Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Creative accounting: Creation as theft

It goes something like this:

"Good artists borrow. Great artists steal."


"Bad artists copy. Good artsists steal."

Variations on this quote have been attributed to Picasso, TS Eliot and Salvador Dali and that its exact mesage and authorship are a mystery, seems fitting. At the very the heart of this provacative statement is the idea that originality is a bit of a scam.

I thought I would start collecting variations on this theme of theft in creation as I come across them. I think its corollary is the struggle that creative people have with ideas about secrecy vrs. openness. (When you recognize theft as a part of your arsenal, perhaps it's natural to fear someone can turn your secret weapon against you.) It's a theme that seems precient in an era of great intellectual property grabs, and one I think Copy Culture will visit regularly.

If you keep your secrets from the market, the market will keep its secrets from you -- entrepreneurs too often worry about keeping their brilliant secrets locked away; we should all worry much more about springing a surprise on a disinterested market (anyone remember the Segway?). To quote Howard Aiken: "Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats."
  • A SitePoint web designer on how he uses this idea of copying, stealing and borrowing to make something new.
  • SOMETHING BORROWED Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?
    by MALCOLM GLADWELL in the New Yorker, 2004-11-22. A writer's personal story with copyright, creation and appropriation.
  • Blender Kitty, an illustrator and comic artist's take on the subject and art history

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