Apple Strike A Blow Against Plagiarists Everywhere…And Win A Billion Dollars In The Process

This weekend, the eternal question of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object was finally answered; it turns out the immovable object gets fined $1.04 billion dollars and faces having some of its best-selling products banned in the US while the irresistible force gets even richer than it already is.

The drawn-out court case between technology giants Apple and Samsung was an intriguing and dramatic one, what with various counter-claims flying around and the future of the smartphone industry hanging in the balance.

In the end, the jury at the San Jose, California court which staged the technological deathmatch ruled that Samsung had infringed on six of Apple’s patents (most of which related to the iPhone), and did so wilfully in 5 cases. In contrast, Apple was ruled to have violated precisely zero of Samsung’s. In schoolyard terms, Samsung were copycats, copycats sitting on a doormat.

The implications of the case are far-reaching, with some predicting that the price of smartphones will rocket while others are hopeful it will lead to more innovation and creativity in the industry. There are whisperings that Apple, full of machismo after seeing off their Korean rivals, may go after Motorola, HTC and the biggest fish of them all, Android overlords Google.

For me though, the case represents something of a moral tale, the moral of the tale being that plagiarists never win. And yet, I can still take a block of copy from this site and find a wealth of ‘web design’ companies who’ve just plonked our hard work onto their site – sometimes even forgetting to replace our name with their own.

So what drives a plagiarist?

The most obvious answer is wanting to reap the rewards of hard work without actually putting in the hard work. It’s the reason content scrapers exist and why thousands of so-called copywriters are happy to make their living taking someone else’s work and changing a couple of words.

All of which is a massive up yours to the person who actually put in the hard work. There’s nothing more annoying that finding out someone else has been claiming credit for what you’ve done when you’ve put in a day’s worth of research and even longer into actually putting something together. So the message here really is if you can’t be bothered to put in the work, don’t even bother starting.

Of course, not all plagiarism is deliberate. Sometimes influence can end up playing a bit more of a part in your work than you realise or intended.

When you work in a creative discipline, be that SEO, web development or graphic design, it’s inevitable that every piece of work you’ll create will take a degree of influence from someone else’s work. The truth is that true originality is nigh-on impossible to achieve unless you have a spectacular budget and a mind overflowing with creative genius.

That’s not a bad thing at all – building on influences is undoubtedly the surest route to making yourself better at what you do and teaches you lessons that you might have otherwise missed if you started ‘from scratch’.

Striking that balance between inspiration and originality can be difficult, especially when you’re working to tight deadlines and budgets, but it’s essential. Generally, it’s pretty easy to tell when you’ve applied your inspirations too much – you’ll get that horrible sense of ‘seen it all before’ and probably won’t be that satisfied with the work you’ve done!

It’s also natural that when our own work isn’t at the top of its discipline, we look to what is at the pinnacle of our discipline and draw on it. Unfortunately in the case of Samsung, they looked at the top dog and decided to model themselves on it too heavily, like a teenager who’s just heard Marilyn Manson for the first time and then buys out Boots’ entire stock of black nail polish.

While leaders, be that market or thought, are there for a reason, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get to the same position as them by copying them exactly. Therefore, the key is to learn what they did right and apply your own ideas to it. That way, you’ll not only succeed, but succeed in an original manner.

It can be tempting when you’re pressed for time to ‘rehash’ or ‘rejig’ someone else’s work, but the fact is that plagiarism doesn’t hold any benefit for anyone. While it’s unlikely that you’ll get sued for a billion dollars (unless you’ve copied Apple, in which case…good luck!), there are still plenty of dire implications for a plagiarist.

From a creative perspective, your own reputation will hit the floor should you get caught – the effects of which are doubled if you’re working for a client, who’ll also suffer by association. Don’t doubt that you’ll get caught either; it only takes one person who’s seen the work you’ve ripped off to stumble on yours to spark off a plagiarism storm. It can also have dire effects on a technical level; for example, from an SEO perspective, your search rankings will tank if you have duplicate content on your site.

Basically, as Samsung has found out, no-one likes a copycat. So save yourself a few quid and a permanently damaged reputation – don’t plagiarise!

[Image Credit: Reticulating on Flickr]

  • Written by on 29th August 2012 at 12:50
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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