Veganism is an Open Source Movement

The essence of any movement lies in its open source nature. The “source code” of veganism is open to everyone. Every movement relies on collaboration for communication and dissemination of its message. You can’t get very far as a movement if the primary motivation of your members is their own self-interest and intellectual property rights!

All this should be obviously to anyone who has every studied any movement, but sadly it’s something that many vegans seem to be confused about. Particularly vegan content creators whose work blurs the line between activism and self-promotion.

Over the past several days, some people in the Vegan YouTube Community have slandered one of the hardest working voices for veganism I know: Emily of Bite Size Vegan. If you aren’t familiar with her work, Emily creates videos that present veganism to her audience in a simple and straightforward way. Emily works hard every day to bring quality content to her viewers and she’s one of the reasons I’m vegan today.

In the video in question, a vegan gossip known as the Vegan Cheetah accused Emily of plagiarizing one of another vegan YouTuber’s videos. It goes without saying that it’s clearly untrue. Both videos used common sources, and discussed similar issues with the production of wool.

But they both presented the information in very different ways using their unique style of presentation.

Aside from the fact that the accusation was clearly invented to slander and defame, I think the greater issue is that the Vegan Cheetah fails to take into account the fact that Vegan YouTube is an open source movement. It must be, or veganism will never have the reach it needs.

Your ideas aren’t that precious

Focusing on other vegans “stealing” your video ideas is completely counterproductive. If our ideas aren’t fairly similar, we aren’t doing a very good job at having a central message! Veganism is about ending the use of animals, and helping people understand why consuming meat, dairy and eggs is unethical.

If your main concern as a YouTuber is having your ideas used by others, you’re playing the wrong game. You would probably be much more comfortable in traditional media or book publishing, surrounded by a cadre of lawyers who are ready to slap a lawsuit on the first person that uses an idea similar to your own.

But know this: litigiousness over concepts is a thing of the past. New media is entirely different. Content moves instantaneously, and if you see others using your ideas you should be proud and happy. If your primary concern is having your ideas “stolen,” you’re delusional. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is what matters. Focus on your own craft, and you will find the audience that is right for you. Jealousy and petty infighting will get us nowhere.

Back in University, I had an excellent professor who told me he never turned people in for plagiarism. People who plagiarize aren’t good writers, and their failure to think for themselves is its own punishment. When I began teaching myself, I frequently caught students plagiarizing. But I quickly realized he’d been right. They were never good papers. Actual plagiarists aren’t even worth the time it takes to catch them, and they’ll get poor grades anyway.

This isn’t the Middle Ages

Thankfully, this isn’t the Middle Ages. In order to spread information, we are no longer limited by speed at which a scribe can copy a manuscript. We aren’t even limited by the speed of horses, planes, trains or automobiles!

Communication in this age is nearly instantaneous. Ideas spread like wildfire. And execution happens just as quickly. All you need to share your ideas is a phone and an internet connection.

As a result, there is a lot more simultaneous execution of similar ideas at the same time.

We see this all the time in the realm of technology. Engineers and designers are constantly running into trouble with lawsuits over intellectual property. This happens so often that many are beginning to question whether the idea of intellectual property can even survive in the internet age. People often have ideas at the same time independently, and patents are granted to one company and not another. It seems very unfair.

Of course, it’s also unfair that people create work and others pirate it. Or people watch YouTube videos with ad block on.

There are certainly many questions about the role of intellectual property in the future.

But one place where it’s actually pretty easy is YouTube.

On YouTube, all creators really need to do is give credit to the people who inspire us, cite a few sources in the description box or on your blog, and done!

And yet, for some reason, these accusations continue to fly. It mystifies me.

Activism must be open source

I hesitate to call vegan YouTube activism in the first place. But one quick way to distinguish between vegan advocates and posers is seeing who is screaming about their intellectual property. Honestly, people who truly care about animal rights and want to spread the message that non-human animals deserve better, don’t run around accusing other people of plagiarizing their content. They simply don’t have the time. And they are happy to see other people spreading the message.

I can’t recall anyone involved in the AIDS movement getting upset that other activists stole their red ribbon idea.

Or Breast Cancer Awareness campaigns suing people for using their shade of pink.

Why is that? Because it’s insane, and it’s completely the opposite of what anyone who actually cared about a cause would waste their time on!

Now, I’ll admit I’d be annoyed if someone ripped one of my videos and reposted it to their own channel without asking me. Or copied it word for word (not something I’d recommend anyway. I’d doubt it was that great the first time). But honestly, I’d probably get over it pretty fast.

Of course we work hard on our videos. And everyone likes to get credit. But if protecting your content is monopolizing your time, YouTube is not for you.  And honestly, neither is activism.

Real activists want to see the message shared

If Martin Luther King were alive today, I doubt he’d be suing American school children for reciting his speech without permission.

Why? Because it would be completely counterproductive! And these ideas don’t belong to us as individuals anyway. They should belong to everyone. This movement needs every voice it can get. And if people are in it just to get attention, that’s fine too. But when they start going after legitimate activists, that’s a problem.

Veganism is an open source movement. We want everyone in the world to know about the abuse that happens to animals every day. That information doesn’t belong to me, you or anyone else. It is the sad, collective intellectual property of the entire human race. And it’s high time we set it free.

If you are a content creator, please pledge to make your information open source and available to anyone, to be shared and modified as needed.







What do you think? Join the conversation!

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