There are a dozen popular sites, and probably hundreds more lesser known, that are filled with different sayings and/or images that give no credit to an “original saying creator.” My question today is, “How do you handle this if you want to share a saying, or short phrase?”
As I am writing this blog post, I am wearing a t-shirt with the phrase, “I’m not anti-social, I’m anti-stupid”. If you google this exact phrase, you will find literally hundreds of people who have tweeted the saying, posted it to their status on Facebook, or shared one of hundreds of images using the words.
The shirt I am wearing was purchased at Walmart, but you can easily find this same saying plastered on hundreds of products online, from both large and small retailers, and never once giving credit to the original creator of the saying… not even the infamous quote from “anonymous.”
In a world where an “artist” can make thousands of dollars selling another person’s Instagram photos, the legal question about just sharing a saying without citation is probably moot. However, my question today is, “What is the moral and ethical implications of sharing sayings with unknown or dubious authors?”
I ask this because I had a woman who became very upset with me when I tweeted a saying that she claimed to be the original creator. I’m not going to name her in this conversation, because I think it could be misconstrued as a personal attack. I will say however, she was less than kind bringing her concern to my attention.
I could have understood her being upset a little more if I was the first one to “steal” her tweet, but her saying (I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt she was the original) is on images, has been tweeted by others, is on other sites, and I would not be surprised to find it plastered on a coffee mug somewhere. However, she chose to publicly attack me, as if I took credit for a blog she wrote.
She states that one can easily search Twitter to see she is the original creator. She was correct in stating that a search of Twitter shows she was the oldest (but not the only) tweet of the exact phrase, and her tweet was about 13 months before mine, but what does that prove? Not much, in my opinion.
First, Twitter is not the beginning and end of the Social Media universe. It is possible the saying was original, but it is also possible it was taken from someone’s Facebook, a posted image, a novelty item, or any one of a laundry list of sites.
For example, if we look at the phrase “Some people pass through our lives just to teach us not to be like them,” it looks like the original poster is this guy… or it at least looks that way from a Twitter Search.
Some people pass through our lives just to teach us not to be like them.— James Murphy (@JamesMurphy) June 22, 2015
However, a Google Search finds it on older websites and images, and even older Twitter posts. Who gets credit? Should someone get credit?
Second, actually being the oldest tweet does not mean the creator. There are many people, for a variety of reasons, who delete old tweets. I don’t know why people do this, but the fact services like tweetdelete.net exists means it happens with enough frequency that demand has created services to automate the action.
Third, there were Twitter users that posted the saying long before I did. It raises the question, If it was her original content, why did she not aggressively go after these other users? If you are going to insist a saying is your original intellectual property, and cannot be used without giving credit, shouldn’t she be going after everyone just as aggressively?
I want to be clear here, I’m not defending myself. I am trying to understand this person’s point of view. If it really is an issue that a person should not tweet some random saying or idea without some form of giving credit, then I will adjust. Is it that black and white?