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Steve Jobs, 1996: "Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal"

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Oh, hello! A trip to the YouTube wayback machine shows that 1996's Steve "Great Artists Steal" Jobs might have taken issue with Steve Jobs 2010, and his patent lawsuit firebombing of HTC. Irony!


The comment was made during a 1996 PBS documentary called "Triumph of the Nerds," and looks a smidge hypocritical in light of today's events. As does this one:

"We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."

Goodness. If that's true, then lawyering up against innovative competitors must be the one of the best ideas you ever heard.


In fact, compare the above to what Jobs said just today in the press release about the HTC lawsuit:

"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

Emphasis added. That's quite a 180 for a company and a man who have always been known for respecting and triumphing innovation. A disappointing one, at that.

Update: To clarify, and as is clear in the video, Jobs was quoting Pablo Picasso in the headlined quote. The follow-up quote is all him.


There's also a clear distinction between yesterday's statement, which concerns actual, literal patents Apple owns, versus the more general, in-the-ether ideas Jobs references in the video. The Picasso quote speaks to the idea that innovators borrow ideas and an incorporate them into their own work: in this case, he meant that Apple's designers and engineers took all manor of life experiences and used them to make Apple products fresh and innovative. As opposed to the "stealing" he referenced in the press release, which is literally taking a patented technology that somebody owns.

As a company, Apple has consistently been fair in licensing technologies it's found useful or interesting (though Nokia may beg to differ). Has HTC? The lawyers will figure that out, and when they do I look forward to 2015 Steve Jobs's take on it. [YouTube via commenter Fractal the Meek]