and even then I don’t see that standing up in court. Would you have to hire two lawyers? Can you testify against yourself?
So if you “refresh” your own content or continue a prior conversation you started and you don’t give attribution, you’re not a thief. But seriously, why wouldn’t you give yourself credit? Moreover, your readers may want to know about the previous content so they can read it, too. The point is it’s not plagiarism nor is it really unethical to say “Hey, I had a great idea! I’m stealing that!”
So I know what you’re thinking — that same logic should apply to writers swiping other writers’ ideas or conversations, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
If I write what I think is the bee’s knees of blog posts, and I work hard at it, you may want to continue the conversation because it may actually be a topic that lends itself to more conversation and examination. However, if you do so without one link back to the place where you got the idea, come on. What the heck are you thinking? Do you really think it’s okay to take my topic of Pig Farming for Fun and Profit and turn it into your discussion on why pigs are good farmers or how rich pigs get to be so rich? There’s only one way that would be okay —
If you give proper attribution.
I’ve done it. I’ve read a blog post that’s made me think “Hey, I’d love to talk about that, too.” And I do. But I don’t do it without linking to the original post or mentioning where I’d read it first. Why? Because it’s the decent thing to do and it takes less than five seconds of my time to do the decent thing. In fact, see my attribution at the start of this post — the idea was not originally mine. And Keyboard Hussy gets — and deserves — the credit. The blame for how I took that idea and ran with it? All mine.
I say this on the heels of seeing three different topics written by three different bloggers repeated on other blogs without a link back or “I saw something on this person’s blog.” And no, I don’t believe that it’s always coincidence. It’s not. Sometimes it’s idea theft. If you read a lot of blogs regularly, you get to know whose ideas are being “repurposed” and who those “repurposers” are. And no, it’s not okay to recycle someone else’s work.
So if you’re a serial idea thief, stop it. You’re annoying the hell out of your peers. Plus you’re coming across as someone who is lacking possession of any original thought.
Have you seen similar ideas showing up within days or weeks of a post you remember? When you do, do you notify the blogger in question or the original blogger?