When someone copies you

January 17, 2024


When I first taught school, the director of our flagship Early Childhood Intervention program told us we would be fired if she ever caught us giving our students a "ditto," which is an old-fashioned thing to call a pre-printed coloring book type of page. We could use blank paper only. If we wanted the children to draw a tree, then we were taught to take them outside and let them see a tree, feel it, smell it (there was always one that would taste it), and then let them create a picture of a tree in their unique way. No pre-printed pages were allowed – ever. We were taught art should reflect the creator, not the machine that produced the identical coloring book pages or the ideas of the child sitting next to them. 

That's what AI is – Artificial Intelligence is the equivalent of using a soulless robot to  live your life for you. It's cheating. If you try to pass it off as your own work, it's a form of fancy plagiarism and high-tech stealing.

 I get far too much satisfaction from creating imperfect human work to ever turn the job over to a perfect A I robot . It’s like letting your best friend kiss your boyfriend then describe it to you. Where’s the fun in that? 

Closely related to using AI is plagarism. It's taking credit for an idea that doesn't belong to you. No matter what your career or hobby may be, there's always a chance someone will steal your ideas. If they're smart, they'll flatter you and ask permission to follow your lead. But that’s not always the path people take. 

When someone is lacking the good sense to request permission, it turns into a hurtful situation. Plagiarism, or as I like to call it, thievery-no-good-lying-stealing is a touchy subject that is rarely addressed amongst creative folks. From what I've experienced, horse thieves get whipped or shot while writing thieves get a light tsk-tsk from the editor, or in this case I'll tell you about, a full scholarship and round of applause. 

I've had two situations where someone has plagiarized my work. Once from a numbskull teenager, who wasn't wholly dim, because he used my column as his own . . . valedictorian speech. Didn't anyone ever tell him, "you can't get away with anything these days because of the internet?" 

He began by giving me appropriate credit for one single line from one of my columns — which set off the internet alerts. He then briefly detoured to another topic yet returned to read the remainder of my column, almost word for word, yet arranged it as if it were his own deep thoughts. 

"Boo – hiss" on him. 

This happened a few years ago, and I let it slide because teenagers need a break, although if I'd met him in person, I'd have pinched his nose and said, "What were you thinking? If you do this on your job someday, you'll get fired! If you're smarty-pants enough to be the valedictorian, you should be able to write an entire novel in a week!" I've honestly forgotten his name and where he went to high school. After raising two boys, I know they all need a break every now and then. All I want now is to be retroactively named co-valedictorian — and if he ever gets a job at Apple, I'd like free stuff.

The second person who plagiarized my work wasn't so young or innocent. She held a journalism degree from the same University that offered the previously mentioned valedictorian a full scholarship. 

I respected this woman as a role model and professional. She didn't just take an idea or theme I came up with and run with it (although she did plenty of that later on). but, she lifted an entire paragraph, word for word, including creative punctuation like "( ) — ^# . . . "and all those other trademark abuses of grammar rules I love to follow. 

Of course, I read her stories, because I was her fan. When I spotted my own words in her column, I just about had a come-apart. 

Of all the low-down-cheap-weak-minded-corrupt-nasty-lily-livered things to do! It hurt even more because I had admired her so much. 

A friend who teaches college put my original passage and the plagiarized version through her University's plagiarism software, which determined it was serious enough to call for expulsion if this journalist had been a student. 

It was so blatant I felt like I had to say something. I'm a big believer in standing up for yourself when attacked, so I contacted my direct supervisor at the newspaper and let him handle it. 

When confronted, the thief in question reportedly used hot female tears and her large, stinky stomping feet.

She never apologized and never admitted any wrongdoing, although everyone knew it was obvious. Because she was prolific, her job was saved, but she's now rumored to be knocking off Mother Goose somewhere in the middle of a goat farm. The worst part is we all lost respect for her. 

I don't buy the excuse "imitation is the highest form of flattery." Flattery says, "I just love your new car; would you mind if I got one like it?" Stealing is just taking the car and parking it in your garage. 

What this writer didn't know is if she’d admitted what she’d done was wrong and apologized, I would have sulked for a whilie, but ultimately forgiven her. She was a good writer and had a weak moment. We had a lot in common, and I think we could have been friends. Pity on top of shame. Sadly, the next time I saw her was at a Christian writer's conference where she was telling everyone how God helps her write.  

They had to use a rake to scrape me off the floor. 

Have any of you ever had anyone steal your ideas? Writing or otherwise? I had a friend who planned a very unique wedding only to have one of her guests duplicate it 8 months later. Bride #1 is still steamed to this day. How have you handled copycats? What do you think about AI being able to create art? 

Link to Life and Linda love your creativity 

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Discover more from Leslie Anne Tarabella

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading