Is It Possible to Accidentally Plagiarize?Roundup
Yesterday, Vulture posted about Sam Smith's legal troubles over his hit "Stay With Me," a song with a melody that sounds pretty darn close to Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." (You can compare the two songs for yourself here, if you like.) Reports indicate that Smith and his team were very willing to work with Petty & Co. to reach a settlement out of court; as one source said to NME about the situation, "It wasn't a deliberate thing, musicians are just inspired by other artists."
Obviously, we don't know how these two songs came to sound so much alike. But you could call this kind of thing "accidental plagiarism," something Adam Grant, the professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, has written about on severaloccasions. "I'm interested in why people don't always give credit where it's due," Grant said in an email. (He wrote a whole book on that subject, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.)
Grant's preferred term for this behavior is "kleptomnesia," which — in the spirit of giving proper credit — he says was coined by the Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert to mean "borrowing someone else's idea without realizing you've done so." And while it's easy to assume that "idea theft is malicious or driven by self-serving intentions ... kleptomnesia happens even when we have the best of intentions," Grant said. ...
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