Che Guevara, Baseball and Complex Systems (Or The Coming Death Of Plagiarism)

So I was pissed off first thing this morning.


I ran into an article written a few days ago on Cnet which quoted IBM Developer Sam Ruby saying the following about cellphones:

“It’s killing the landline; it’s killing watches; it’s changing the camera business; it’s changing the TV industry, the music industry,” Ruby said Monday at the New Paradigms for Using Computers (NPUC) 2006 workshop at the IBM Almaden Research Center here.

“It’s destroying the pay-phone industry. It’s hurting the hotel industry and putting the squeeze on universities,” he said during a talk titled “Teenagers on the Go.”

Wait a fucking minute, I thought. Didn’t I say that? Verbatim.

I put on my Che Guevara shirt and seethed.

Then realized I was acting like a fucking idiot.


We live in the knowledge age.

And this generation probably has more obsolete knowledge in it’s collective head than any other time in history.

99% of what matters lies outside our own head.

And smart people suck up the ideas of others and remix them in a way that makes sense to them and their audience.

...So yeah I sampled your voice, you was usin it wrong

You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song...
--Jay-Z (the Takeover)

Earlier today I linked to an article by a Yale professor about how copyright judges should look at copyright the same way economist look at the environment. The environment is a complex system and so are copyrights. But some of us (even me sometimes) want to look at things as if they are simple.

One of the hallmarks of this age is complexity.

Look at sports.

Think about how many people are employed by the typical baseball team. The game hasn’t really changed in 100 years but few would argue it’s not more complex.

Multiply that by everything.

And that will give you a sense of how much more complex the world is today.

In a complex system, like the internet, or life in general, if you didn’t soak up or was anyway effected by the stuff around you couldn’t be part of the system anyway.

In other words, if I didn’t want my thoughts remixed why did I post them on my blog in the first place?

Explore posts in the same categories: baseball, c/net, Che Guevara, complex systems, copyright, new rules, Sam Ruby

27 Comments on “Che Guevara, Baseball and Complex Systems (Or The Coming Death Of Plagiarism)”


  1. Correct you are Char and we ive in the age of copycat success – consider it a compoiment and continue to move forward. They can’t catch you if you look ahead.


  2. That was brilliant! I’m still reading the links from the last post. Now there are more. I come here to read three or four times a day; to read what you love to write.

    Is the physical world more complex today or is it just older generations not accepting new ideas and technological creation / innovation? The only way to test the waters is too dive in! Older generations like my folks were taught to fear everything that is not the same. Most recent generations want to try a bit of everything which in fact goes against what we have been taught for many decades.

    Anyhow cheers! You have given me lots of ideas to think about.

  3. Michael Says:

    Great post Char. Dude did bite you kinda hard though๐Ÿ™‚

  4. chartreuse Says:

    Right about that Michael. It hurt for a while.

    Jessica, thanks for the kind words. You’re right. Diving in is the way to do it!
    And I saw that poem. You rock!

  5. meettravis Says:

    love the Jay Z quote.
    your post are like a mixtape.


  6. Your welcome.

    ahh shucks! thx dude๐Ÿ™‚

  7. chartreuse Says:

    thanks bro. u can’t go wrong quoting Hov๐Ÿ™‚

  8. range Says:

    Great post, like the linkage.

    Plagiarism is rampant in our society and also on the blogosphere.

  9. Liz Strauss Says:

    I guess the smallest surprise of all would be that an IBM developer couldn’t come up with a new idea.๐Ÿ˜›

  10. Mark Says:

    Sorry dude, I can’t follow you all the way down this road.

    Nothing of yours was remixed here. As you state, it was taken verbatim. He took your ideas (which this whole new economy is running on) and made them his own. He got the credit, he got the attention, and he probably got the money — your money.

    Yes, cellphones are putting a dent in those other markets, that’s common knowledge to anyone remotely involved in telephony and IT. But, as you’ve shown he took what you said word for word. Something about that just aint right, no matter how much information we’re to share in this complex world.

    There’s a growing problem of misnomerism (if you will) online today. Companies and individuals declaring themselves web developers / designers by taking the code of someone else, adults and predators pretending to be something they’re not on teenage social media hangouts, the growing problem of ransomware, blogs taking content from elsewhere and posting to their own site with hidden (or hard to find) credit and earning advertising revenue from it, etc.

    It’s a problem. For no other reason than the fact that we as society don’t know when to stop. You think he’s going to be satisifed just quoting you verbatim unchecked on one post? How about the myriad of people who now probably see the door he just opened?

    Naw, sorry man, this aint right. I’m all for sharing knowledge, remixing, complexities and all that, but there’s got to be balance in the force as well.

  11. Brian Says:

    I agree with Mark. But you know that from earlier today when you were pissed!๐Ÿ™‚

  12. chartreuse Says:

    Brian will tell you that when I saw it this morning I was pissed. I emailed my brain trust to get their views. But before most could answer I had calmed down.

    I remix other’s ideas all the time and I always try to give credit (unless it’s something Brian said๐Ÿ™‚ ) but on a planet where there is so much information figgering out where a line, or thought came from is only going to get more difficult.

    This isn’t high school, it only feels like it.

    Plus I encourage people to steal my ideas…

    What it really is is a values problem.

  13. Mark Says:

    I respectfully disagree. In an age where more and more information is available, it’sonly going to get easier to find the original source of something — which, in this case, will probably work to your advantage.

    But the other side of that coin of having everything so readily available and accessable, and the point that really itches my ass, is that is also makes everyone incredibly lazy.

    It’s so much easier to grab the HTML code of someone else then to build a great website on your own

    It’s so much easier to hold a “contest” to have a graphic designer create a logo for you then to actually pay one what they’re worth

    It’s so much easier to post a photo on your site using the bandwidth of the source, then to actually use your own

    It’s so much easier to take something, then to do something.

    ad nauseum….

    Remixing will get us so far. At some point someone’s going to have to do something original, or we’re going to get stuck here in the muck listening to the 2nd, 3rd, 100th…verse of the same song and dance forever.

  14. Mark Says:

    …and yes it is definitely a values issue. That’s where the rubber hits this road.

  15. chartreuse Says:

    I agree with most of what you are saying. Especially the line about folks getting lazy.

  16. r Says:

    your post reminds of this Gladwell article:

    http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_11_25_a_borrowed.html

    and the fine line between transformative content and plagiarism…

  17. Brian Says:

    Char, at least when you steal from me without attribution, you’re smart enough to do it from things I say on the phone.๐Ÿ™‚

  18. TerryC Says:

    I was thinking about that Gladwell post too.

    He took the same position Char did and was reamed by his audience.

  19. Brian Says:

    Gladwell rightly points out the similarities in guitar riffs between Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” The difference being Nirvana took that hook and transformed it into something vibrant that carried rock music to a place it hadn’t been before.

    A successful remix is borrowing that is transformative, rather than borrowing that is merely derivative. I’m afraid Mr. Ruby didn’t even come close to transformative.

  20. Mr Angry Says:

    Good on you, you got ripped off and held your cool. Personally I would have contacted the person in question and asked (in a non-Angry way) why they didn’t provide attribution but I wouldn’t have made a scene. I had an experience on a smaller scale, another blog stole an entire post of mine verbatim without attribution. This pissed me off because they were an ad-heavy site and were making money off my work. But all I asked for was an attribution, I didn’t want a takedown and I didn’t want money.

    Hell, I actively encourage people to do whatever they want with my YouTube videos. Tell people they wrote the script for all I care. So long as the videos get attention. What’s the worst that could happen? Someone gets a lot of attention and/or money from something I’ve done? Guess what? If that happens it’s easy for me to prove it’s my work after the fact (publication date on the blog and all) and this chump has done all my marketing for me.

  21. Liz Strauss Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this for 14 or so hours now, and my response has broadened a bit and gone deeper. I still agree that you initial response to deal with yourself and find perspective that got you back to your own playing is the proof of an intelligent mind — intelligence can delay gratification.

    But the music remix analogy doesn’t work here. It appears to, but it has a flaw. When Primitive Radio Gods samples B.B.King, they take has voice with his words. It is obvious to the listener that is not PRGods singing. If they’re ethical, they also credit him in the liner note, but even if they don’t the audience Knows it’s not them.

    It’s true you cannot copyright an idea. If you could only one science would talk about the three states of matter being ice, water, and steam.

    But IBM idiot didn’t borrow your idea, he stole your words. End of story. It had to be done with premeditation. Could go to my blog, Brian’s blog, Loren’s blog, any blog, and repeat a passage that long verbatim without typing it out and be accurate? How many folks have that kind of memory? Do we really think this guy is one?

    More like he lives and works in a culture in which taking credit for other folks’ ideas happens all of the time and it’s a short step from there to taking their words. I know copyright law. This is plagarism plain and simple. It was in fourth grade and it is now.

    It’s fair use. Why? Because he put HIS name on them not yours.

    He needs someone to go after him for a retraction or a correction. He needs someone to say I saw you do this. He needs someone to tell his boss, because I bet he’s doing this to his colleagues and his coworkers in metings. I also bet he can’t even explain what the words mean.

    You have to know that deep down I’m all about forgiveness, but this is not about a guy who made mistake or did a little remixing. It’s about a guy who doesn’t know how to be clever on his own so he stole your thinking, your words, and took credit for them.

    Char, your initial fury was correct. Your second response to contain was also the right thing. That doesn’t mean you let him off the hook.

    I’ll help in anyway that I can.

  22. Kamal Says:

    i liked this post, it was something original and that as it says is rare.

  23. DudeAsInCool Says:

    I hate cellphones. I hate the little digits. I hate text messaging. I hate the fact that they interrupt my solitude when I want it. I hate the fact that people use them while driving…if they are not paying attention to the driving itself. The technology may be interrupting other people’s lives and busineses, but I refuse to let it interfere with mine. Not that I have a problem with other people having ’em – all power to them.

  24. Tyme Says:

    Char, there was an article in the Boston Globe around the same time you wrote your original article. Boston Globe doesn’t have their archives public but I found a web site that wrote about it, referencing he saw the article a couple of days ago:

    http://www.adhurl.com/2006/05/the_ubiquitous_cell_phone_is_i.html

    “It’s killing watches. It’s changing the music business. It’s changing the television business. It’s changing the camera business. It’s created a ringtone industry. (An industry that’s more than just music tones now) It created a wallpaper industry. It destroyed the payphone industry. It’s changing the gaming industry. Itโ€™s changing the way people live, work and play…”

    The author does something I detest – he didn’t link the source. If he had, I’d buy that one article just to see. But there is no doubt about it, the words are the same…it ain’t the idea.

    Point blank – either you grabbed the words from the Boston Globe, or the Boston Globe grabbed the idea from you. Or this author above wrote it first. Who knows? They were all written within days of each other and the only way to really know is to gain access to the Boston Globe article and compare date/times.

    Only then can it be truly proven who Ruby stole it from.

  25. chartreuse Says:

    I read that Boston Globe piece (they reference me often and have posted on this blog) and I was referenced in it.

    http://www.boston.com/business/blog/filter/2006/05/most_disruptive_1.html

    (I love The Globe!)

  26. Billy Sunday Says:

    C-Murder,
    You are in the lead as an idea merchant. There are going to be tons of folks using your phraseology(my word bitches) and stealing your linear thought stream. The end result is that there will ultimately be more Chartreuses in the world and you won’t have to pay monthly child support out of pocket.

    I suppose the universal ethers allowed for people to invent things like the wheel and fire simultaneously all around the globe, but I still become irked whenever I see someone wearing socks with thong sandals because I know I started that trend.


  27. […] A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the death of plagiarism. My work was stolen and I was pissed but then I thought about it. Few agreed with my conclusion but it’s the right one. […]


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