Famous Cases of Plagiarism

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Monday, 17 September 2012


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Harvard has made headlines this week with the revelation that over 125 of its students are under investigation for allegedly collaborating on a take-home final in a civics class. Let's look at some other notable cases involving plagiarism.

c. 100 A.D.: Citing similarities between the two main characters, including sinlessness and virgin birth, authors of the Bhagavad Gita claim that popular best-seller the New Testament had stolen key plot elements from their work. Claim was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

1776: Thomas Jefferson lifts portions of John Locke's Two Treatises of Government for the Declaration of Independence. As Jefferson is the only man alive who knows who John Locke is, he gets away with it.

1912: Author Morgan Robertson accuses the White Star Line and the crew of the R.M.S. Titanic of copying the plot from his 1898 novel Futility.

1931: Charles Smirth, a Los Angeles heroin addict, accuses Salvador Dali of stealing his nightmares and selling them as paintings.

1989: Milli Vanilli

1992: Dr. Dre releases the hit single "Bitches Ain't Shit", which critics allege is thematically identical to the beloved Shakespeare sonnet On the Fairer Sex and Why They Are Naught Save for Harlots and Liars.

1994: Oasis steals the entire Beatles catalogue and calls it "Britpop".

1998: Dane Cook steals material from rival comedians; goes unnoticed for years as he also makes the jokes unfunny.

The funny story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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