Did artist commit originality sin?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2011, 12:00am


The higher and faster you rise, the quicker and more painful your fall. Jonathan Mak Long, 19, became an overnight internet sensation last week with his design tribute to late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. His newfound celebrity quickly hit a wall when internet users started pointing out his design was not original.

Some have accused him of ripping off a British designer. Mak has admitted his design was not original, but insisted he did not know about it until it was pointed out to him. The design - which fits Jobs' silhouette into the bite of the Apple logo - was appropriate for the occasion but hardly the most original, even for the British designer, assuming he was indeed the first.

The day after Jobs' death, a Chinese-language newspaper ran on its front page a photo of the Apple logo with the silhouette of his profile inside. That one didn't go viral in the way Mak's design did, but it showed that many people were visualising Jobs and his company in similar ways because of the ubiquitous Apple logo.

Mak may or may not have committed plagiarism. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt. But the furore should alert people to the ease with which we can now cut and paste other people's work and words in the age of Google and PDF files.

With ease comes irresponsibility and carelessness. Before the advent of the internet, plagiarists had to be very deliberate in stealing other people's ideas. Today you can do it with a few clicks on your mouse.

This makes the offence much easier to commit, but the practice is no less offensive and odious.

The controversy over Mak's design is a storm in a teacup. But let it be a lesson to young people. Pleading ignorance won't always cut it.