I know I am not alone in this gripe – it happens in every sector, and while I do not usually like to generalise, in this case, yes, I do think it is particularly prevalent in Malta.
You come up with an idea, whether it is in music, writing, TV, theatre or any of the creative and performing arts, and bang! Someone comes along, blatantly steals the concept and passes it off as their own with brazen cheek. It happens very often with business-related ideas as well, as many entrepreneurs will tell you when they see imitations of their shop or service sprouting up as soon as they open.
It happens all the time, but each time, it is the sheer audacity that gets to me. The copycats do not even seem to care that you caught them out.
If I even had the remotest inclination to plagiarise someone’s idea I would (a) not do it because I would be too embarrassed and (b) would curl up and die with shame and mortification when I’m found out and called out on it.
Intellectual property, of course, is one of those things which is hard to prove – when you come down right to it, it is not always easy to claim “I thought of it first” unless you have hard, written proof. At other times, I have learned of ideas which have been plagiarised, but when the person who has seen their idea snatched away by someone else (who then blithely takes all the credit for it), they feel too uncomfortable and awkward about making it public without sounding like a right prat.
It’s similar to that odd situation when you are owed money – rather than the person who is dodging your phone calls/emails and letters for payment feeling embarrassed, it is you who ends up feeling embarrassed for asking for what is rightfully due to you.
Creative ideas are intangible things, and many hours are often spent to come up with something which is unique, innovative and inspired and which has not been done to death. I have no problem when people openly state that an idea was borrowed or adapted from an existing concept (after all, many TV shows, to state one example, are often adaptations from other existing shows in other countries).
However, when people are simply too lazy or unable to come up with their own ideas, but simply lift (for which read ‘steal’) ideas from others in full view, without a care in the world – well, then their gall just takes my breath away. You just sit there staring in disbelief that they actually did it.
The only remedy, I’ve concluded, is to overcome my own reticence and call them out, naming and shaming if necessary. As that crude Maltese saying goes, min ma jisthix…