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Stealing has been around since the dawn of time, and, like most things, the Internet makes it easier. I'm not talking about identity theft or phishing schemes. I'm focusing on the Internet parasites known as social media plagiarists. Specifically, people who steal jokes off of sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr and then pass them off as their own.

Maybe you're not clear on this phenomenon because you don't care about jokes or social media. Fair enough. The most famous example of this practice would be a now-defunct account called "Prodigal Sam," which was run by a campus preacher who amassed numerous followers before being routinely called out for passing off others' tweets as his own. And proving covetous hackery is not just for the Gentiles, there's "The Fat Jew" account, which loves to steal jokes across social media platforms. But it doesn't end with them. Theft can happen in herds. Take a look at this quality tweet from non-plagiarist Tony Logan:

After this tweet got very popular, a whole account popped up around the joke, showing all the people who've tweeted this as if it were their own. But the super weird thing is, even the account doesn't credit Tony, and nowhere does it acknowledge that it's based off his joke. It's like making a Harry Potter fan fiction site where there is absolutely no mention that JK Rowling exists. Indeed, the runner of this account mixes Logan's original tweet in among the other tweets like it's just one more entry -- sorta like wedging Sorcerer's Stone in between copies of your fan fiction classics Hairy Squatter's Bicurious Adventure and Hermoine and the Amazing Penetration.

Or take the great @behindyourback account, which has been plagiarized mercilessly. A while back, she had this tweet:

Versions of it with the exact same wording popped up all over Twitter, and became very popular on Tumblr as well.

It's true that some people are merely passing along something they don't realize has an author. But more often, people without the ability to craft anything funny are deliberately removing authors and posting work as their own to build their accounts on the backs of others. If you really want to just spread something you think is funny, you hit "Retweet" or "Reblog" or "Share." It's that easy. Much easier than even cutting and pasting. We all know people who share Cracked articles, and then we know the other pathetic psychopaths who cut and paste whole Cracked articles into their own sites and blogs like they wrote it. This is no different.

So Who Are These People?

That's a good question, and one I've asked often, because these people make no sense to me. While we're all taught at an early age that plagiarism is wrong, I get why someone might steal passages out of an encyclopedia (or Wikipedia) and paste them into their homework: they're lazy or bored. They just want to get the work done and get a passing grade. They're trying to do something they're forced to do as quickly as possible. It's a shortcut to not getting an "F" (Unless they're caught -- then it's a shortcut to a definite "F," but at least I get it. It's cheating at school).

But no one requires you to make jokes, and I can't understand the kind of person who wants credit for someone else's bit. How does that feel good? What joy does getting laughs from someone else's material bring? It's like leading your girlfriend into a darkened room and tricking her into sleeping with your buddy, and then taking pride in how hard she comes. And no, that's not hyperbole. If you steal jokes, that is exactly what you are doing: being inexplicably proud about making your girlfriend come with someone else's cock. Congrats, you sad, impotent little man.

Tanya Constantine/Blend Images/Getty Images
"You totally got her off, bro. I'm the sex master!"

But here's the thing. I've confronted these people online many times -- both on my own behalf and on the behalf of my friends. You'd think they'd be embarrassed and ashamed. But it's pretty clear shame is not in their assortment of emotions. Sure, I'm used to the anonymity of the Internet helping people be shameless, but some of these morally compromised halfwits use their own names, and hide only behind the following false and irredeemable defenses.

Here are three excuses that social media plagiarists need to stop making.

3
"You Can't Copyright a Joke"

Really? You can't? First off, I had no idea that every talentless hack who trolled for other people's content on Twitter and Tumblr in the desperate hope of feeling the taste of talent in their computer's cut and paste also had a three-year degree from an accredited law school. Who would have guessed that having no ability to make others feel laughter or joy from the contents of your lackluster brain would pair so nicely with an impeccable knowledge of comedic intellectual property?

hurricanehank/iStock/Getty Images
Similarly, the inability to sing is associated with encyclopedic recall of maritime law.

Let's put the vagaries of this nation's legal system aside for a second, shall we? I'm pretty sure no one is interested in what written published material can or can not be plagiarized. Let's start with the fact that, when these people are confronted with bad behavior (presenting someone else's talent as their own), their response is to basically argue that they can't be arrested because of a technicality. That's like being caught with a bag full of someone else's yen in Japan and proudly proclaiming, "It's OK, I have diplomatic immunity!"

But regardless of the legal protections afforded ideas and written words, let's just look at what happens to comedy thieves. Remember how Carlos Mencia had his own show? Remember when the world loved Dane Cook? Remember what allegations of theft did to their careers?

Carlos Mencia clearly took from Bill Cosby:

And though some disagree, there were allegations that Dane Cook stole from Louis CK.

If jokes can't be copyrighted, if creation can't be stolen, then why were there so many people so pissed off at these two accused gentlemen?

2
"But It's Only Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook"

First off, where you do your stealing doesn't matter. It's stealing. No court is going to care whether you stole 100 bucks from your local 7-11 or from First National Incorporated Federated Trust Bank of Delaware. It's theft. I recently had a run-in with one misguided, seriously ethically deficient young man who stole one of my friend's tweets and put it up on his feed, which had thousands of followers.

He didn't simply retweet the tweet he'd found and liked. He didn't include the author in the tweet. Instead, he removed any attribution and posted it word for word as his own, but in quotes. He claimed that the act of putting it in quotes showed he didn't write it. I think it shows only that he has never satisfied a woman sexually. OK, it doesn't prove that, but his argument is bullshit too. But y'know, life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. FN 1

FN 1 ____.

Georgios Kollidas/iStock/Getty Images
"Hey!"

Putting quotes around something with nothing more is bullshit, and his follow-up excuse that "it's only Twitter" is also bullshit. Yes, the way your little sister or hacky uncle use Twitter is pointless. They tweet about long lines at the DMV or what they made for dinner. But having a successful Twitter account means something to comedic people. People have gotten book deals on the basis of their Twitter accounts alone. Other authors rely on a growing Twitter account sell their novels. Some comics try out jokes on Twitter, then later use them in their sets. Right or wrong, having a successful account can matter.

And if this is all really "just Twitter," if these tweets are really of no value, then why would anyone be stealing them? Look at how many followers the Men's Humor account has. Play a fun game. Cut and paste every single tweet of theirs into Twitter's search option. See how many were stolen. Last time I checked, I got literally three in a row, all from accounts with tiny numbers of followers compared to their 3.4 million. And Twitter has verified the account, so you, the consumer, can be sure that it's the REAL Men's Humor stealing your comedy and creativity to build up their disgraceful feed. Trust me, they don't think mere tweets are worthless.

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1
"Chillax"

I've heard this said too. I mean, I really shouldn't even have to explain why no one should say "chillax," right? But it only gets a little better if they say "relax." These are people who think anger and indignity are emotions for losers. Winners in life don't get mad at anything, right? They wouldn't care if someone else claimed their wit or labor as their own. They're too happy being calm and content.

Honestly? When you think of someone who trolls the world looking for precious things to steal and call their own, do you think of a calm and content person, or Gollum from Lord of the Rings?


"The 'girl are you Mexican candy' tweet is my PRECIOUS!"

But in fairness to the thieves, they simply might not get it, because it's not just social media they see differently; it's life. They don't understand that anything you care about, and work to make good, matters, because the lazy and talentless see no value in labor. And though I think it's typically a cheap dodge to say "relax," they might be out of touch with the kind of work necessary to create something worthy of theft, and therefore out of touch with the anger that comes from that violation.

In the moist, squalid e-corners of their existence, they forget some people still care about written words in all their forms, as well as those who create them. But backlash does comes eventually. It's just that in their case, it might take longer, because no one is actually paying attention too closely. While they may have 100,000 ill-gotten followers built on the varied backs of numerous, more talented people, they have no actual voice. How could they, when they steal from so many different sources? And with no real identity, they cannot be loved. They only get to exist in their stolen section of the Internet's consciousness for a little longer, desperately hoping other people provide the necessary building blocks to sustain their virtual and crumbling castles.



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