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Plagiarism: The communications sector isn’t spared

Creations are synonymous with copyright, which protects them against any unauthorised use, as discussed in our article on source files.

We often hear about plagiarism but it is still subject to interpretation. Plagiarism or inspiration – the line’s pretty blurry…

Committed to attributing a particular piece of work to its rightful owner, we have tried to better understand and define the notion of plagiarism, particularly in the communications sector.

What is plagiarism?

Larousse defines plagiarism as the “act of someone who, in the artistic or literary field, presents as his own what he has taken from the work of another”.

This definition doesn’t say much; it broadly addresses the subject, not clearly specifying what was “taken from the other”. Are we talking about copy/paste? Or is it simply some inspiration? And how can one be sure of the uniqueness of an idea?

Inspiration v/s plagiarism

Some individuals, companies or agencies, use easily accessible online content or content received from someone else, without worrying about the applicable copyright transfer, often simply modifying the content as they see fit.

As a communications agency, we believe plagiarism means using the totality of a content that doesn’t belong to us.

That being said, we differentiate plagiarism from inspiration, which we believe is often unintentional. We all spend long hours on the computer, consciously or unconsciously absorbing countless amounts of information. And, without even realising it, we are often influenced by what we’ve learned.

When comes the time to create, this information resurfaces. It is thus not uncommon to think we are the author of an idea, when we’re actually just retrieving stored information from our memory.

This doesn’t mean copying and pasting; it’s about creating from memorised data. This is the difference between inspiration and plagiarism!

Remember that plagiarism is punishable by law. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure the originality of one’s work before sharing it with the world…

And in the communications sector?

People working in this field are artists; they create concepts, texts, designs, videos, photos… We must thus pay attention to the originality of our work.

With 7 billion people in the world, however, it is difficult to claim being the sole author of an idea – which is why, whatever the project we’re working on, a benchmarking process is carried out by the team before coming up with a concept.

This step is key because it helps us learn about the work of others in the field, whether locally or internationally. It allows us to rule out any ideas that could plagiarise those that already exist.

Though we must meet the requirements of a specific brief, we are constantly seeking to offer original, customised content. Certain factors may inevitably influence our approach to a project, but we are all vulnerable human beings and considering this as a proof of plagiarism would be a mistake.

There are trends in terms of typography, style and photo treatments, illustrations, colours, visuals and so on. Just like in fashion, when a design trend appears, one can choose to ignore or draw inspiration from it…

As a communications agency, we often work on tenders for companies looking to have a choice between the strategic, creative and budget proposals of several agencies. This means we sometimes face the disappointment of not being selected despite long and tiring hours of work, which gets even more frustrating once the campaign is launched with our proposals having been used as inspiration.

Unfortunately, this sometimes borders on plagiarism…

What we need to remember…

Communications agencies shouldn’t forget their greatest strength: their creativity.  

An idea can be shared by several people, but the way it is approached and presented is unique!

As for clients, they should pay more attention to the security and confidentiality of the ideas and creations proposed by different agencies, just as the latter themselves guarantee the confidentiality of all their clients’ information.

This is why, at Beyond Com’, we have added a new clause to all our strategic, creative and budget proposals – one we encourage all our partners to adopt: “All elements provided in this presentation result from our strategic and creative thinking; they are shared with you as part of the pitch. These elements will remain the property of our agency until the start of our collaboration. We rely on your discretion regarding the above-mentioned elements sent through today and thank you for your good collaboration.”