If Amir Khan can, why can’t I?

copycat (1)Image courtesy: ZeeNews

Earlier this week, I saw a striking promotional poster of an upcoming Indian film featuring a famous Indian film star, Amir Khan (top left). For a country which takes pride in saying “No sex please, we are Indians”, this is a ground breaking picture. As I marveled at the creativity and the marketing genius, social and traditional media quickly began to be filled with the increasing murmur of the poster being offensive to Indian sensitivity.  The realization dawned that the creative brains behind the poster had begun to achieve what it had set out to achieve; get the upcoming film into social consciousness.

And then on my ever entertaining friend Kashif Siddiqui’s FB page, I saw this other poster (top right). Creative brains anymore? The Amir Khan poster appeared to be a blatant rip-off from the album cover of a Portuguese musician named Quim Barreiros (ref ZeeNews). I was taken aback at this possibility.  Amir Khan is an actor who stands apart from the contemporary class of Indian actors, not only by way of his superb acting talent, but even by way of being righteous. He comes across as being original in everything he does. He does certain things in public which gives the impression of him holding the high moral ground. So why did he get involved in this act of plagiarism? And if Amir Khan can do this, what is wrong in me watching pirated films, one may wonder.

PLAGIARISM IS EVERYWHERE

Unfortunately we see plagiarism everywhere. While Google has the positive impact of being the storehouse of information, yet at the same time, it has almost erased the once thick line between being an original and being a copy, with some people. In the building industry, certain architects reportedly often take the easy way of Google based presentations and designs. Ideas picked up from the internet are often floated as original with no credits given to the creators. To some extent, in our present day societies, such an approach has become acceptable. If Amir Khan can, why can’t I?

Incidentally we are in the midst of designing a new office for ourselves, and in an effort to maximize space utilization; we came up with a very efficient, flexible design of worktables. With this design, we could increase the headcount in our small office many times over, while working within regulatory norms. Everyone from the contractor to the building management protested and rejected the idea, some even going to the extent of threatening that the civic authorities will not allow such ‘never seen before’ workspaces.

In a general sense, we are expected to conform to what has always been done, and copy that. No new ideas please.

HOW BAD IS PLAGIARISM

So in such a society, where the popular culture expects you not to try something revolutionary, is plagiarism really that bad?

Well, I think copying without giving due credit to original creators is as bad as stealing. As kids, we were reminded several times that stealing is a no-no. Thieves are bad people and sent to jail. The same applies to the poster, to copied architectural design ideas, to writing and to many other things, where due credit is not given.

Copyright laws are tightly implemented in some countries and getting tighter in others. The safe bet would be to refrain from picking up ideas from elsewhere and passing it as your own; in everything that we do.

If taking away someone else’s car or ipad without telling isn’t acceptable and can attract jail time, how can stealing someone else’s writing be ok? It is difficult to accept, but let us ask this; is the character of the design thief different from the ipad thief?