The Ego of Ideas

One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, T.S.Eliot, is attributed to the quote: “Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.“

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The Ego of Ideas

One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, T.S.Eliot, is attributed to the quote: Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.

All work, at some point in time (unless you’re Disney) becomes public domain. This is work that can be used, remixed, and built upon with no attribution required. This includes every literary classic that was written before 1920.

You can have your recognition and monetary gain for your work for while you’re alive — and that’s fair. But all great ideas will outlive their authors.

“If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants” — Isaac Newton. (He actually stole the idea for this quote from Bernard of Chartres of the 12th century)

It is foolish to think that you can reinvent the wheel. It is almost totalitarian to think that any work that is reminiscent of something else would fall under plagiarization — where exactly do you draw the line in the sand with that sort of thing? What is moral and fair play versus what is criminal?

I’m sure you’d argue, though, that stealing from contemporaries would be far worse. But if you execute your idea in the best possible manner, then any plagiarism would be rendered moot. Is there a fear that another author would gain fame and recognition after stealing ideas because they did it better? I see it more as an invitation for collaboration. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, after all.

I’d suggest taking a look at the documentary RIP: A Remix Manifesto for further discussion of this topic. (You can watch it here)

By the way, I also walk the walk. I use Creative Commons for all my writing on Medium. People can share or adapt my work without asking me, because I care about spreading good ideas, not being famous.