Over last few months, I’ve been accused of “stealing” tweets. 3 times in fact. And so I thought I’d write some thoughts on that. I haven’t replied to the accusations. I haven’t defended myself. I’m not guilty. I didn’t do it Guv’!
This year, Amy Schumer’s been accused of “stealing” material. That was then revised to doing very, very similar material. Then there are the popstars accusing one another of stealing “creative copyright” on a monthly basis. And friends/colleagues I’ve known for the best part of 20 years in radio and TV constantly bickering and bitching about their ideas being stolen by another in the industry. Ideas robbed here and there. My favourite is when their idea that’s been “stolen” is just a re-badging (by them) of something someone did 20 years ago.
Jokes. Comedy. Content. Features. Ideas. Words. They all come from our brain.
They need a starting point. And that’s the same place for many of us. It’s an event. A person. An observation. A story. A nugget of information. We then take that and run with it. However, there are only so many tangents, so many turns, before thinking leads us to the same place. The connected world we now live in is beginning to reveal these things. Before socials, if you had a funny joke, there were very few ways of telling the world unless you were the famous person up on stage, or on TV, getting to say it to an audience. Now you just smash it out in a few characters for everybody to see.
I’m not naïve enough to think people don’t steal material. Or plagiarise. I’m sure it happens. A lot. But I do think there is an oversensitivity, and an arrogance amongst some, that it would be impossible for somebody else to have come up with similar content/ideas/material.
The progress in communications we have made in the last 20 years was unimaginable to most of us two decades ago. Through the internet and globalisation, we’re closer to one another than we have ever been. And it’s revealed a lot. This isn’t even just about our brains. How often do we now hear stories, or see pictures of people meeting their doppelgånger?! Physically we’re not even that special, or different. You could be as far away from home as you like, and bump into someone who has the same face as you. If you don’t believe me read Reddit. Or Metro, they love posting a doppelgånger story.
How difficult is it to see patterns in what people find funny these days? Or what people like hearing about. Not very. Believe me I’m constantly bombarded with stats about what works and what doesn’t. We’re operating in such a closed circle of potential material that people enjoy and want. We’re all exposed to the same inspiration. We’re all on the same social media sites, all watching the same TV shows and all consuming the same news channels. We are all consuming life as one. Consciously, or sub conciously our brains are recording the same tapes.
All of this goes against the grain of how unique we have been told we are. How special our mums told us we are. And in DNA they are right. But I’m starting to think that’s about where it ends.
To give up and say things like “there are no new ideas” or “what’s the point then?’ would be the biggest waste. Or to sit and worry you’ve come up with a similar idea to someone else would be pointless. It’s time wasted while we could crafting and creating the next joke or the next feature. Or just writing the next few words.
Our brains might be all recording the same tapes, but it’s our job and our duty, to put our own spin on them and deliver them back to the world. Even if someone else is doing the same thing.