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"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."—-- Einstein
"Your theory of a donut-shaped universe is intriguing, Homer. I may have to steal it."—Stephen Hawking, The Simpsons, "They Saved Lisa's Brain"
Plagiarism is essentially taking the work of others and attempting to pass it off as one's own. There is a lot more to it than that. If you care about that, look it up on Wikipedia, WestLaw, or this page. Around here, we're more concerned with plagiarism showing up as the topic of a story. The more complicated plots may involve Time Travel, with somebody discovering that Shakespeare has been earning acclaim for years for the play he accidentally left in the past. A more common plot involves a Ridiculous Procrastinator trying to pass off a straight-A older sibling's report or assignment as their own, eventually getting busted because the teacher recognizes it.
Anime and Manga
- Billy Bat first starts off when the maker of the titular character (an anthropomorphic bat detective in an American comic) realizes he may have accidentally plagiarized it from a character he saw while in Japan. The origin of the character turns out to be far more complicated than he'd ever imagined. Notably, there's also one scene where the cartoon character come to life or a hallucination thereof actually questions the concept of plagiarism, stating most of what humans regularly do had to have been copied from someone at some point.
- Space Thunder Kids is another example for plagiarizing a tonload of Super Robot and Real Robot animes. Heck! Even Marvel's villains are present.
- An episode of Pokémon is about someone who needs actors for a play. When asked what it's about, the playwright pretty much sums up Romeo and Juliet. After listening, Brock asks, "Hasn't this already been done?'
- In Puella Magi Kazumi Magica, one of the main characters, Umika Misaki, had her first novel stolen by her editor, who published it under another author's name. Because of this, she made a contract to become a magical girl and used her wish to meet an editor who would recognize her writing talent.
- The film Big Fat Liar is about a boy getting a Hollywood producer to admit his plagiarism of the boy's story.
- Secret Window is about an author who gets a knock on the door from a stranger who accuses him of plagiarizing a short story he wrote.
- Jamal in Finding Forrester is accused of plagiarism when he turns in an essay written with Forrester's help. Fortunately, Forrester shows up at the disciplinary hearing to explain what happened.
- The Nero Wolfe novella Plot It Yourself revolves around plagiarism accusations.
- In Kurt Vonnegut's short story, "EPICAC", the narrator steals poems written by the computer EPICAC and passes them off as his own, in order to get Pat Kilgallen to marry him.
- Stephen Fry's The Liar Novel contains the oft-quoted line, "An original idea? That can't be too hard. The library must be full of them."
- Animal Farm. Snowball -- by which I mean Napoleon -- comes up with the idea to build a windmill.
- The protagonist of Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside makes his (not very good) living by selling plagiarized papers to college students.
Live Action TV
- The West Wing, "20 Hours in America, Part 2":
Sam Seaborn: Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.
- Which itself is a pre-existing saying.
- In Murphy Brown, Corky's husband was accused of plagiarism of the childrens' book he was writing. The issue is eventually resolved in his favor when Corky's diary is read in court and expresses her bleeping frustration with her husband's work as it was going on.
- In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Wild World of Batwoman, Joel and the bots watch a short educational film simply entitled "Cheating". They have a field day with it.
Crow: A Centron production. Although we got the idea from a different company. 'Cuz we're cheating.
- Afterwards, Joel assigns the robots to write essays on cheating. Gypsy's essay is: "Cheating is bad. Richard Baseheart is good." Crow T. Robot's essay is copied from Gypsy's.
- A major plot arc in Californication is when the young woman Hank slept with in the first episode is revealed to be Mia, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Hank's ex-wife's new fiancé, who goes on to steal the manuscript for his new book and threaten to reveal that they had sex (which would get him charged with statutory rape) if he tells.
- The Facts of Life: When she has to hurry to write a poem for an English composition class, Blair hastily plagiarizes an Emily Dickinson poem about beauty. After the headmaster submits it to a competition and it wins, Blair is forced to admit the truth.
- Similarly, when Erica Strange had to hurry to write a poem for an English composition class in Being Erica, she plagiarizes "Hit me baby one more time" by Britney Spears. It was a big hit and as she was time travelling (long story) at the time, no one caught it.
- Lou Grant: One of the episodes, season 3's "Lou," dealt with a young reporter plagiarizing from a college newspaper; predictably, Lou finds out and it isn't long before the reporter is searching for another job.
- Tom Lehrer's Lobachevsky:
I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics:
- The title track of Cledus T Judd's album I Stoled This Record is "Stoled: The Copyright Infringement Incident", a parody of a John Michael Montgomery song that talks about plagiarizing a song and being taken to jail for it.
- "This Song" by George Harrison may or may not count, given that it's a semi-autobiographical song about a real-life incident of plagiarism that also went before a judge: Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music, the "My Sweet Lord" case.
- "My Iron Lung" by Radiohead. "This/this is our new song/just like the last one". It isn't literally a retread of any Radiohead song before or since.
- A sample character in the New World of Darkness book Asylum is "The Fraud", a member of the mental hospital's facility who made his career by stealing a colleague's work. Now he's screwed, because in order to keep his reputation, he has to keep stealing from the other researchers. Sometimes he wonders whether to kill himself or commit Suicide by Cop when they finally catch him -- he can't imagine surviving the scandal.
- In Hotel Dusk: Room 215, one of the supporting characters is a novelist named Martin Summer, who is unable to write another successful novel, despite having a strong debut work. It turns out his first novel was actually plagiarized from a former friend's manuscript.
- In Futurama's episode "Anthology of Interest I", Fry discovers the "Fry Hole":
Fry: So what do you nerds want?
Nichelle Nichols: It's about that rip in space-time that you saw.
Stephen Hawking: I call it a "Hawking Hole".
Fry: No fair! I saw it first!
Stephen Hawking: Who is The Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?
- The Simpsons
- "The Day the Violence Died":
- "Fraudcast News": Millhouse, who has joined the staff of Lisa's newspaper, The Red Dress Press, admits he fabricated and copied content from other newspapers.
- In King of the Hill, after Bobby was given full credit from an essay that Peggy wrote and considered a good writer, he took her Musings papers and hand it to his classmates to give them good essay grades.
- In an episode of Hey Arnold, Phoebe steals a poem from a book and passes it off as her own until the guilt drives her insane.
- In the South Park episode "Weight Gain 4000", Cartman wins the essay contest. Wendy reveals that the paper is Walden with Henry David Thoreau's name replaced with his. The townspeople don't care and she expresses her anger.
Wendy: I bet if Walden was a sitcom you'd all know what it was!
- In an episode of Family Guy, one of the tangent gags shows Einstein working in a patent office. A man walks in wanting to patent his theory of relativity, and Einstein knocks him out and steals it.
- He's later shown doing the same thing to God, after he invented shrinky dinks.
- In another episode, police officer Reese arrives at the scene of an accident, where the two barely-alive victims mention that one's peanut butter got in another's chocolate, and vice versa. After Reese tastes the chocolate/PB mixture, he promptly shoots them both so he can steal the recipe.
- In Cloud Fathers, Xanatos captures Coyote the Native American Trickster Archetype with Coyote, a robot minion that gets destroyed every episode he appears in. Coyote says that he should sue Xanatos "for trademark infringement." Subverted in that Xanatos himself considers the robot a tribute.