By: Brian J. Gaudette
Content theft, especially joke theft, is rampant online. If something is clever and funny you can bet that it will get rewritten and retweeted hundreds if not thousands of times. On a day to day basis when we tell jokes or use some clever but regurgitated turn of phrase in our verbal speech, it is socially accepted that we don’t pause to quote the original source…if we even know who that is.
With that said, is it ethically wrong to post written speech online that was not created within our own minds? Can anybody own an idea? Deep truths about the reality of our existence are often articulated by great minds, but do those great minds own the wisdom that they happened to articulate? The answers to these questions are not entirely clear.
Since it goes against our widely accepted ethics and laws to steal another’s physical property, I think you could make a compelling case that the line should be clearly drawn where a person knowingly uses someone else’s content for purposes of monetary gain without giving appropriate credit. It stands to reason that if the content is being used for financial gain that a person is stealing money from another rather than something abstract like an idea or an observation. So, why is this seemingly obvious line so readily not respected?
You could say that structure of the platforms themselves play a role by arguing that social media has created a space for the exchange of content without a third-party clearing house curating and editing. An author has a publisher and an editor, and a journalist will has an editor but that level of oversite, filtering, and accountability tends isn’t there for most social media content. I believe the media platforms themselves defiantly play a role, but I also think that this content stealing phenomenon points to a much deeper issue within our society. Truth is dying a death of a thousand cuts.
Post modernism, which is reported to have found favor within many universities and especially within the humanities departments, posits that there is no objective truth but only one’s perception of truth and thus all truths are true. If you follow that same logic then nothing is true…..except for the truth claim that there is no truth. With these ideas taking hold, conscious or unconscious, we have begun to destabilized the very underpinning of western civilization. We are taking the
self evident truths that created the freest and most prosperous country in that has ever existed on the face of the planet and that also underpin the whole of western civilization and have replaced them with very disorienting and confusing ideas that are not coherent with the reality that we encounter. With no frame of reference for truth, nothing is sacred. Not even clever jokes about jogging pants. Is being factually accurate morally correct? “Being morally correct is more important than being factually accurate” -Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez