The Valuable Lesson That Robin Thicke Taught Students About Plagiarism

I have made the assertion that there are people that I have plagiarized in my life. There’s my uncle Mike, who was a teacher like I am now. There was Ed whose life will always be a living example of what I try and do. Both men have/had something I wanted and wore life the way I want to wear it. So, I copied them. And they let me.

But that is not the type of plagiarism that I am talking of in this post.

To “plagiarize” someone’s actions and traits is simply emulating those people – doing what they do in life situations, acting as they would act, prioritizing as they would, and proactively acting on situations as they would.

There are artists and athletes who idolize and emulate practices that their heroes have done in the past. It’s a form of respect and admiration.

But I want to talk about plagiarism in its denotative sense.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary gives the simple definition of plagiarism as:

“: the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person : the act of plagiarizing something.”

“Words” or “Ideas.” Passing them off as your own.

Vanilla Ice will forever be associated with a “hit song” that literally lifted a bass line from a collaborative effort from Queen and David Bowie, both legends in musical arts. “Ice, Ice, Baby” still plays every so often on the radio and when I hear it, I think of what an interesting tool it is to teach students about plagiarism. That, and it’s stupid to infringe on the work of icons who literally span generations with their art.

What Vanilla Ice did and what Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were found guilty of recently is called copyright infringement. It is nothing more than pure plagiarism – taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own.


In fact, it cost Thicke and Williams millions. As reported on today,

A five-year legal battle over the copyright of the hit song “Blurred Lines” has ended with Marvin Gaye’s family being awarded a final judgment of nearly $5 million against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams.

The pair had been accused of copyright infringement for their 2013 single because of the similarities to Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.”


And it not only cost them financially; it also puts a stain on their reputations.

Plagiarism might one of the worst offenses a professional can commit in many fields, especially if it deals with writing, research, or education.

And plagiarism is one of the worst offenses a student can commit, especially if that student is pursuing admission to an institution of higher education.

People are fired over it. College students are expelled by it.

And it can cause a letter of admission to a first choice college to be rescinded.