29 December 2018

Avoiding Plagiarism and "Copy-strikes" by Copying!?

Plagiarism and copying in itself is a complicated topic. While you want to protect your own creations you also want to allow other people to get inspired, experiment with your ideas and make something even greater and better that hopefully does not steal your money - you know, ain't no rest for the wicked.

Inspiration For This Post

The reason I write this post is to share this blasphemous topic with people who read my blog or come across it. I first found this in a Youtube video, which I would've loved to link to or something, unfortunately, this video is one of two that I can't seem to find. (The other one is about pro-gaming/e-sport and improving your own skill most efficiently). How much you can trust this is your own choice (as always actually) but the points mentioned made sense to me.

Plagiarism and Copying

Plagiarism is the worst thing you can do, but what is it? Plagiarism is using the work of someone else intentionally or unintentionally and claiming it's your own or not giving correct credit to the source of information. It's literally copying someone else's work without mentioning that you took it from someone. Now you would think, I just have to avoid copying someone else and everything's fine. But...

Being Human == Copying

Every idea you ever had every thought you ever had, heck even your own opinions and characteristics are inspired by things someone else has done. PUBG would not exist if there weren't Hunger Games, most of the Metroidvania's wouldn't exist if Metroid and Castlevania wouldn't have been created. Remixes wouldn't exist either. We're taking things that exist to mix everything we experienced together in our little brains and come up with new ideas. But everything we experienced can be part of the process of shaping these ideas. This also means that everything we experienced can have a different weight to the idea. So copying or plagiarism is actually realizing an idea that has extreme weights to certain inspirational resources. If you have the idea of making a Flappy Bird RPG the weight is pretty much 80% Flappy Bird 20% RPG or so, as an example. Okay, so we can avoid plagiarism and copying by avoiding to lean too strongly on a few single concrete inspirational sources. We pretty much save if we have the one unique idea no one came up with yet, right?

Well, it's not that easy, because... your brain likes to store things and contrary to believe we don't "forget" things in the sense of having those memories erased. We forget how to access memory but the memory is not gone.[2] Also misremembering something has nothing to do with forgetting either, it has to do with us trying to access the memory again by taking what we remember and trying to reconstruct the rest. Hence why false memories may be implemented easily. You should watch the Youtube Premium show of Vsauce: Mind Field on that topic. They had an episode on this called "Do You Know Yourself". Okay, but what's the problem here?

The Problem This Causes...

The problem is that you might not remember an inspirational source and yet your brain can still use it to create ideas. You think you created an idea out of the blue and you don't remember any connection of this to any source. You are realizing your idea and once it's out on the market... it's too late. People are calling your work plagiarism and you have no idea why. This is because you might've taken too much inspiration from a source you don't remember that still exists and your work is too similar to it. Ridiculous, isn't it?

If you can't even avoid plagiarism due to your unconsciousness, you have only two choices left, really.

1. ) Intensive Research

You have always the option to search hours upon days upon weeks upon months to really make sure no one else of the 7.7 billion people on earth[1] came up with it first. It sounds like fun, doesn't it? It does make sense to check the first few pages but completely avoiding plagiarism is may not always be possible. Luckily there is software out there to take care of this, but it's either not accessible to everyone or costs money. Beautiful, isn't it?

2.) Copy Intentionally

At first, this sounds ridiculous. It does make sense and there are actually a lot of people who may be doing this already. The idea is to copy some or multiple works intentionally throw it together and then change it so much that it no longer can be considered copying. The copying turns into inspiration. Your work will be considered unique, even by software. This is pretty much the premise of the Youtube video I mentioned earlier. This way you're safer than to assume you have a unique idea because you know you couldn't have copied the work you just copied after the changes.

Funny side-note: This is pretty much what transformative work is considered, which is actually allowed by law. You can read more on it in the law under fair use.[3]



The only last issue that stays... what if someone copies the same source and does the same changes to it? Will we ever be able to fully avoid plagiarism? Or do we at some point give up on this as long we agree to credit people where possible and assume anyone's work not completely as their own but more as spilling of their collected information helping together to build upon our current knowledge to further our progress even more? 

Well, I guess not as long as there's money in the game... *le sigh*


[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=world%20population
[2] https://www.verywellmind.com/forgetting-about-psychology-2795034
[3] https://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/fairuse

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I'm a junior game developer and software developer and I created this blog to share my ideas, thoughts and whatever I'm working on or doing.