Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Copying

By Ray McCormack

Although the title is not true to the famous quote, that’s the point. I used most of it and just changed the end, so it’s truly mine now. But is it? Yes, it is mine because it is different. In the world of copyrights and trademarks, different does it. In the world of fire service information, imitation is ongoing and often without a nod to the originator.

The great inventors of the world would not expect you to announce their name every time you mentioned their invention, but intellectual property and authorship is a bit different. In the world of fire authorship and tactical invention, there are originators and there are copiers.

There are examples of insincere imitation and copying all around the fire service. It’s just the way people operate today; to deflect blame they use the excuse that they are helping to spread the message. They see something they like or see potential information that will benefit them. They’re using someone else’s sweat equity to their advantage. Boom, there it is on their site. What happens to them? Not much. Does it matter? “It’s spread for the good of the fire service. Don’t shoot the messenger,” they say defensively. The real message is that they need stuff to put out to develop their audience–hurry hurry, copy, tweak, paste.

Glaring examples are out there for those who pay attention and are well-read. It’s not so much that someone might hear an idea and write about it or shoot a video on a topic they like. That’s understandable. It is the ongoing rip-off of OPP (other people’s property) to gain market share that is disturbing.

There is no team of lawyers running around filing suits. No, firefighters settle things differently. Most of the time, the worst that happens is some Internet exchange with a possible retraction. More than likely nothing occurs because the personality you are dealing with has little shame and less motivation to change, because change puts them out of business.

The art of imitation is best foiled when the imitator is asked to elaborate further on the subject matter. Most cannot because they need to cover many topics, and to obtain subject matter depth takes time. This is the true indicator for both the word-tweaker and the serial imitator. Putting information out without authorship might help the masses to better understand a fire topic, but it also assists the spreader of the information. Giving credit to the originator takes too much effort and would make them appear as they truly are–mere purveyors of other’s intellectual property.

Go deep, ask questions of the copy houses and you will find a field of knowledge a mile wide and an inch deep. I admit I don’t know who said that, but if it helps one firefighter, it’s worth it. Right?


Ray McCormack: Tactical Safety for FirefightersRAY McCORMACK is a 30-year veteran and a lieutenant with FDNY. He is the publisher and editor of Urban Firefighter Magazine. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC in 2009 and he is on the Editorial Board of Fire Engineering Magazine.

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