Academic Integrity

The Most Striking Plagiarism Scandals of 2015

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Plagiarism has not reached “water cooler hot topic” status, but it is a subject that is not going away in 2015. In fact it has been linked to a U.S. presidential candidate, an award winning South Korean author, a news director, and even a TV show contestant.  

Academic dishonesty flourishes at the university level and may lead to different cases of punishment for plagiarism. Plagiarism scandals are typically linked to academia writing, journalism, and business or research papers but this year accusations are appearing in the entertainment field – both television and in the music industry.


Internet news media site Buzzfeed reported in January that retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson plagiarized portions of his 2012 book “America the Beautiful”. The news site accused Carson of plagiarizing from sources such as; the late Willard Cleon Skousen, a conservative American author and faith-based political theorist; and from American author William J. Federer.

The irony in this incident is Carson admits he was caught plagiarizing in an academic paper while an undergraduate psychology major. He conceded to the fact that he did not even know what the term “plagiarism” meant at that time but said in his book he learned a valuable lesson that day about plagiarism and giving credit to sources cited in his writing – a lesson it appears he requires remedial training in.

Of course, it was the book in question that helped build his initial campaign funds. The committee formed to enter him in the race spent more than $105,000 buying copies of the book to give away to campaign fund donors. Lucky for Carson that Americans have a short attention span — although he had to apologize and back pedal for a while, the incident does not appear to have hurt his campaign.

South Korea had its literary world rocked when another writer claimed Shin Kyung-sook, the first woman to win the Man Asian Literary Prize, plagiarized a passage from her short story, “Legend,” from the story “Patriotism,” by Japanese author Yukio Mishima. South Korea’s newspaper, Kyunghyang Shinmun, stated that the famous “Please Look After Mom” author accepted full responsibility for the incident and said she will not reprint the story in question in future short-story book editions.

The newspaper quoted Shin admitting she had compared the two passages in question once she learned of the accusation and said they were very similar. The newspaper reported Shin stating that she could see why she had been accused of plagiarism. Although the author said she cannot even remember reading “Patriotism” during that time, she apologized for the incident. When asked if the plagiarism incident would keep her from pursuing future short stories and books, Shin said the unfortunate incident will not deter her from continuing her writing career.


Plagiarism accusations once again entered the professional world of news journalism, which has had its share of incidents the past few years. This year’s scandal involves a news director at Mic, a site that caters its news stories to millennials. In February Mic’s news director was fired after Gawker, a media news and gossip site, publicized numerous examples of Jared Keller taking material from Reuters and other news outlets without giving proper attribution. After an internal investigation by the news site, Mic announced it was releasing Keller from his duties. He later tweeted an apology on his account for his lack of citing sources while working at Mic.

Furniture Designers

In March of this year one of the strangest plagiarism incidents to happen since technology began opening the information floodgates was on an HGTV reality show. “Ellen’s Design Challenge” ending had Colorado resident Tim McClellan being announced as the show’s winner of the $100,000 prize. Apparently the show’s judges later realized a table designed by European designer Simon Schacht resembled their winning piece of furniture. The judges said one of the criteria for winning the contest was to create an original piece of furniture. McClellan was accused of plagiarism and the show then awarded the prize to the runner-up, Katie Stout from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Music Industry

Even the music industry is feeling the sour notes of plagiarism with at least eight number one hits having been accused of plagiarism. This year’s incident found Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke being accused of plagiarizing from Marvin Gaye’s hit song “Got to Give It Up.” The duo’s 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” was accused by Gaye’s family of copyright infringement – and a jury agreed to the tidy sum of $7.4 million.

With instant access to billions of pages of information, it appears an original idea is becoming difficult for writers, music producers, and even furniture designers. One thing is for sure, plagiarism sites like Unplag are useful tools for the print industry to combat the plagiarism plague. Now only if facial type recognition software could be developed into plagiarism detection software being used, then maybe reality TV wouldn’t have another embarrassing debacle.

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