NO IDEA IS ORIGINAL: plagiarism and the originality of ‘original ideas’

“If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research” – Wilson Mizner

“Art is either plagiarism or revolution” – Paul Gauguin

“What is originality? Undetected plagiarism” – Dean Inge

“Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it” – Laurence J. Peter


Pardon me if I used the title of a song by one of my favorite rap artistes as the title of this article. Please, don’t report me to Nas about me ‘plagiarizing’ his work. OK, I am just kidding! This issue of plagiarizing other people’s works on the internet came to mind a couple of weeks ago when an article written by Chimamanda Adichie was allegedly copied from the site with the ‘exclusive rights’ to publish the article, and posted on other sites without citing the source. Pamurogo! Well, that case wasn’t outright plagiarism per se.

Now let’s face a fact; it is really hard to come up with fresh ideas. I mean, creating a work from the scratch. That shit is really tough! Sometimes you have mental barricades obstructing the flow of ideas. That’s why the internet is mostly just people waiting patiently for others to come up with fresh ideas…and what do these hawks do? They quickly copy and paste the shit, without citing properly the source of the article. Well, one doesn’t really give a phuck if it is some crack head in far away Indonesia that does that. But it is really heart wrenching when it is someone close to home. And it gets worse when you still reside in a one room apartment and walk around in your ‘leggedes benz’ while the copycat drives around town in a new Range Rover SUV and builds a new house for the folks in a couple of weeks. I no mention anyone’s name o! But in all honesty, that shit crayyy!

Plagiarism and the interpretation of copyright laws have taken a new twist since the advent of the internet. There are a thousand and one writers that sulk and wallow in anger and self-pity on a daily because of what the ‘internet hawks’ have done to their works. I can count the number of bloggers that copy and paste people’s works on their sites while citing the source; and believe me, they are just a handful of them. Plagiarism is not a crime per se but it is a serious ethical offense and cases of plagiarism can constitute copyright infringement.

The bitter truth is that plagiarism on the internet has come to stay. It is a bitter pill to swallow. With the rise of bloggers (especially lazy ones that have their eyes only on the guap and benjamins), ideas are forever gonna be jacked off the original sources and pasted on new platforms, and passed off as fresh ideas. It is just pitiable that there are few well defined and stringent laws protecting writers on the blogosphere.

Now for those disgruntled bloggers and writers crying and wailing about other writers plagiarizing their works, let me state categorically: there is no such thing as an original idea or thought. Nothing comes from nothing. According to Pierre Gassendi, every idea has a causal antecedent which removes the originality in the idea. I am not talking about an idea being ‘unoriginal’ because the term ‘unoriginal’ has some negative connotation. I’d rather use the term ‘not original’ to buttress my point. As we go about living, we observe others’ ideas in action, invent a few of our own (from the ideas that have already been imparted in us) and trade off the fresh ideas against that of others.

According to Mark Twain, all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the gardener with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral caliber and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.

Now that is real talk! I repeat: no idea is original; every freaking idea is an aggregation of other ideas that were imparted on us by the works and words of others.

So I just got word last week from a street urchin that some random dude in far away Tanzania has been publishing my crazy rants verbatim without citing the source. I even got angrier when the street urchin told me the dude got a couple of awards and a new ride from a local organization for the article I wrote about not giving a phuck. Could you believe that? E don be for the guy…aswear! I’d fly over to Tanzania next week, and when I see the random dude, I would kidnap him, and with the help of the street urchin, take him to an uncompleted building and serve him cow urine for breakfast and pig dung for supper. I’ll watch him suffer until he begs for mercy and promises not to post my crazy rants anymore. That’s whatsup! And that’s the best way to settle a score instead on coming on Facebook and lamenting about some chic jacking your style or plagiarizing your work. Just make an example with just one person, and I bet you the others would sit up.

So let us do away with whining and crying like babies about someone stealing our works and ideas without permission. Because every freaking idea or work you’ve come up with was influenced by someone else’s idea and works. If you feel aggrieved, then do the needful – settle the score physically or sue the person’s sorry ass and allow us live in peace. Capisce!

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