Thursday, February 28, 2013

Has it been done before?

Regardless of subject matter, the answer to the question has it been done before is "Probably." Especially if we're talking about art in any form. With about seven billion people on the planet, you can bet that someone somewhere at some point in time has attempted the same thing or gotten the same idea.

The upside is that with so many people and the great span of time, we usually don't know. I'm not talking about plagiarism by design; these accidental similarities are a function of our society, of fashion, and of there being a finite number of things (objects/words/colours/notes/chords) to start with.

Don't believe me? I was a musician for many years, and once you start picking songs apart, comparing them to music from the past, everything resembles something else. I could go into why, but that subject could cover a blog post in itself, so it'll have to wait until some other day. =)

When it comes to writing, every author battles mountains of media. Think about this for a moment: the printing press was invented around 1439. We have been able to mass produce printed products for nearly 600 years. IMDB contains around 300,000 feature films. How many TV shows might there have been since then 1920's? I can't even imagine the number.

When it comes to books, the numbers are even more staggering. According to Pat Bertram, around 15,000,000 ISBN numbers were issued in the US alone in 2012. Granted, many of these aren't used, or are used for different versions of the same book, but this is only one country. There are around 200 countries in the world.

When I released Kidnapped I thought it was a pretty good name. (I still think it's a good name.) There are pages of books with the same name on Amazon. Someone tweeted me a while ago to say, "Isn't that name already taken?" Well yes, they're all taken.

Should artists even try to be original? (Spoofs and paying homage to someone else's work is a different discussion, of course.) I think so, but it's important not to be hurt when someone comments on name, cover, or content reminding them of something else. Regardless of what you do, it will remind someone of something else.

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