The allegation of plagiarism raised against Philippine Senator Tito Sotto has put the issue of copying and pasting front and center. So much so that a law against plagiarism is being proposed, forgetting of course that we already have copyright laws, patent laws, and even copyleft. Proponents forget too that research work— taught at least for some of us— as early as grade school how to source, and cite sources have been around for decades. If you wanted to quote literature, you are taught how to. If you wanted to quote a scientist or scientific work, you are taught the proper use of bibliographies and footnotes. Journalists have similar rules. So the “problem” has been solved. At least so far as rules, and laws are concerned.
The online world is no different. The web is naturally built to cite sources. Links are added weight in search engines. It is so easy to link to the original source, when citing text, photos, video, audio— just about anything on the world wide web. Retweets, Facebook shares, reblogs on tumblr— are naturally built to cite the original.
A few of my friends are photographers. In fact, theirs is probably the most ripped off. Images are easily spread around, and their sources forgotten. They’ve taken to watermarking their work. And some, who blatantly still copy, would crop that out.
Why reinvent the wheel?
Some people just make their material available through copyleft. All you really need to do is cite the source. “Image credit: blah blah, some rights reserved.” or Juan dela Cruz in his blog wrote, “Blah blah blah”. How hard is that?
Why do law makers need to revisit when the very solution is staring people up in their face? Simply teach people the practice of citing sources. Plagiarism is a matter of ethics, not of law. It is easy. The answer to plagiarism isn’t more rules, and more bureaucracy, it is a simple matter of knowing to credit where credit is due. It is a simple matter of saying, this is what this guy said, or saw, or wrote. How hard is that?
So ok, that’s easy, but what about artists whose music, whose video, are blatantly spread on the Internet?
That’s different beast, don’t you think? You can’t pass off a video of Carly Rae Jepsen, as your own. A girl can’t sing Call Me Maybe and pass it off as her work. Right? You do a cover of that song. What most people do is have a bootleg copy of the song. It could be something they downloaded off bittorent.
The issue of having a bootlegs isn’t anything new. Steve Jobs famously mentioned he kept bootleg copies of Bob Dylan back when he was young. As Neil Gaiman once talked about piracy and the web. Someone downloading his work doesn’t really hurt him, Gaiman said. In fact, it would help in his sales because when people like that work, they do buy a copy, or tell people this is really awesome stuff, and that they should buy it. So in that respect, it is economic. Maybe they couldn’t afford it yet, but eventually the would get it.
Another aspect of piracy is the question of availability. Sometimes a video or show just isn’t available when you want it. We’ve come to a point that we want to watch something when we want to watch something. Sometimes is an entire season of House in one go. Sometimes we just want to see an episode Doctor Who, the moment it first appears or later that afternoon when you’ve gone off from work, and want to chill. You don’t want to be a slave to some television broadcast. That’s so 70’s.
Going back to the question of plagiarism, there really isn’t a need for a new law. People just have to learn what the proper rules are. It is a question of education, not a matter of law. Plagiarism is a question on ethics.
Image credit: Some rights reserved by Leeks