Steal this Idea

Stolen Lunch

What is originality?

Intellectual property and what it constitutes is an interesting discussion these days. What restrictions should be placed on ideas? Not the lawyer’s definition, but the layman’s. Most marketers are of the mindset that stealing is not only sanctioned but should be rewarded.

This shift in thinking did not come easily and has only been earned over the past decade. DMCA take down notices are still a fact of life and large corporations are still very resistant to anyone getting a hold of their content and manipulating it in a way out of their control.

Remix culture

Despite the best efforts of traditional avenues of control? The war is largely over.

“In reality, these companies lost control a long time ago; the fans can do pretty much anything they want with these brands and with a high level of visibility and going after them is a bit like Brier Rabbit pummeling away at the tar baby. Yet, even pretty innovative companies are getting trapped in the internal politics around television production and promotion, incapable of forming meaningful partnerships with their most active and visible fans, and thus almost certain to start acting in ways that are going to leave them, to continue the metaphor, looking “stuck up”. ~ Henry Jenkins, Going “Mad”: Creating Fan Fiction 140 Characters at a Time

Creative ideas are being remixed, reformatted and bent to adhere to the current problem. It’s hard to find a truly original idea. After all, we are exposed to so much information on a daily basis it’s next to impossible not to take a little here and a little there as long as the outcome is different.

This can be especially true if the content is made readily available online and isn’t protected.

Sharing is creation

This leads into an interesting discussion: What constitutes creativity?

Creation is simply adding your piece to the larger puzzle. If you participate in the elevation of an idea onto a new level you are just as much responsible for something’s success then the originator of the content.

My only requirement for creation is this: An idea that independently or collectively that adds a new wrinkle to a pre-existing concept.

Seems simple doesn’t it? The reality is that it isn’t. Coming up with something that can provide utility and coolness in a new dimension is often harder than the creation of something new. Just ask anyone who has tried to make a sequel.

What’s next?

Wikipedia is updated in real-time, songs are made public before the album is released, and advertisers are encouraging and embracing the concept of user generated content.  The time between creation and remix is continually getting shorter.

Then there are the new social consumers. Determined to take things into their own hands – conversing, commenting, criticizing, creating — they feel no qualms about bringing a brand down, celebrating the products they love, or becoming brands themselves, capable of building their own multi-million dollar companies with little more than a digital camera, a folding table and a knack for leveraging a community. ~ The Future of Advertising, Edward Boches

Is this a good thing? I happen to think so. After all, I’m of the mindset that any contribution to creation no matter how small should be rewarded.

Feel free to remix this post as well. (As long as you link to it!)

Image Source: Tim Wang

11 thoughts on “Steal this Idea

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  • Great post with a lot of intereting points. I especially like your new definition of creativity. I always view ideas like musical notes. When writing a song, the notes to choose from already exist; you only need to arrange them in new ways. In the same way, ideas already exist; you only need to use them in a different way,

  • Nothing is original: So once we agree to this, then our job (as ad writers) is to take familiar ideas and put them into new relationships so people think about ideas differently. That said, when I was in college, i wrote a pitch letter to a national Mexican food restaurant with a speculative ad. The line: 'So authentic, you think you'll need a passport to get home.' They sent me a letter a few weeks later that stated because they're bound by contract to their current agency, they couldn't consider any submission from me (not that I was trying to get their business – i mean, i was in college, and i just wanted to work with them virtually). About a month later, that line was the main line on their website. Free. Meanwhile, my wife was working two jobs to put me through school. I absolutely believe that the altered ideas we create deserve some kind of protection. Otherwise, the only people who benefit financially from them are those who don't own the ideas. By virtue of the US Copyright Act of 1976, if you think it – you own it. Just be prepared to prove it.

    When I sent that letter to the Mexican restaurant, I didn't keep their letter back and had no other paper trail. Fuckers.

  • I believe in giving credit. To anyone and everyone if they have a great idea.

    I've shown competitive work in pitches…just to show what great work looks like.

    Feel that nothing but good can come from that…Oh. AND COVER YOUR ASS.

  • In this context, I completely agree. And I do that too. But if you don't think there are trolls, you're not looking closely enough. I'm a huge proponent of giving credit and indeed go out of my way to avoid any direct influence. It goes like this, if I read Hemingway, I find myself writing *like* him (or rather, unintentionally aspiring to write like him). It's like osmosis. And for that reason, I don't run to the closest awards annual when a new project comes down the chute. I have way too much confidence in my own ability to deconstruct a problem to discover unique solutions. And if I find out that an idea I present is too close to something someone else had already done, I scrap it. Unless it's justifiable and not really that similar (especially in context).

  • In the world of marketing our job as I have seen it has always been to be an objective third party witness to an idea that already exists. Great marketing does not make the client's product or service become a great product or service. Great marketing unleashes the idea of what a client has to offer and does so in a way they were not capable of seeing from the inside out. Adding the wrinkle so to speak. Good thought starter Stuart.

  • Ideas have always been free for the taking.

    Executions of them, and patents on them however, have not been.

    Say you're the first guy to think up a plastic bag with “bubbles” shaped throughout it, and a spout where one can pour water in it, but not out. Patent that design and you're rich on ice-plastic bags forever! Or rather until the competition catches uo and makes their own design of plastic bag bubbles one can fill with water to make ice. It's your execution that is protected, not the idea.

    Say you invented the first spreadsheet computer program (Visicalc). You're rich, right? Naaaah, Dan and Bob's Software Arts were soon outrun by SuperCalc, Microsoft's MultiPlan and Lotus 1-2-3. They did the same idea – they just wrote their software from scratch, so there's no theft involved (For extra credit read up on reverse engineering).

    Now the world equates remix culture with having ideas, and ideas should be free. You forget that they always were.

  • Damn interesting perspective.

    You're absolutely right. I guess I always saw ideas as creation though…

    I think the ability to rip things off has become both easier and harder as time goes on. Harder because it's not easy to steal anymore without getting caught and easier because of how readily available all the content is.

    Lot to think about here. Thanks 🙂

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