More Content, Less Copying

Sigh. Heavy sigh. Very heavy sigh. “Why all the sighing, Eric?” I hear you say. Well, as you ask, it is because I finally find myself needing to blog about a very unpleasant but seemingly never-ending phenomenon in revenue assurance: the stealing of other people’s intellectual property. I, like my reputable colleagues, know to expect a fair bit of unauthorised copying of content. You have to be pretty naive to think that does not happen. But recently I have noticed more and more blatant examples of people just copying material from the internet and passing it off as their own. Here is a little play in one act, explaining how revenue assurance ideas get copied all over the world.

[Act I. Scene I. The tiny basement office of a company called Corporate Revenue Assurance Professionals. The walls are damp, the light bulb has no shade and flickers, the furniture is falling to pieces. A sign reads: “More than $800bn saved for our customers worldwide!”]

Enter Barnardo and Francisco, owner/directors of Corporate Revenue Assurance Professionals. They are dressed in rags.

Barnardo. [Crying, holding his head in his hands] Francisco! I am starving to death! We have not worked in the last 7 months. Nobody ever buys our Access database now that SubexAzureWeDoCare-a-lot-about-profits has merged and wrote some actual code that really works and has an interface and a manual and everything. What are we going to do?

Francisco. Do not cry, Barnardo. Though I am hungry too, my hunger is helping me think straight. We need to position ourselves as “thought leaders”.

Barnardo. “Thought leaders”. Are you insane, how can I think when my belly is growling?

Francisco. You misunderstand me. We do not need to do the thinking. Some other imbecile will have already done that. All we need to do is use their work.

Barnardo. But how can we pay them to think for us? We do not even have money to buy bread!

Francisco. That is not a problem. These people – these vain foolish thinkers – they just give their work away, for free! All we need to do is cut and paste from their work, change the name on the front, and hey presto! – we become thought leaders. And being thought leaders people will want to buy our Access database again.

Barnardo. But where will we get this material?

Francisco. Well, there is a splendid new invention that helps. I read about it in the newspaper. It is called the “wild world of web” and all we need to do is googly-oogly what we want and it gives it to us!

Barnardo. I like the sound of this wildly webby world of wonder. But don’t people mind that we take what they write and put our names on the front?

Franciso. [Laughs] How will they ever know? And if they find out, what can they do to stop us?

[Scene 2. Bright, well-furnished offices of ComCom.]

Enter Laertes, ComCom Revenue Assurance Manager.

Laertes. What am I going to do? Eight months I have had this job, and not a penny saved! There are only so many Powerpoint presentations you can give before you need to do some real work! But how do you actually find these blasted leakages! This damn telco does not seem to have any! I know – I will get some foolish vendor to come in and try to sell their product, then copy their ideas!

Enter Barnardo and Francisco.

Francisco. Mr Laertes! Do you remember us, we met at that conference a year ago. The one about revenue managing the 4th generation to get lean profits and maximum operations.

Laertes. [Aside] What luck! Two foolish vendors to rip off!

Barnardo. [Aside to Francisco] What luck! Unlike the others he has not set the dogs on us straight away!

Laertes. We would very much like to buy a revenue assurance tool to do some revenue assurance-ing, but first, show me some evidence of your thought leadership [Aside] so I can copy it and show it to my boss like it was my own work!

Francisco. Of course! Look at this white paper we wrote on how to revenue assure the leakages in a user-generated pan-dimensional content universe using an infinite improbability drive. Of course, I should not be taking the credit. My colleague Barnardo wrote most of it.

Barnardo. You are too kind.

Laertes. Hang on! You did not write this!

Francisco. [Worrying] No, as I said, Barnardo wrote most of this…

Laertes. No he did not! I wrote this! [Aside] Well, my boss in the last place I worked wrote this, but that is pretty much the same thing. This counts as my property because a have a copy on CD somewhere.

Barnardo. [Screaming and holding his head]. He has discovered our secret with the worldly wise wibbly woo. Run for it!

Laertes. Guards! Set the dogs on these men!

Exit all.

What is the moral of the story? Well, ask where something comes from. In the real world, we all get some of our ideas from others. Those who have ideas are not afraid to state their sources and explain where they get their inspiration from. If a piece of work claims to be completely new, you can conclude one of two things:

  1. It is rubbish. It is as rubbish as a wheel invented by a man who did not know wheels had already been invented. I mean, would you buy a second-hand car from a man who claims to have invented the car all on his own as an original idea with no help from anyone else and made the car by himself from bits of metal he had lying around?
  2. The entire thing is a rip-off, and the only reason why there is no reference to sources is because there is only one source for the entire piece of work and it is not the people who put their names to it.

Of course, you may prefer to take the work, even though it is copied. But you must be someone planning to change career pretty soon. Because if everybody copies, and nobody creates, you soon run out of new ideas. Does that sound familiar?

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.