I love reality television. This morning, I was catching up on my The Fashion Show. The end of the episode came up and there were two contestants up for elimination. One of the judges said all these nice things about one of the dresses that was in the bottom two. The designer looked pleased. Then the judges dropped a bomb shell: They accused the designer of plagiarizing another designer. They said a lot of the audience had come to the same conclusion. They offered photographic proof. The judges then went to debate which contestant should be let go. Meanwhile, the other contestants discussed amongst themselves that this particular designer had talked about making knock offs before, had mentioned the designer that they were modeling this dress off and otherwise weren’t sympathetic to the alleged plagiarizing designer.
The judges discussed amongst themselves if a dress that was a creative failure was better or worse than some one who plagiarized other people’s designs. When they reached their decision, they determined that creativity and originality was more important than the ability to make copy some one else’s design. This was a clear case where plagiarism had consequences: The contestant did not advance because he wasn’t original.
This feels important to note because in fandom people justify plagiarism by saying there aren’t any real world consequences and who cares? Here is a case, in the creative world, where there are consequences and people cared. The point the judges made regarding this issue in fashion has just as much meaning in the world of fan fiction: Copying other people’s work is not a fundamentally creative act that should be rewarded. Copying and plagiarism should not be celebrated and should not be tolerated.