6 celebrities accused of plagiarism: from Taylor Swift’s Folklore logo and Chris Brown and Drake’s song, to Khloé Kardashian’s Good American fashion and James Corden’s ‘stolen’ Ricky Gervais joke

James Corden, Taylor Swift, Khloé Kardashian and Chris Brown have all been accused of plagiarism. Photos: AFP, AP, @khloekardashian/Instagram, Reuters

It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, when one’s work is replicated and pawned off as the result of someone else’s creative genius, it’s less flattering and more infuriating.

Though plagiarism – or the unauthorised copying and use of another’s work or intellectual property – is distinctly taboo and at times illegal, it still happens. Whether in academia, politics, business or arts and entertainment, instances of plagiarism and copyright infringement sadly abound … and even celebrities aren’t guilt-free.

So what are some of the most publicised incidents of celebrities accused of copying others’ works? Here are six prime examples …

1. James Corden

Accused of: using a Ricky Gervais joke

James Corden, the star of Mammals, poses at the premiere of the Amazon Prime Video series, on November 2, in West Hollywood, California. Photo: AP
One of the most obvious examples of plagiarism involves talk show host James Corden. During a recent episode of The Late Late Show, the 44-year-old host’s opening monologue included an almost verbatim replica of a joke from Ricky Gervais’ 2018 Netflix comedy special Humanity.
Discussing the events surrounding Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, Corden touched on Musk’s analogy where he compared the social network to a virtual town square.

“But it isn’t,” Corden said, “because if someone puts up a poster in a town square that says ‘guitar lessons available’, you don’t get people in the town going: ‘I don’t want to play the guitar! I want to play the piano, you piece of s***!’”

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But a quick glance at the gag from the Humanity stand-up routine shows it was all but a carbon copy of Gervais’ joke, in which the British comedian discusses comments he receives on Twitter: “That’s like going into a town square, seeing a big notice board and there’s a notice ‘guitar lessons’ and you go: ‘But I don’t f***ing want guitar lessons!’”

Ricky Gervais appears at a screening of Netflix’s After Life in New York, in March 2019. Photo: AP

The Office star – perhaps somewhat ironically – took to Twitter to comment on the blatant act of plagiarism. In a now deleted tweet, he quipped, “The bit about the town square advert for guitar lessons is brilliant.”

Corden apologised, per The Hollywood Reporter. However, in another interview, he claimed the story was blown out of proportion. And when a Twitter user asked Gervais why he deleted his tweet, he responded, “Started to feel sorry for him.”

2. Melania Trump

Accused of: copying Michelle Obama’s speech

Former first lady Melania Trump attends an event to mark National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month in the East Room of the White House in September 2020, in Washington DC. Photo: Getty Images
In terms of political plagiarism, there’s perhaps an example that’s no more renowned than Melania Trump’s speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. When viewed side by side, it indeed seems that at least parts of the former US first lady’s words were copied from her predecessor Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech.

While the two former first ladies may not have spoken the exact same words, there are undoubtedly similarities between the two speeches.

Per BBC, Trump’s team denied the allegations, claiming Melania, 52, had used “common words” and that there was “no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech”.

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3. Khloé Kardashian

Accused of: ripping off a local fashion brand

Khloé Kardashian attends the CFDA Fashion Awards at Cipriani South Street on November 7, in New York. Photo: AP
In 2017, Los Angeles-based designer Destiney Bleu accused Khloé Kardashian and her clothing company Good American of stealing designs from her own fashion line DBleudazzled. Bleu’s designs had previously been worn by A-listers including Beyoncé, Kylie Jenner and Lady Gaga, per Teen Vogue.
Beyoncé wearing a piece from DBleudazzled. Photo: @dbleudazzled/Instagram
Speaking out on Twitter, Bleu retweeted a promo video from the KUWTK star’s Good American brand, calling out the seemingly very similar designs. “When someone buys one of everything on your site, has you make them custom @dbleudazzled work, never posts it or wears it, then copies it,” she wrote.

According to RadarOnline, in May 2020, Dbleudazzled took the matter to court, filing a lawsuit against 38-year-old Kardashian and her clothing brand. The lawsuit reportedly accused Good American of stealing sparkling jumpsuit designs, asking for US$10 million as compensation. About a year after the filing, an out-of-court settlement was reached and the lawsuit was dropped, reported the same source.

4. Hailey Bieber

Accused of: plagiarising a quote on social media

US model Hailey Bieber attends the WSJ Magazine 2022 Innovator Awards at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York, US, on November 2. Photo: EPA-EFE
In 2016, Hailey Bieber (then Baldwin) shared on Instagram an image with inspirational words that seemingly commented on some online drama between Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Sofia Richie, but was quickly accused of ripping off author Melissa Molomo’s quotes without due credit.
An inspiring passage written by author Melissa Molomo. Photo: Melissa Molomo/Facebook

As reported by British media, the writer sent the then future Mrs Bieber a cease-and-desist letter calling for an apology and for the celeb to stop using the writer’s work without appropriately citing its source.

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The legal demand claimed that “in copying and using Ms Molomo’s work without permission, [Hailey Bieber took] credit and caused confusion as to whom the original author of this work is”. Furthermore it was noted that the 26-year-old model could be “liable for damages up to US$150,000”.

Bieber ultimately deleted the post, and there have been no further reports regarding any legal action.

5. Taylor Swift

Accused of: stealing the Folklore logo

US singer Taylor Swift poses with her six trophies during the 50th Annual American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California, on November 20. Photo: AFP
When pop star Taylor Swift released her 2020 album Folklore, she was accused of stealing the logo for the album’s merchandise from a company called The Folklore.

The Folklore is a black-owned business whose founder and CEO Amira Rasool took to Instagram to call the “Shake It Off” singer out. Posting side-by-side images of her designs with Swift’s Folklore merchandise, Rasool commented, “I believe the designer of the merch ripped off my company’s logo. I am sharing my story to bring light to the trend of large companies/celebrities copying the work of small minority-owned business owners. I am not going to let this blatant theft go unchecked.”

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Per ABC’s Good Morning America, Swift, 32, and her team responded – well – swiftly, releasing a statement that the designs would be updated to remove any correlation to The Folklore brand.

6. Chris Brown and Drake

Accused of: copyright infringement

Drake and Chris Brown visit Greenhouse in August 2010, in New York City. Photo: FilmMagic
After Chris Brown collaborated with Drake on 2019’s “No Guidance”, the pair of rappers soon faced allegations they’d ripped off the song “I Love Your Dress” by two lesser-known musicians, Brandon Cooper and Timothy Valentine, TMZ reported in 2021.

Per Billboard, Cooper and Valentine filed a lawsuit against Brown, 33, and Drake, 36, over copyright infringement, claiming alleged similarities between the songs and that both used the phrase “you got it” as the lyrical hook.

After some legal back and forth between the parties, including Drake being dropped from the lawsuit earlier this year, the case was eventually settled out of court, reported the same source.

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  • Melania Trump and Michelle Obama’s speeches were very similar, while Hailey Bieber posted an uncredited quote amid the Selena Gomez-Sofia Richie drama with Justin Bieber
  • Kardashian and her Good American brand were accused of copying designs from DBleudazzled, whose pieces have been worn by Kylie Jenner, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga