Increasing Professionalism Part 3: Isn’t this all, well, rather academic?

3. Is original work a bit of a moot point when talking about babywearing? After all, babywearing is an ancient art, passed down the generations!

Let’s look at knitting, which can be considered an ancient art as well. Whilst it’s hard for me to imagine that the whole idea of knitting can be considered original work, it is possible for a given outcome of the process (any garment unlike anything before) or an original process itself to be original work. It may be that e.g. an end product – a jumper – would not by itself be something highly distinct and different from other garments, whereas documented ways of showing and explaining how to knit it would be.

So, I believe that if someone documented an original way to knit a garment and it is quite distinctive from other work existing in the field, this becomes their original work. ((“Originality – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,” n.d.))

If you are not in agreement or in doubt, do consult a suitably qualified person familiar with referencing conventions and derivative work, e.g. a professional journalist or an academic.

So, to give an example, let’s imagine we are watching an instructional video for knitting a jumper. To decide whether it is original work, let’s answer the above questions (please see point 2, above).

1. Have I seen something similar somewhere? Let’s assume that I have a book on knitting that has photos of the knittting process as shown in the video.

2. How similar was it? If I were to take away everything that is similar, would there be much of substance left? Let’s assume that I can open a book and compare it with the video, and that it seems that, if I were to take similarities away, only a few things would be left, and they are such that are not crucial to the process and do not make it significantly different.

3. How do the publication dates compare on what I saw earlier vs what I am seeing now? Let’s assume that the video was recorded at a later date than when the book was published.

4. If I have not seen it, are there people who have more knowledge in the field, and can they tell me if they saw anything similar? Let’s assume that, unlike in the answers above, I do not have a book and am not sure. Are there e.g. knitting communities (live and Internet) or people who I know who have lots of knitting knowledge, who could let me know if they saw this somewhere?

Having seen substantial similarities between these two things and also seeing that the book was made earlier than the video, we may conclude that the video may be derivative of the book. If the video were our own work, from the standpoint of acknowledging the sources, we might decide to reference the original source.

You may ask: How does this apply to babywearing? One example is the carrying techniques that are taught at Trageschule Dresden ®and its affiliates. These are documented in the following sources:

  1. Trageschule Dresden ® Carrying Consultancy Handbook (English edition: 01.01.2008)
  2. Trageschule Dresden ® Pictorial Instruction Booklet (20.08.2010)
  3. ‘Baby in Balance’ (Hartz et al., 2012)

If you come across a different set of photo instructions or video instructions, and you think you may see some similarities, you can go through the above questions to determine whether what you are seeing is original work:

1. Have I seen something similar somewhere? Here you can refer to the above sources to decide if you are not 100% sure.

2. How similar was it? If I were to take away everything that is similar, would there be much of substance left? Again, compare both the above sources and side-by-side.

3. How do the publication dates compare on what I saw earlier vs what I am seeing now? Can you find the publication or production dates on both sources you are comparing?

4. If I have not seen it, are there people who have more knowledge in the field, and can they tell me if they saw anything similar? You can ask those who are familiar with Trageschule technique about it.

If, after you went through the above four questions, you decide that the work you are considering is derivative, read on, and see point (5) below to decide what, if anything, you want to do.

In case of written work, many have found Plagiarism Checker to be helpful. This can tell you whether any of your work matches existing work enough to be considered derivative or plagiarism! It also can help when you are an author of any written work that is publicly accessible (whether it is accessible to all general public or via private forums, groups etc). You can check whether it may have ended up somewhere you did not expect it to!

Please note that in some cases, if it is a significant point or portion of the original work, whilst you could acknowledge and reference the sources, this still could mean that your work was derivative. If this was the case, there could be breach of copyright… which is a separate topic. If you are very worried about this issue, this may be a useful source to see (“Plagiarism vs. Copyright Infringement: Is Copying Illegal?,” n.d.).

Does this help you to understand how you’d determine whether the work is original or derivative (including plagiarism)?

Now let’s look at Part 4: How to Cite Sources.

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Bibliography