Credit is not enough


Kim and I are often the last two people to leave a movie theatre. We usually stay through the credits.

We no longer watch enough movies that the names mean the same things to us that they used to, but often there’s something or other that we see in the credits that’s interesting. Usually it’s something from the soundtrack that sounds familiar but we can’t put our finger on who that was.

I’ve long hated the practice on US television to shrink the credits for television shows and movies so they can run a promo for an upcoming show they want to promote. Even worse, the credits are sped up so that even if my eyes were good enough to read the shrunken and distorted type on the screen, the moment passes so quickly that I can’t read fast enough.

In An Attribution Failure Theory, Duncan wonders if this sort of model leads people to not give credit where credit is due.

He writes about the problem that there are a huge number of creatives who use others’ works as part of their own and aren’t giving credit where credit is due. Worse, he says, “many of them when confronted with the problem, just shrug and don’t see the issue.”

He’s right. They don’t see the issue.

Yesterday I followed a link I won’t share to a woman’s blog to read what she had to say about following a bread recipe I happened to like. I expected her link to talk about her experiences with the recipe, and it did. But it also reprinted the recipe. All of it. It reprinted all of the ingredients and the directions for how they were supposed to be mixed and treated right up to the time they came out of the oven.

She gave credit to the original.

To me, that wasn’t enough. She went on to reprint his work without permission. She even created a printer friendly version of his recipe.

Now no one needs to buy his work – they can just read hers.

The next step is inevitable. I’ve seen it over and over. Someone quotes her work. That person may or may not provide attribution to her contribution but they inevitably leave out the original author of the recipe. It’s too messy to quote the author that another author cites. Now the original author’s work is being reprinted without attribution or concern for how it might effect his income.

More importantly, just as I want to know who performed that piece from the movie’s soundtrack, I want to know whose recipe I may or may not be following.

One of the things that’s striking when you watch credits at the end of a television show or movie is how many people were involved. This wasn’t just a period piece with a few actors. A group of people dressed the actors while another group dressed the set. There were people running the cameras who pointed it at people and sets that other people lit and moved and there were other people deciding which cameras to use.

I agree with Duncan that credit is easy and its the least we should do. I think, though, credit is not enough.

Maybe credit is the wrong word for me. Maybe what I want is an appreciation of those whose work we enjoy and build on.