Monday, October 15, 2012

Plagiarism and the Presidential Campaign

Photo from Romney for President website
Plagiarism has popped up in the Presidential campaign.

Friday Night Lights creator Peter Berg has charged the Mitt Romney campaign with plagiarism for lifting the slogan "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose" from his hit television show and using it as one of the Romney campaign slogans.

Berg may have a point.  The slogan was created by Berg for the character of Texas high school football coach Eric Taylor.  It was used regularly by the Taylor character to inspire his players during the show's five year run.

The phrase was picked up by the Romney campaign a few weeks ago and has been used without permission or attribution. 
This isn't the first time plagiarism has been raised in a presidential campaign.  In the 1988 campaign for the Democratic nomination, then Presidential candidate Joe Biden was accused of plagiarism for copying of a section of a speech by Neil Kinnock, Brittian's Labour Party leader, as well as lifting some other aspects of his campaign speeches. 

Politicians are always borrowing pieces of their speeches -- speeches which everyone knows mostly are written by unnamed speech writers.  When does borrowing, or copying, or being inspired by someone's words become plagiarism?

Over the next few weeks, I plan on a series of posts dealing with the issues of plagiarism, copyright infringement, and fair use.  I hope to explore the difference between permitted building upon the works of other, unethical plagiarism and illegal infringement. The answers are not always clear and often rest with the eye of the beholder. 

So how will these latest allegations impact the Presidential campaign?  Not at all. Mitt Romney's advisers may be well advised to quietly drop using the phrase. But it is not a trademarked expression so there seems no legal requirement to do so.  And really - with issues facing the nation such as the economy, jobs, the deficit, Afghanistan, Iran, cyber attacks, health care and government stalemate, do we really want to be voting based upon whether a campaign should or should not have borrowed an expression from a fictional football coach?

1 comment:

  1. You can try to minimize it with your ending to this post if you like, but as a writer nothing irritates me more than for non-creative people ripping off the intellectual property of creative people. That's what's at issue here! I've been a very undecided independent up until this point, but I have to say this lack of ethical behavior speaks volumes to me at this late stage in the election. It may be just a slogan by a fictional football coach, but it's also intellectual property stolen from a real human writer by a Presidential candidate. Sorry that you don't recognize the difference.