Copy + Paste – Inspiration and Transformation of Ideas

“…there is nothing new under the sun. “(Ecclesiastes 1:9, The New King James Version)


The subject of plagiarism is pertinent in the world of academia now more than ever; the internet allows us to have access to any information we seek immediately. The research that previously would have required one to travel to particular libraries is now reduced to a trip to a search engine.

Plagarism in academic work is the theft of ideas and ideas. It is critical to give credit to the sources you use in your research. But I think that some academic discretion must be given when developing a new take on old ideas. While this can sometimes be taken as “copying” existing works, this is the only way new ideas can come to fruition.

However, this form of thought process must be carefully monitored by the researcher and implemented with integrity.

Source: Encyclopædia Britannica
Source: Encyclopædia Britannica

As demonstrated most in the arts, a new take on old ideas can spark movements. Elvis Presley’s rock and roll was a take on blues music which was inspired by African tribal beats; the surrealist movement that included “originals” such as Salvador Dalí drew visual inspiration from indigenous African and American art.

Cultural appropriation is often tacked to the previously described artists as it should – the denial or commercialization of the intellectual property of other cultures has created serious issues socially. But, it is possible to obtain “inspiration” without damaging or demeaning  it’s source.

After starting a web series called Everything is a Remix in which he stated that all art is derived from existing art, Kirby Ferguson followed up with a his “4 Steps to Getting an Idea“. He breaks down the creative process into three steps:

  1. Copy
  2. Transform
  3. Combine
Source: Everything is a Remix

The “combine” is the resulting idea. Ferguson notes that “the conscious mind supplies the subconscious mind with the materials it needs”.

In a way, this borrowing allows for theme development; while “everything is a remix” (meaning that everything come from things that already exist), we can still forge ideas that move thoughts forward or in a different direction.

Blind plagiarism is the theft of intellectual property; inspired ideas crafted with integrity is creativity.

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