Examples of Plagiarism In Different Settings

By , Staff Writer
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Plagiarism involves using someone else’s work without their permission and presenting it as your own original work. This can lead to some severe punishment and legal consequences. Although copying is one of its main forms, plagiarism has a lot of nuances, and seeing some examples of plagiarism in action can help you understand what it actually entails.

Examples of Plagiarism in School

Plagiarism is particularly pervasive in essays, book reports, and other written assignments at school. As sneaky as you might think you are, it’s incredibly easy to get caught copying your paper. Turnitin and other plagiarism checkers have become the norm, and even if those don’t catch anything, remember that your teacher will read your work. You’re always better off avoiding plagiarism and keeping your work original.

Here are some common examples of plagiarism that aren't as well known:

  • A professor or graduate student is expected to publish academic papers but is low on time. He finds a 10-year-old article in an obscure journal, then copies it and submits it as his own work.
  • A student quotes a large block of text from a book word-for-word in a paper. The student includes a footnote, but does not indicate in the text that the words are a direct quote.
  • You include information that should be attributed to a source as if it were your own idea. This applies to information you may know from a class, but is not common knowledge.
  • A student decides to hire an academic writing service to produce a literature review for a class. The service produces the complete paper, and the student submits it as their own work.
  • You find a paper similar to your assignment and change some wording so that it isn’t a direct copy, though the ideas, information, and/or organization are not original.
  • A student has a book report due but hasn’t read the book. They visit a book review website and copy directly from several of the reviews to create their report.

Examples of Online Plagiarism

The internet has made sharing information extremely easy and efficient. Unfortunately, some people take advantage of that and end up stealing or copying other people’s work in some capacity. Online or digital plagiarism can be easy to do, but just because it’s on the internet does not mean you receive automatic permission to use or copy it.

Here are some typical forms of digital plagiarism:

  • A freelance writer is assigned a topic similar to a post on his own blog. He rewords the article a bit so as not to create duplicate content, then submits it to the client.
  • A technical writer copies chunks of wording from documentation that she finds online for several products similar to the one she is writing about.
  • You want to write a blog post on a topic that you saw covered on another blog. You like the way it is organized, so you copy the headings and then fill in with your own text.
  • A website owner wants to add new content. Instead of writing articles, he copies articles from other websites and publishes them on his site with his name as the author.
  • A writer sees a fairly extensive tweet thread about trees. They copy the entire thread in an article without permission or consent.
  • You see someone else’s funny tweet and decide to tweet it out, word-for-word, through your own account.

Examples of Plagiarism in the Press

While plagiarism in school can lead to a failed grade and expulsion, plagiarizing when you’re a journalist or member of the press can lead to legal consequences and a permanent mark on your reputation that can prevent you from getting hired in the future.

Here are some examples of plagiarism that can happen in the press:

  • A writer copies a press release, word-for-word, changing only company names and personnel.
  • A journalist quotes someone but improperly cites the source.
  • Short on their deadline, a journalist simply copies an article they wrote previously and files it with minimal changes.

Examples of Plagiarism in Art and Media

Plagiarism in art and media isn’t unheard of, but it can be increasingly difficult to detect or classify. Selling a duplicate of a painting enters both plagiarism and copyright infringement territory, but is it plagiarism if a song sounds the exact same as another song except for one or two notes? Are covers of songs plagiarism?

Here are some situations that are considered plagiarism within art and media:

  • Someone sees an artist’s drawing online, places a filter over it, and posts it on their own account. They do not attribute the original artist, believing that adding the filter was enough to make it original.
  • You find a photo that you like, mirror it vertically, and post it as your own.
  • A musician uses part of another musician’s song without permission.

9 Famous Examples of Plagiarism

Ever since the first cave paintings, plagiarism, and its very close cousin copyright infringement, have existed, making it difficult for people to have true ownership of their original works and ideas. Here are 9 examples of famous plagiarism cases that happened in art, media, the press, and politics.

Jayson Blair

Jayson Blair was a storied journalist at the New York Times, but in 2003, investigations found that Blair had plagiarized dozens of articles from other journalists. What's worse is Blair had also fabricated details, which is a pretty big no-no for journalists.

David Mikkelson

David Mikkelson is the co-founder of Snopes, a popular website that is dedicated to fact-checking and myth-busting. Investigations and an internal review from Buzzfeed in 2021 found that Mikkelson had written at least 54 articles with plagiarized content, some of which were written under a pseudonym.

Original Source (NBC News)

Mikkelson’s Piece

"Muhammad Ali, the silver-tongued boxer and civil rights champion who famously proclaimed himself 'The Greatest' and then spent a lifetime living up to the billing, is dead."

"Muhammad Ali, the silver-tongued boxer and civil rights champion who famously proclaimed himself 'The Greatest' and then spent a lifetime living up to the billing, is dead."

Vanilla Ice

Robert Van Winkle, better known by his stage name Vanilla Ice, gained popularity for the song “Ice Ice Baby.” The song clearly sampled the bass line of the song “Under Pressure,” written by David Bowie and Queen. Vanilla Ice initially denied the claim, going so far as to sing some "dings" along the way.

He has since added Queen and Bowie to the writing credits for the song, admitted he sampled the song without permission, and claims to have bought the rights to "Under Pressure" for an undisclosed amount of money. 

Beyoncé

Yes, even Queen Bey herself has been accused of plagiarism and copyright violations on multiple occasions. Much of these involve allegations of uncredited sampling, like Hungarian singer Mitsou accusing Beyoncé of using part of her song “Bajba, Bajba Pelem” in “Drunk in Love.” Most recently, singer Kelis accused Beyoncé and producer Pharrell Williams of stealing and repurposing parts of her song “Milkshake” in Bey’s new album.

Again, song sampling situations can get complicated. While Kelis might be perfectly in the right as the performer of the song “Milkshake,” Williams and his partner Chad Hugo are credited as the sole writers and producers of the song.

Pharrell

Speaking of, Pharrell has had plenty of his own copyright issues. In 2018, he and Robin Thicke were ordered to pay Marvin Gaye’s estate about $7 million for using Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” in the song “Blurred Lines.”

Maureen Dowd

In 2009, Maureen Dowd, an author and New York Times columnist, was accused of plagiarizing a paragraph from a post from the blog Talking Points Memo. Dowd admitted to the plagiarism, and they corrected the column to provide attribution to the original text.

Original Source

Dowd’s piece

"More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq."

"More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq."

Melania Trump

At the 2016 Republican National Convention, former First Lady Melania Trump gave a speech that bore more than a passing resemblance to a speech given by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Melania Trump’s speech used much of the same wording and messaging.

Despite initial denial from Melania Trump’s team, staff writer Meredith McIver eventually claimed responsibility for plagiarism when writing the speech.

Joe Biden

In 1987, then-Senator Joe Biden was accused of plagiarism. According to the New York Times, Biden admitted to plagiarizing an article he wrote for the Fordham Law Review in 1965 while he was attending law school. A faculty report noted that Biden had “used five pages from a published law review article without quotation or attribution,” which ultimately led to him failing the course for which he wrote the article.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1991, scholars from Boston University found that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had plagiarized passages from his doctoral dissertation by “appropriating material from sources not explicitly credited in notes, or mistakenly credited, or credited generally and at some distance in the text from a close paraphrase or verbatim quotation.”

Despite that discovery, the committee did not consider posthumously revoking Dr. King’s doctorate, as it would serve no purpose.