Where There is Creativity, There is Plagiarism

From Plagiarism Today:

Plagiarism can often seem invisible.

Not only do plagiarists often go to great lengths to hide the activities but, even when it’s done in broad daylight, those that aren’t actively looking for it will usually miss it. It’s very easy to look around you and feel confident that you’re in a relative plagiarism-free zone.

But the truth is much different. Plagiarism is literally everywhere that there is creativity. It doesn’t matter what kind of work you create or how it’s created, if there is originally and expression, you’re likely to find plagiarism.

In the more than 15 years I’ve been running Plagiarism Today, we’ve discussed plagiarism in a wide variety of environments including knitting, board games, video games, flag design, API development, YouTube videos (not counting other copyright issues), poetry, podcasts, comic books, architecture, marketing and much, much more.

If there’s creativity in an industry, there’s a near-guarantee that there is plagiarism in it. That’s because, whenever there’s a barrier to creating something, whether it’s an essay or movie, you can rest assured someone will be there to take whatever shortcuts they can to create their own.

. . . .

As Jason Chu of Turnitin once said, “Plagiarism is about putting outcomes ahead of processes.”

In short, plagiarist is someone who wants the outcome of having created something but doesn’t value or respect the process of creating that thing. In a simple example, a student who wants an A on a paper but doesn’t want to go through the trouble of actually writing such a paper may be tempted to plagiarize it.

To be clear, not every person that feels this way will be a plagiarist. Many students may not care about or see the value in writing an essay, but most will grit their teeth and do the work, either out of a sense of honesty or a fear of reprisal.

However, a student that values or even enjoys the process of writing an essay or completing an assignment will be much less tempted to plagiarize, regardless of their sense of honesty or how much they fear getting caught.

. . . .

But to creatives, this can seem alien. Why would you want to create something and not have it be original? Why would you want to put your name on something that someone else already made?

The reason is that we, as a society, value creators. Though, not always enough to avoid pirating their work, there is still a cult of celebrity placed around authorship and creativity. Whether it’s authors, filmmakers, musicians, artists, photographers or any other type of work, there’s a lot of appeal to being a creator.

That societal value is only matched by some people’s individual willingness to take shortcuts. In short, being a creative is very appealing, especially in the digital age when just about anyone can find an audience, but being creative requires a great deal of hard work and there are many that find that too high of a cost.

. . . .

[One step toward the deterence of plagiarism] is to be honest about what it takes to create a work.

For example, this post, and ones like, do not spring fully formed from my mind. They often take hours or works, sometimes broken up over multiple days. Even for all of my typos and grammar mistakes, there is a great deal of editing, revision and preparation that goes into them as well.

However, that’s not something that people see. We have created a mythos around creativity where a great work is the product of a brilliant mind, not the toil of countless hours of hard, often dull, labor.

Creativity is not something that’s available on demand and it rarely bears any fruit of worth without being combined with hard work. However, we don’t talk about those elements and that sets up an unrealistic expectations for those who have never done it themselves.

How can we expect others to respect the process of creating something when we aren’t always open and honest about that process ourselves?

Our cult of creativity has minimized the work that goes into creating something and put the focus on an intangible spark or a mythical completely self-contained idea that sprang forth fully formed. Neither are true.

Creativity is work and, though more work does not equal better product, if we were more open about how works were actually created, others might feel less justified in skipping the invisible work or copying the elusive creativity.

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today

4 thoughts on “Where There is Creativity, There is Plagiarism”

    • Meh, I’ll pass.

      The writer conflates the enormity of plagiarism–if it’s not a hundred percent original then it’s plagiarized. That’s just not true.

      To have such a strict definition of plagiarism would end all creation. 100% originality is impossible and unwarranted. If it happened, people wouldn’t understand the creatuon. They would reject it. It would be too strannge and unusual. Kt would be wekrd. It wouldn’t sell.

      “What is this thing?”

      Maybe years later, when the copycats have disassembled it, created it anew with a mixture of their own creativity and inspiration from the original while paying homage to the source would people begin to understand what came before. Because of the copycats.

      Creating something similar is not a crime. Or else you must theow out all the tropes. You must reinvent the wheel. You must come up with the new version of the car or television.

      Ceeativity is taking what came befofe, and adding or subtracting, mixing until the hue takes on a different tone of blue, giving a dash of yourself, a pinch of the inspired, a twist of lemon, shaken not stirred until a creation that is both familiar and new is born.

  1. “For example, this post, and ones like, do not spring fully formed from my mind. They often take hours or works, sometimes broken up over multiple days. Even for all of my typos and grammar mistakes, there is a great deal of editing, revision and preparation that goes into them as well.”

    I like that the OP leaves out that it was also built on the ideas, views and research of others that they had read or seen/heard of elsewhere.

    Very little comes with no outside input at all, often your subconscious remembers/uses things you weren’t even aware you knew.

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