Problems of plagiarism in the entertainment industry

Plagiarism is an age-long problem that has plagued different sectors of society. It goes by various names depending on who’s asking – piracy, theft, copy, and cribbing. In the film industry, a copyright is an intellectual property that gives owners the exclusive right to their works. But technological innovations, rising prices, and other factors have increased the rate of unauthorized and unpaid-for use of intellectual properties and copyright violations. According to the Motion Picture Association, the economy loses $29.2 billion in revenue yearly and between 230,000 – 560,000 jobs to privacy. Let us examine the issue of plagiarism in film industries and how stakeholders are combating it. 

Problems of plagiarism in music, television, theatre, and show business 

The entertainment industry includes many sub-industries. But the most popular categories include music, TV, theatre, and show business. In academics, where duplication is most prominent, students copy assignments or write articles without citing sources. But one of the ways to write no plagiarism essays is by hiring plagiarism-free essay writing services. Unlike the education sector, plagiarism issues in the music industry are more complex. As a result, avoiding plagiarism in theatre doesn’t end with hiring a writer. Movies and music have various moving parts, and copying minute details can put you in a legal battle.  

Most people think a plagiarized song must be identical to the original in every beat. But this is not true, as revealed in the case involving Katy Perry and Marcus Grey. Music theft occurs when an artist or a musician uses or closely imitates music. It includes copying a portion of a melody and claiming it is authentic, unauthorized use of lyrics, and intentionally copying a musical idea or motif. 

All the instances above appear harmless. But they are not. All creative works, including music, have copyright protection. In the past, copyrights were mostly owned by recording companies. As a result, copying someone’s work without credit was challenging. Nevertheless, the advancement of digital media, online music platforms, and song sampling gave rise to unauthorized usage without credit. The following constitutes idea theft in the music industry: 

  • Melody.
  • Harmony. 
  • Rhythm. 
  • Sound. 

In screenwriting, the old system of mailing a physical copy of your screenplay to yourself to prove you are the owner does not ultimately protect against piracy. Filmmakers are often accused of copying dialogues, characters, screenplay, and plots. Not only this, but they also copy launch posters from other films. But most times, the accused defend themselves by saying they were inspired by or adapted the actual work. Some well-known plagiarism cases in the film industry include: 

  • Disney’s “The Lion King” was released in 1994, and Japanese Animator Osamu Tezuka’s “Kimba – The White Lion” aired in 1965. In both cases, the stories centered on an African lion cub whose father was murdered by the villain. The movies shared similar antagonists, supporting characters, scenes, and shots. 
  • The Martian screenplay was allegedly stolen from Mikhail Raskhodnikov’s Marsianin. 
  • The Terminator and Harlan Ellison’s “The outer limits.” 
  • The tune “Someday My Prince Will Come,” which Walt Disney used in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 

How is plagiarism regulated? 

Entertainment is replete with various examples of similarities between multiple works. Most times, movies are adaptations of novels, dramas, and books. As a result, we have intentional and accidental plagiarism. The association employs expert filmmakers, directors, scriptwriters, and editors to create new concepts. To use a piece, stakeholders must obtain permission from the owner of the rights in the original work and credit the creator. 

The Berne convention was adopted in 1886 to protect literary and artistic works. The convention covers creators like musicians, poets, painters, authors, etc. Apart from this, there are copyright laws that vary from one country to another. But according to Article 27 (2) of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, countries must protect the rights of the cultural community to ensure individual intellectual growth and encourage participation. The rules state, “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary, or artistic production of which he is the author.” 

An individual that believes his right has been violated can initiate a civil suit against the offender. Recently, Ed Sheeran and Katty Perry were involved in legal battles over copyright infringement, which they both won. Some relief granted under copyright law includes payment of damages, interim or permanent injunctions, sharing proceeds from the theatre production, and due credit. Below is a list of successful suits and settlements in the film industry: 

  • Former ZZ Top stage manager David Blaney won $600,000 in a settlement after a 5-year legal battle with Hudson, a sound engineer on a song they wrote together. 
  • Madonna was sued over her “Papa Don’t Preach” hit song and paid $2.5 million in another case for sampling a song by Fairuz without her permission and compensation. 
  • Oasis was sued for $500,000 by The New Seekers after it was alleged that its melody was taken off another song. 
  • Ohio Disc Jockey Lynn Toliver sued The Black Eyed Peas for sampling his song “I Need A Freak” and won $1.2 million. 

There are laws in place to discourage piracy, and the punishment varies depending on the situation. But first, you must prove someone else copied your work without credit. As a result, there are successful and unsuccessful suits. Some accusations remain unsettled, alleged, and forgiven by all parties. 

The positive and negative impact of music plagiarism 

Creativity is hard, and anyone who comes up with their song or script will tell you it is daunting. One of the most profound effects of piracy is that stealing someone’s idea is robbing them of their hard work. It decreases the motivation to create and reduces originality. 

When creatives don’t get recognized for their work, it kills the motivation to create. Creativity is more about the process than the outcome. Entertainers spend weeks or years to perfect a piece. So, plagiarizing the works equals stealing all the processes leading to the song. Individuals that favor outcome over process will repeatedly plagiarize other people’s work if you don’t check them. On the upside, piracy can boost sales of mid-tier artists. But the reverse is the case for well-known artists. 


Technological advancements have made music and films more accessible. Interestingly, it has also aided in identifying plagiarized works. You can use a plagiarism checker and other tools to identify similarities and report copyright infringement. Proven intentional copying attracts punishment, including monetary fines and providing due credits.  

Copying without due credit has affected the styles of music and movies that are made and played. But since it influences different industries, it won’t disappear anytime soon. However, one way to manage it is to improve the copyright act and adopt a system that helps authorities verify works and punish infringements. They include certifying projects and requesting the right assignments and authorization documents. 

Written by Monella