Philip (bluesmoon) wrote,

Popularity through Plagiarism

One of the things about GPL enforcement, is that violations can only be contested by the copyright holders. As an example, if I were to find out about a violation of the GPL licence in, say the linux kernel, then the most that I could do is notify the copyright holders, and leave it to them to decide what to do.

Now, say the item in question wasn't really a piece of copyrighted software, but procedure that someone came up with to do a particular task more efficiently. This person knows that it's a really good idea, and tells a lot of people about it, intending to eventually polish it up and maybe blog about it, or publish an article but is waiting for approval from his employer, or something like that. For simplicity, we'll call this person Ideaguy.

Now, let's say one of the people that Ideaguy told his idea to, we'll call him Expertguy, just happens to be the self proclaimed expert on this topic. Expertguy decides to publish a bunch of ideas on his blog, and among the ideas, he includes the one that Ideaguy told him about, except he keeps the credit for himself. Ideaguy is hurt, but he's a nice guy, so he does nothing about it.

Expertguy then takes an idea from Hackerdude, and another idea from JSGuru, and another idea from Pixelgirl, and writes a book, as the sole author, taking full credit for all these ideas. Hackerdude, JSGuru and Pixelgirl are all nice people, so they decide not to say anything.

Expertguy is really popular at this point, and gets invited to several conferences and to speak at universities, and to write more books, while Ideaguy decides that he's heading off to teach English to children in South America, and Hackerdude, JSGuru and Pixelgirl are slowly making their way up the circuit with their own ideas, often collaborating.

So what would you do if you knew all this but weren't directly affected? What if during the course of your own work, you found out that Expertguy has had far fewer original ideas than you'd originally thought? Do you believe that everyone's karma will equal out in the long run?
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