I moonlight (daylight?) as a writing teacher, and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: If it’s not your idea, cite your source. If they aren’t your words, cite your source. Failure to do so implies that those words and ideas are your own, which is not only dishonest, it’s plagiarism.
It would seem Shia LaBeouf was absent the day his English teacher gave the same lecture.
The actor — who found himself in the plagiarism hotseat back in February when his email to the director of the Broadway production of “Orphans” turned out to be taken verbatim from an 2009 Esquire article — is once again learning the difficult PR lesson of “giving credit where credit is due.”
LeBeouf’s short film “HowardCantour.com,” which was released on Monday, used entire passages (word-for-word) from graphic novel writer Daniel Clowes‘ story “Justin M. Damiano” and failed to cite or credit Clowes.
“I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall – and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visuals from a very personal story I did six or seven years ago and passed it off as his own work,” Clowes told BuzzFeed.
Once the issue came to light, LeBeouf took to Twitter to (sort of) apologize, saying in a number of tweets:
“Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work. In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation…I’m embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration. I was truly moved by his piece of work & I knew that it would make a poignant & relevant short. I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it. I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work. I f***ed up.”
Apparently unimpressed, Clowes reportedly intends to pursue legal action. His editor and the associate publisher at Fantagraphics Eric Reynolds said in a statement:
“[LaBeouf's] apology is a non-apology, absolving himself of the fact that he actively misled, at best, and lied, at worst, about the genesis of the film. No one ‘assumes’ authorship for no reason. He implied authorship in the film credits itself, and has gone even further in interviews. He clearly doesn’t get it, and that’s disturbing. I’m not sure if it’s more disturbing that he plagiarized, or that he could rationalize it enough to think it was OK and that he might actually get away with it. Fame clearly breeds a false sense of security.”
Affluenza, anyone? Maybe this flowchart, similar to the one I use with my students, will help prevent future”f*** ups.”