Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

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In his video “Everything is a Remix”, Kirby Ferguson raises the point that all forms of creativity are derived from the creativity of someone else. In a sense, nothing is truly unique. This is true for hit songs like “Bad Guy”, which Billie Eilish has shared was influenced in part by The Wizards of Waverly Place theme song, and for famous literature like The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis which was based on themes from the Bible. It is true for art, music, architecture, fashion, literature, law, and practically everything else. It is because of this fact that art is influenced by other art that we have trends. We can distinguish music made a decade ago from the music made today, even if they are songs we have never heard before, because these songs have certain characteristics that they share with other music produced in their time. And music from one decade will influence the music in the next, for changes in trend are typically gradual. Beethoven is often considered the pioneer of the Romantic Era, but the similarities between his music and Mozart, a classical era composer, are plentiful.

If no form of art is truly unique, and everything owes part of its creation to something else, then the question becomes where to draw the line between art following a trend, art influenced by another, and art that copies. Ferguson examined this question as it relates to AI and its growing presence in the art world. His verdict was that the art AI produces is ethically fine, but it is still being debated whether the process AI uses to generate this art is considered copying. Even though the AI-produced art is usually very different from the source material (or rather materials) it was based on, many artists criticize it for its unauthorized use of their work as an influence. In certain cases, where the AI has failed to differentiate enough between its work and the work of the original artist, I can see how this would be a major issue. In other cases, however, I wonder how this is different from a young artist who grew up looking at the works of other artists on the internet and then started making their own art one day, art which was influenced by all the art they had previously come across. Perhaps it is the direct traceability of the influence the artists have on the art being produced by the AI that is the issue.

In any case, for many artists it seems that it’s not so often the copying that is the issue, but rather the lack of credit to their original work. I think this is understandable. If there was a way for the AI to provide a list of the pieces which were used in the creation of each of its pieces, I think that would be somewhat of a compromise, as it would bring attention to the original artist. Though I don’t know how feasible this is. In her article “When a ‘Remix’ Is Plain Ole Plagiarism”, for instance, Adrienne LaFrance mentioned a case where an artist was flattered to find that her painting was made into a wall mural but was upset to find that the painter had credited himself and not her as the creator. The concerns of this artist reminded me of a similar issue being raised by creators in the fashion industry (showing that this is a problem that extends beyond the world of art and entertainment). Many small business owners and influencers, like Cassey Ho, have expressed outrage that their designs are being copied by larger fashion companies. Fashion, however, has always been especially known as an industry that relies on trends, where certain styles are copied across all stores. For both the artist and the influencers, this issue goes back to the matter of what qualifies a copy. While both the art mural and the skirt design (based off Cassey Ho’s) looked near identical to the original, there are arguments that the difference in material or form would qualify them as different, or at least different enough, that they don’t need to credit the inspiration. Compared to AI art, however, which I believe usually looks very different from the original, I don’t think enough has changed between the originals and copies of these pieces. They are certainly not different enough for the copier to claim all credit to themselves. To me, this would be like a movie not crediting the book it was adapted from.

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Based on the ideas shared Kirby Ferguson’s video “Everything is a Remix” and the article “When a ‘Remix’ Is Plain Ole Plagiarism” by Adrienne LaFrance, what qualifies something as a “copy” and at one point does credit need to be given to the original source?

In both Kirby Ferguson’s video “Everything is a Remix” and Adrienne LaFrance’s article “When a ‘Remix’ Is Plain Ole Plagiarism,” the concept of what qualifies as a “copy” and the point at which credit should be given to the original source are explored.

Qualifying as a “Copy”: In the context of creative works, a “copy” typically refers to reproducing or replicating a significant portion of the original work without substantial transformation or added creative input. This can encompass both direct duplication and derivative works that closely mimic the original. Whether something qualifies as a copy often depends on the degree of similarity and the intention behind the replication. If a work significantly borrows from or imitates another without substantial alterations, it may be considered a copy.

Crediting the Original Source: Credit should be given to the original source when a derivative work or “remix” is produced. This is a matter of ethical practice and legal requirements such as copyright law. Crediting serves to acknowledge the source of inspiration, give proper recognition to the original creator, and avoid issues of plagiarism or copyright infringement. The specific point at which credit is due can vary depending on the context and the extent of the borrowed material, but a general guideline is that if a significant portion of the original work is incorporated, explicit attribution should be provided.

In essence, the distinction between a legitimate remix and plagiarism often hinges on the degree of transformation, creativity, and acknowledgment of the source material. While borrowing and building upon existing ideas is a fundamental aspect of creative evolution, giving credit and respecting intellectual property rights are crucial to maintaining ethical and legal standards in creative practices.

2 Comments on “Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

  1. I really like the comparison you make at the end about a movie and a book and think that’s a really interesting standard to think about for art and the similarity between pieces. I’ve also seen the reels by Cassey Ho talking about her situation and can really understand her outrage- especially because the company is much bigger than hers and can charge a lot less to customers. This seems to really violate the aspects of copyright that discuss how it impacts the market.

  2. I think most everything has been “inspired” by another piece of work if not completely copied, so I think you make a great point about where we must draw the line. Should a line be drawn? Should there be stricter restrictions than there already are? This goes back to the continual creation of culture that Sousa was arguing.

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