Intellectual Property – To Steal or To Acknowledge

November 26, 2018by Wanjiku J. Kiarie0

“You did a paper in what?” Exclaimed my fried Timothy.

He looked at me half amused, half horrified.

“I wrote a paper on computer viruses”, I responded with a grin. “And I seriously need you to read through it and tell me if it makes sense before I hand it in.”

I could read the multiple questions flying in my friends mind just from the look he was giving me. You see, anything technology has never been my forte. Timothy my friend on the other hand has been good in techie stuff ever since I  knew him in college. And he did look through my paper after getting a confession from me of how I managed to write such a paper; I had literally lifted stuff from the internet and paraphased it.

But guess what, I got a grade for that paper. That was before the plagiarism checkers came in, otherwise I might have paid a hefty academic price for it.


  1. Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property is divided into two categories:  

(I) industry property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications

(II) covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works (e.g., drawings, paintings, photographs and sculpture

(World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO))


  1. Plagiarism
  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
  • to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward. (Merriam -Webster Online Dictionary)


When you know better, You do better

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou.

Fast forward to graduate school and the value of intellectual property was seared into my conscience. All the hard work I put it in understanding concepts, learning new languages and synthesizing all that into original written work made me value intellectual property.

I teach values and content creation through writing is one of the ways I do this: blogging, writing books, creating curricula, preparing speeches and sermons. I know first hand the pain and sweat, if you, will blood and tears that goes into writing.

I have severally been on the receiving end of intellectual property theft. Listened and seen people steal my ideas and present them as their own. Painful, I tell you!

So when I recently got the unpleasant experience of receiving a newly released book on whatsapp from not one but several people my heart sunk. I deleted those copies and went ahead to call out my friends who had sent me the book.


Because I know better now. I know the value of intellectual property. I know the cost of intellectual property. I have gained a  respect for people’s intellectual property.


Why do people Steal Intellectual Property

I have been asking myself why people steal Intellectual Property and came up with five reasons. There could be more and I would love to add them to this list, but for now five will do.

  1. Ignorance

Ignorance is bliss they say, but ignorance is no defence in law it is written. Many people who steal any form of Intellectual property, be it written, spoken, painted, or even an idea are just ignorant of it. They do not know that what they are doing is wrong. I remember a time when a certain Kenyan female magazine had an issue illegally circulated widely. When I asked most of the people who got it, they did not even know it was wrong let alone stealing of intellectual property. Worse still they did not understand what my fuss was all about!

  1. Laziness

Why work for it when you can just lift off another person’s grand ideas in any form of intellectual property. Pure basic laziness. You do not want to do anything that could tire you physically leave alone mentally. Happens to many students, I was once here.

  1. Fear

You have an idea about something but your idea is hinged on other people’s idea. If you acknowledge the ideas of others will not that invalidate or reduce your idea. Worse still would you not be accused of IP theft?

  1. Greed

This is so especially when there is monetary compensation involved. You have gifts, mostly oratory that have gotten you to a place of opportunity. But ideas are not your forte, so you make it a habit to steal other people’s intellectual property and use it as your own. This is mostly on an individual basis as opposed to number five below.

  1. Because You Can

You have heard of individuals who have come up with all sorts of brilliant ideas and presented them to corporations who then steal those ideas and blow them up into huge profit making projects; just because they can. In this case it almost always involves a superior person or outfit in terms of monetary standing and social capital taking advantage of an individual or group of individuals who are not as endowed monetarily or in terms of social capital.

The remedy

  1. CONFESSION and RESTITUTION – if you have been involved in intellectual property theft first step is to confess. If possible to the victim of your stealing. Next step is restitution. Remember Zacchaeus in the Bible? That is restitution. If you have made gain be it monetary or even socially from stealing intellectual property pay the rightful owner their dues.
  2. ALWAYS ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR SOURCE – make that decision and then make that your choice every time you are presented with the option to steal other people’s intellectual property
  3. KNOW BETTER DO BETTER – now that you know better as concerns intellectual property do better and spread awareness of the same actively within your circles of influence.
  4. CALL OUT THE THIEVES – there are those amongst us who know better as concerns intellectual property but choose not to do better. Call them out, especially those within your circles of influence.

NB: Intakes are ongoing for the next season of Integrated Living classes. Classes begin in January 2019. Head over to the site and book your class by sending an email.

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