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Plagiarism in Fiction

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"If you copy from one author, it's plagiarism; if you copy from many, it's research."
Wilson Mizner

Plagiarism is essentially taking the work of others and attempting to pass it off as one's own, almost always considered an unforgivable sin in academia. 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 William 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.


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  • In an advertisement for chocolate chip Eggo Waffles, a man calls to complain that what he thinks is a chocolate chip waffle (really, actually covered in mud) tastes terrible. The complaints clerk says they don't make chocolate chip waffles... yet. As a result for suggesting the idea, he gets a promotion.

    Anime & 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.
  • An episode of Pokémon is about someone who needs actors for a film. When asked what it's about, the director pretty much sums up Romeo and Juliet. After listening, Brock and Ash are moved to tears, but Misty 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 and actually had the nerve to ask Umika for more work. 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.
  • In Haganai, Yozora does this in a rewrite of her screenplay for the club's movie in episode 9 of Season 2. While Maria mentions at the end of episode 8 that the story seems familiar, its not until episode 9 and after they've already shot some scenes that Kate points out to Kodaka the similarities with an obscure movie. He then checks the movie and finds out their film was a shot-for-shot remake of that obscure film. Yozora is forced to kneel while wearing a sign saying she plagiarized, and the club goes with Sena's script which she wrote as a backup just in case Yozora's script didn't work out.
  • In Ojamajo Doremi, the backstory for Hazuki's mother, Reiko Fujiwara, involved a man by the name of Yoichi Sakuragi, who passed himself off as a fledgling poet by stealing previous poems. His motive? To marry her and get her family's fortune. When she confronted him after finding out, Sakuragi revealed his true Jerkass nature and basically told her he tried to sucker her for For the Evulz. Reiko was heartbroken.
  • The Kindaichi Case Files: Plagiarism that causes the person stolen from to be Driven to Suicide (or outright murdered) becomes the motive for murder in several of the mysteries, and in fact provides the Start of Darkness for Kindaichi's greatest opponent.
  • Detective Conan: Being another detective series, it also deals with people being murdered over stolen ideas.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: It's implied that Shouta's father ripped off Tolkien via precognition. He states that it didn't count as stealing since copyright isn't retroactive.
  • Action Heroine Cheer Fruits: At the start of the series, the protagonists put on stage shows based off of the popular Kamidaioh character, though it begins going in its own direction. However, when they start making their own merchandise, the owners of the Kamidaioh IP serve them with a Cease and Desist, that serves as the impetus for the girls to create their own original property. Later in the series, the girls see a clip from another Action Heroine show whose plot was almost identical to one they were going to use; even though it's a total coincidence, they have to throw out their original script and start over because using it now would look like plagiarism.
  • My Girlfriend Without Wasabi: Soon after they met, Rino tells Nozomu the story of a girl who blanked out on the entrance exam and copy-pasted from Wikipedia. When Nozomu asked if the girl had a death wish Rino just smirks and gives a thumbs up.
  • Time Paradox Ghostwriter centers on a struggling mangaka who recreates a manga sent to him from ten years in the future. At first, Teppei feels free to do so invoked because he assumed the manga he read was just a hallucination. He discovers the truth only after publishing a oneshot for his own version, and decides to continue because that's only way the story will be made at all in the current timeline.

    Comic Books 
  • In one issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, a teacher berates her class for plagiarism after almost all of them try using the lyrics of rap songs to do a poetry assignment. Several of them even used the same song.
  • In one early issue of The Simpsons, Bart and Milhouse create their own superhero comic book, which is so popular at Springfield Elementary that fights for an issue break out. They try to sell their comic to real artists at a convention, but are turned down. Months later, a new comic comes out, starring a blatant expy of Bart and Milhouse's character with only the name changed. However, this shows the problem with stealing someone's idea—because the company isn't imaginative enough to create new ideas, the comic's stories become stale, and the publisher has to blackmail Bart and Milhouse into making new comics for them.
  • In one issue of She-Hulk, tourists from an Alternate Universe without supers are sneaking into the main universe (gaining the powers of their counterparts in the process) and enjoying the lives of their alternate selves. When discovered and captured by S.H.I.E.L.D we get to see a montage of attorney meetings, Beast is suing his counterpart for stealing and patenting his theories in the latter's universe. Apparently in the Marvel Universe intellectual property laws have interdimensional jurisdiction. Seriously!
  • Nick Spencer's Spider-Man kicks off with Peter being accused of this thanks to a program designed to figure out who has been plagiarizing their work in colleges. When Peter's is used, it's revealed that it's copied wholesale from something done by Otto Octaviusnote . Since Peter can't explain how it happened without revealing he's Spider-Man, he loses his diploma, his comfy job at the Daily Bugle, and his Aunt May's respect.
  • At the very beginning of Avengers Arena, Arcade acknowledged that his plan (kidnap a large number of teenage heroes and force them to kill each other) was "inspired" by Battle Royale. The result: the supervillain circle considers him a laughable, copycat hack, making his efforts to impress them completely worthless.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Lana Kurree's boyfriend steals her formula and research into a cancer treatment, and then frames her for murder so that he can try and pass it off as his own. Given who her friends are this does not work out for him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Zits:
    • In one story, a classmate strongly advises Jeremy to visit in order to get better grades and save time and energy. Her soulless eyes indicate the alleged price. Jeremy is tempted, but the end of the arc implies that he didn't give in — and a teacher's suspicion makes the inveterate cheater do a Loud Gulp.
    • In another story, Jeremy "borrows" his mother's credit card in order to buy an AP essay off from what is clearly a scam website. Not only does Jeremy get a zero on the essay and a twenty-minute lecture after he confesses to his teacher, but said credit card also ends up hacked and he's grounded for two weeks by his parents.
  • A storyline in Funky Winkerbean has Les Moore dealing with a student who's buying essays of the internet, and pointing out that she's not learning anything this way. In the end, he says that if she's struggling with writing essays, she can write a song for her English assignment instead. Because that will help her learn... something, probably.
  • One Stone Soup story has Holly downloading someone else's term paper and passing it off as her own. She gets busted instantly because she forgot to change the original author's name with her own.

    Fan Works 
  • This is one of the main sources of wealth for Navarone in Diaries of a Madman. Though it should be noted that as the original creators are all dead and the art doesn't already exist in the world, he is providing a service by transcribing it.
  • The Infinite Loops: Loopers travel to infinite worlds, including worlds where they can access real fiction. Therefore, in their infinite boredom, they occasionally steal some of the plots they've read for use in their own loops.
    Trixie: ...plagiarists.
    Twilight: [eating popcorn] Oh, hush. So what if they stole the plot of Shrek?

    Films — Animation 
  • In Meet the Robinsons, Bowler Hat Guy tries to pass off Lewis' invention for his own. Unfortunately for him, he has no idea how it works, and after a series of disasters, the chairman kicks him out of the building and onto the street.
  • The Reveal of Coco is that Ernesto de la Cruz, the true Big Bad of the film, the most famous musician of all time who was known to have written all of his own songs, actually stole said songs from his best friend, Héctor, after murdering him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Big Fat Liar, Jason Shepard is given a creative writing assignment, but has such a noted history of chronic lying that he is forced to write it by hand so the teacher is sure he didn't plagiarize something off the Internet. Then, through a stroke of bad luck, major Hollywood producer Marty Wolfe steals his paper and turns it into his next big film. Hilarity Ensues as Jason tries to get Wolfe to admit to plagiarizing his work while unable to convince anyone but his best friend that he's not lying this time.
  • The Dead Pool: Subverted. When Harlan Rook reveals himself as the Dead Pool killer, he rants and raves that prima-donna director Peter Swan had stolen his film ideas and so his killing spree, which was designed to try to frame Swan, was justified revenge. He also kills a film critic earlier while ranting that how dare she denigrate and mock his work. The subversion is in the scene that reveals Rook's the man Harry Callahan is looking for: a psychiatrist explains that Rook is just a Loony Fan of Swan that has devolved and the plagiarism is merely a delusion.
  • 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.
  • In the 2012 movie The Words, A writer who is having trouble getting published happens upon an old manuscript which he passes off as his own and becomes a success.
  • In the 2009 film Gentlemen Broncos, a teenager's science fiction story is plagiarized by a writer he idolizes.
  • In Back to School, Thornton Melon turns in an essay about a book by Kurt Vonnegut, written by Kurt Vonnegut himself, which he passes off as his own. The English professor gives him an F, telling him that whoever wrote the essay "doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut." Later on, Thornton gets called in by the dean of the college, with accusations that Thornton has committed academic fraud by turning in homework done by someone else.
  • Ji-yun of Korean horror film Killer Toon becomes a prime suspect for murder after the grisly deaths she draws in her horror comic books start coming true in Real Life. She is then forced to admit that she is a plagiarist who has been publishing as her own work comic books that are being emailed to her by an anonymous author.
  • In the 1962 version of The Phantom of the Opera, the titular Phantom's backstory is that he was a Starving Artist who went to an influential aristocrat for help in getting his musical compositions published. That man ended up claiming the works as his own, triggering a chain of events that would result in the real composer being horrifically scarred from acid and becoming the masked Phantom. He is determined to sabotage the premiere of his stolen opera.
  • The B-plot of The Social Network has the Winklevoss twins and Divya Narendra suing Mark Zuckerberg over his alleged plagiarism of the idea (though not any of the code or assets) for their social networking site, The Harvard Connection, which they consider intellectual property theft.
  • Twister: Jonas does many things in his role as the film's resident Hate Sink, and one of these is the reveal that he stole the concept of Bill's "Dorothy" project and passed it off to corporate sponsors as his own, named "D.O.T." (the jerk couldn't even think of a different name). The way Jonas puts it the fact that the idea was still "unrealized" at the moment he took it means he felt he had free reign.
  • This exchange from World's Greatest Dad when Robin Williams' character stops a student during a poem recital.
    Lance: Stop. Jason, you didn't write that. It's a Queen/Bowie song, "Under Pressure". What Were You Thinking??
    Jason: I didn't think you knew that one.
    Lance: Jason, I'm white. Sit down.
  • The plot of TRON is triggered by Flynn’s hacking into his old employer’s systems for documented proof of his old rival plagiarizing a series of games he created while he worked there.
  • In The Squid and the Whale, Walt tries to pass off Pink Floyd's "Hey You" as an original song he wrote for the school talent show.
  • In Throw Momma from the Train, Larry's ex-wife Margaret gets rich publishing a novel he wrote as if it was her own work.
  • In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the reason Spencer and Fridge are in detention is they were caught plagiarizing. Spencer wrote a paper for Fridge to turn in, but it was so similar to his previous papers, the teacher recognized it.

  • 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 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.
  • One of the subplots in Changes has to do with the discovery that Master Bard Tobias Marchand is passing off his student's work as his own.
  • P. G. Wodehouse wrote two very similar school stories in which a compulsory poetry competition is run and the protagonist asks a friend for help. In one, the friend copies the entry out of a book; in the other, he writes an entry, but his drafts get misplaced and copied in turn.
  • I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan is presented as TV character Alan Partridge's poorly-written and nakedly self-serving autobiography. At one point in this book, he copies much of Wikipedia's article on frequency modulation.
  • Zombies of the Gene Pool:
    • Played with: the book starts off with English professor Marion ripping an unnamed freshman a new one, after said freshman wrote a paper accusing Joseph Conrad of plagiarizing Robert Silverberg's Downward to the Earth when Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness. note 
    • Comes up again later — Marion points out the similarities between various stories written by the Lanthanides; Reuben Mistral brushes it off by saying they lived out of each others' pockets in those days and were bound to have hung onto a few ideas from the old times. But then Marion reveals the real point, namely that Erik Giles' writing style is nothing like his supposed Pen Name C.A. Stormcock's, but Stormcock's is very similar to the late Peter Deddingfield's writing, revealing that Giles and Deddingfield traded their names many years ago.
  • In Fangirl, Cath writes some Simon Snow fanfiction and turns it in for a college assignment. Her professor gives her an F, arguing that while the story might have been original, using someone else's world and characters makes it plagiarism.
  • The Prague Cemetery. The protagonist adapts earlier conspiracy theories for later clients, just changing the Big Bad concerned (Jesuits, Bonapartists, Jews). Doing so helps reinforce each Conspiracy Theory in the public mind, as people would vaguely remember hearing something similar, thus helping to 'authenticate' his own work.
  • In the opening to the Discworld spin-off Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, the overseer at the publishing house points out to his superior that Nanny's writing comprises of taking any work she finds interesting, copying it out onto old sugar bags, and signing it G. Ogg in crayon. His boss reassures him that this is "research", and perfectly fine.
  • One of the motives in the Judge Dee mystery "The Lacquer Screen". The villain wanted to be rid of his wife because she was cheating on him, but the reason he had to kill her was that if he divorced her, it would come out that all of his best poetry was actually her work.
  • Family Skeleton Mysteries: The plot of the fourth book involves Georgia and Sid discovering someone has been responsible for stealing and selling artwork belonging to the students at the art college she's now working for, and one of her co-professors got killed over it.
  • Animal Inn (by Virginia Vail): In book 3, Val Taylor has written an essay for a contest being held by the Humane Society. When she hands it in in class, her Alpha Bitch classmate Lila Bascombe manages to steal it and submits it her own name. Fortunately, having written it longhand (and then typed up two copies, the second after her temporary roommate Gigi the monkey tore up the first one), she's got it memorized and is able to recite it from heart, proving she was the original author.
  • Dear Mr. Henshaw: At one point after he starts keeping a diary instead of writing to Boyd Henshaw on a regular basis, Leigh enters a story contest, with the top three winners getting to meet a certain famous author. His story "A Day on Dad's Rig" wins Honorable Mention; later, the second-place winner was revealed to have copied their winning poem out of a book and lost their prize as a result, and Leigh gets to go in their place.
  • In "Who's Cribbing?", first published in Startling Stories in 1953, a would-be science fiction writer gets every one of his story submissions rejected, each time with a letter saying it's too similar to a story already published decades before by an obscure author named Todd Thromberry. Further investigation leads him to form a theory that Thromberry somehow found a way to look into the future and steal his stories before they were written. In the end, he writes up an account of the experience and sends it to a science fiction magazine in the hope that its readers can offer some explanation — only to have it returned with a letter saying they can't publish it because it's too similar to a story by Todd Thromberry.

    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 Drop Dead Diva, a friend of Kim’s had her erotic novel ripped off by a major publisher, the novel was in fact based on her and her husband’s own experiences.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • In the episode The Wild World of Batwoman, Mike 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, Mike 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 verbatim from Gypsy's. The remaining host segments for the episode involve the rest of the cast trying to decide how Crow should be punished, with Tom Servo and Gypsy pushing for extreme violence.
    • In the first episode with TV's Frank (Rocketship X-M), Frank plagiarizes Joel's invention (didn't changed a single thing, not even the name) and presents it in the exchange. Dr. Clayton Forrester gets angry at this, because plagiarism is the only vile act even he won't condone.
    • However, Clayton's daughter Kinga Forrester has no such reservations about stealing ideas. Starting with the episode Cry Wilderness, all of her inventions are just adaptations of in-theater riffs from Jonah and the 'bots. For example, in one episode Jonah jokes that a ghost character's amulet must be an "Afterlife Alert", so in the next episode Kinga invents the Afterlife Alert for real. In The Land that Time Forgot Jonah finally figures out what's happening and calls Kinga out for the intellectual theft.
  • In one episode of Cheers, Diane was having no luck trying to sell her writing to a magazine, and was considering giving up. Then she was shocked to read that Sam had submitted a work that was accepted by the same magazine. She was almost certain that he had plagiarized it, and spent days trying to find the actual source, but could not. Eventually, Sam told her that it wasn't his work - it was hers. He had taken one of her old manuscripts and submitted it to tell her You Are Better Than You Think You Are!.
  • 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 "...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.
  • JAG: In the season nine episode "Secret Agent Man", one of Mikey Roberts's classmates at the U.S. Naval Academy is accused of plagiarism.
  • The Waltons episode "The Chicken Thief" had a subplot where Ben won a magazine poetry contest, but was guilt ridden since he got the idea for from an old poem John-Boy wrote. After much trepidation, he confesses to John-Boy and learns that his older brother doesn't consider it plagiarism since what Ben did is perfectly acceptable for creative writing.
  • Degrassi Junior High has an episode where Arthur helps Yick plagiarise Stephanie's work, as part of an experiment he is doing on Raditch (mainly to get Raditch to stop pigeonholing Yick). Raditch eventually sees through it, and Yick ends up writing some of his best work.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation has at least one incident concerning Paige. She's overworked and suffering panic attacks (and isn't helped by a teacher who mispronounces her surname), so she downloads a paper. Unfortunately for her, it's a common method of cheating.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati has the episode, "Dear Liar" where Bailey wrote a story of a young patient was a partially fictional amalgamation of the patients she visited at a children's hospital. Before she could reconsider airing it, Les jealously decides to read on air as his own work and thus puts the radio station's broadcast license in jeopardy. When Andy confronts him about his plagiarism during the crisis by challenging him to look up the word in the dictionary, Les does so and reads "The act of plagiarizing" while completely missing the point of the definition.
  • An episode of Castle has the main character, a mystery novelist, reveal that when he was a kid he paid another student to write a paper for him, which went on to receive acclaim from his teachers when he submitted it. The guilt and shame of receiving praise for work that wasn't his and the resulting feeling of being a fraud so affected him that he claims his entire career since has been an attempt to make up for it.
  • The Mystery Woman TV movie Game Time has this as a plot point - The murder victim hired a graphic designer/con artist to design his website. While working on it, he stole a prototype murder mystery game from the victim and passed it off as his own game. The con artist became a suspect when the author confronted him before his murder.
  • One episode of Roseanne has slacker Darlene buying a paper from Becky. When she gets a B, Roseanne is thrilled, until Darlene tells the truth.
  • In The X-Files, "Ghost in the Machine", Mulder's old partner from Violent Crimes steals his profile on the killer and presents it himself. Laser-Guided Karma drops his elevator down the shaft.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series plays this briefly as a joke. After Garth takes over the asylum in "Whom Gods Destroy", he has the other patients put on a show. Another patient, Marta, agrees to perform a sonnet she claims to have written that morning. A minute into her performance, Garth jumps out of his chair yelling "You wrote that?" He points out that it was actually written by William Shakespeare. She admits that he wrote it and says she wrote it again that morning. Later in the episode, she recites another poem; although nobody bothers to point it out this time, it's equally unoriginal, being the first stanza of one of A. E. Housman's Last Poems.
  • 227 had an episode where Barry has his students (including Brenda) write an essay on immigration and the top five would get to appear in a music video by Bobby Brown. Brenda wastes the time she was given and ends up plagiarizing an essay her mom Mary had written on the subject which had earned an A. However, Brenda only gets a C and Mary is doubly mad, both that Brenda ripped her off and that it had only gotten a C. (It turns out that was because it didn't cover immigration over the previous twenty years because it was written twenty-five years earlier.)
  • Used in an episode of The Sleepover Club. One of the girls is tempted to pay for a premade homework assignment to pass off as her own, but she ends up backing away, but both the Alpha Bitch and one of the male antagonists paid for his services. And they exposed each other when one of them read their report out loud...
  • In Father Ted, when working on an entry for the Eurosong competition, Ted steals the melody from the B-side of a Norwegian entry in the same contest in a previous year. He aborts the plan when he discovers that the original wasn't nearly as obscure as he'd thought.
  • Kingdom Hospital: Dr. Stegman gets his biggest comeuppance toward the end of the series, when it's discovered that he put his own name on a young, female doctor's thesis (he credited her as "with assistance from"). He did it because he thought his name would give it some level of prestige. Thus begins his Villainous Breakdown.
  • A Running Gag in Goodnight Sweetheart is that Gary has developed a reputation as a songwriter in 1944 based on the works of The Beatles. He has to keep coming up with excuses not to take them any further than playing them at the pub, lest he completely alter musical history.
  • CSI: This was the big twist regarding the motive of the killer on "A Space Oddity" (the episode with the Affectionate Parody of Star Trek: The Original Series): the executive producer of a revival project of an In-Universe Expy of Trek, "Astro Quest", had stolen the idea of a university literature professor on how to make the show Darker and Edgier ("deconstructing the idol", so she called it) and used it to create his pilot. The trouble is that he applied the philosophy that her treatise was trying to expose incorrectly, and the resulting demo reel was a "Nothing Is the Same Anymore" Wangst-fest that actually enraged the show's fans into nearly causing a riot (and to further the gag, no less a man than Ronald D. Moore called out the executive on the reel's awfulness). The professor confronted the executive on the theft and him twisting around the message she wanted to deliver, and he accidentally slipped and hit a part of the show's set hard enough to die on the spot.
  • The pilot episode of Murder, She Wrote featured this as a joke. Jessica Fletcher gets accused of this by a woman named Agnes Peabody during a disastrous trip to New York, and gets served a subpoena. Jessica later finds out from her new publishing agent that Agnes Peabody's actually a con artist who does that shit on every new author who comes to the city.
  • Death in Paradise
    • Academic plagiarism was motive for murder in the episode "A Stormy Occurence". In this episode, the killer plagiarized the work of one of his students and passed it off as his latest book. The victim found out and wanted to turn the killer in for plagiarism, which got him killed in the end. This is lampshaded throughout the episode, as the killer (who's supposed to be an expert) makes a faulty prediction about a hurricane passing over Saint Marie, while the victim (the actual genius) was spot on with his prediction.
    • Comes up in the episode "The Secret of the Flame Tree." It turns out Sylvie Baptiste did not, in fact, write The Flame Tree; it was her mentally ill sister, Lizzie. Sylvie stole the manuscript knowing Lizzie was too sick to ever pursue publishing.
  • In "The Poetry Contest" from The Kids Are Alright Timmy swipes a poem his mother wrote and they enter into a battle of wills over whether he will confess, going so far as to enter the poem into a local contest, which it wins. It turns out that Mom had herself plagiarized the poem decades earlier so she can't bust Timmy without acknowledging her own wrongdoing.
  • On Schitt's Creek, Jocelyn accuses a shocked Alexis of plagiarizing her economics paper, and Alexis quickly realizes that she did not write it and figures out that Johnny had done so without her knowledge. She confronts Johnny who is holding the Idiot Ball and is surprised to learn that taking something one's dad wrote and claiming it as your own is plagiarism. Alexis writes a new paper and gets a C, and Jocelyn tells the Roses that they should be proud of Alexis because she wrote her paper herself.
  • Victorious had an episode where Tori and Andre were working together to write a new song they wanted to show off to a music producer. The two had a falling out and Tori auditioned by herself, using music that Andre had written originally. She claims that she didn't mean to do it and that the music had simply gotten stuck in her subconscious. The two make up and work together to refine the song for the producer.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Take My Life...Please!", America's "hottest comic" Billy Diamond stole a routine about a gorilla eating a banana peel from a struggling young comedian named Dave, who approached him for advice. He performs it on the Talk Show Larry Gibbon's Hollywood, unaware that Dave is in the studio audience. As he drives away from the studio after the show, Dave pulls a gun on him from the back seat. He is desperate as he has no money and his wife is pregnant. The two men struggle with the gun and both are killed when the car crashes. Diamond finds himself in an Ironic Hell where he is forced to tell an extremely amused audience about all of the terrible things that he has done, including stealing Dave's routine.
  • Julie and the Phantoms: Luke, Alex and Reggie are outraged to discover that after their deaths their bandmate, Bobby, released the songs they wrote together but didn't credit any of them (even though one song was called "My Name Is Luke"). Julie notes that his music hasn't been as good in recent years, implying that he's run out of material to steal from his dead friends. When they learn how rich and famous Bobby became off their work the ghosts immediately decide to haunt him as payback.
  • In Sex Education, Maeve runs a side hustle writing essays for her classmates. She's a little too good at them, and gets in hot water when Adam enters the one she wrote for him into an essay contest and wins. Her teacher, Ms. Sands, decides that her being expelled would be a waste of her intellect, and decides to mentor her, eventually convincing her to join the school quiz team, which she excels at.

  • Tom Lehrer's "Lobachevsky", from Songs by Tom Lehrer:
    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 as fictional, 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.
  • An Oscar Wilde quote, "Talent borrows, genius steals", was etched in the run-out groove of The Smiths single "Bigmouth Strikes Again".

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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 BioShock Infinite, "tears" to alternate universes sometimes open, letting you see the contents of another universe, often at a different time. Musician Albert Fink found some tears that had music playing, and readily claimed their lyrics and melody as his own while making them more like the kind of music played in the early 1900s setting. The result are anachronistically-arranged versions of songs that in our universe won't be written until decades after that universe's time, including a barbershop quartet arrangement of "God Only Knows" and a ragtime piano cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World".
  • In Persona 5, Ichiryusai Madarame is an artist who steals his students' work to pass off as his own. Fittingly, he represents Vanity of the Seven Deadly Sins. In a case of Gameplay and Story Integration, this is also reflected in his boss battle. Several of Madarame's skills are the same as your own skills, only with fancier names (Thunderclap = Zionga, Flame Dance = Agilao, Silent Snowscape = Bufula, etc.). The best example being his special attack Madara-Megido, that unlike the real megido spells, does pitiful damage (~10 at a point where your characters' HP are above 200). This truly cements Madarame's creations are pale, inferior imitations of other works.
  • Borderlands 2: In one sidequest, Sir Hammerlock shamelessly asks you to find his dead boyfriend's notes so that he can plagiarize them for his own manuscript.
  • OG Loc in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a try-hard gangsta rapper wannabe who finally achieves his big break when he enlists CJ to help him steal the rhyme book of the far more successful rapper Madd Dogg. It's enough to make him famous... at least, until Madd Dogg finds out and has CJ steal it back and publicly humiliate Loc.
  • In D3's detective attorney game The Trial, one of the cases Momota has to solve is about Paul, a fictional character from Show Within a Show anime The Stars, who is actually traced and modified from Kasuga, the mascot from the Kasugaya sweets shop. Momota the defense attorney must prove that the company who made the anime has plagiarized the shop mascot.
  • Psychonauts 2: Hollis Forsythe's memories reveal that during her time as a nurse, she developed a research paper of using Mental Connection to treat patients. Her superior Dr. Potts renamed, published, and took all the credit for it, which caused a very upset Hollis to use her Mental Connection technique on Potts to mess with his mind in revenge.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 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"; Roger Meyers Sr ripped off the idea for Itchy from a guy named Chester Lampwick; when exposed, his son tried to justify it:
      Roger Meyers Jr.: Animation is built on plagiarism! If it weren't for someone plagiarizing The Honeymooners, we wouldn't have The Flintstones. If someone hadn't ripped off Sergeant Bilko, there'd be no Top Cat, Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Hah! Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney.
    • And ironically, the elder Meyers was a victim too, it seems, the U.S. Post Office having stolen his "Manic Mailman" idea for the Mr. Zip design.
    • "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. The story he wrote about Baghdad was also a fraud. He was in Basra.
    • Homer Simpson dreamed about becoming an inventor. After some ideas of his were rejected, he "invented" a chair with a special mechanism that prevented him from falling but he later found out Thomas Edison invented but didn't patent it. Homer and Bart went to the Thomas Edison Museum to destroy Edison's chair so there'd be no evidence Homer didn't invent it. There, they had a change of mind and left without destroying anything. Unfortunately, they also left Homer's electronic hammer, which, unlike what Marge thought, caught on. Thomas Edison was credited for the hammer and his "already wealthy" heirs got even more millions.
    • Flaming Moe, as the beverage was called after Moe stole it from Homer. (Although, as Lionel Hutz later tells Homer and Marge, you can't copyright a drink.)
    • "Dial N for Nerder":
      Bart: I didn't know there was a national park here.
      Lisa: You wrote a report on it last week.
      Bart: The internet wrote it. I just handed it in.
    • In "Krusty Gets Kancelled", Gabbo stole his crank call segment from Krusty, who stole it from Steve Allen.
    • And that was neither the first nor the last time. In "Homer the Clown":
      Woman: [over intercom] George Carlin on three.
      Krusty: [answers phone] Yeah?... Lawsuit? Oh, come on. My "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" bit was entirely different from your "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" bit. ...So I'm a thief, am I? Well, excuuuse me! [to his accountant] Give him ten grand.
      Woman: Steve Martin on four.
      Krusty: Ten grand.
    • And in the second part of "Who Shot Mr. Burns", Krusty accuses Smithers of stealing a joke from him, only for Sideshow Mel to remind Krusty that he stole it from last night's episode of a show called Pardon my Zinger. (This is actually a clue that clears Smithers; the episode aired around the same time that Burns was shot, so if Smithers was at home watching the show, he couldn't have been the shooter.)
  • King of the Hill
    • In one episode, 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 another episode, Randy Travis stole one of Peggy's song ideas and turned it into a hit. Peggy's Know-Nothing Know-It-All boasting came back to bite her in the ass when nobody, not even Hank, were willing to believe her complaints.
  • 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!
  • 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.
    • FG also has an accidental version, where Brian's (terrible) novel Faster Than the Speed of Love is 99% similar to the Iron Eagle movies, which he says he's never seen. His attempts to prove that his novel is original only make things worse, such as when he mentions a drug-smuggling ring (which, as Lois points out between hysterical laughter, was the plot of Iron Eagle III).
  • In the Gargoyles episode "Cloud Fathers", Xanatos captures Coyote the Native American trickster 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.
  • The Kids From Room 402: Vinnie Nasta made a habit of presenting his big brother Tony's reports as his own but the teacher always remembers having already evaluated them back when Tony was her student. One time included a contest entry, which Vinnie checked to be sure Tony wasn't her student back then. She was a juror for the contest.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks:
    • In "Court Action", to avoid having to write a report about a sport of his choosing, Alvin steals an old report from Simon's. Unfortunately, he forgets to check which sport Simon wrote about.
    • The first time the Chipettes appeared occurred when the three main characters found out - accidentally - that this other band was using their name. Also accidentally. (While Dave did the smart thing and called his lawyer, Alvin decides to wager the name. (He loses, because the girls cheat.) The issue was resolved when the girls actually try to perform under the name, to an audience expecting Alvin's band. Uh-oh. (Fortunately for them, Alvin is very forgiving, jumping in and introducing them as guest musicians, who they quickly call the Chipettes.)
  • Arthur's friend Francine accidentally plagiarizes a school report off not-Wikipedia, not knowing what plagiarism is until after she hands it in. Once older sister Catherine finds out what she did, she enlightens her and tell her to tell Mr. Ratburn. Francine has a nightmare, and decided to confess, at which point he tells her that two crimes happen when someone plagiarizes: The original author is robbed of credit and the person who plagiarizes is robbed of learning something. She gets a "B", then kisses the paper. Arthur is confused at her pleasure, but she's happy because she earned the "B".
  • Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: "Magnificent Muttley" episode "Leonardo Da Muttley" featured a King offering a reward to whoever invented a flying machine. Dastardly stole two of Muttley's designs but both resulted in Dastardly believing he should suggest Leonardo to invent the parachute.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: Bash entered one of Viceroy's inventions as his own at the Science fair. His grade was a C, which he believes to be a number.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "Harmony Steals The Show", Harmony was accused of plagiarism when his accuser presented the argument before a judge that he wrote an original symphony for the Smurf to use as his own under a signed contract. Harmony was cleared of that charge when it is revealed that his accuser had plagiarized pieces of other musicians' works to create his "original" symphony.
  • An episode of The Looney Tunes Show has Daffy learn that Bugs got his vast fortune by inventing the carrot peeler. Jealous, Daffy steals Bugs' plans for an automatic carrot peeler and becomes rich, but the untested machines have a dangerous flaw. It could be dealt with, as explained in the seventh step in the plans, but Daffy was too lazy to read beyond step three. As a result, Daffy gets chased out of town by people with Torches and Pitchforks.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: "The Haunted Sonata". For generations, the Duntchecks lived the life of Royalties Heir because Franz Duntcheck stole a sonata from its real author, a woman named Anna Kafka who, because of her gender, was initially afraid of not being appreciated. Once the truth was revealed, Irina Kafka, as the current heiress of the real author, got the money.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the episode "Rarity Takes Manehattan", Rarity lets Suri Polomare, an old friend who happens to have entered the same fashion contest as her, have a bolt of a new fabric Rarity had developed. Suri promptly uses the fabric (and the hoofwork of her Beleaguered Assistant Coco Pommel) to copy Rarity's dress designs, forcing a stressed-out Rarity to improvise new outfits and threatening her relationship with her friends. Fortunately, Rarity not only wins the contest, but Suri's jerkassery drives Coco to quit and side with Rarity.
    • In "Friendship University", the Flim-Flam Brothers somehow came into the possession of Twilight's coursebook for her Friendship School, but skipped every other page so that they could teach the same thing in "half the time". And make ponies pay for it, of course.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012):
    • In the episode "The Big Feathered Parade," Blythe tries to enter some designs she made into the titled parade, but gets rejected by the judges because she's too young. She then runs into another designer, Ramon, who admires Blythe's designs so much that he decides to steal them and use them in the parade. Luckily, he gets caught in the end and Blythe gets full credit for the designs.
    • Ramon tried the same trick in the episode "Plane it on Rio," when Blythe enters Carnival.
  • From the Batman Beyond episode "Sentries of the Last Cosmos", Simon Harper is eventually revealed to have stolen the credit for creating the titular video game franchise from it's actual creator, Eldon Michaels. He tries to have Michaels killed to cover it up before the truth is exposed.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • In "Mr Pigeon," Chloe takes a picture of Marinette's design blueprints for a hat and hires someone else to make it. This backfires on her when it turns out that they did copy Marinette's design perfectly—including Marinette's signature on the brim.
    • The conflict of the episode "Silencer" is kicked off by producer Bob Roth ripping off Kitty Section's video (which they submitted to Bob for a contest which turned out to be a scam) for use by EDM disk jockey XY, and subsequently mocking Luka (the group's guitarist) and Marinette (their costume designer) when they sneak into the TV studio to call him out, which enrages Luka to the point where Hawk Moth is able to akumatize him into Silencer.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode, "If You're So Smart Why Aren't You Rich", Daniel Mockridge takes credit for the creation of a video game called The Riddle of the Minotaur, created by his programer, Edward Nigma, and denies him any kind of royalties since he's under a work-for-hire contract. This comes back to bite him in the butt as Nigma takes on the persona, the Riddler, to take his revenge. Batman and Robin end up saving Mockridge, but Robin laments how legally, he's still is gonna get off scot free and make a fortune off of the game. Batman points out that may not be the case, since they were not able to catch the Riddler, meaning Mockridge may have his fortune, but will now live in a constant state of paranoia over Nigma coming back to possibly finish the job.
    Bruce Wayne: How much is a good nights' sleep worth? Now there's a Riddle for you.


Video Example(s):


Alvin and the Chipmunks

To avoid having to write a book report, Alvin steals an old report from Simon. Unfortunately, he forgets to check which topic Simon wrote about.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / PlagiarismInFiction

Media sources:

Main / PlagiarismInFiction