Skip to main content

Research Fundamentals Tutorial

Is copying ever ok?

In scholarly conversation, researchers continually influence each others' knowledge through their scholarly output.

The same is true in the arts. Painters, dancers, poets, and musicians (for example) rely on each others' artistic productions to inform their work. Think of Michael Jackson's signature 1980s move, the moonwalk. Jackson gave it a new 1980s attitude, but it had its origins in jazz and tap as early as the 1930s.

When he debuted his rendition in 1983, should Jackson have held made an announcement naming the moonwalkers who came before him?

Beyonce: Plagiarist or super fan?

In 2011 the singer Beyonce was accused of steeling content in the video for her song “Countdown.” Much of the choreography, clothing, and set design does bear striking similarity to work produced in the 1990s by the Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker.

Watch Good Morning America's coverage (2:49)

In this video, clips from "Countdown" are compared with de Keersmaeker's productions, "Rosas danst Rosas" (1997) and "Achterland" (1990). 

In the arts, copying is often accepted, even excepted. And citation is rare. How could Michael Jackson have credited the dancers who came before him during a live performance?

In a college setting, copying is not acceptable, and the consequences can be heavy.

Share you thoughts below. There’s no right answer:

 

What's your opinion? Did Beyonce plagiarize?
Yes: 837 votes (54.46%)
No: 700 votes (45.54%)
Total Votes: 1537
How could Beyonce have avoided accusations of plagiarism?
Put Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's name in the video.: 495 votes (29.78%)
Put the name of every artist she referenced in the video.: 645 votes (38.81%)
Nothing. Artists routinely reference each others' work and can't be expected to always be crediting each other.: 522 votes (31.41%)
Total Votes: 1662