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  • Copying and modifying = plagiarism?

    I remember reading this somewhere over here about so called "Googled Designers" and how they use Google to search for something that is already created, they modify it, and then call it theirs.

    Now, a general question: if you copy and modify something (even if it's just a word in a sentence for example), and call it your creation, is it still plagiarism?

    Taking into consideration that the text, image, etc is not anymore the original, it has been modified, so it can (can it?) be called a entirely new document. If it's a new document, the person who altered it can call it their own.

    On the other hand, sometimes it's just so obvious that the image or text has been copied and slightly modified, that it just isn't possible to call it an "original artwork".

    So, how far does plagiarism go? How much of something do you have to modify to call it "new"?


    I don't want to enter the legal side of plagiarism. I just want to figure out if copying and modifying something can be called plagiarism, and if so, why?
    Design gráfico

  • #2
    Originally posted by forgottencanha
    How much of something do you have to modify to call it "new"?
    To be honest, this just sounds lazy. If you are a creative (designer, artist, writer, or whatever else) it is your job to come up with unique ideas. That is not to say that someone else hasn't thought of something similar independently of you, but to base your work on someone else's is a bad idea on many levels.

    Try thinking of it in these terms; if you had put a lot of thought and effort into creating something and someone else wanted to use your idea (without compensating you for it) how much should they have to change before you would no longer be upset that they stole your idea and profitted from it?

    The article about "googled graphic designers" is here:
    http://www.graphicdesignforum.com/fo...ad.php?t=26183

    It sounds to me like you're either trying to justify using someone else's concepts or writing a paper. Which is it?
    "It's never too late to be who you might have been." - George Eliot

    Comment


    • #3
      Once you use the word 'copy' it is Derivative work. You didn't come up with the idea yourself. It's quite one thing to come up with an indepedent idea similiar to someone else's but quite another thing to scan or use imagery and change it slightly.

      The old axiom that even a lot of college professors seem to allow is that if you change 3 things or 25% or modify someone else's art, it is yours. That is a myth. And there have been some fairly high end law suits (with large monetary rewards to the plaintiffs) to back that up.

      Now if that someone has been dead 100 years or the image or piece you are copying pre-dates 1923 (in the USA) then the work is Public Domain and you can copy it, use it, alter it, etc BUT you cannot claim it as your own and place a new copyright on it. For example, I find a public domain photo of Mona Lisa and draw in a cigar and black eyes, I can copyright my version but not the original Mona Lisa image I started with. Or if I copy some lines of Shakespear into a book I'm writing about Shakespear. Only my original text is mine. I can't claim copyright on Shakespear's original work.

      When doing current research papers, you must cite direct quotes but you are also writing about what you have learned on the topic. You didn't know this information before so you got it from someone else. Processing and putting into your own words is not plagiarism. Taking someone's sentence out of the encyclopedia and changing the syntax is.

      There is only so much code out there for websites and far too many templates. To come up with your own layout from scratch is one thing, using code bits you've collected along your way is part of your craft but to go online and take a whole site and just drop in text and images into someone else's code is not cool. I'm not talking a template. You buy those for this purpose.

      Comment


      • #4
        Actually, the subject came up friday at a class in college.

        We were talking about plagiarism and trying to reach a consensus of where creativity ends and where the copy+paste starts.

        I'm tottaly against using someone else's work to modify it and call it "your own". I agree with you that it's out of sheer laziness that someone would do that, but I want to know how far can you go.

        I remember recently about this webcomic artist who had a piece of his "copied" by another better known artist. The artist just copied the concept of the artwork that someone else created. Suposedly, this guy who made the copy drew the whole thing himself, only copying the "idea".
        He basically saw someone else's work and re-created it. Is this plagiarism?

        I'm not defending any sides. It's just out of curiosity that I'm asking
        Design gráfico

        Comment


        • #5
          BTW, I must point out that Public Domain is very scary. The 1923 date is safe in the US but other things newer than that may be public domain as the laws have changed often enough to make it difficult. Some items from the 60's are actually in PD because the owners missed the renewal date. Good luck trying to figure out what though without a lawyer to research it for you.

          And as far as photos of PD paintings. The photo has to predate 1923 as well as the art. A photo taken of a famous artwork is copyrighted by the photographer who took it.

          It's all very convoluted.
          In essence, it's ok to be inspired. It's wrong to copy.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by PrintDriver
            There is only so much code out there for websites and far too many templates. To come up with your own layout from scratch is one thing, using code bits you've collected along your way is part of your craft but to go online and take a whole site and just drop in text and images into someone else's code is not cool.
            That's my doubt: Web programming (or any kind of programing) has been there for a while. So when you learn a new function and decide to use it on you website, tecnically you are COPYING what has been done already, right? Does this mean that you website is plagiarized?

            Then again, it would be like english: we use this language to comunicate and to create text. So are we copying the language? If we create a text in english and call it our own, is it not plagiarism? I mean, it can't be, right?

            Originally posted by PrinterDriver
            The old axiom that even a lot of college professors seem to allow is that if you change 3 things or 25% or modify someone else's art, it is yours. That is a myth.
            So how much "original" must something have to actually be "original"?
            Design gráfico

            Comment


            • #7
              You took that out of context. Modifying someone else's art is Derivative Work and is defined under copyright law. Only the owner of the original artwork has the right to allow derivative work on a piece they created. If you start with someone else's work, it will never be original.

              Now if you see a designer's collective work and that inspires you to go off and create something that may be 'similar' but is entirely your own spin then that would be considered original. For example, the use of edgy text. Someone thought that was a nifty idea (without asking a printer no doubt), now it is used everywhere in different contexts. Combining style elements is not necessarily plagiarism, the line is drawn at how originally you do it.

              I might add the example of the text on this website too. All posts are copyright of the person who posted them. If you use them in a research paper, you have to cite them.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by PrintDriver
                If you start with someone else's work, it will never be original.
                that's it in a nutshell.
                "It's never too late to be who you might have been." - George Eliot

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by forgottencanha
                  That's my doubt: Web programming (or any kind of programing) has been there for a while. So when you learn a new function and decide to use it on you website, tecnically you are COPYING what has been done already, right? Does this mean that you website is plagiarized?
                  Web code only tells the browser how to present the various objects on the page. It's what those objects are that defines the design.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I remember recently about this webcomic artist who had a piece of his "copied" by another better known artist. The artist just copied the concept of the artwork that someone else created. Suposedly, this guy who made the copy drew the whole thing himself, only copying the "idea".
                    He basically saw someone else's work and re-created it. Is this plagiarism?
                    Of course it is. If I can draw Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty without tracing or stealing original pieces, do you think Disney and Sanrio are going to sit by while I sell products with those characters on them? Why would they be mad? I drew them myself! :P

                    As far as web code goes, I think it's perfectly acceptable to go, "Oh wow, I love that technique!" Copy the code, even the whole page, play with it, learn how to implement it, then create your own page with it's own style and implement all the cool tricks you learned from the web. I always find that I can only get so far in someone elses spagetti mess of code anyway. Once I grok the concept of how they did something, I usually create an entirely new document, create the effect on its own there in simple, clean code, and save it as an example file.
                    Think of me as programmable soda.
                    Tori Amos

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Why steal and modify something when you can create it custom yourself? Laziness doesn't make good design.

                      I get so much satisfaction out of creating something myself. I guess some people just don't see it that way...
                      It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" – Winnie the Pooh

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by budafist
                        Why steal and modify something when you can create it custom yourself? Laziness doesn't make good design.

                        I get so much satisfaction out of creating something myself. I guess some people just don't see it that way...
                        I agree with you Buda.

                        I know that copying is a very huge sign of laziness and laziness is a huge sign for crappy design. I also know that stealing is bad.

                        I'm not trying to get into the legal aspect of plagiarism or if it's wrong or right (no matter where you are, it most certainly is wrong), I just want someone to define how far can an original artwork go before it's considered plagiarised.


                        Originally posted by PrintDriver
                        If you start with someone else's work, it will never be original.
                        Best answer so far

                        Just a reminder that I'm not trying or willing to copy anybody's work. Just want to figure what is indeed a copy and what is original. Hard topic, eh?
                        Design gráfico

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          egads, this entire line of discussion makes me worried.

                          so, what happens if the copying => modifying becomes more prevalent, so in essence on down the line, people are copying the copies? it's that old adage about photocopying a photocopy: eventually, you have to go back to the source piece because no matter how much you crank up the contrast, eventually the copies will be so muddied that you can no longer see what you're copying.

                          now, apply the analogy to design in general...what if, because of the prevalence of this practice, that it becomes not an accepted practice, but something that happens so often that people begin to just shrug, shake their heads, and accept it? where will that leave the design industry in, say, 20-30 years?
                          Remember: Wherever you go, there you are.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            was it sort of odd or ironic that my last post was my 508th post?
                            Remember: Wherever you go, there you are.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mojoprime
                              egads, this entire line of discussion makes me worried.

                              so, what happens if the copying => modifying becomes more prevalent, so in essence on down the line, people are copying the copies? it's that old adage about photocopying a photocopy: eventually, you have to go back to the source piece because no matter how much you crank up the contrast, eventually the copies will be so muddied that you can no longer see what you're copying.
                              I don't quite see it that way. Because design is based upon tried and true design principles you can say that design is built upon pre-existing design to explore different forms of expression. So copying and modifying should evolve the new design piece into a unique re-interpretation or even discovering a new expressive formula based on the original technique rather than become muddied. Being inspired from an original should lead to progressive design evolution.

                              now, apply the analogy to design in general...what if, because of the prevalence of this practice, that it becomes not an accepted practice, but something that happens so often that people begin to just shrug, shake their heads, and accept it? where will that leave the design industry in, say, 20-30 years?
                              A question that is already similarly being debated with the ills of speculative work vs. supporting a no!spec philosophy. And as with that crusade, there will be those within the creative community who will rise up to champion the cause against those who submissively accept it. In other words, there will always be advocates and opponents. The key is to ensure that there are enough crusaders and champions to make sure that the more unethical practice doesn't get the upper hand over the ethical one.


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