09 September 2007

Plagiarism, pillows and the fear of god

I can't recall what grade I was in when I first learned what plagiarism was. But whichever teacher it was, truly instilled the fear of god in us. He or she put it into our heads that if we stole someone elses words, the police would KNOW and they'd come and break down our door while we were hunched over our typewriters. The word police would know if we robbed someone elses work even on our 3rd grade papers about Abraham Lincoln. Plagiarism was a crime punishable by law whether it was in a best-selling published work or in a note passed in class "Do you like me? check one". And that has always stuck with me. Has it stopped me from plagiarising? Fuck no, but I remember the story and the way it was taught to me employing the fear of god. The teacher did a good job I guess; I suppose theres a fine line betwixt teaching and scarring for life... in a good way.

The plagiarism "laws" remind me of those FBI Warnings at the beginning of your movies and DVD's. That creepy interpol FBI's Anti-Piracy Warning Seal strikes fear in even the most callous and hardened criminals. Your popcorn is warm in your lap, the kids are asleep, you and your wife are snuggling in your finished basement, slouched and settling in for a 5-day rental and then you see this: "Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000." Popcorn goes flying, and now you're trembling. That damn FBI seal... Suddenly you're sitting up straight, hands folded, at attention. You have no idea what it all means, but it looks official and now you're sober.

OK, so you got through your favourite movie and you've all but forgotten about that god-fearing FBI seal and warning before the coming attractions and now it's time for bed. Risk it all, grab a scissor and cut those tags off your mattress and pillows. It's quite liberating! Go ahead, don't be afraid. Your wife will think you're brave and melt in your arms. This may be one of the most-mocked laws in the history of the United States: the one that supposedly makes it a crime to rip a tag off a mattress or a pillow.

Well these days the tags no longer say it's a crime to remove them. Rather, they say, "THIS TAG MAY NOT BE REMOVED EXCEPT BY CONSUMER." And so actually if you have a pillow or a mattress that says, "DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW," you might want to think about replacing it because those tags haven't been used for more than 15 years and well, that's a really long time to have the same pillow, even if its your woobie.

So, where did it come from?

Concern arose in the early 20th century regarding the materials used to stuff things like mattresses and pillows. Some of the materials could contain a host of nasty chemicals or materials that easily conducted illnesses or harboured pests.

As such, the US government sought to address this by requiring manufacturers of mattresses to place mattress tags on their wares, clearly defining the contents of the mattress. Thus consumers could make an informed choice and steer clear of mattresses stuffed with dangerous materials.

However, listing the materials meant that some mattresses would simply not sell, because of their materials. This led to new US laws, which not only required mattress tags but also were stamped in bold letters with the message “Do not remove under penalty of law."

However, many people were actually not aware the law was intended for mattress dealers, hence the jokes began regarding people serving hard time for removing mattress tags. Finally, enough public concern arose in the last decade to change to the message so it was clear a consumer could remove the mattress tags without suffering FBI raids or possible unknown imprisonment for committing this “serious” crime.

It is important, for das konsumer to look at mattress tags since they give one pertinent information. First, if the mattress tag has been removed, it’s difficult to ascertain the filling components of the mattress. Second, an unscrupulous dealer may attempt to resell a used mattress as new - VILE. If the mattress tags are removed, it’s fairly clear someone previously owned the mattress.

Even though the laws prohibiting mattress dealers from removing mattress tags sound unbelievably grim on the actual tag, few states actually conduct mattress inspections to assure that tags remain in place. However, as a consumer, conducting your own inspection can help you find the best mattress.

But once the delivery truck pulls away and the classy driver/delivery man surreptitiously glances at what bill you've placed in his palm, feel free to gleefully remove all mattress tags without fear of criminal prosecution.

Celebrate good times, come on! It's a celebration

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is very funny! I have always wondered about those tags.

P.S. Thanks for the Luciano update you did. : )