Pay Up! Plagiarism Costs $500

This must see video records an incident in which a blogger kindly but firmly requests payment for his work from a newspaper who plagiarized an entire article from his blog .  After discovering his blog post had been reprinted by a local newspaper without permission or credit, Duane Lester wrote a letter explaining the severity of the plagiarism offence, and he asked for $500 as payment for using his work. He then presented this letter to the newspaper in person. The video records the entire incident, and Lester walks away with a $500 check.

In a culture that seems to look for reasons to explain away or redefine plagiarism in an attempt to make meaning (or money?), it is evident that students are not alone in their struggle with understanding the nature and potential severity of plagiarism. In this video, the managing editor refuses to admit he plagiarized, but he pays the man. Some of his excuses even resemble student excuses. See if you can pick them out and name them in the comment section here on the blog.

Read the letter and watch the video 

Teaching Idea

This would be a great way to begin a discussion on plagiarism with students or other faculty.  I am interested to hear your comments on this incident from all perspectives and departments as the video is also a good study in argument, sociology, linguistics, legal studies, psychology, communication…There is something here for everyone.

Student excuses heard by the managing editor  – (Add yours to the comment section.)

Everyone is doing it

I didn’t plagiarize the whole thing

*My favorite – “I am 40 years older than you are.”

Melody Pickle

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4 Responses

  1. Holli Vah Seliskar says:

    “I have life experience…why do I need to support what I say or include references, I am a 70 year old man.” (Student at KU)

    • kuwcnews says:

      Hi Holli,

      It sounds like this student is struggling with what many students struggle with when they first learn about citation (no matter their age). There is a lot of confusion about what qualifies as common knowledge and what must be cited. Some guidelines for common knowledge can include common historical facts such as the date on the attack at Pearl Harbor or common theories in a field. In today’s world where knowledge seems to be more and more specialized, this may be even harder to define. For this student in particular, it may seem that he has even a wider breadth of common knowledge.

      This resource from the KUWC talks about common knowledge:

      You may also want to check out the U.S. Copyright Office for additional information.

      U.S. Copyright Office. (2009) Fair Use Retrieved from

      Let me know if you have more concerns about this or other matters.

      Thanks again for writing!


  2. Robley Hood says:

    The publisher’s anger and defensiveness remind me of a child caught with a hand in the proverbial cookie jar. What do his age, location, and small newspaper size have to do with outright theft? The blogger is calm and correct about copyright law and his rights, even when faced with the newspaper owner’s/editor’s threatening posture. I hope he blogged about the owner’s comments on the check, but I can’t tell because today his blog is down in protest of another issue. What an amazing video and event. Thanks for sharing this!

    • kuwcnews says:

      Good comparison, Robley. It is these reactions that make the video so interesting to me. The anger and the steps in the argument fascinate me. Thanks for your comment.

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