Content Raven Blog

7 Famous Plagiarism Cases - and How to Avoid Being a Business Plagiarism Victim

Posted by Joe Moriarty

Jul 12, 2012 7:44:00 AM

duplicate copyrightWhen it comes to theft, there is a clear and hard line. You know when you’ve been robbed. But what about ideas? Or words? Plagiarism can be just as damaging to person as actual theft, and it happens more than you would think.

Although cases of business plagiarism don’t normally get as much publicity as authors and artists, it can be just as harmful. Plagiarism can make it difficult for you to hold a competitive edge. It can make it nearly impossible to distinguish your company from the competition. It can put your proprietary research and content development at risk.

Fortunately, it many business situations you can avoid plagiarism by using content security measures. Unlike artists, writers and musicians, your content and work doesn’t always have to be in the public eye. It can be shared with members of your organization, selected clients and contractors and controlled using content security software that tracks and secures your ideas. 

If content control existed for other formats, these cases might never have seen the light of day:

1. Harry Potter and Willy the Wizard

In June 2009, the estate of deceased author Adrian Jacobs sued the publishers of Harry Potter. They alleged that JK Rowling’s fourth book in the Potter series, The Goblet of Fire, lifted heavily from Jacobs’ previously published novel The Adventures of Willy the Wizard: Livid Land. Both main characters go through a series of challenges in order to save friends. The estate first sued Bloomsbury, the UK publisher, and when after the American publisher, Scholastic, in 2011. Judges in both cases dismissed the claims for lack of evidence, but Jacob’s son and grandson who run the estate may try to take the case to Australia.

 2. The Wild Blue and Wings of Morning

Historian and writer Stephen Ambrose came under plagiarism fire in 2002 when his latest work, The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-234s Over Germany was compared to a 1995 book Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down Over Germany in World War II. Although there was likely to be some cross over because of the similar subject matter, exact phrases seem to be copied from the older version of the book. The case was never taken to trial, but journalists found additional cases of possible plagiarism in other books by Ambrose.

3. Jayson Blair and the New York Times

As a staff reporter for the New York Times, Jayson Blair committed journalistic fraud on numerous occasions. The NYT broke their own story in 2003 after investigation into Blair’s 600 articles showed plagiarism from other newspaper stories or downright lies. Blair reported on news without actually being there, invented quotes from sources and created events out of thin air. After the investigation, Blair resigned and the New York Times published an apology for their oversight and asked readers to help continue the investigation.

4. Joe Biden and Neal Kinnock

Before Joe Biden became Vice President, he was a senator from Delaware who wanted to be president. During the 1987 presidential race, Biden’s stump speech in Iowa concluded with several phrases lifted from a speech delivered by Neal Kinnock, a politician from the UK. Challenger Michael Dukakis picked up on the incident and created an attack video that showed the similarities between the speeches. Although Biden later admitted that he had been inspired by the speech and had given it reference in previous uses of it, this time was different. New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd broke the story and brought it national attention in the pre-YouTube world. Biden ended up pulling out the 1988 race entirely.

5. Maureen Dowd and Talking Points

Speaking of Maureen Dowd, Dowd herself was accused of plagiarism in 2009. Over 20 years after she broke Biden’s story, an online Sunday column on the New York Times website showed striking similarities to a story on the Talking Points Memo website. There was a word-for-word paragraph in both with just small change. Her defense? A friend who helped her write the column must have seen the Talking Points Memo post and “accidentally” integrated it into Dowd’s column.

6. George Harrison and The Chiffons

George Harrison’s first post-Beatles single “My Sweet Lord” was released in 1971. Although the song hit #1 on the charts, it bore striking music resemblance to “He’s So Fine” recorded by the Chiffons and released in 1962. It didn’t take long for the Chiffons to sue for copyright infringement. The suit included George Harrison, Apple Records, BMI and Hansen Publications and finally went to court in 1976. The judge found that Harrison did not intend to plagiarize but may have done so subconsciously. Harrison had to pay the Chiffons $587,000.

7. Coldplay and Joe Satriani 

Coldplay’s 2008 song “Viva la Vida” was a hit, but also had a very similar chord progression to a song by guitarist Joe Satriani. Satriani’s song “If I Could Fly” was released in 2004. The day after Coldplay received nominations for seven Grammy awards, Satriani filed suit. The court dismissed the case without prejudice in 2009.


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Topics: content security, digital intellectual property, pdf security, intellectual property

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