6 Nov 2007

In the spirit of Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky

Author: will | Filed under: copyright, copyright theft, fair use, kerfulle, opinion

“I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

Plagiarize,
Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize…
Only be sure always to call it please, ‘research’”. — Tom Lehrer (MP3)

Now then, I have no doubt that most of you think I’m talking about a little kerfulle (called copyright theft) between Daimen Mulley and Ace Internet Marketing, but not quite.

First off, Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky really did exist, but there is no evidence that he plagerized. The entire Tom Lehrer was written for Danny Kaye was a joke but the above attitude exists… because it’s legal!

Lobachevsky and Lehrer both work in mathematics… a hard science. And simply put, you can’t copyright a fact.

Think about it. What colour is the sky on your planet? “The sky is blue” is a fact and not copyrightable. The line “well, I’m from Ireland so it’s mostly overcast grey” is opinion, and so is copyrightable.

If you publish a non-fiction book, then you are stating that everything in it is fact. If someone then used the facts in your book as a basis for fiction, you shouldn’t be able to sue. If its a history (or even a pseudo-history) book, then your “plot premise” is probably re-producable without you getting a penny.
However is large chunks of your text have been copied (and not text attributed from another source) then you have a stronger case.

So, if you are going to steal off someone, it is better to take the facts and then reproduce it in your own words.

What about fair use… well let me put it this way, if you take content form another site, make the entire chunk a link. If your post, article, whatever is almost entirely a link… you have breached fair use.

Unless of course you do something to turn it (or them) into a completely different work. Think Andy Warhol and his soup cans. Think any of those music mashups you can think of. Usually it forces you to listen to the sources with fresh ears.

Or think about it creatively. Take other peoples footage from across the world and edit it in to a cheap music video to make a point like Sarah McLachlan does in “World on Fire”

Or mix together 32 songs and 28 different dance routines to make something humorous (laugh-out-loud in places) like Judson Laipply does with “The Evolution Of Dance”.

take care,
Will

tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “In the spirit of Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky”

  1. Bock the Robber Says:

    I didn’t think of Lehrer, which is a bit annoying, considering how much I’ve appropriated his material in the past.

    We all seem to be agreed that the miscreant in question has lifted other people’s work wholesale.

    Nobody would mind too much — apart from a bit of bitching — if it was for another blog, but it wasn’t.

    He copied the material for a commercial site, and that’s something absolutely outside the spirit of collegiality enjoyed between most bloggers.

    He then compounded his trespass by threatening the person he’d stolen the content from.

    Come on!

  2. cork-host Says:

    I’m not sying that he (or they) was right. I’m saying how they could “get away with it”… namely by taking the facts and wrapping them around ther own words.

    I suspect that the e-mails had a bit more creativity to them than the posts.

    Hmmm. Now there is an untapped source.
    The question is, was Damien the first to notice, or the first to complain pubically?
    Did the threaths work before?

  3. Bock the Robber Says:

    Don’t know if Damien was the first, but after a bit of digging I’ve found that the practice is incredibly widespread.

    Great fun. Every man his own detective!

Leave a Reply