When is it ever ok to steal someone else’s idea?

I was reading through different blogs, specifically looking for information about a political theory that’s always been one of my pet projects. Because my theory has never made it into the mainstream as theories go, I’ve always followed the ideas that resonate around it, wondering if the political atmosphere of academia will ever change to where my idea might start to have a bit more merit. Anyway, the other day I was following a conversational trend on a particular economic impact on international negotiations when I came across a drawn graph that immediately struck me as very similar to my theory. Well, to be honest, it was not only similar, it was the exact same graph I had drawn five years ago as an explanation of my theory.

I checked for attributions on the graph, wondering where my name would appear, but none was given. As a matter of fact, the “author” indicated through lack of any information that the graph was completely of his own doing, that he had come up with the economic graph to prove a point that he was making.

I just stared at it, flabbergasted that someone would actually take my own work and claim it as his own. I read through the rest of his theorical post, and what I discovered was that he didn’t even use the graph correctly. So there was my information, used, abused and done so wrongly.

I sent off an email, asking for clarification of where he got the information, but never received a response. I sent off another, and still got no response. I posted a comment on his blog following the article, asking for some clarification, and a few days later, my comment was deleted. No explanation.

I had heard there were people like this, but I never believed it would ever actually happen to me. I mean, my theories are generally nuts, or so out of the mainstream that I don’t expect anyone other than a deranged scientist to ever agree with me. But there it was. Right in front of me. I sent one more email asking for any type of clarification, and the next thing I saw, the whole post just disappeared. The author never responded to me once.

What bothered me the most was that the “author” is somewhat respected in the field, which means that if the two of us were ever in the same room together, everyone would have wanted to talk to him and probably would have ignored me completely. Personally, I have no desire to drag someone’s name through the mud for reasons that really substantiate doing so, but an inner feeling asks me how many others this guy probably does the same to as well. For all I know, my situation is a very isolated incident. But who knows? Certainly not me. Or I. Never really got that grammar rule right.

As a writer, I always assumed that somewhere down the line someone would probably steal one of my ideas, but as an academic, I never actually believed it would happen in academia, or from someone who actually has a lot of respect in the field. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bitter, and I have no desire to go after someone for something like this. Personally, I’ve always accepted that most of my political theories will die with me before they ever get implemented by anyone with the ability to use them.

So I guess I’m just ranting. That’s what blogs are for, aren’t they? I mean, what would Charlie Sheen do? Don’t we always ask that when stuck in a dilemma?

Author of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and 15 other novels. Writer, college professor and computer game designer.

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