It’s Thanksgiving week in the United States and many families will be gathering to enjoy a holiday meal, some time together, and the start of the holiday season.
Two things that won’t be on many people’s minds will be copyright and plagiarism issues. They are two topics not routinely paired with stuffing and turkey.
That said, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways these issues have influenced the holiday. Just like every other aspect of our lives, the legal and ethical issues that surround the content we enjoy have played a role in how we consume it.
So, with that in mind, here are five stories from this site’s history that show some ways copyright and plagiarism have helped shape the Thanksgiving holiday season (and vice versa).
To start with a fun one, this article looks at an episode of the children’s TV show Arthur entitled Francine’s Pilfered Paper, where Francine, predictably enough, plagiarizes her paper.
The story is centered around Thanksgiving break and features Francine struggling to complete her paper before the holiday. However, that holiday is nearly ruined by the guilt from her actions, setting the stage for her redemption.
For a children’s show, it’s a great episode about plagiarism (if a bit comically heavy-handed at times) and it explains both that plagiarism is wrong and why it is unethical.
Without a doubt, 2020 was a difficult year for school districts across the country and the globe. However, at least one superintendent, Michael Muñoz, may not have handled it the best he could.
When drafting a 500-word email to his faculty and staff to express his thanks for their hard work during the difficult times, he ended up plagiarizing nearly the entire letter from a variety of sources. Sent on Thanksgiving Eve, the story began to unfold over the break and initially resulted in him being suspended for one week.
However, after additional examples of plagiarism were discovered, Muñoz turned in his resignation and the school board voted to accept it. Just a reminder that, if you want to give thanks this Thanksgiving, it’s probably best to use your own words.
Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is associated with food. However, with the myriad of traditional and non-traditional dishes comes a great deal of recipe seeking, sharing and writing.
However, recipes are incredibly interesting from a copyright standpoint. A recipe itself is not protectable under copyright though descriptive text, photographs and other elements around it are. This has led authors to include large amounts of protectable material with their works (often leading to frustration from readers) and to a culture of protecting attribution and limiting copying of recipes through community action.
See Also: Why You Can’t Copy a Recipe Book
Back in 2010, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized some 82 domains that it claimed where trafficking in either counterfeit or trademark infringing goods.
The seizure took place over Thanksgiving break with ICE hoping to take the sites down at the start of the holiday shopping season. At the time, this move was seen as striking and sent shockwaves through the internet. However, it’s since become something of an annual tradition, with ICE trying to strike down as many sites as possible before or around Black Friday.
So keep your eyes open this holiday season and see if the tradition continues with more domain seizures around Thanksgiving.
Finally, for many, Thanksgiving represents the official start of the Christmas holiday season and that includes the start of holiday music.
But while much of Christmas music has roots that go back centuries and their compositions are long in the public domain, many songs are very contemporary (including more than a few “classics” that seem like they’ve been around forever.)
So, in this article we examine 10 Christmas songs including five that are in the public domain and five that are not. If you haven’t done it before, go through the list and see how many you knew were or were not in the public domain.
To those celebrating, please enjoy your holiday and may it be as safe and festive as you desire. Meanwhile, this site will be taking the rest of the week off but should return to normal posting on Monday the 29th.
Thank you all and have a great holiday week!