There I sat, in an office with a thief disguised as a copywriter who had blatantly stolen one of my headlines. He had once worked with me when I was Head of Copy in one agency and had come looking for a job when I was working in another agency years later.
He sheepishly confessed that he had used one of my headlines and said, “I hope you don’t mind.” Maybe he thought I would be flattered somehow? Maybe he thought I would appreciate his honesty? Huh? Confession or no confession, he passed off someone else’s work as his own. Where’s the talent in that? In fact, it happens so much here that people have almost come to accept it as the norm, after all, don’t we see lookalike buildings from other cities all around us?
Plagiarism however, is illegal and in other industries, like in music where people get sued. You may have seen the recent headlines: “Pharrell and Robin Thicke ordered to pay $7.4m to Marvin Gaye’s children for copying…” Many other musicians have also been successfully sued, including George Harrison, Oasis and Coldplay, not to mention Columbia Pictures for their ‘Ghostbusters’ hit.
In their defense, it has been said that there are only so many musical notes, chords and riffs that a person can string together and over the course of years, there’s bound to be a little…um, borrowing? Well, unlike music, the Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary shows 171,476 words in current use. Guess how many different ways there are to make sense out of them? Don’t worry your pretty head, there are lots. So, do I mind that he used my headline? Yes. But it was a crap headline which is why I didn’t use it in the first place. So borrowing a quote from Jimi Hendrix (who, by the way, I at least acknowledge), he copied my mistake…hehehe. Oh, and we didn’t hire him.