Even the Big Companies Can Plagiarize: What We Can Learn From Snapchat’s Faux Pas

Last week it was reported by media outlet The Ringer that the social media app Snapchat was actually taking content for their “filters” from other artists without permission.

The article cites Argenis Pinal, who, like most of us, went to add an interesting filter to his selfie. You know, the dog-ears and tongue that have every college-aged girl invading social media with dogged selfies. The filter in question was that of the DC Comic villain The Joker. Pinal went to instagram to show an eerily similar filter that snapchat had unveiled.

The article goes on to highlight a few other times that Snapchat’s filters have looked eerily similar to other artists’ work.

So what can we take away from Snapchat’s possible mistake? Will there be consequences? Does this happen often? And, how we prevent our own company or social media campaign from plagiarism?

Snapchat's filter looks eerily similar

A Longer History of Plagiarism

            In response to last week’s article the company said it has “already implemented additional layers of review for all designs,” and that it is “taking appropriate action internally with those involved.”

Okay, no harm no foul, Snapchat fessed up and everything is back to normal, right?

Well, not exactly. Angela Perez, a freelancer for Snapchat’s design team eventually told The Ringer that she was “encouraged to trace sample images from famous YouTubers.” Yes, you read that correctly, they were encouraged to use content created by someone else, without asking for permission.

While Perez was not explicitly told to steal content from other artists, it can be interpreted that that’s what Snapchat’s design team has been doing.

Consequences?

            One of the biggest social media apps has now been accused (pretty much caught) using content from other artists without their permission. We can expect them to be fined, persecuted, and maybe have their ghost emoji locked up behind bars, right?

Well, most likely not. When it comes down to it, it’s just too hard to prove the theft of an artistic concept, especially when that concept is shared via social media.

The Ghostface Chillah will continue to own the selfie game, and we can expect filters to churn out on a regular basis. There are, however, a few things we can learn from Snapchat’s sticky situation.

Snapchat continues to make millions despite questionable tactics

Original Content Creates Credibility

            To be successful in marketing via social media, it’s important to have credibility. Creating original content that will drive viewers toward your site will grow a loyal following. Anyone can post on social media or host a website and use previously created content. Carving out a niche with original ideas will build a credibility that can turn your campaign into a legitimate entity.

Communicate and Be Observant

            Snapchat would later say in a statement “The creative process sometimes involves inspiration, but it should never result in copying. We have already implemented additional layers of review for all designs. Copying other artists isn’t something we will tolerate, and we’re taking appropriate action internally with those involved.”

We won’t know for sure whether or not Snapchat’s higher-ups were aware of what was going on, but it’s important to communicate with everyone in your company. You’re responsible for overseeing every aspect of the company, so communication is key. If you’re not the boss, make sure to communicate with your superiors if you’re unsure about an ethical decision.

Troy Diffenderfer

Author: Troy Diffenderfer

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