University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Professor Orly Lobel Quoted in Vulture and Slate on Whether Plagiarism Charges Hold up in Court

University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Professor Orly Lobel Quoted in Vulture and Slate on Whether Plagiarism Charges Hold up in Court

Don Weckstein Professor of Labor and Employment Law Orly Lobel

San Diego (December 14, 2017) - University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Professor Orly Lobel was quoted in a Vulture article and a Slate article that reported on whether plagiarism charges will be held up in court.

The article focuses on Emma Cline, author of last year’s successful novel, The Girls, and her ex-boyfriend, Chaz Reetz-Laiolo, who filed dueling federal lawsuits accusing the other of plagiarism. According to the article, plagiarism charges can be notoriously difficult to prove, especially between a pair of writers who once collaborated and critiqued each other’s work. Lobel was skeptical, particularly since nearly all of the instances of plagiarism Reetz-Laiolo’s complaint cited were not word-for-word quotations, but rather ideas, images, and fragments of anecdotes from their lives together — none of which are protected under copyright law.

Lobel said most of the examples of plagiarism given by both Cline and Reetz-Laiolo would not hold up in court.  One instance includes the mention of the body brush, a personal grooming implement. In an earlier draft of the book, Cline included this sentence: “My mother spoke to Sal about body brushing, of the movement of energies around meridian points. The charts.” Reetz-Laiolo claimed this plagiarized a sentence that appeared in his short story, “Animals,” in Ecotone magazine: “Laurel in the morning brushing her body on the patio with a body brush, slowly combing it up her legs towards her heart, up her arms towards her heart. Circling her belly. There was something totemic about her out there in the sun.”

But Cline’s complaint stated that she owned a body brush. “The law does not allow you to own those kinds of ideas for art,” said Lobel. “There’s no copyright infringement there. It’s very clear that our whole history of art, of writing, of literature is built on paying homage to previous authors, other authors, being in conversation, and that’s actually part of what art is.”

Read the full story on Vulture or Slate.

About Professor Orly Lobel

Orly Lobel is the Don Weckstein Professor of Labor and Employment Law at the University of San Diego, where she teaches and writes in the areas of employment law, intellectual property law, regulatory and administrative law, torts, behavioral economics, health policy, consumer law and trade secrets. Her current research focuses on innovation policy and intellectual property. Lobel ‘s works include Talent Wants to Be Free: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free-Riding (Yale University Press, 2013); “The Incentives Matrix: The Comparative Effectiveness of Rewards, Liabilities, Duties and Protections for Reporting Illegality” in 88 Texas Law Review 1151 (2010); “Citizenship, Organizational Citizenship, and the Laws of Overlapping Obligations” in 97 California Law Review 433 (2009); Encyclopedia of Labor and Employment Law and Economics (Dau-Schmidt, and Harris, eds.) (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2009); “Behavioral Versus Institutional Antecedents of Decentralized Enforcement in Organizations: An Experimental Approach” in 2 Regulations & Governance 165 (with Feldman) (2008); “Stumble, Predict, Nudge: How Behavioral Economics Informs Law and Policy” in 108 Columbia Law Review 2098 (with Amir) (2008); “The Paradox of Extra-Legal Activism: Critical Legal Consciousness and Transformative Politics” in 120 Harvard Law Review 937 (2007); and “The Renew Deal: The Fall of Regulation and the Rise of Governance in Contemporary Legal Thought” in 89 Minnesota Law Review 342 (2004). Her articles have won several awards including the Thorsnes Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship and the Irving Oberman Memorial Award. Lobel is a frequent speaker at universities throughout Asia, Europe and North America. She was USD's Herzog Endowed Scholar for the 2012-13 academic year and was the 2013-14 recipient of USD’s Thorsnes Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship.

About the University of San Diego School of Law

The University of San Diego (USD) School of Law is recognized for the excellence of its faculty, depth of its curriculum, and strength of its clinical programs. Each year, USD educates approximately 800 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 84 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The law school’s faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 35th nationally and 6th on the West Coast among U.S. law faculties in scholarly impact and 20th nationally and 4th on the West Coast in past-year faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.


Katie Pinto
(619) 260-4207


Contact Us

Phone: (619) 260-4527

View Directory

83° 61°

Visit Campus

Warren Hall, Room 201
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110