In this new fast moving, technology -driven century where everything is available in the blink of an eye, or maybe I should say at the “touch of a button”, I can’t help but wonder if this easy availability of information about basically everything under the sun has made us indolent and averse to go that extra mile to put in our best. An original thought is as rare as the passing of the Hailey’s Comet!

The credit for this sudden pondering over technology and its comparison to the Pandora’s Box goes to the innumerable articles that came in for the blogging competition that was conducted by us recently.

The positives first – Some of the articles clearly stood out in terms of research, thought process, creativity, presentation et al. Reading these were a treat and made us feel so proud to be associated, in a small but significant way, with these budding lawyers who seem set to take the legal fraternity by storm!

It was heartening to see that some of these students put in great efforts to ensure that their article not only satisfied the guidelines set by us but also surpassed our expectations by leaps and bounds. The remarkable thing about these articles was that their authors came across as well-read individuals who didn’t just study the subject in theory as part of their curriculum but also paid attention to and kept track of the applicability of the subject in the real world.

On the flip side – While some articles were outstanding, there were quite a few that made us frown and question their authenticity, which brings me back to my original wondering about the paradoxical boon that is technology! The authors of some of the articles submitted borrowed content for “their articles” generously from several research papers written by others that were available online.

While some authors at least made a half-hearted attempt to conceal the fact that the article was not written by them by borrowing text from different write –ups, there were a few geniuses who –for lack of better words- “copy, pasted” content from easily available sources found on “Google” and “Wikipedia”! While we read certain borrowed content as part of the opening paragraph of one article, the same content could be found as another article’s concluding paragraphs!

What’s ironical is that the authors of all these articles are law students who clearly understand, in all its technicality that unauthorised use of someone’s creative works amounts to plagiarism and infringement of copyright protected work.  What’s more astonishing is that they wrote about “trademark infringement”, “passing off”, “honest and concurrent use” in case of registration of trademarks that are identical or similar; while conveniently forgetting that their article too is infringing someone’s intellectual property. Adding to the hilarity of the situation was all these authors submitted their articles to firstly, a law firm and secondly, a law firm that specializes in matters relating to Intellectual Property!

Food for thought – Is it that these students are not as capable as the others or is it the easy availability of information that resulted in this disheartening situation? In my opinion, it is the unrestricted use of technology that is to be blamed. There is no denying the fact that most of us would feel crippled if not for technology that gave us Google, Facebook, Twitter and the likes, but it really is in our hands to check if we are using it or bordering on misusing it. Being an avid reader, I still believe that an author’s best work is his own creation which is not based on opinions or ideas borrowed from others as anything that one’s own mind creates can never be better understood or completely explained by anyone but that individual. Basing one’s writing on a subject after pouring over several dozen things already written on the subject not only make the piece of writing repetitive but also greatly hampers a person’s ability to think of the box.

At the risk of coming across as too preachy, I’d still say too much of anything is a bad thing and this applies to the use of technology as well! If these students had made half the time to write an original article that they spent on compiling an article using several others, the result would have been quite positive. But then I would not have found the inspiration to write this post!

As Buddha would say, guess we should “practice before we preach”! But that’s the thing about technology – you can hate or you can love it but you definitely can’t ignore it!

Raja Selvam

Founder & Managing Attorney, Selvam & Selvam | Practice areas include Trademarks, Patents, Domain names & Business law. Visiting faculty, Department of Journalism, Madras University where I teach copyrights & trademarks law. Passionate about entrepreneurship, start-ups, stocks, farming, technology and law.