Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Bob Dylan & More Stars Accused of Plagiarism (PHOTOS)

Jay-Z’s been accused of plagiarizing parts of his memoir, ‘Decoded.’ From Beyonce to J.K. Rowling, see more notables who have been called copycats.

Getty Images (3); Nick Cunard / Rex (bottom left)

Getty Images (3); Nick Cunard / Rex (bottom left)

Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Bob Dylan & More Stars Accused of Plagiarism (PHOTOS)

Rap mogul Jay-Z has been accused of plagiarizing parts of his 2010 memoir, ‘Decoded.’ From Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga to Joe Biden and J.K. Rowling, see more notables who have been called copy cats.

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He’s got 99 problems and plagiarism’s one. Rapper Jay-Z has been accused of plagiarizing parts of his 2010 memoir, Decoded, by a man named Patrick White, who claims that in 2009, his personal computer was compromised and “various expressions/colors/phrases” from his work then showed up in the 42-year-old rap mogul’s memoir. White alleges he attempted to contact Jay-Z (whom he references as the “co-author” in a lawsuit filed June 13 in Los Angeles) but to no avail. He is seeking unspecified damages for copyright infringement and invasion of property.

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Jonah Lehrer

In an odd twist on the traditional plagiarism story, New Yorker writer Jonah Lehrer recently was revealed to have recycled portions of his own writing in publications including The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. Lehrer also apparently has copied portions of other writers’ work too, most notably New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell.

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Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s folk hits have long been heavily influenced by his musical predecessors, but that’s not the borrowing that got him in trouble last September. For his Gagosian show, the folk icon was accused of basing his paintings directly on photographs by artists such as Cartier-Bresson. Comparing Dylan’s paintings with his sources makes the similarities obvious, but many, including other artists, argued that certain kinds of paintings have long been based on photographs and that Dylan’s offense was nothing out of the ordinary.

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Lady Gaga

Upon listening to both Lady Gaga’s 2011 song “Born This Way” and Madonna’s 1989 hit “Express Yourself,” the similarities are immediately striking. That’s what listeners piped up about last year, when Lady Gaga first released the single—though at first, the singer insisted she had the Queen of Pop’s blessing for using her tunes: “I got an e-mail from her people and her, sending me their love and complete support on behalf of the single and if the queen says it shall be, then it shall be,” she said last February. After reports of plagiarism refused to go away however, Gaga defended herself more aggressively. “If you put the songs next to each other, side by side, the only similarities are the chord progression,” she told NME. “It's the same one that's been in disco music for the last 50 years. Just because I'm the first fucking artist in 25 years to think of putting it on Top 40 radio, it doesn't mean I'm a plagiarist, it means I'm fucking smart. Sorry.” Madonna herself made her thoughts on the matter known last month during a concert at Tel Aviv, where she performed a mashup of “Express Yourself” and “Born This Way” that highlighted the two songs’ similarities.

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Joe Biden

Before he was President Obama’s VP, Joe Biden was forced to stand down from his own presidential run in 1988, when reports surfaced that his law school career had been marred by an instance of plagiarism in his first year, when he copied portions of a law review article in his paper. Biden also was plagued with another copycat controversy when it came out that he allegedly had used material from others’ speeches without attribution. Biden called the controversy at the time “much ado over nothing” and insisted that he had copied without “malevolent” intent.

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George Harrison

George Harrison’s iconic 1971 song “My Sweet Lord” sounded a little too much like the Chiffons’ 1962 hit, “He’s So Fine,” according to the Chiffons and their songwriter, Ronnie Mack. A prolonged lawsuit filed by the Chiffons against Harrison eventually found that Harrison had only “subconsciously” copied the 1962 hit and he was ordered to pay $587,000 for the rights to “He’s So Fine.”

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James Cameron

When promoting his blockbuster hit Avatar, director James Cameron was open about his influences: Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Dances With Wolves were all cited by the director as influences. But one possible source material that Cameron did not mention was the 1957 Poul Anderson novella, Call Me Joe. The synopsis for the novella is as follows: “Call Me Joe centers on a paraplegic—Ed Anglesy—who telepathically connects with an artificially created life form in order to explore a harsh planet (in this case Jupiter). Anglesy revels in the freedom and strength of his artificially created body, battles predators on the surface of Jupiter, and gradually goes native as he spends more time connected to his artificial body.” Sound familiar?


Jay-Z’s not the only one in the family to have been accused of plagiarism—his wife, Beyonce, was accused of stealing another dancer’s moves for the video for her hit, “Countdown.” Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker reportedly told Belgian radio station Studio Brussel that the singer’s video amounted to “plagiarism.” A YouTube video that splices the two dances makes the similarities clear for any doubters. In a statement addressing the controversy, Beyonce acknowledged that De Keersmaeker’s ballet “Rosas danst Rosas” was “one of many references” for “Countdown,” along with Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, Brigitte Bardot, Andy Warhol, Twiggy, and Diana Ross.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

Even one of the foremost leaders of peace and tolerance in the 20th century wasn’t immune to charges of plagiarism. Theories have abounded that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. copied portions of his academic papers, speeches, and other works from other authors and in 1991, a panel of Boston University scholars concluded that Dr. King had indeed plagiarized passages of his dissertation at the university in 1955.

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Alex Haley

Alex Haley, renowned author of the book Roots, which he purported to be a monumental family history stretching back to 18th-century Africa, was largely discredited when it turned out that the book was a historical hoax. Roots’ plot, main character, and entire passages were taken from 1967’s The African, by Hal Courlander.

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J.K. Rowling

The creator of the world’s favorite boy wizard faced a lawsuit last year, when the estate of deceased children’s author Adrian Jacobs alleged that Rowling had plagiarized parts of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire from his 1987 book, Willy the Wizard. Among the ideas that the Jacobs family alleged were stolen were the notions of a wizard competition and the notion of wizards traveling by train. However, the case was dropped after a New York district judge ruled that “the contrast between the total concept and feel of the works [was] so stark” that “any serious comparison of the two strains credulity.”