Many of the points mentioned in the articles and the documentary are repetitive and contradictory. To me this topic is an unsolved debate and it feels like people are walking in circles of thought but never reaching a conclusion. Whether it is right or wrong is based on individual opinions and ethics. Every situation is entirely different because the people have different motives. Some people plagiarize for money and some people, like Schiffman, sue for plagiarism to get money. Some people, like Lewis, plagiarize because they do not believe it is wrong, whilst some people like Gladwell do not mind that their work is being used.
All forms of art and academics participate in education, research and innovation. It is part of our society to learn from our past and build onto it. In science we learn that energy cannot be created or destroyed but only transformed. I believe ideas are similar. All ideas are consciously or subconsciously made up of fragments of other ideas or occurrences - they are only rearranged to make something ‘new’. This ‘copying’ process is inevitable because learning itself is a process of copying. Does a kid not learn how to walk by copying its mother?
I do not believe the classification of derivative versus transformative is necessary because each new work would inevitably have transformed the previous in some way - otherwise it would not be a new work. I suppose the conflict arises when a situation such as that of Lewis occurs, where people confused the fictional character with the real one. Lavery’s character Agnetha is not Dorothy Lewis, and Lavery never claimed she was - the play was classified a work of fiction. In addition, there are billions of people in the world and inevitably some person may be unintentionally similar to a fictional character.
I don’t quite understand why modern society is so wrapped up in copyright issues. I suppose it’s about money and fame. There are countless inventions, discoveries, stories, art, culture and languages that are thousands of years old that we still use today. We encounter countless renditions of folk tales - like the recent ‘Into The Woods’. We see architecture influenced by the Classical Age, or fashion influenced by some earlier art period. If someone appropriated my work I would feel proud that my work was able to influence someone else’s. I would be happy if they mention my name because it is the decent thing to do. If they don’t, then I would feel sorry for them because at some point in their life it will catch up with them. If large sums of money was involved I would sue if it was blatant plagiarism - not because I want the money but because a person who steals should not be rewarded.
I use other people’s ideas every day - I learn their ideas in school, I do research about their ideas for assignments, I am exposed to their ideas through their interactions with me. I am influenced all day, every day. Every single thing around me that I encounter influences me. I am like a sponge, absorbing my surroundings. If I were put in an empty room, alone, without intellectual stimulation, I would go insane.
I don't believe digital technology redefines authorship. This borrowing and transforming process is ancient and will continue as society grows and changes. Though, one can admit that technology has made communication easier and therefore the spread of ideas has become very rapid. Concerning remix culture, I compare mashups to collage artworks. I was in art class and we made artworks with collaging and multimedia techniques by directly using other people's art - whether that be photos, magazines, newspaper pictures or sticking objects that we did not physically create onto our artworks. Some of these are blatant copying and we did cite the artists. Though in some cases the original artworks were not recognizable - just as many of the mashups these days aren't either. I think the production companies are greedy and they are becoming unreasonably obsessed with copyright.
As I have mentioned earlier, borrowing is neither right nor wrong - it depends entirely on the people involved. If the borrower’s intentions are for artistic and technological advancement, and the lender encourages this advancement, then there should be no problem. But like everything else in this world problems arise when people’s intentions turn sour - but that is part of life.