Saturday, March 27, 2010

Plagiarism of a misquotation?

The act of plagiarism comprises copying the text of another without attribution. One has a different issue when one attributes text to a person who said no such thing. In the realm of patent law, we have the "everything has been invented" quote attributed to Duell, who said no such thing.

Recently the matter came up with President Obama, who attributed the text:

'I am not bound to win, but I'm bound to be true. I'm not bound to succeed, but I'm bound to live up to what light I have.'

to Lincoln who did not actually say the thing. In an essay Honest, Mr. President: Abe Never Said It , JOHN J. PITNEY JR. suggests that Obama's writers copied the quote from Reagan's speechwriters:

President Reagan used the "bound to be true" line several times. (One may guess that President Obama's speechwriter got it from a Reagan speech and incorrectly took it for granted that the Gipper's staff had sourced it.)

If true, that would be plagiarism by Obama's speechwriters of a falsehood.

As a general matter, IPBiz has noted that propagation of falsehoods is more dangerous to society than plagiarism (although both are bad).

See also

Lemley on patenting nanotechnology

Did Mark Lemley name Gary Boone as the inventor of the integrated circuit?

Plagiarism vs. aliasing

UPDATE. The Duell quote is discussed at Patently-O. Tracing the Quote: Everything that can be Invented has been Invented

See comment:

Not the first time the Duell quote has been mentioned on Patently-O.

See the 2005 post on IPBiz
"Wrong expert prediction" site starts with fake quote of Duell

The fake quote of Duell appears in
the Patently-O blog as well as in Joseph Hosteny's article in the May 2005 issue of Intellectual Property Today (pp. 28-29). I had discussed the history of the fake quote in detail in
a post on IPBiz on May 27, 2005.


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