Self-Plagiarism

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Sometimes, a work becomes a surprise success and various imitators are made in its wake, usually by different creators. But on a few occasion, the same creators (or at least, the parent company) will make something that appears to be a transparent ripoff of their own success. This is different from Spiritual Successor in that the series are usually made in the same time period and that there is no reason the newer product couldn't have used the same license as the older work.

There are many reasons for this. It may because of the executive's belief that lazily changing the setting will in itself attract more viewers, milking a cash cow without making it seem too obvious or simply an author being unable to shake off his Signature Style.

A lot of what's on Recycled in Space is an example of this. Compare and contrast Expy (which is when an author recycle one or more characters but not the rest of the story), Signature Style, Follow the Leader, Better by a Different Name and Spiritual Licensee.

Examples of Self-Plagiarism include:


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In the Frank Miller-written Daredevil: Born Again, one of the Kingpin's lieutenants speaks with an excessive amount of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, which is played for laughs. He would later use the same type of gag when writing Shlubb and Klump (a.k.a. Fat Man and Little Boy) from Sin City.
  • Artist Greg Land is notorious for not only overusing photo references (tracing porn, basically) and plagiarizing other artists but also recycling much of his own work.

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • H.P. Lovecraft, despite his originality on almost all other fronts, had a tendency to create his own cliches and recycle plots and plot events he'd already used before, perhaps several times. One excellent and particularly extreme example is "Dagon" and "The Call of Cthulhu", the latter being pretty much a Remake of the former.
  • Meg Cabot freely admits to reusing names for minor characters in her different book series, mostly back in the days when she was writing under several different names, making it less likely that anyone would make a connection.
  • Greg Bear has reused some of the science-fiction concepts he invents in one book in completely unrelated books. For instance, Moving Mars and Anvil of Stars both use the concept of "hacking real life", while Darwin's Radio and Blood Music both use communication and reasoning among microorganisms as major plot points.
  • A more literal example occurs with Arthur C. Clarke's novel 3001 which simply cut and pastes several paragraphs concerning the Monolith builders' intentions from the original 2001: A Space Odyssey for the latter novel.
  • In American Psycho Patrick Bateman invokes this trope when reviewing Genesis, making claims such as the song "That's All" sounding too much like their previous song "Misunderstanding".
  • Shadow of the Lion, first book of the Heirs of Alexandria by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer, includes a fantasy reworking of Lackey's contributions to the science fiction shared-world "Merovingen Nights" begun by C. J. Cherryh, with the names changed but several passages taken almost word-for-word.
  • Oscar Wilde did this quite a bit.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

Music[edit | hide]

  • John Fogerty was once sued by his former label (the one who represented him when he was with Creedence Clearwater Revival, before his solo career) for sounding too similar to himself. In other words, they thought "The Old Man Down the Road" (which he recorded as a solo act) sounded too much like "Run Through the Jungle" (to which they owned the rights.) Fogerty won the case by performing both songs in the courtroom, illustrating the notable difference (though the songs do sound somewhat alike).
    • Unlike most musicians, Fogerty no longer had the publishing rights to his CCR songs; he had surrendered those and all future royalties to get out of his contract with Fantasy Records. With the departure of head Saul Zaentz from the company, the two sides have reconciled.
    • "Born on the Bayou" also sounds like the aforementioned songs.
  • The band Renaissance had a hit with "Northern Lights". A couple of years later they recorded "Bonjour Swansong" which has an almost identical tune.
  • Mike Oldfield's "Man in the Rain", "Moonlight Shadow", and "Poison Arrows" all sound extremely alike. Oldfield also repeated in Tubular Bells II as a Leitmotif a melody from "Guilty".
  • The style of the covers on Twisted Sister's Christmas album are influenced from some of their older songs. For instance, "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" is done in the style of "We're Not Gonna Take It", and even lampshades it by using a part of its solo too.
    • "We're Not Gonna Take It" itself already sounds a lot like "O Come All Ye Faithful".
  • The band Nickelback has been accused of this in most of their songs, especially "How You Remind Me" and "Someday."
  • The trance group Kaycee remixed Binary Finary's "1998", then made "Sunshine", which is a Suspiciously Similar Song version of said tune.
  • The Kinks released "You Really Got Me" in the summer of 1964. "All Day And All Of The Night" was released in October of the same year. These songs are practically identical, with nearly the same riffs and lyrics.
    • Ray Davies is a prolific self-plagiarist. The liner notes for one Kinks compilation point out that you can take any random Kinks song and find another very similar song elsewhere in their discography.
    • The riff to "All Day And All Of The Night" was (probably deliberately) self-plagiarized in the verses and refrains to "Destroyer" in 1981.
  • Beyoncé's "Halo" and Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone" sound similar, and were both written/produced by Ryan Tedder.
  • Linkin Park's early releases are pretty much interchangeable. In fact, if you look at the waveforms...
    • This has actually been lampshaded by the band members themselves. While promoting A Thousand Suns, they pretty much said that they could go into the studio and whip up a pre-Minutes to Midnight song in five minutes.
  • Chuck Berry was notorious for recycling guitar riffs and even whole songs, most famously taking "School Day" and retooling it as "No Particular Place To Go".
  • Rank 1 produced a Suspiciously Similar Song version of Cygnus X's "The Orange Theme" titled "Black Snow", but also did an official remix of it under their own names of Bervoets & de Goejj.
  • Talking Heads has "Life During Wartime", "Walk It Down", and "Girlfriend Is Better", which all sound very much alike.
  • "Cryin'" and "Crazy" by Aerosmith not only sound uncannily alike but also even have slightly similar names (both being titled a single, five-letter word beginning with "CR").
    • Not only that, they have virtually the same music video as well. Alicia Silverstone goes on delinquent sprees in both, however in the latter she is joined by a then-unknown Liv Tyler.
  • "With a Little Help from My Friends" and "Fixing a Hole" sound very much alike, and they're are from the very same Beatles album.
  • Another example of songs from the very same album: "Born to be Wild" and "Faster than the Speed of Life", although IIRC different members of Steppenwolf wrote the songs.
  • This Youtube video showcases a few examples of orchestral score composer James Horner's habit of repeating melodies he's already used in previous soundtracks of his. The film music compared is the scores to Avatar, Troy, Enemy at the Gates, and Willow.
  • In Tommy The Who used an instrumental tune from "Rael 1" (on the album The Who Sell Out) as a Leitmotif.
  • Cascada JHV'ed Groove Coverage's "Runaway" in "Bad Boy", then plagiarised themselves with a song ironically also titled "Runaway".
  • Coldplay's "Speed of Sound" sounds a lot like their earlier hit "Clocks".
  • The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd says Animals is full of this ("Dogs" recycles "Seamus", "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" copies "Have a Cigar", and "Sheep" is a pastiche of their psychedelic years).
  • The famous Jeopardy Thinking Music from Jeopardy!, composed by Merv Griffin, was self-plagiarised from a lullaby that Merv wrote for his son, Tony. The melody from the original lullaby, "A Time for Tony", was used as a prize bed on Wheel of Fortune for several seasons.
  • Notoriously common in the Baroque era, before copyright was invented. For instance, Johann Sebastian Bach reused both melody and arrangement of his own secular cantata Tönet, ihr Pauken (Sound, ye drums!) for his Christmas Oratory. The only thing that changed were the lyrics (that probably weren't written by Bach anyway). The cantata is now mostly known with the Christmas lyrics Jauchzet, frohlocket (Rejoice and be merry!).
  • Bernard Herrmann's opera Wuthering Heights has some music you might recognize from the films he scored. Given that the opera was never performed, this is understandable.
  • Subverted with Apollo 100. The band made rock versions of classical music pieces, like those composed by Bach and Beethoven. Their song Beethoven 9 leads in to Ode to Joy in the middle of the song, in the same way as the opening to their song Joy, it turns into Ode to Joy instead of Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring.
  • Merle Haggard has always been considered one of country's best lyricists. Musically, however...it's always seemed like he has maybe five or six tunes that he constantly recycles, sometimes altering progressions and tempos but not much else.
  • Songwriter Jim Steinman frequently raids his own history for choice bits that he recycles in new songs. One of the best examples would be a bridge consisting mostly of the repeated line "Godspeed, godspeed, godspeed, speed us away", which has appeared in, among other songs, "Nowhere Fast" by Fire, Inc. (from the Streets of Fire soundtrack); "Bad For Good" from Steinman's own album of the same name, later covered by Meat Loaf; and "Graveyard Shift", a song from his in-development Batman stage musical. On a less specific level, Steinman has several distinctive motifs that he has employed almost to the point of cliche—thunderous drums and a massively multitracked chorus among others—although these may be less a case of self-plagiarism than simply his Signature Style.
  • Legendary ACDC guitarist Angus Young once said, proudly, "People keep saying we've made the same record 13 times over but that's a filthy lie. We've made the same record 14 times over."[1]
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain are frequent abusers of this - you really can't go one album without finding at least two (some times up to 4) songs that sound almost exactly the same. This is particularly noticeable with their first three albums, which were all basically retreads of each other, just in different styles. Doesn't stop it from being awesome, though.
  • Scar Symmetry (yes, Scar Symmetry) did this once. One of the opening riffs on the title track to Holographic Universe sounds nearly identical to the riff played during the breakdown of 'Calculate the Apocalypse'.
  • Save for a couple albums, you probably won't be able to tell one Slayer song from another without looking at the title or listening hard to the lyrics.
  • Disturbed often uses the same ending notes for their choruses. For example, 'Decadence' and 'Asylum' end their choruses with the exact same notes.
  • Hybrid's latest single, "Blind Side", is a bit too similar to "Break My Soul" from their Disappear Here album.
  • Basshunter's DOTA and All I Ever Wanted are the same song with different lyrics.
  • Weezer's Rivers Cuomo wrote, then discarded, Songs From The Black Hole, a Rock Opera that was going to be their second album. The first song to leak from this was "Blast Off!", and it turned out that they had reused a riff that occurs in the last verse of the song as the basis for "El Scorcho". It was probably considered fair game for recycling because of the whole Lost Episode thing - in fact, a few other Songs From The Black Hole numbers were just plain reused out-of-context on Pinkerton or as BSides.


Theaters[edit | hide]

  • Gilbert and Sullivan plundered Gilbert's old "Bab Ballads" for plot ideas on a few occasions.
  • Todd in the Shadows says that in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Bono and The Edge sometimes just take some of U2's songs and put different lyrics (one is blatantly the same as "Vertigo"!).
  • Some of the music in Chess borrows from songs written by composers Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus for ABBA. In particular, the chorus of "I Know Him So Well" was based on the chorus of "I Am An A" and the chorus of "Anthem" used the chord structures from the guitar solo from "Our Last Summer".
    • Their musical Kristina från Duvemåla features some music recycled from Andersson's solo albums. The most noticable is "Ljusa Kvällar Om Våren," which is based on the second segment of the titular suite from Klinga Mina Klockor.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Quake and Doom. Practically the only thing that distinguished the first Quake from the latter series was that it had mouse-look and used true 3D instead of sprites.
  • Between the SNES Super Punch-Out!! and the Wii remake, Nintendo made a similar boxing game called Teleroboxer for the Virtual Boy.
  • After Turok 2 came out, Acclaim made another comic book-based FPS called Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M that ran on the same engine.
  • The Virtual Boy shooter Vertical Force is very similar to the earlier shmups Soldier Blade and Star Soldier. All of them were made by Hudson Soft.
  • In 1995, Atari Games released Area 51 which is a Light Gun Ga that uses digitalized actors for the characters and 3D for everything else. Two years later, they released another light-gun shooter named Maximum Force which had a different theme but was pretty much identical otherwise. Both games used the COJag (Coin Operated Jaguar) system board, and many of the machines ended up converted into 2-in-1 machines with both Area 51 and Maximum Force.
  • Some reviews accused Fossil Fighters of being an in-house Pokémon clone from Nintendo, since they're both Mons games—and the initial evil you fight is very similar to Team Rocket. However, aside from that, there's not a whole lot the two games share mechanics-wise, and even story-wise after about the halfway point.
  • Harmonix created Karaoke Revolution for Konami and the first two Guitar Hero games. After Activision purchased Red Octane, Harmonix were left with the rights to those games' source code, but not their brand names. Their next project was Rock Band, which used a tweaked version of Guitar Heros gameplay for guitar, and a tweaked version of Karaoke Revolutions for vocals.
  • Capcom had to relied on this once they had already milked out the Street Fighter II franchise dry. The Darkstalkers and Marvel series are the most immediately obvious examples. A much more obscure example is Ring of Destruction, a sequel to Slam Masters that ditched the wrestling format of the original game in order to play more like Super Street Fighter II.
  • Like Rock Band above, the Call of Duty series was created by former Medal of Honor developers. In turn, the later MoH games have gameplay rather similar to CoD. And now the series is dueling with Modern Warfare.
  • In 1997, 3DRealms released a first-person shooter called Shadow Warrior, a game based on the Build engine, about a loud-mouthed guy with big guns who likes breaking stuff and quipping sarcastic remarks about enemies he just killed. What does that remind you of?
  • Between Colony Wars: Vengeance and Red Sun, Psygnosis released a very similar space flight simulator called Blast Radius done on the same engine.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Miscellaneous[edit | hide]

  • This often occurs in academic publishing; somebody might write a conference paper about something, then decide to make it into a journal paper or book chapter later. As in music, publishers who own the rights to the previous publications can sue the author for copyright infringement. The only thing for it is to perform the study again.
  • Programming writer Herbert Schildt is notorious for this, frequently copy-pasting parts of his books to newer books, which might be almost forgivable if he wasn't so frequently wrong about some very basic things. His collected works are referred to by most programmers as "Bullschildt".