How the Internet is causing people to steal each other’s literature

The internet is full of terrible angles, but nothing crawls on the skin like what you see when you open a new account on TikTok. The app’s oddly customized algorithm gets better at figuring out what you like the more you use it, so as someone with a TikTok account for nearly four years, I’m full of cats, hair tutorials, 15-year-olds with mental health concerns who will They grow up to be successful comedians.

An undistorted “For You” page that only knows you’re human will present you with a confusing mixture of two things: sexy girls’ butts, and tips on how to steal other people’s viral video ideas.

Why there are heels there is self-explanatory (they get the most views). However, the latter phenomenon reveals a much darker side of the human condition. What they offer are “tips” or “hacks” on how to go viral on TikTok, which is embarrassing in itself but worse in practice: titles range from “How to grow your account to a thousand followers in one week,” to me 10 video ideas that anyone can use,“or”How to Easily Produce Video Ideas for TikTok”. The latter gives the following advice: “Find someone else’s TikTok that inspires you and then literally copy it. You don’t need to copy it all, but you can get close to it.”

While its creator condones algorithmic catastrophic behavior, I must appreciate his honesty about a practice that has plagued the Internet since its existence: plagiarism, both intentional types that can fall anywhere in the spectrum to ‘effective evil’, the kind you do when creating content in a system It is an increasingly lucrative reward for stealing things from successful people.Although plagiarism is most prevalent on TikTok, it is difficult to keep an eye on plagiarism that occurs between different platforms.

Brenden Koerner is used to people using his work as sources. This is usually a good thing: about once a week, he’ll answer queries from producers in hopes of being interviewed for a documentary or turning one of his books into a movie or podcast. If they choose one of his works, he will receive a portion of that sale. Earlier this year, the bad kind happened: someone posted a podcast Based exclusively on a story He spent nine years reporting for The Atlantic, without any credit or acknowledgment of the source material. And wrote in Now a viral Twitter thread Last month.

Amidst the growing thirst for captivating or thrilling novels, several real crime And the History podcast They have been accused of plagiarizing articles written without credit over the past few years. This has happened to him Korner several times. “If something is easy to access or free, there is probably a general assumption that it is free to use,” he says. “There are a lot of people whose hard work is repackaging for profit, and I fear it will ultimately be a net negative for the entire ecosystem of people creating and telling the stories.”

It should be noted that plagiarism is perfectly legal in the United States, provided it does not go beyond the (often vague) definition of intellectual property theft. Movies, music, or literary works have strong legal protections against this (remember the number of lawsuits between artists for stealing each other’s samples), and the Atlantic Corner story is protected by law as well (in works where the author’s originality or artistry is clear enough, the courts He will stand with the Creator), but often it just isn’t worth the time and money to pursue legal action.

However, definitions of what constitutes IP are quickly becoming vague. You are No dance, recipe or yoga pose can be copyrightedfor example, which is truly Difficult Copyright is a joke. You also, for obvious reasons, can’t copyright copyright, which means that in industries where intellectual property law can only do so much, social and professional norms dictate your reputation: journalism, comedy, and academia, for example, are the areas in which it plagiarizes. Law is among the cardinal of sins.

So what about the average influencer, YouTuber, or podcaster? Internet publications, for the most part, are not copyrighted intellectual property. Instead, they are more like a mixture of journalism and comedy, which means that social media has to monitor itself against thieves.

Mimi theft has been a topic of debate for as long as it has been around; Back in 2015, popular meme pages appeared on Instagram like TheFatJewish and FuckJerry I encountered an account due to theft of jokes, largely from comedians but also from random people who posted viral tweets and later saw them retweeted elsewhere. Fast forward seven years, and the problem hasn’t gone away – in fact, it’s only getting worse. The meme pages or accounts that sponsor other people’s content mostly won. Some have even successfully argued that what they do is An art form in itself.

Jonathan Bailey became interested in the topic of plagiarism in the early 2000s, when he ran a Gothic literary blog devoted to his poetry and novels. After a reader directed him to another blog that was stealing his work, he did some digging and found hundreds of others in the online goth community republishing his writing as theirs. “I’ve already won a huge number of contests on despite not having an account there,” he says. Over the past decade, he has been focusing on his blog plagiarism todaywhich keeps track of current events related to the topic and tips on what to do if you are robbed.

It is assumed that there are three main eras of Internet plagiarism. The first was in the 1990s and early 2000s, when people stole each other’s work because they wanted to pass it on themselves, but they didn’t necessarily have a profit motive. The second was in the mid-2000s, when search engine optimization became a common practice and sites could make money from poorly written AI work that benefited from strategic placement of certain keywords. “That stopped when Google really started cracking down on low-quality content,” Bailey explains. The third era consists of the type that thrives on social media, where users compete for the most attention-grabbing content in hopes of making money from ads or scoring a brand deal.

“[Social media] It puts a lot of pressure on what is essentially a creative process,” he says. “I’ve talked to frequent impostors who say ‘I’ve felt pressure to post so many articles, podcasts, or videos.'”

It’s easy to say that social media platforms are practically begging their users to steal each other’s literature. “The way YouTube works is that [people] Faithe Day, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSD’s Center for Black Studies Research who works with students in data science and digital platform ethics, explains. “But there is a fine line between following a trend, copying what someone else is doing and saying it belongs to you.”

Determining who copied who is a complex and often unsolvable problem, especially when people reside in such diverse digital spaces. “A lot of plagiarists don’t know they’re plagiarizing. They don’t know that the thing they’re talking about has already been discovered by someone else,” Day says.

It’s hard to name a platform where plagiarism is more visible than TikTok, whose technology encourages people to interact and build each other’s work, often with little or no acknowledgment of the original creator. I’ve become such an issue TikTok announced last week a new feature which allows its users to give credit to an existing video when they post their own video. Kodzi Chikumbo, TikTok Creators Community Manager, wrote in the announcement.

TikTok’s new credit feature.
tik tok

Day sees this most often in cases where famous TikTok creators have jumped on a popular dance or track without knowing who the original creator was, thus spreading it to more people whose famous creator was the actual original. This has never been more evident than in late 2019 and early 2020 when it was Rebel Dance has taken over TikTokDespite the choreographer, a 14-year-old girl in Atlanta named Galia Harmon gets none of the credit or clout until months later.

The example sparked an account on the platform, culminating in a Black Creator’s Strike To protest the rampant grooming of community dances and slang. “Recommendation algorithms are designed to ensure that people with a large number of followers are recommended to other users, so there are not many possibilities for small content creators to gain recognition,” Day explains.

There wasn’t much to gain, probably, by being widely credited as a true creator of a viral moment. coin term? sell it As an NFT. Appeared on a reality show? Launch OnlyFans. Get a lot of followers for any reason? Put the Venmo handle on your resume. Shell for Brand or Galaxy Shade Lights Mark With an agent specializing in cash pressure From small batches of interest.

In such a climate, people have become quite realistic about their ideas, sometimes to the point of being obnoxious (one journalist remembers a time when TikToker was furious because she indirectly linked to one of their videos without mentioning them by name). There are incentives to pass on other people’s work as your own — incentives, even, to avoid researching whether anyone has done the work before.

“Everyone is looking for a side hustle, and the easy way to make money is to put together content,” says Chris Stockel-Walker, a UK-based journalist who has experienced many muddy moments that are actually plagiarism where the feeling of exploitation and exploitation ends but you’re not sure what If it is worth the trouble start. “It hurts in a way. It’s like, OK, why did you spend months looking for a story or book just for someone to go around, pick the best pieces, present them in a different format, and claim all the credit? What’s the point?”

While its detection technology has improved, plagiarism is very difficult to get rid of when it occurs in various forms of media: written work turned into video, podcast turned into book. Rather than relying on data systems to tell us when something has been stolen, plagiarism experts then acknowledge that the shift in correct idea attribution must occur culturally. “We have to answer that question as a collective society,” Bailey says.

“We need a greater understanding of media literacy and internet ethics,” Day says. “It’s about doing the extra work and doing a Google search before reproducing something. But people don’t do that extra work because there is an assumption that what they see is a direct reflection of reality, which of course is not always true.”

They also may not do so because they have a financial incentive to remain ignorant. But this is a more complex problem, which cannot be solved with a platform tweak or a new credit system. It should be widely understood that plagiarism is, for lack of a clearer term, losing behaviour. And that starts with us all.

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