I sometimes find myself in the sticky wicket of wanting to post some funny thread, or article, but not wanting to immediately say where I heard it, or that I did not think of it myself because it will ruin the joke.
It is like that bit in Good Will Hunting, where Will tells the joke about the stewardess in the first person, even though he had never even been on a plane, because the joke would just not have been funny if he told it otherwise.
I have used thread titles that someone else made that I thought were clever without giving any credit for it. There is also the case of links to things that I have not found.
When is it ok to not give credit for something you did not do, and when should you give credit?
If you can assume that other people will get the reference, there’s no need to give credit for a line or a joke. Otherwise, you need to introduce it as “this great joke Brian Regan did on his HBO special” or “My friend Ted used to say.”
There’s no need to be the “finder” of a link. Just present the link.
That scene is GWH is designed to show his efforts to fit in, not to teach us how to be.
Most of the anecdotes and jokes that are passed around on the web are, unfortunately, unattributed. So if you are passing on something you got off the net and don’t know its source, it’s pretty much understood that you’re just sharing. But if you know the author you should attribute the work. If you present the work as your own, you are a plagiarist, one of the lowest forms of life to a creative person.
If you use a title or some other idea verbatim, well, you’re unlikely to get sued. But it’s too bad if you can’t find an original way to say the same thing, and have so little pride that you don’t mind using somebody else’s.
I have contributed quite a lot of original material on the net, and always signed it with my own name. I have no doubt that some of it will have been passed on without attribution. I knew that when I put it on the net. I also knew that I could never again prove that something was mine, except for the few things that had actually been published someplace.
I have mixed feelings about the possibility of seeing my own work in my email in-box or on one of the message boards. On the one hand, it would be something stolen from me. On the other hand, it would be proof that at least somebody thought it was funny enough to pass around.