Plagiarism is more common than you might think. Even some of the world’s most famous and well-known people have later been discovered to have swiped a few phrases, quotations and more from others without properly giving them credit. Here are some of the most surprising ones:
Author Rudyard Kipling freely admitted he had plagiarized parts of his 1894 work, The Jungle Book. He confessed that not only was it likely he had plagiarized from others, but also that he couldn’t remember whose stories he stole from.
Although he was able to finally secure the presidency, many people don’t know that Joe Biden also ran for president in 1987, but was forced to withdraw when it was discovered that some of his speeches borrowed from speeches of other presidents and world leaders, including the Kennedys. In addition, he failed a course in law school by using several pages from an article without citing the source.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in 2016, Melania Trump gave a speech at the Republican National Convention which used the same tone and wording that Michelle Obama used for her own speech back in 2008 at the Democratic National Convention.
The DaVinci Code author has been the subject of several allegations of plagiarism, most recently from author Jack Dunn in 2017. He believed that Brown’s novel borrowed heavily from his own book called The Vatican Boys.
Back in 2006, The Vanity Fair tried to get Brown to admit that he had heavily borrowed from the plot and characters of author Lewis Perdue. Perdue’s own book, called Daughter of God, was published three years before Brown’s. Both books feature clues hidden in paintings, a secretive group within the Catholic church, a focus on the sacred divinity of women, and events brought about because of a murder. In Brown’s book, the murder is of a museum curator, and in Perdue’s, it’s an art collector. Perdue is also the author of a book known as The Da Vinci Legacy.
However, the court ultimately ruled in favor of Brown, stating that things like ideas, historical facts, and overall themes weren’t uniquely original to Perdue’s book.
Martin Luther King
What if the famous civil rights leader’s “I have a dream” speech wasn’t really his? As it turns out, it was uncannily similar to a speech given by Archibald Carey Jr. at the Republican National Convention in 1952. King’s speech was delivered in 1963.
A ruling against ex-Beatle George Harrison in 1976 determined that he had plagiarized the tune and melody of the song “He’s So Fine” from The Chiffons, for his song “My Sweet Lord”. Listen and judge for yourself!
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys’ famous song “Surfin’ USA” was more than a little inspired by Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”. But the Beach Boys decided to make things right. They added Berry as a co-writer for the song so that he could get royalties. Hear them both for yourself.
“I hear that train a-comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend”, the intro line to Folsom City Blues, was snatched from Gordon Jenkins’ and Beverley Maher’s “Crescent City Blues”. Cash was sued for copyright infringement and had to pay $100,000 as a result.
How to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Own Work
As you can see, not even the rich and famous can escape from plagiarism. Perhaps their work is always under more scrutiny because of who they are, but that doesn’t mean those of us who aren’t quite as famous won’t ever be caught. With a treasure trove of knowledge from experts and professionals at our fingertips, the temptation is greater than ever for songwriters, authors, journalists, and content creators of all kinds to borrow from different sources.
And remember that it’s fine to showcase the work of others, as long as you cite them. Online this often takes the form of a backlink to the original source, like what you’ll see here. Academically, the process is more involved, but no matter what, you should always cite your sources.
Plagiarism and AI
AI has added another layer of possibilities onto the plagiarism question. Now, writers can not only borrow from others, but they can input a few parameters and have the artificial intelligence spit out something resembling a decent piece of content; even content that’s fairly well-optimized for search engines.
But, as the need for good, rank-worthy content grows, many writers find themselves turning to AI to help stem some of the demand tide. However, Google and other networks are clear: content that is created by means of a tool, bot or AI of any kind is not unique and goes against the company’s terms of service. In addition, despite all of its progress, AI-written content still can’t compare to a human because it lacks empathy and context.
The bottom line is that AI, like countless other services on the internet, is a tool. Writers can, and should use it to help them research, formulate a content strategy, brainstorm ideas and help with other tasks where drawing upon a large repository of information is helpful. But when it comes to sharing what you know, trust in your skills as a content creator, and always strive for Originality.