When people copy songs and movies, they don’t change the authors’ names. Plagiarism is something else: it’s lying. If Copyright has anything to do with plagiarism, it’s that it makes it easier to plagiarize (because works and their provenance aren’t public and are therefore easier to obscure and lie about) and increases incentive to do so (because copying with attribution is as illegal as copying without, and including attribution makes the infringement more conspicuous). American Copyright law does not protect attribution to begin with; it is concerned only with “ownership,” not authorship. Many artists sign their attributions away with the “rights” they sell, which is why it can be difficult to know which artists contributed to corporate works.
I chose Beethoven to illustrate how copyright has nothing to do with preventing plagiarism. All Beethoven’s work is in the Public Domain. Legally, you can take Ludwig van Beethoven’s songs, Jane Austen‘s novels, or Eadweard Muybridge‘s photographs and put any name you want on them. Go ahead! You’re at no risk of legal action. Your reputation may suffer, however, and you definitely won’t be fooling anyone. If anyone has doubts, they can use that same copy machine – the Internet – to sort out who authored what. Lying is very difficult in a public, transparent system. A good analog to this is public encryption keys: their security comes from their publicity.
The song says “always give credit where credit is due,” but in many cases credit is NOT due. For example, how many credits should be at the end of this film? I devoted about two and a half seconds to these credits:
But I could have credited far more. In fact, the credits could take longer than the movie. Here are some more credits:
What about sound effects? Were it not for duration constraints, this would be in the movie:
Every single sound effect in the cartoon was made by someone. Should I credit each one? Crash-wobble by (Name of Foley Artist Here). Cartoon zip-run by (Name of Other Foley Artist Here). And so on: dozens of sound effects were used in the cartoon, and each one had an author. What about the little noises Mimi & Eunice make? Not only could the recording engineer be credited, but the voice actor as well (as far as I know, these were both Greg Sextro).
I included a few seconds of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at the end, which I didn’t credit in the movie. Should I have? Why or why not?
I could credit the characters:
I could be more detailed in crediting myself:
And the funder!
I didn’t even make a card for the Minute Memes logo. Should that be in there?
The ass drawing also came from Wikimedia Commons, where it’s credited to Pearson Scott Foresman. But who actually drew it? I have no idea. I doubt that Pearson Scott Foresman could even legally claim the copyright on it to “donate” to Wikimedia in the first place, but there they are, getting credit for it instead of an artist. That’s because copyright is only concerned with “ownership,” not authorship.
Then there’s the software I used, good old pre-Adobe Macromedia Flash. Should I credit the software? What about the programmers who contributed to the software?
Mimi and Eunice themselves were “inspired” by many historical cartoons. Early Disney and Fleischer animations, the “rubber hose” style, Peanuts, this recent cartoon, and countless other sources I don’t even know the names of – but would be compelled to find out, if credit were in fact due. Is it?
And so on. It is possible to attribute ad absurdum. So where is credit due? It’s complicated, the rules are changing, and standards are determined organically by communities, not laws. I had to edit the song for brevity, but I kind of wish I hadn’t excised this line:
Attribution is a way to help your neighbor. You share not only the work, but information about the work that helps them pursue their own research and maybe find more works to enjoy. How much one is expected to help their neighbor is determined by (often unspoken) community standards. People who don’t help their neighbors tend to be disliked. And those who go out of their way to deceive and defraud their neighbors – i.e. plagiarists – are hated and shunned. Plagiarism doesn’t affect works – works don’t have feelings, and what is done to one copy has no effect on other copies. Plagiarism affects communities, and it is consideration for such that determines where attribution is appropriate.
At least that’s the best I can come up with right now. Attribution is actually a very complicated concept; if you have more ideas about it, please share.
I’m crossposting this from Mimi & Eunice today because it is one of my best ever and I’m impatient for everyone in the world to see it.
There’s one more day to back the Mimi & Eunice’s Intellectual Pooperty minibook project! The above comic won’t be in it, alas, since I just drew it yesterday and the book is already at the printer. But there will be 40 other fine selections from the IP category, in full color.
My current task is to select the 40 Mimi & Eunice IP cartoons the minibook will contain. You can sift through the whole IP category here. My current list is below, but it can change. If there are any real winners that aren’t on this list, please let me know by posting its URL in the comments. And please let me know what losers are on my list I should drop, to make room for better ones. Thanks!
Just a reminder to please please share, copy, email, post, re-post, link to, etc. my daily comic strip Mimi & Eunice. They’re competing against everything else on the interwebs for limited attention, and only you/me/us can help get them out there.
Obviously I’m offending at least as many people as are becoming fans, so it’s all the more important the fans share it.
Above are the Feedburner stats for Mimi & Eunice. The green line represents subscribers; the blue represents “reach” (“the total number of people who have taken action — viewed or clicked — on the content in your feed”). The lines represent an overall trend of linear growth. Not exponential growth. Which is fine, but makes me wonder: is “viral” (exponential) sharing becoming a thing of the past, as quality content on the internet becomes more ubiquitous?
A few years ago, if you put anything halfway decent online it would spread like a virus. The online memosphere was less colonized than it is today. Of course there will still be “viral” content, but it has a lot more to compete with today: all the other viral content. Imagine if you released something of today’s quality online 10 years ago. It would have spread further and faster back then, because attention wasn’t already consumed by vast amounts of other quality content. On the other hand, the internet itself was much smaller 10 years ago – fewer people had access to it – so overall reach of a viral success could have been lower in absolute terms.
I’ve noticed the linear trend in most of my works now (sitasingstheblues.com, having enjoyed exponential growth followed by a plateau, is now on a linear decline). Maybe this means my work sucks, but I don’t think so. I’m happy with linear growth. But I am revising my ideas about “viral content,” and I wonder if others are, too. Twitter’s “Trending: Worldwide” lists indicate some things spread virally – suddenly they’re everywhere – but then they’re gone the next day, and forgotten in a week.
Crossposted from Mimi & Eunice
Mimi & Eunice’s character designs evolved (barely) from this Copying Is Not Theft animation:
You’ll notice it starts off with the nose-stealing gag. I saw a similar gag over a decade ago in a brilliant Sam Henderson comic, the Magic Whistle, which made me laugh and laugh. Since Sam has made about a zillion such comics, I can’t find that one, but I did find this amusing one that relates to one of my favorite subjects, the First Amendment: Continue reading Added Value
Huge thanks to Brett Thompson for adding embed code to Mimi & Eunice! Now they’re easy to share by anyone. Just click “embed this comic,” copy the code that pops up, and paste it in your blog or web page. Use ’em to illustrate your own articles! Insert ’em into your arguments! Share ’em with your friends! Go forth and multiply Mimi & Eunice!
So I missed my whole trip to California due to a badly-timed cold. Which means I have lots of time on my hands to bang my head into the wall that is the Mimi & Eunice web site.
I hired a developer who started building a beautiful new system in Ruby on Rails, only to discover that my web host, Media Temple, has a relatively wonky and outdated Ruby setup. That led the site to disappear for a few days. It’s potentially a really nice system (though it still has some kinks in it), but I may have to switch web hosts if I want to rely on it.
So I started uploading the strips in plain old WordPress, which is excellent in all ways but one some: the images don’t show up in all RSS feeders, they don’t show up in Facebook, and I can’t find a way to generate simple embed code for them. What am I talking about? Behold what I want, as shown on the fine comics site qwantz:
See that code it automatically generates that lets you embed any comic? I spent a day searching for a wordpress plugin that does that, and still can’t find one. Help?
And I don’t know why my Mimi & Eunice comics don’t show up in the RSS Feed in Firefox, but they do in other browsers. I already did this, and installed the AbsoluteRSS plugin. But I still can’t see the images in Firefox. Help?
I just want Mimi & Eunice to be as easily shared as possible. Help appreciated, but please don’t suggest ComicPress. Been there, done that, it has a lot of problems. Also my budget is exhausted of $$ to pay for consultants, since the Ruby on Rails project consumed it all. The nice thing about the simple WordPress setup is that each comic displays at a small size (640 pixels wide) but links to a high-res (2400 pixels wide) image suitable for printing. That’s important to me, because I want to encourage all kinds of sharing, including paper publishing. The current site has all the features I want except image embedding. Please tell me there’s a solution. Thanks. I love you.
Update: Brett Thompson has made an embed code generator for Mimi & Eunice! It looks big and text-y today but Brett says he will spruce up its appearance tomorrow. But you can start embedding Mimi & Eunice comics RIGHT NOW!
And they’re embeddable now! Thanks to Mike Caprio for rebuilding the site from scratch. Looking for a specific strip? See thumbnails of the complete archives all at once, or larger strips on the feed page. All comics at mimiandeunice.com link to gigantic high-res PNGs which you can reprint and publish without permission! CopyLEFT, baby.