Q: Is it fake? A: Who cares? (You should!)

It’s been said: “Imitation is the sincerest forms of flattery.” But, what if the imitation involves completely copying whole sections or the entire works of others? Or, what if the imitation turns out to be a complete fake, but nonetheless is passed off as the real thing?

On the eve of SXSW, these question about “who owns ideas?” and “what is original?” are, in my opinion, more important than ever to our city and, frankly, our country than they have ever been.

Given the impending mid-March onslaught of film, music, content, and all forms of interactive media, I submit to you Exhibits A, B, and C for consideration in this discussion…

A – Helene Hegemann – German wunderkind and 17-year old first-time author, with her best-selling book “Axolotl Roadkill.” Oops, what’s that you say? Chunks of the novel were frequently taken from the less-well-known novel “Strobo,” with (in one case) an entire page lifted with few changes? Ms. Hegemann’s reply: “There’s no such thing as originality…just authenticity.”

B – Girltalk – if you’re under 40, I needn’t say anything else. Otherwise, just to go to his Myspace site and spin the first 2 to 3 minutes of “Play Your Part, Pt 1.” You’ll see what I mean.

C – James Frey’s 2005 best-selling memoir “A Million Little Pieces” – if you never actually watched his interview with Oprah, it’s spell-binding. Like watching a slow-motion train wreck…you can’t take your eyes off of it.

And lastly, a bonus Exhibit D: one of my recent favorites and especially appropriate given that they mash together all of the aspects of Southby – interactive, music, and film, a’la their music videos and upcoming major motion picture with District 9 director, Neill Blomkamp – into one gigantic, global con…ladies and gentlemen, I give you Die Antwoord. (Afrikaan for “the answer.”)

If you do nothing else, you’ve got to go check out their mesmerizing video “The Zef Side” under the Videos section of their “interweb” site. Are they for real? Absolutely! Are they fake? Completely!

So why does this matter; what does it mean? After all, folks like Beck have been making a great career out of mixing for years. And plagiarism is as old as stone tablets and smoke signals.

Well, given that one of Austin’s alter egos is, after all, “the city of Ideas” (thank you Tim McClure) and its position as one of the leading hotbeds for the creative class, according to researcher/author Richard Florida, I think what’s happening with ideas, originality, and the control of those expressions means a lot to Austin!

Set popular media to the side for a moment, and let’s talk about other engines of Austin’s success – silicon, software and information technology. We are, after all, home to some of the great patent producers in the world, at IBM, National Instruments, and the University of Texas, among many, many others.

From cell phones to Apple’s latest blockbuster-product-in-waiting, as our society increasingly becomes mobile, digital and virtual, the global competition over the production, use, and protection of ideas – intellectual property, or IP, in legalese – is going to only intensify. What we do in Austin and Texas and the U.S., in response to this competition, matters to our future.

I don’t have the answers, but in gleaning the conversations occurring about IP, I have a few thoughts worth considering. Let me hear yours. What do you think about the state of authenticity, originality, and the future of creativity?

Q: Is it fake? A: Who cares? (You should!)

3 thoughts on “Q: Is it fake? A: Who cares? (You should!)

  1. Neal Barker says:

    What are your thoughts on the subject in relation to the “social media” application space? Are not many of the players pushing out apps that are the same as other apps, but with a slightly differing UX?It seems to me that this is indicative of our move from Content being “King” to Context being “King”. As we progress(?), innovators will become more focused on how to own the context rather than the content.


  2. sguengerich says:

    Neal – that's an excellent point, to which I would reply “kind of.” I think you are definitely on the right track related to context, interaction, and experience. Certainly, we've already see this happening with the music business. All the major acts have moved to LiveNation or in some other way shifted their model to one that relies far more heavily on the tour, merchandise, licensing, etc. As my 17 year old son said to me last night “no one may age expects to pay for music anymore…” – to him (and btw, he does pay for his iTunes, but he said most of his friends don't), the music is the advertisement for the band. If you clicked through to the Die antwoord interweb site (I love that word), you'll see that they stream the entire “album” via their player.So, it's the live set that you pay for; and the t-shirt is where paycheck goes. So in a similar way, my bet (and where I think you were going) is that the “social” part will be increasingly more important than the “media” part of social media. If the content is largely being drawn from the same global pool, then it's the action – the effect – and its impact that becomes more important. Whose SM or other web 2.0 app can get the fastest adoption, the highest return use, the largest network effect in a desired target audience, etc.


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