Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

If You’re Going to Plagiarize Your Commencement Speech, Don’t Lift It From YouTube

Axiom that everyone ought to know by now: The Web makes it really easy to steal other people’s work. But the Web also makes it easy to get caught.

This week’s example involves Patton Oswalt, who is a really great comedian, and Brian Corman, a valedictorian at Columbia University.

It’s hard to understand how Corman thought he could get away with lifting one of Oswalt’s routines for a speech he delivered at his May 17 graduation. But YouTube makes it very clear that this is precisely what happened.


Oswalt (in two parts):

I’m not sure who sussed this one out, but it may have been True/Slant columnist Michael Roston.

In any case, the story ends sort of nicely. Both Columbia and Corman apologized to Oswalt yesterday, and if you watch the official version of the speech on Google’s video site (GOOG), you’ll note that an apology/disclaimer pops up when Corman begins to speak. Sort of cool, actually.

Speaking of cool, here’s one of my favorite Oswalt bits. Also not suitable for commencement speeches (or for work, if swearing isn’t cool in your office):

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik