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Social Media Dissect DM and Schbang spat revives plagiarism concerns

Digital medium has fewer avenues for regulation.

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NEW DELHI: In the last decade, social media has changed the dynamics of the marketing landscape. But this has given rise to another big problem - plagiarism. In the latest incident, digital marketing agencies Social Media Dissect DM and Schbang got into a quarrel for allegedly plagiarising content. 

Social Media Dissect accused Schbang of copying the design concept of Motiphor from a year ago post without giving due credit. The agency posted on Instagram: “Speaking to the original creator and not giving credits while you go ahead and use someone’s work claiming it to be independent thinking, still counts as plagiarised content.”

Schbang founder Harshil Karia said, "We appeal to the industry to come together and find, perhaps, a technology-based solution that helps agencies vet whether the content is similar to the one being created perhaps by using image recognition."

Schbang replied that it’s an original work and posted, “We don’t plagiarise, two separate minds in front of separate screens thought of the same concept and created it. There is no data to support it.”

Several agencies are plagued by this issue and end up taking it on social media or dragging the party to court. This damages the reputation of the agency and even the brand.



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The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has a code for self-regulation in advertising, which has a section "Fair in Competition" that deals with such issues.

Former Asia-Pacific Marketing head of HP business strategist Lloyd Mathias opines, “I think plagiarism is a reflection of a lack of original ideas. Any brand that does so consciously is doing itself more harm than good. Social media has got nothing to do with it, but yes, with the increased proliferation of brands using social media – the issue has become stark.”

Mathias adds, “The best way to deal with plagiarism is to call it out. Showing one’s original content with the plagiarised piece, as a simple name and shame tactic, should be adequate. In an age where interesting posts go viral, this may be the best way to handle the issue.”

Some years ago, in 2013, several awards were withdrawn from Goa Fest’s Creative Abbys on plagiarism charges. Leo Burnett India withdrew three award-winning Tata Salt Lite radio campaign after its client stated that the work did not meet the guidelines for entry.

A recent case is that of Ogilvy when it took Vivo and its creative agency, Dentsu, to court over allegations of plagiarism. Matheno Films also initiated legal action against Citibank over a ‘copied’ film. 

A few years back, McDonald’s pulled down a Twitter ad campaign after a freelance photographer alleged that the brand had copied the idea from his work. He posted a series, which was featured on BuzzFeed that had captured the man’s ‘engagement’ with a burrito and was intended to be a spoof on the romantic photos that flood social media every day. McDonald’s decided to use the idea for its double cheeseburger meal.

According to Nut Cracker Communications founder Udit Jain, the ideal way to deal with such situations is for the two parties to talk to each other instead of taking it out on public forums. He says, "While there is no shortage of original and creative ideas and concepts, I believe that plagiarism has been in every mass media. Social media has not really contributed to its rise but given higher user participation and two-way engagement. So, issues seem to go hyperbole. There is also cut-throat competition and constant pressure to churn out engaging content but this should not be acceptable. While there are certain groups and organisations for dealing with plagiarism in other mass media, there are still no governing bodies for the social media, which gives us an opportunity for self-regulation and is the ideal way to go."

Pulpkey founder Amit Mondal says, “There is no way you can control the situation. The bare minimum which can be done is to check with the representative if there is a serious issue, otherwise, if they have given the work-credits it can actually help the original creative to get more reach.”

While the issue persists, the industry will have to figure out ways to address this growing concern.

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