What is the difference between plagiarism and borrowing? How to recognize plagiarism in art and real life and stop confusing it with borrowing

© Tuesday Bassen
How often during the day do we meet things that we us say “I’ve seen it before”? It might be a song, in which we somehow recognized the hit from the 60s or the film, the ending of which seems to us more obvious than its beginning. People who don't have an Arts degree may not notice that the art exhibition they came to was openly copied from a little-known artist who died 30 years ago in Guatemala and did not think of patenting any of his paintings. Although in such cases the fact of plagiarism remains undisclosed, this doesn’t mean that it’s automatically wiped off the face of the earth.
Somehow, all these similar things seep into bookshelves, big screens, into small headphones and spacious galleries. Where are all those committees, which should protect the consumer from cheating? Unless, the consumer himself doesn’t ask about it.
How to find this thin line between borrowing and frank plagiarism?
And yet, how to distinguish the harsh accusation of plagiarism from similar, quite appropriate concepts, like co-authorship or borrowing?
I think we should start over again, which means with good old terminology. As diligent students, burning with the desire to understand in more detail, we can’t miss the boring part.
Wikipedia says: Plagiarism is the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work. Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to sanctions like penalties, suspension, and even expulsion. Recently, cases of 'extreme plagiarism' have been identified in academia. The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe in the 18th century, particularly with the Romantic movement.
Most people from the post-Soviet states for the first time in their life encountered this phenomenon on a cardboard, trying on jeans with a screaming inscription D&G. Soon after that into our life came Abibas, Naik or Mike (both are evenly incorrect) and, of course, Gussi.
The plagiarist has two muses: one is called Copy, the other is Paste
Every self-respecting schoolgirl of 2006 couldn’t dare to wear jeans without a huge belt CHANEL. Speaking in defense, the popularity of pirated copies (let's call them as) has taken root in our country for two reasons.
First, we did not know what these “Gussi” are, and how the original looked like. The second is the desire to look like Sarah-Jessica Parker and David Beckham took precedence over the financial side of the matter. We tried to convince ourselves: “cheap — does not mean bad.” Disregarding the blue legs, after walking in the rain in the brand new jeans, everything went very well.
But does this mean that we violate the law when we support swindlers who take benefits from the glorious name of popular brands? For a moment, plagiarism is a criminal offense.
Ukrainian legislation protects citizens from plagiarism, exposing violators of civil, administrative and criminal responsibility. Of course, everything depends on the scale of the atrocity committed. With a minor crime, you can get off with a slight fright and a fine of ten to two hundred non-taxable minimum incomes of citizens. For example, for distributing and illegally using pirated copies of computer programs, you can get a correctional labor and confiscation.
In our country, though, all measures of protection against piracy and plagiarism are prescribed, but they are rarely enforced. Probably, unlike the western countries, we are simply not ready for this.
If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism. If you steal from many, it’s research
About school and university essays, written with the easy use of all known combinations Ctrl+C / Ctrl+V, we will keep silent about something we did while we were young and lazy.
We, small villains, can relax, for the past we are unlikely will go the jail, but in the future, it is better to be more careful with what we consume. At least, for the sake of conscience.
If plagiarism is bad, then what about all those commandments of most designers? Many modern mentors, as one say, that the best strategy for any designer is to look at what has already been done and to take the idea you liked. Or does the plagiarism apply only to the finished product, and not to the ideas? Here comes the term borrowing.
Unlike the arrogant appropriation of authorship, borrowing involves the use of raw, ill-conceived ideas of other authors in their works. Here you need a personal contribution, which would be more weighty than the original developments that the author used. It was thanks to the borrowing that all the famous musical styles, movie genres and other trends in art were formed. Stamped romantic comedies with the same structure are nothing more than a product of borrowing.
Don’t hang a tag “plagiarism” on everything that seems a little familiar. For example, fanfics, written by fans based on their favorite movie or book, today have become a full-fledged genre. Parodies, remakes, adaptations and crossovers are also quite legitimate while respecting copyrights.
So, what is the difference? Seeing is believing and one look is worth a thousand words.
This is acceptable:
Édouard Boutibonne Sirens (1883) and Henri Matisse The Dance (1910). Henri Matisse took the idea and turned it into a completely different work, both stylistically and at the level of perception.
This is not acceptable:
French photographer Cyril Lagel and Russian photographer Yegor Zaika for the contest The Best of Russia. Egor also took the idea from the famous French photographer. But Yegor also grabbed everything else.
We know our heroes by names
As for the industrial scale, companies such as Starbucks, McDonalds, Adidas, Apple etc. become victims of uncovered plagiarism more often than others. What is most interesting, precedents happen not only in Asian factories but also among no less large corporations.
The complex relationship between Apple and Microsoft has been going on for more than two decades. Adherents of companies to this day argue about who stole from whom. In the book about Steve Jobs more than once mentioned the Microsoft Company: First I should tell you my theory about Microsoft. Microsoft has had two goals in the last 10 years. One was to copy the Mac, and the other was to copy Lotus’ success in the spreadsheet, basically, the applications business. And over the course of the last 10 years, Microsoft accomplished both of those goals. And now they are completely lost. They were able to copy the Mac because the Mac was frozen in time. The Mac didn’t change much for the last 10 years. It changed maybe 10 percent. It was a sitting duck. It’s amazing that it took Microsoft 10 years to copy something that was a sitting duck.
Vanilla Ice aka American rapper Robert Matthew Van Winkle in 1990 released the single Ice, Ice, Baby, which brought him huge success.
Vanilla Ice video and Queen and David Bowie live. As it turned out, the main part of the composition, namely music, was “borrowed”, i.e. stolen from the song recorded by Queen and David Bowie, which was released in the early 80s. Of course, Vanilla Ice didn’t compete with the giants, so nothing else, but admit the guilt and pay a pretty big sum he didn’t have.
Art. Lebedev Studio was repeatedly accused of plagiarism, but the most memorable was the case with logo creation for Evgeniy Volk's Workplace Project. The similarity with the corporate style of the children's cafe Moomah, developed by the New York agency Apartment One, was found pretty fast.
Corporate style of the children's cafe Moomah and Logo for the Workplace project developed by Lebedev Studio. Artemy Lebedev apologized and fired the designer by whose fault the studio was accused of plagiarizing.
Andy Warhol. He made a significant mark in the history of arts. His works are so special and unique, that only the lazy one didn’t copy his idea of iconic people portraits. But this time we have the opposite example. At the beginning of this year, Andy Warhol was accused of plagiarism.
Celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith blamed Andy Warhol for illegal using one of her photos. It would seem that Andy has nothing to be blamed for, but it was about the picture artist made 30 years ago. The photographer stated her copyright infringement by using her photoshoot as a prototype for the portrait of the singer Prince. Let's be realistic, Lynn chose a weird time for the accusation of the artist, who passed away a long time ago.
In 2016 apparel brand Zara was accused of plagiarism. ArtistTuesday Bassen from Los Angeles wrote a long and revealing post on her Instagram. She placed next to her author's ideas things from Zara's accessory collection, which are exact copies of the artist's works.
Good artists copy, great — steal
Said Picasso, and these words instantly became the slogan of those greatest. Why do we need to reinvent the wheel if everyone is dreaming about a car with solar panels?
This thought probably cross every person's mind before getting the task to create something from scratch. Of course, the musical preferences of great composers had an influence on his personal works, but this does not mean that he is engaged in plagiarism.
Maybe because of the amount of new and undiscovered things is decreasing day by day, or from progressive human laziness, plagiarism has visited all niches, from politics to graphic design. But, despite such a wide spectrum of distribution, violators do not always confess their sins and say that this is nothing more than an unfortunate misunderstanding. Of course, if we are talking about one or two forgotten references in our article, then, perhaps, it is really a misunderstanding, but if someone introduces a painting of Ivan Shishkin as his own — this excuse does not work.
Now then it is all clear, I hope that "plagiarism" and "borrowing" are now finally told apart in your head. It's good or bad, but in our life these phenomena occur more often than we can imagine.