Those protecting original ideas aren't kidding around
A view from Arif Durrani

Those protecting original ideas aren't kidding around

Talent borrows, genius steals - or so we are told. But in today's connected world, it gets a little more complicated than that.

Among the more surprising developments this summer was the news that Twitter has quietly set about deleting Tweets at the request of users deemed to have had their copyright infringed. The Tweets in question concern the recycled jokes and puns of comedians and writers, which have been deleted in recent weeks and replaced with the text: "This Tweet has been withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder."

For many, the idea that jokes should not be shared without acknowledging where they came from seems ludicrous. But, for those who spend their time and make their living writing such material, protecting their work, even via 140 characters, is a serious matter.  

The actual legal case remains unproven but that has not stopped an uprising of sorts, involving groups of volunteers naming and shaming Twitter users believed to be trying to pass off other people’s work as their own. One such account, @PlagiarismBad, is creating lists of those found to copy and paste complex Tweets so others can easily block them.

It’s an intriguing idea. How much of a joke, I wonder, needs to be changed for it to be deemed original? Specific details and basic narrative structures can surely be manipulated while retaining the joke’s core essence.

For anyone working in publishing, trying to protect copyright or prevent plagiarism is a well-trodden and overwhelmingly thankless task. Entire swathes of our newsstands consist of me-too, copycat titles, covering the same stories in the same sectors in the same style.

Similarly, on the commercial side, issues relating to the ownership of ideas are an increasing by-product of greater collaboration as lines around remits blur.      

One dispute rumbling around this year’s Media Week Awards involves Havas Media’s submission for O2. The live campaign enables O2 customers to receive 48 hours of free access to some of Channel 4’s most popular shows. 

The marketing activity is proving to be a major hit for the telecoms operator, but it’s an idea that O2’s previous agency ZenithOptimedia is claiming to have conceived and started to develop before losing the account. 

Havas has executed the campaign but, for it to be nominated under "Big Idea", is rankling the Publicis agency. It’s just the latest bone of contention – whether anyone would have cared if the campaign was not proving to be such a success, I’ll leave for you to decide.

And on that note, it’s time for me to sign off on this side of the fence. Thanks for all your support and lively debate over the years – it’s been great fun.