Plagiarism and Movies – No

The originality and creativity of the entertainment industry is slowly being replaced with a form of plagiarism that hides under the term “remake”. Producers are coming out with remakes of older movies under the guise of improving or breathing more life into them without really changing much about the movie. Students are told that using someone else’s words or ideas as their own is wrong and has serious consequences, yet this does not seem to apply at the box office.

Merriam Webster defines to plagiarize as “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as ones own without crediting the source” and: “to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source”

Cinema laws, however, change the definition above by saying that ideas are free and not copyrighted. This changes only if you write down or express how you want the idea to be used.

Keeping those definitions in mind, there are several ways that indicate plagiarism is taking place when a movie is remade. Some movie remakes can use a few details from the original movie, but then take off in different directions, which would not be considered plagiarism. There are more than 202 movies listed as remakes since 1929, with 48 of those having come out since 2000.  This shows a severe lessening of the creativity that people have become accustomed to when wanting to see movies. There are still producers making movies that are fresh and new, but there are also just as many that are trying to turn old cartoons and television shows into live action movies rather than coming up with their own ideas.

Many other remakes however, end up being extremely similar to its earlier production. This shows a severe lack of creativity and originality in the entertainment industry, and blurs the strictly drawn lines of exactly what plagiarism is. Granted, the new movies may mention being based on the originals, but the equivalent to that in writing would be a student using quotation marks around the entire paper, changing a few lines, and citing it to whomever they copied the idea from. Obviously, this is not acceptable in the written form, so this should not be allowed in the movie context as well.  There are literally millions of creative people in this world, perhaps some of the movie producers should start trying to find a few of these people rather than repeating the same things over and over.  A bit of creativity will win out over another computer generated “live action” cartoon any day!