After reading The Ecstasy of Influence, I started to question myself: as a designer, how do we distinguish between inspiration and plagiarism? Inspiration often comes from observation and reflection; the forms will be considered as the reference, which is rare for designers to create a unique one. But form as a supportive part of the creation structure, if there is no thinking of one’s own, then form can support no views, and that’s my definition of plagiarism.
There is a sentence from “Everything is a Remix” that impressed me most, “The most dramatic results can happen when ideas are combined by connecting with each other.” As a computer science student in my undergrad study, I’ve seen a growing number of heated debates over software plagiarism. Especially when it comes to Chinese IT industry, I can always hear people critique about us copying from others, such as renren.com and Facebook, weibo and twitter, youku and youTube, etc…
Speaking rationally, intellectual property in the software industry, criteria for judging if a product is a copycat is measured through the homology to the software. It gauges the homology of the central source code, text similarity analysis, coding style similarity through comparison and so on. But in reality, innovation and plagiarism seem to have various yardsticks for everyone.
However, based on my experience in product design, I think product managers know their hearts better than anyone else, whether they are designing in accordance with the model in their head, or someone else’s? Are they always deducing and modifying their products, or just continuing to view someone else’s code and design? Are they creating new functions according to user needs, or keeping track of other people’s improvements and upgrades?
Just as Kirby Ferguson says, “sometimes by coincidence, we get similar results but sometimes innovations just seemed inevitable.” There is no plagiarism of the Initial starting point of an idea; the key is the evolution of later iterations. Different people have a various divergence of an idea. If there are creative insights added to other people’s ideas, and thus making this product better, or having a deeper understanding towards specific target users, then it is innovation, not plagiarism. I think the only legitimate use of the idea of others, is to make it a better product and create a better user experience.