Plagiarism, Perverts and Permits

I understand that signatures have no contractual value in China. It is the corporate stamp that has value. That puts a premium in China’s underworld for people that can counterfeit a stamp. A stamp forgery acts in China just as a signature forgery acts in the West. In the absence of the legal body, the forgery can divert property from where it was intended. It moves the value from the owner to the forger without the owner’s knowledge.

In the West, we try to protect against forgery and its effect of misappropriation with laws. I assume the same is true in the East. However, we have all heard stories in which some invention, trademark, product or right was diverted to an entity in the East without the owner’s knowledge or agreement, and without compensation.

There is a concept in philosophy even greater than stealing one’s products. John Milton, the British epic poet and essayist, wrote probably the most brilliant essay yet on the exchange of ideas. According to Milton, killing an idea can be worse than murder: “as good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.” (Milton, John, Areopagitica, 1644)

Did you notice how I attributed that quote to John Milton? That means Milton said it, I read it and I’m reporting it. I may wish I’d said it, but that would be untrue. In professional writing, to do so is called plagiarism. Plagiarism is sort of like copyright, but it’s bigger.

Written communication is almost worshipped in human culture. It separates us from the animals, it records our history, and it archives facts and reveals truth. Dictators hate free speech worse than they hate guns. As Josef Stalin famously said, “”Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don’t let our people have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?” (See the attribution?)

Because humans love truth (Stalin notwithstanding), people-loving forms of government ban laws restricting free speech. Just as Milton was against licensing books, Western cultures (except possibly in Quebec, which is contemplating permits for “qualified” journalists) don’t allow licensing writers. This has both good points and bad. For one thing, there are absolutely no requirements for somebody to claim to be a writer, a journalist or even (God forbid) a poet.

Since Stalin is dead but his ideas aren’t, we now have a group that prays to a god called Politically Correct, and they say I can’t say what I want to say. For example, I can’t say pervert. The thing is, pervert is a perfectly good word and has a perfectly good use. For example, stealing ideas and presenting them as your own is to pervert the intention of the original publication or utterance.

So what happens? Somebody hears he can get rich having a web site, writing a book, taking pictures or making a magazine. Having no clue what the value is, and looking only at the money, he will go to somebody else’s ideas, cut them and copy them without permission, and then paste them in his photo, web site, book or whatever, invoice his supporters and have a beer. This meets the dictionary definition of a pervert: one who diverts property from where it was intended.

We have seen a degeneration of respect for the designs, the thoughts, the products and the laws of others. I am becoming more supporting of the eradication, by legal and oh-so-compassionate means, of perverts, as defined above, and I hope the world’s respective governments can understand the value of that idea.

Strong words? I suppose. But I am making a point, and there are two good reasons why I should use the word pervert. I want to, and I can. Besides, the Chinese have a saying: “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”

I wish I’d said that.

 

 

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