Jim Letourneau's Blog

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Go Right Ahead - Steal Something

My latest email - Go Right Ahead - Steal Something was sent out yesterday. These come out irregularly to a list of ~5000 opt-in subscribers. 

I ran across a new book by Austin Kleon called Steal Like an Artist and I found subject matter timely for several reasons. The recent death of Adam "MCA" Yauch brought attention to the pioneering use of sampling on their album Paul's Boutique. The album features samples from 105 different songs including a couple from The Beatles. It didn't take long for entertainment lawyers to make sampling prohibitively expensive. Ironically, it is now possible to have streaming access 10 million songs for ~$10/month.

Swedish garage rock masters The Hives new single is called Go Right Ahead. They realized that it sounded like ELO's Don't Bring Me Down so they gave Jeff Lynne songwriting credit (The return of ELO! I mean The Hives!)

The catalyst for Austin Kleon's book came from his blog post 25 Quotes to Help You Steal Like an Artist. You can watch him talk about his book at Google (click here).

Theft is more rampant than most people realize but technology is making it easier to expose how connected many ideas are. Apple is the poster child for corporate creativity but Steve Jobs freely admits that he has been "been shameless about stealing great ideas" (source). Malcolm Gladwell's article Creation Myth (Xerox PARC, Apple, and the truth about innovation) digs up some details.

Even the great Steve Jobs had the human characteristic of "loss aversion". We hate seeing someone use our precious ideas but don't see much harm in copying other people's work. Steve Jobs did not like Google's Android and wasn't shy about how he felt.

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

While some of us may have a better handle on our loss aversion, none of us are immune from the circle of life.

Much writing has been done on the concept of creativity and the origin of ideas although I can't vouch for its originality. A couple of great starting points are Everything is a Remix by Canadian film maker Kirby Ferguson and James Burke's documentary series Connections (all 30 episodes are available for viewing online.)

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PS The Hives always perform wearing black and white costumes. At Coachella they played wearing top hats and tails. It was 105 degrees F!