One of the biggest fears of every creative is having their creation stolen. Despite all the measures the law has put in place to allay these fears, it is trite knowledge that the fear is still very prominent and as a teacher, I’ve had to answer many questions on this topic. Some questions are outrightly ridiculous while many others are deep and thought provoking. But then, we can not overlook the fact that people will always copy others either rightly or wrongly. In all these, my major concern here today is, should one be scared or bothered when he is being copied on the job as a Media Practitioner?
Personally, I think you are blessed when men and women sit somewhere to analyze what you do, consciously or unconsciously, and seek to replicate it. I believe it’s a pointer to many facts, among which is that you are creative and you possess a superior knowledge on the subject at hand. Be aware that there is nothing new under the sun and no idea is original in itself. After so many centuries of existence, the human mind has conceived all that is to be conceived, so we are all just recycling and refurbishing ideas. It is until you come to terms with this you will be a bit more relaxed about what you call “your ideas” and how you try to jealously guard them.
I know firsthand that sometimes, a complete head to toe copying can be really annoying, especially when you are yet to fully benefit from your creation and the copycat seems to be sharing your well deserved benefits with you. However, I’m of the personal opinion that there are ways you can psychologically hype yourself over, above and beyond the devastating feeling of being cheated or fooled.
Ordinarily, imitation is an art, a beautiful one at that, but unfortunately, imitation taken too far could be criminal, demeaning, exploitative and everything negative you can think of.
Several years back, I could remember how different people started calling to tell me they heard my voice on a particular radio station. I was surprised to hear that, so much so that I kept arguing they must have mistaken my station then for another, but I didn’t give much thought to it. Until one fateful evening when my girlfriend (now my wife) heard it herself and she was able to record it for me. She was alarmed by the striking resemblance and could not wait to see me, so she sent me the recording via WhatsApp. When I heard it I was furious, bitter and devastated. The copycat was a colleague from my previous station, someone I saw as a senior colleague who had made a name for himself in the industry long before I came in. He copied my content and my style completely. I was so angry, but couldn’t tell exactly why I was angry. Could it be because many people are already mistaking him for me or is it because we were once colleagues and he is someone I respect? I couldn’t fathom it but I was livid. I thought that was the worst that could happen.
Unfortunately from that date till now, I’ve seen a lot more like that in different degrees. Some creatively copy the idea and create something exceptionally unique from it, some copy the concept and tweak it a bit, some copy both the concept and the delivery, some are so ridiculous that they copy the idea, the concept, the style and the signature tune. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen a station copy everything else from another station including the name.
However, after all is said and done, it should be known that if you have something good, something commendable, something working for you, it will be copied. Rightly or wrongly, sensibly or senselessly, professionally or ridiculously, it will be copied. If worthless and ridiculing contents can be copied and replicated, how much more worthy and working content.
Therefore, I’ve come to a conclusion, you can call it my own way of psyching myself out of the miserable feeling, and my conclusion is that ‘only people who are not ready to be great complain of being copied’. If truly you desire greatness and you want to proudly wear the pathfinder, trailblazer, originator or pioneer badge, it will be downright ridiculous for you to complain that someone is copying you.
How do you lead without followers? What path are you finding and what trail are you really blazing? Imagine Fela Anikulapo Kuti having derogatory things to say about anyone copying his afrobeat sound, or Sikiru Ayinde Barrister fighting anyone that sang the Fuji he created, I can bet with you that none of them would have been half as great as they were then and now after their death!
If truly you want to be great, create something worthy and working, make it so simple to copy, then create a tested formula for it to be easily applicable. If possible, document the formula and possibly create a manual from it. Thereafter, make the manual accessible!
A strong man paves his way to the top, but a great man paves his way to the top and deliberately leaves his footprints for others coming behind to follow. Greatness is a generally desirable status, it’s just so ironic that not many people are willing to pay its price. More like nobody wants to die but we all want to go to heaven. If truly you desire greatness, this is one of the many dues to be paid, pay it and be glad you did.
Next week, I will let you know that while the copied has everything to gain, the copier has a lot to lose, except he copies rightly and professionally. Don’t miss it!
Kindly drop your thoughts and share your personal experiences with me via my contact details below. Please feel free to disagree with me, or communicate your personal opinions with me. Let’s rub minds so we can learn from each other.
Afouda Samuel Esq.