Plagiarism and You(Tube)

Harris Brewis is back with a four-hour examination of plagiarism on YouTube. Yeah, it is a big one; I watched it in two parts because I needed to charge my headphones, because that is the world in which we now live, and it effectively monopolized my lazy Sunday.

Its subject matter is a little inside baseball — I do not watch nearly enough YouTube to know any of the creators examined — but it is a thoughtful look at what plagiarism on YouTube is like and a particularly damning exposé of one person specifically. It is extremely long but it kind of needs to be in order to accommodate examples in a fuller context.

As you may expect, there is a part of the conclusion which touches on generative media tools: how they can be used to disguise plagiarism in text, and how they themselves are farming the broader works of others. I found this interesting as I have been writing about intellectual property and generative tools a little bit. I am not sure if Brewis’ presentation of copyright is correct — that is to be determined — but it does seem like these tools do something more akin to plagiarism than strict copyright violation. Attorneys at Heer Law — no relation, as far as I know — note that plagiarism “is an ethical offence — rather than a legal offence — and it does not necessarily encompass copyright infringement”. That feels right to me as a description of what something like ChatGPT does in producing something nominally original.