Why copying isn’t a bad thing

Being a follower of the latest entertainment trends, I realized that there’s often comments to accuse artistes of plagiarism. Such examples are so common especially now that the internet has linked us worldwide, it’s easy for foreign fans to notice how one MV may look like an old work from another.

I have two examples at the top of my list-

1. Rainie Yang’s MV plot resembles a well-known Singapore MCYS ad’s funeral speech and snoring idea, as well as the chorus sounding like Frank Sinatra’s “I Love You Baby”.

2. Jolin’s MV resembling Korea SNSD sub-unit TaeTiSeo’s Twinkle

and then the plot twist that SNSD TTS later released “Holler” that turns out to sound exactly like Mizrock’s “Hello Me!”

Remake? Inspired by? It seems like there’s more grey area than we would like there to be.

But wait, it isn’t just the music industry. Look at how America Idol concept has gone on to Singapore and China; Korean variety show “Dad Where Are We Going” has a China version; Japan has their version of “Running Man” and US has their version of Japan’s “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge”.

So how and when is copying actually a good thing? For me, the worst kind of plagiarism is when it’s done wholesale, as my marketing lecturer would call it. Compared to that, I love those who copy and make the concept EPIC!! 

An example that I personally adore is the Honda ad that uses the same trick concept that I saw a year earlier in “Assumptions”.

China Hunan TV also did a great job, and bringing the “switching roles”  concept to a whole new level with “X-Change”.

Instead of a rigid two weeks rule, the urban-rural swap stay where they are until they’ve turned over a new leaf. They don’t just switch roles, but also have to take on the responsibilities like rearing livestock and raising money for school fees and rural family medical expenses. It’s the one (rare) show that actually succeeded in making me cry.

Another thing about copying worth pointing out is that copying should be the first step towards your next creation.

Many people dislike local TV station copying shows from other countries, and with the internet, it’s easy to reference and tell why the grass is greener on the other side.

For me, I think that local producers tend to copy an idea, wholesale or in part, and leave it at that. The difference between that and other countries, is that they copy and they slowly find their style from it and develop it into something uniquely theirs.

Just look at how many talent shows, matchmaking shows and reality shows there are in China, yet how they all seem so different.

American Idol – Contest weekly, 4 judges, call to vote, eliminate one, revival, finale big show

And the various producers from different countries/TV stations came up with many, many versions and tweaks such as

  • Replacing objective judges with judges who choose their disciples
  • Audience voting by decibel of their cheering and clapping
  • Inviting 100 media representatives to cast their votes
  • Ring fight style stage
  • PK special where those eliminated get to choose their opponents and displace those who qualified
  • Overseas contestants handpicked to challenge the final few
  • Judges to harmonize during performance as a form of selection

The list goes on. It just goes to show that there is no shame in copying, there’s only shame in being comfortable with JUST copying.

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