Cut & Paste: Modern Media’s Originality Crisis

3 min read

Nothing is original.

These days it seems everything is a reboot, a remake, or content repurposed from an original source. Of course, with widespread idea-sharing through social media, it is hard not to “borrow” an idea and create your own variation. But the trend raises two questions: Is anything original anymore? And where does creativity start?

Some people, like novelist Amy Tan, believe that creativity comes from questioning the world around us. On the other hand, scientists have found that creativity is the product of the “mental workplace” in your head. This workplace is a neural network that coordinates activity from multiple parts of the brain. It consciously manipulates images, symbols, ideas, and theories, giving people the mental focus to solve complex problems and create new ideas.

Unfortunately, the Internet Age seems to be rendering the mental workplaces out of business. In the past couple years alone, every type of media has been beset by recycled content. For instance:


March 2015: Robin Thicke 1.1and Pharrell Williams pays $7.4 in damages for copyright infringement of Marvin Gaye’s 1997 track Got To Give It Up in their 2013 hit Blurred Lines. There have been many cases of copyright lawsuits in the music industry, but lately it seems to be happening more than ever. Other recent copyright lawsuits include Katy Perry v Sara Bareilles (2013), Sam Smith v Tom Petty (2015), Ed Sheeran v Matt Cardle (2016), and many more. It seems artists just can’t come up with the tune to their own songs these days.


Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 9.30.23 AMMay 2015: Samsung releases an ad for its newest phone, the Galaxy S6 Edge. The ad bears similar images, voiceovers, and video segments to the Apple Watch Gold Edition ad that ran in April. Conan O’Brien even showcased a parody video poking fun at Apple’s claims that Samsung copied Apple technology back in 2012.


1.2June 2016: Independence Day Resurgence releases a reboot from the 1996 version, Independence Day, of yet another alien invasion. Unfortunately, the movie did not settle well with viewers. Rotten Tomato gave the movie a 32% rating as well as Roger Ebert gave the movie a 1.4 out of 4-star rating. Independence Day Resurgence is one of many remakes to surface in the past decade. Other titles include The Karate Kid (2010), Total Recall (2012), Annie (2014), Ghostbusters and the list goes on and on. Soon even Disney will be following in these footsteps and will be remaking classic Disney tales into live action films.


1.3July 2016: Melania Trump headlines the Republican National Convention and is applauded for her heartwarming speech. But wait: Something sounded a little too familiar. Soon after her speech, journalist, Jarrett Hill was one of many to point out that Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama’s address to the National Democratic Convention back in 2008. Certainly Trump can afford a subscription to grammarly.

Social Media

Trump-Obama copyAugust 2016: Instagram releases their newest update, “Stories.” This feature is very similar to Snapchat’s Stories in that it lets the user record pictures or 10-second video clips that friends can see on their news feed for up to 24 hours. Surprisingly enough, Instagram CEO Kevin Systron openly admitted that Snapchat deserved “all the credit” for the idea of the Stories update. I guess if you can’t beat them, buy them. And if you can’t buy them, steal their idea and use it as your own.


I understand how much easier it can be to take someone else’s idea and put a spin on it. But as Amy Tan would agree, it’s important to question the world—including your own role in it. Do you want to be an original, or a knock-off? Sure, doing something entirely new means taking a risk. But as we often say here at Well Done: Risk is a requirement if you want to do something truly great.