Friday, 28 August 2020

Savage Beasts?

When I began supply teaching, it was often the case that I was expected to provide my own lesson plans. I carried a huge folder of worksheet 'masters' in my car. If I got to a school and was asked to do something on light/the Tudors/homophones/triangles etc, I'd fish one out, make a class set of photocopies, and teach the lesson. Then one day, I went into a school in Leicester, and the young teacher in the parallel class said "We are studying light- here's the worksheet for this afternoon"..."This looks OK" I said "Oh it's really good, we always use this one" "I'm glad you like it" I said - and pointed out ©AngAlmond at the bottom. "Oh!!! did you write this?" It was satisfying to think my sheet was popular - but I do wonder how often people use/steal/borrow other people's work. I'm fine with you using my worksheets, or sharing my blogposts - but please, just acknowledge that you are doing it!

There's a marine biologist/research scientist in Norwich, John Savage, who has always been fascinated by weird creatures. In 202, he produced a little book, "Captain Pottie's Encyclopaedia of Wildlife" [sadly out of print now] Taking many years to compile it was a collection of crazy creatures ‘discovered’ by a fictitious mad Victorian explorer. Most of them were word games inspired by biologists of the 19th century who often got their illustrations and descriptions of real living creatures completely wrong. Savage self-funded a short print run, and the books were sold through independent bookshops, and Waterstone's. He also sent copies to a few agents in the hopes of a book deal. Four years later, Ricky Gervais produced "Flanimals". [whose agent, incidentally, was one of the ones who had been sent a copy of Captain Pottie] 

Savage believed that this new book plagiarised his, and stole many of his ideas. He tried to sue, but ran out of money. Now RG is attempting to register Flanimals as a trademark. John is again taking him to court, this time appealing for crowdfunding to finance the action. I have compared the two books, and honestly feel JS has a valid case here. He has tried to talk the matter through with RG in a reasonable manner, but got nowhere, and thinks that it is wrong that RG should profit from his hard work [with no acknowledgement of it] Here are just a few of the examples of creatures in the original Pottie, and remarkably similar illustrations and descriptions from Flanimals.

You must make up your own mind. I just feel very sorry for a modestly paid researcher who has spent his whole life studying the animal kingdom, and produced a little book of fun, being shafted by someone else. Especially when that person has an estimated wealth of over £110million.

When a journalist contacted John this year, to alert him to the trademark issue, he took legal advice. He says this "Initial talks between my solicitor, David Langwallner and Sheridans Solicitors, Gervais' current legal team, predictably, broke down with Ricky Gervais once again stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the stupidly obvious fact that he has plagiarized my book. 

As I say, you decide for yourself. Personally, I usually try to stand up for the little Naboths and Uriah-the-Hittites of this world against the rich and powerful. And on the whole, I think marine biologists engaged in research are generally seeking to benefit the planet, even if they don't earn megabucks.


  1. I have made a small pledge. I dont like the thought of the 'small' man losing to an arrogant millionaire. Never did like the man.

  2. It is definitely plagiarism! I started to make a pledge and then realises it wasn't PayPal so I'd have to find my bank card....thank you, I've now remembered to go and complete it.


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