Monday, August 6, 2007

Who's faulting Gilbert Arenas?

Maybe this belongs on MCBias's Blogging Laws, but Gilbert Arenas's little thievery last week bothered me quite a bit. Arenas's heisting of Ian Edwards's intellectual property was wrong, plain and simple. He should not get a "pass" because he is a "blogger".

People love Gilbert Arenas because he is, in the words of Henry Abbott of ESPN's TrueHoop, "real and genuine". Yes, he is a great player, a joy to watch, and seems more down-to-earth than athletes like Alex Rodriguez or Tiger Woods. In the old days, Arenas might have been the type of player to hang out with the fans at the local pub. But stealing a comedy sketch and passing it off as your own is still stealing. And claiming you helped the person become famous in the process is ridiculous.

What if, for example, Curt Schilling posted an old George Carlin sketch on his blog? Would he be vilified? He is not the biggest fan favorite in the sports blogosphere, and definitely not as "cool" as Arenas. But because Arenas is hip, happening, and the "bee's knees," he gets a slap on the wrist. Will Leitch of Deadspin, for example, pretty much wrote the transgression off, adding "Don't steal, Gilbert" as the last note on his blog post on the matter. Henry Abbott even joked that we should "name Gilbert Arenas U.S. Czar of Intellectual Property".

Now I understand where these other writers are coming from, and blogging is supposed to be a fun exchange of ideas and let whatever happens happen, but what is the difference between Arenas using Ian Edwards comedy routine and one blogger posting the thoughts of another blogger and not giving any accreditation? What if it was Will Leitch of Deadspin, to use a previous example? Leitch's blog is immensely more popular than The Serious Tip, probably getting more hits per day than I've gotten in my nearly one year of blogging. But what if Leitch confessed to stealing my ideas word for word and when pressed on the issue, stated "well, you didn't know him before and now you do, right?" Personally, I wouldn't want someone stealing my ideas in their attempt to make me famous. I don't need that type of help.

As for Arenas's attempt to defend himself by saying Puff Daddy and Ashanti "made careers out of stealing other people’s beats", this is such a sad way to pass the buck it's almost funnier than Edwards' joke. Because so many of us download songs these days, we are lost when it comes to the origin of sampled beats. All we know is we have heard it before. The truth of the matter is, for those who still buy CDs, the source of a sample and the legal authority to use it are spelled out in the liner notes. Unfortunately for Ian Edwards, there are no liner notes on the Agent Zero blog.


stopmikelupica said...

Exactly. This post is dead on. I love Gilbert Arenas as much as every other blogger seemingly does, but I am surprised at how much of a pass he got from the blogging mainstream for stealing another person's joke without crediting. His response wasn't that different from ESPN's (or Scoop's) when they stole Orange Roundie. The difference is the response from the mainstream bloggers, who see Arenas' success and popularity as somehow being attributed to them, not Gilbert (since they were the first to be up on Gilbert, you know?).

On the other hand, I still like Gilbert. It so hard to get mad at him... it's okay, Gil, I'll forgive you this time....

Alex said...

I agree with everything you said. However, I have some semantical issues with your post.

In stand-up it's called a "bit", not a "sketch". Sketches involved acting out scenes and usually involve more than one person.

In any case, at least you didn't call them "skits". Then I'd have to kill you.

Rickey Henderson said...

Right, because plagiarism isn't already rampant in the blogosphere.

McLea said...

And claiming you helped the person become famous in the process is ridiculous.

Why is it ridiculous? I had no idea who Ian Edwards until Arenas jacked his joke.

And Christ, don't you think you're taking this a little too seriously? You likely care far more than Ian Edwards does, which should tell you something.

Anonymous said...

"And claiming you helped the person become famous in the process is ridiculous."

I just want to say that this is a pretty credible claim. I had no idea who Ian Edwards was but now I do. Saw some of his stand up clips and am now familiar with his work.

I think people are taking this situation a bit too far. It's not like Arenas did a stand up set and stole the joke like say Mencia or even Milton Berle

It's just a meaningless little blog entry

Anonymous said...

My lord man - you are taking this WAY too far. So what if he stole the joke - have you ever told ANY joke that you personally made up? Has he committed a crime by stealing the other dude's joke? Jeez - its crazy the world we live in - I had a good chuckle when I read the joke and for the first time in my life heard of the comedian who made that up. For giving publicity to some obscure comedian and for giving us laughs, Gilbert gets persecuted. Jeez...

Anonymous said...

The guy who wrote this blog and everyone reading it needs to learn what plagiarism and intellectual property are. As long as he's not making any money off it, there's absolutely nothing illegal about it. Intellectual property refers to something that can be patented, copyrighted or trademarked. As far as I know, a JOKE has NEVER been any of those. There's nothing for Gilbert to apologize for. It's completely legal. Stop being haters.

Anonymous said...

That is not correct. Copyright exists as soon as you create something even if it is not registered. Technically speaking, Arens did steal another persons IP.

Pradamaster said...

I think this would have more merit if Gil actually wrote in his blog, but he doesn't. It's just a conference call he has with an employee. That absolves him a bit, because people talk about jokes that aren't theirs all the time. So no, it's not the same as Curt Schilling or Will Leitch doing the same thing.

Not saying the argument is squadoosh, but it's overly simplistic.

Anonymous said...

No one takes Gilbert seriously as a comedian or a journalist, including himself. The whole thing is just harmless fun. This is no different than if a friend used someone else's joke in conversation. You might call him out on it, give him a little shit for it. If he made a habit of doing it then that would get pretty lame. But you're not going to stop hanging out with the guy because of the one joke, unless you're a huge dick.

Boney said...

I think what all the "anonymous" commenters are missing is the fact that a guy came up with this whole train of thought on his own, and put it to use in a comedy routine.

It doesn't matter if you didn't know him before Gilbert Arenas stole his joke.. that's not his fault noone knew him.

Yeah, Jordi may be making a big deal out of it, but he's right. Taking someone's beat by "Sampling" and taking someone's joke are 2 totally different things.

Anonymous said...

His actions were not harmless. He DID commit copyright infringement. What I don't understand is why the hell he didn't just apologize and give Ian Edwards credit. See, if we allow somebody to plagiarize somebody else's work just because the plagiarizing party is more famous, rich, and or prominent than the author, our world is headed in the wrong direction.

If I ever become a public figure, I will make sure to get better handlers than Arenas. I can't understand why they didn't do a better job with this situation.

Oh, and by the way, Ian Edwards was not completely obscure. As soon as I read the entry on Arenas's blog, I knew it was a stolen joke. I looked all around for a reference, but there was nothing there.

Anonymous said...

This situation is very different from just telling a joke in a conversation. Why? Because Arenas's blog is a published work. A published work on a HUGE website --

I hope Edwards gets something out of this.

Michael said...

There's a difference between the examples you (and others) listed and what Arenas did. When we read Arenas' blog it's because he's a professional basketball player who's candid on life in the NBA - not because the quality of his writing.

Creative professionals are held to a different standard, we expect them to be creative and original - that's their job.

And Bloggers are held to a different standards than writers. For example, a while ago, stopmikelupica was guest posting on yaysports. He did a nice bit who's structure was taken from David Foster Wallace. (ignoring the dust up between sml and the Caviler). I thought it was funny and clever, But if I read it in a book by Jonathan Frazen or another published work; I would have felt ripped off.

Jordi said...

SML - thanks. I appreciate you mentioning the Orange Roundie, I was thinking the same thing, but forgot to write it in here.

Alex - appreciate the correction. Thank you for not killing me.

Rickey - True, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Mclea - Yeah, I might be hard on Gilbert here, but I am looking at it from an artist's perspective.

Anon1 - That's how they start - first its a meaningless blog entry, then next thing you know you are Doris Kearns Goodwin or Stephen Ambrose.

Anon2 - like I said, slippery slope.

Anon3, Anon4 - You know I gotta agree with Anon4 here.

Pradamaster - You are right, for all we know, the transcriber of Arenas' blog could have just not typed in the part about Ian Edwards. I doubt it. By the way, what is a squadoosh? Sounds cool.

Anon5 - To quote Ozzy, "Make a joke and I will sigh and you will laugh and I will cry". Not relevant, but I just thought I would say that.

Boney - thank you Boney. And welcome to my blog.

Anon6 - If you become a public figure, which would be cool because I agree with you, you should give yourself a name.

Anon7 - The thing about blogs is it would take nothing for the NBA typist to put "Ian Edwards said" in Gilbert's blog. Claim ignorance and say you fixed it.

Michael - Here is where I disagree with you. Take Paul Shirley - is a writer or a basketball player? If you are going to publish - whether it be online or in print or even in sky writing, your work is yours. Ian Edwards is a professional comedian. That joke is part of his lifeblood.

Pradamaster said...

Jordi, I think you're making a great point, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to defend Gilbert's position at all. It demonstrates a lack of understanding for the seriousness of the issue.

All I'm saying is that this isn't the same as Will Leitch or Scoop Jackson (I know, that's SML's example). It's spoken word rather than written word. I think it would be wiser to explore examples involving spoken word rather than written word (e.g. the stolen riffs Gil mentions, or standup comics stealing from each other). I imagine you could easily make the same point you're making using that material.

Nezha said...

On one hand if I was the one who created the joke, I could be angry.

But on the other hand: And let me ask this: If you have

a.) Sang happy-bday
b.) Quoted shakespeare or any other famous person without saying first "and this is said by < insert famous dude here>
c.) Sang in front of a large crowd, using a song you did not create.
d.) Generally wrote about something that for all you know, was already written somewhere. The words might be a little different sure, but its still the same (For example, truehoop blogged about this first and deadspin, do they have copyright now for this concept,i.e.Gilbert stealing)

Then you are a bad dude. Bad, bad dude!?

Anonymous said...


What you're not taking into account is that everyone knows you didn't write "Happy Birthday" or "Romeo and Juliet" or "Don't Stop Believin" or whatever. It's part of popular culture.

The shark joke was not. It hasn't been in a ton of movies, and it's not quoted by people in general.

Also, your claim that writing about the same general news story is somehow equal to lifting something almost verbatim shows a complete lack of knowledge about the argument at hand.

Anonymous said...

People are still talking about this? It's not like Gilbert is turning in his uniform and becoming a stand-up comedian. Everyone is surprised at the "pass" he got? It's a joke. I'm a comedian as well, if I had seen it I might have been angry at first, but that would have turned to flattery as he found my joke funny enough to steal. Would anyone even say anything if this was a joke from a movie that barely anyone saw? If he put a quote from a TV show that was canceled would anyone care? According to some of you, you might, but it's ridiculous. Arrest the man for a single joke if that'll satisfy you. This isn't a case of slippery slope, it's a case of people getting up in arms over nothing. If anyone should be talking it's Edwards and I haven't heard a word from him so everyone else should probably relax.

Anonymous said...

Some people need to get a life. Edwards would be happy about it!

Gilbert is a good guy, give him a break.

Anonymous said...

just to be clear- you're paying for those songs you download, right? Because otherwise, your post would be, kind of, like, ironic.

Brian said...

The difference in your example is that Schilling is a raging douchebag while Arenas is a good guy. So Gil used someone else's joke. He laughed it off. Schilling would be reminding us of the bloody keyboard he used to fashion the joke and how someone stole it from him so he was just reclaiming it.

Michael said...

Paul Shirley is a writer who "plays" basketball, if he didn't write, would we know or care who he is?

And this is "Gilbert being Gilbert" we all had a good laugh when he was doing everything possible to DeShawn Stevenson. Who wouldn't expect him to steal from a second tier comedian and say no big deal after the fact.

Anonymous said...

Man people quote Chris Rock so much whether it be in movies or just everyday life. It was a joke, any of you guys see "Yo Momma" the show, sure all those jokes are original. It was a funny comment and people are not offended because someone else said it but because a lot of you don't like being told that sharks have the right to bite you when you're in their area

Jack Cobra said...

That anonymous dude is pissed. Then again, I would be the same way if I was afraid to put my name down next to what I wrote.

Anonymous said...

Lighten up, Francis.

Matt said...

Who even cares? Its not like Gil was using this joke to further his basketball career. Or to really even try to claim it as his own. Hes merely relaying a joke to a community that wants to know what he is thinking. I saw Ian Edwards on com central last night, and he is a short and stubby little comedian with an annoying high-pitched Mike Tyson voice. The delivery was horrible, and the guy is not funny.

Keep on rockin on Gil, the world loves you!

Anonymous said...

Plagerism is very serious. I am glad to see that he quickly fixed the mistake that happened.

All of you out there that think it is no big deal should re-evaluate how you would feel if someone claimed they wrote/did something that they stole from you.

Anonymous said...

this is ridiculous, i mean come on.
he was just making a joke, it's not patented is it? no. i mean if i did that, all you have to do is say "where did you come up with that" and you say a comic made it.

People to chill the frick out. I'm glad Gilbert did it. He's such a funny guy instead of some of these uptight players

Jordi said...

pradamaster - yeah, I think it would be interesting to scour some old comedy bits or maybe some political speeches (the "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" line I believe did not originate with FDR for example). Not sure if the law makes a difference between copyright spoken or written. Something to look into, I guess.

nezha - Of course if I sang, recited, or did whatever yeah I am in effect using other people's work. However I am not trying to pass any of those off as my own, and if I did, I would expect to catch hell.

Anon8 - I agree, but with a little less vigor.

Anon9 - In your case, I do hope someone uses your words and propels you to fame. More power to you.

Anon10 - I never said Gilbert wasn't a "good guy". Should he be banished from the land? Of course not. But I do think people were a little light on him.

Anon11- Honestly, I was using the "royal we" there. I still collect CDs and have never downloaded a song in my life.

Brian - What? Bloggers have favorites? I thought only the MSM was partial.

Michael - I disagree with you on the Paul Shirley thing. Paul Shirley is interesting because he is both a writer and a baller. And "Gilbert can be Gilbert" all he wants, just give someone their due props.

Anon12 - You are right. I had a shark attack me just tonight. Bit me bad, but I rubbed some tussin on it and I was fine.

Cobra - Welcome. Yes, being anonymous is a lonely harsh life. It is not his or her fault. It is their lot.

Anon 13 - Great line.

Matt - So Ian Edwards should just write for Gilbert Arenas then?

Anon 14 - I agree.

Anon 15 - As I've said, I totally dig Gilbert's style. But give props to when you use something. And if caught stealing, man up. Don't joke it off.

Andy said...

I don't usually comment anywhere, but I wanted to say great post Jordi.

And to respond to some people who might be missing the point:

plagiarism |ˈplājəˌrizəm|
the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.

There is no need to discuss copyright law here. It's entirely more complex than people realize. But plagiarism on its own is serious. People who say otherwise have probably never had something they came up with stolen.

And by all mean Gilbert got the Gilbert treatment. If it was someone even less popular than Shilling (say Barry Bonds), people would be calling for his head. Just another example of his cheating ways. But Gilbert is known for being a good guy, so he gets a pass? Well aren't good guys people too capable of making mistakes? And if they do, shouldn't they step up and own up to those mistakes instead of joking it off.