Steal as Much as You Can

Apple Xerox Innovation 560x268 Steal as Much as You CanGood ideas are worth good money. There’s no doubt about it: having better ideas than others gives you a great competitive edge.

Knowing this it makes sense that if you own an idea or two you protect them from thieving hands. After all: stealing is wrong! For most companies their brands, patents and copyrights represent a lot of value; you can’t just take that away from them. That’s why lawyers invented patents, trademarks, licensing and copyrights.

Take the Disney company for example. The Disney company (market cap is 56 billion USD) is notorious for jealously guarding its precious intellectual property. Whatever is theirs you cannot use. They will not let you steal their ideas. Ever. Not even if you call Mickey ‘just a big-eared cat.’ Remember: if you ever make a cartoon featuring a mouse (or a cat with big ears) on a steamboat you might expect a call from Disney’s legal team.

There’s good reasoning behind this, isn’t there? The ensure that the originator of an idea gets her fair share is the best incentive for continuous innovation in the market place. It’s only fair that an inventor, writer or designer gets a cut from the value his intellectual work represents.

Not everyone agrees though. Take the people behind Rip: A Remix Manifesto for example. They claim that freely copying and modifying existing ideas is the best accelerator for innovation. They call this ‘ripping’. You don’t just copy stuff blindly, you add to it, modify it or put elements of it to different use. To them copyrights and trademarks aren’t boosting innovation; they’re the biggest barriers that prevent innovation.

History may be on their side. The famous Delft Blue got ‘invented’ by 16th century Dutch artisans trying to mimic valuable Chinese earthenware using locally available materials. Tourists visiting the Netherlands still pay premium prices for little hand painted tiles, windmills and vases. And ironically; Disney blatantly ripped Steamboat Willy from 1928’s Steamboat Bill Jr. Ripping is good. Ripping doesn’t take value away – it creates value!

Here’s my 2 cents: start ripping today. Steal as many ideas as you can and use it to the fullest. Just don’t be a copier or a clone. You don’t need to be original to be authentic. This quote I stole from Paul Arden who stole it from Jim Jarmusch sums it up nicely: ‘it’s not where you take your things from – it’s where you take them to.’

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