Top French journo prof ‘ripped off’ other media

A high-profile journalism school in Paris has been left red-faced after its executive dean was accused of plagiarising material from other media and using it in her other job as a columnist – despite the strict anti-plagiarism guidelines the school vigorously enforces on its students.

Top French journo prof 'ripped off' other media
The woman works as the executive dean of the journalism school linked to the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris. Students writing: Shutterstock

The executive dean of the journalism school linked to the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris has been forced to take a leave of absence after the media critic website Arrêt sur Images accused her of repeatedly copying full and partial word-by-word passages of text from other news outlets and using them in her own columns.

Some of those columns appeared on the Huffington Post news website and radio show France Culture and were found after Arrêt sur Images ran a number of her columns through a piece of software called Plagiarism Checker.

In a claim on its website, Arrêt sur Images described the journalist as a “serial copy-paster” who rarely cited the sources she got her material from.

“Out of almost half of her 20 columns, at least one sentence (and more often two or three sentences) was reproduced in the same way as an earlier source,” Arrêt sur Images said, accusing her of stealing material from its own journalists as well as from reporters working at radio station RTL, investigative website Mediapart and newspaper Le Monde.

In an internal email cited by AFP, the school’s dean Bruno Patino wrote to staff and students that “plagiarism is a very serious matter in journalism”.

“The school, which teaches ethics, cannot take such things lightly,” adding that the teacher has since taken a temporary leave from her duties pending an investigation into the matter.

Contacted by Arrêt des Images, the teacher was said to distance herself from “all dishonesty”, saying “I forget to cite some articles (sometimes), but it’s never done voluntarily and I correct it whenever there is a problem”.

Meanwhile, students studying at the journalism school where the teacher works are obliged to sign a code of ethics where they “do not plagiarize, do not present other people's thoughts as their own, and clearly quote fellow journalists when they use a text or even a few words from a text."

AFP said the school also uses software for student essays and texts to detect any cases of plagiarism.   

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Luc Besson ripped off Escape From New York

French film-maker Luc Besson was found guilty earlier this year of plagiarising cult classic "Escape From New York" with his sci-fi thriller "Lockout", according to documents seen by AFP on Friday.

Luc Besson ripped off Escape From New York
Luc Besson. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP

US director John Carpenter sued the makers of the 2012 film after spotting a slew of similarities with his 1981 science fiction favourite, in which Manhattan is turned into a huge prison island and Kurt Russell plays iconic anti-hero Snake.

A Paris court agreed with Carpenter, finding that relocating the action to a space station did not overcome the other glaring similarities, which were widely noted by critics when “Lockout”, starring Guy Pearce, was released.

“Both presented an athletic, rebellious and cynical hero, sentenced to a period of isolated incarceration — despite his heroic past — who is given the offer of setting out to free the President of the United States or his daughter held hostage in exchange for his freedom,” the court said in its judgement.

The court accepted that many aspects of the film were “stock elements in the cinema” but that too many details were the same.

The hero in both films “manages, undetected, to get inside the place where the hostage is being held, after a flight in a glider/space shuttle, and finds there a former associate who dies; he pulls off the mission in extremis, and at the end of the film keeps the secret documents recovered in the course of the mission,” the judges wrote.

“The difference in the location of the action and the more modern character featured in 'Lockout' was not enough to differentiate the two films,” they added.

The court fined “Fifth Element” director Besson's production company EuropaCorp along with writer and director James Mather and Stephen Saint-Leger.

They were ordered to pay 20,000 euros ($23,000) in damages to Carpenter, 10,000 euros to its co-writer Nick Castle and 50,000 euros to Studiocanal, which has the distribution rights to the 1981 film.

That is far less than the three million euros demanded by the claimants, but EuropaCorp is appealing the decision, which spokesman Regis Lefebvre denounced as a “hindering of the freedom of artistic creation”.

Lefebvre told AFP that the similarities were “part of the common stock of cinema and the principle of convicting someone… is unacceptable, even if the court only granted three percent of the damages demanded.”