- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A motivational speaker used similar or identical phrasing from passages by Mark Twain and poet Berton Braley without attribution during her 2015 commencement speech at Missouri’s Lincoln University earlier this month, according to a newspaper report.

Atlanta-based speaker and attorney Patricia Russell-McCloud quoted from or paraphrased at least eight passages previously attributed to authors, poets and others on May 16, the Jefferson City News Tribune (https://bit.ly/1FtuoqS ) reported.

Russell-McCloud did not credit others whose work was referenced in her roughly 20-minute speech, for which she received a standing ovation. She also received an honorary degree from the university.

She did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press or the News Tribune.

Lincoln University President Kevin Rome said in an email that the speech “was quite inspirational” and that he doesn’t believe the intent was to “deceive” students.

But he also questioned drawing on others’ work without sourcing them.

“I believe that credit should be given to the originators of thought as when one writes a piece,” Rome said. “Unfortunately, this didn’t occur and it’s a lesson learned for Lincoln University.”

University of Missouri media law professor Sandy Davidson said speakers must attribute parts of their work pulled from other sources or risk committing “a form of intellectual theft.” She said that could amount to copyright infringement.

Regardless, Davidson said the audience has the right to know if material used was taken from another source.

“I think people should do what I call ‘due diligence,’” she said. “If they’ve got some words circling around their minds and think that perhaps somebody else said that phrase - somebody famous in particular - they should use due diligence. In this era of the Internet, it’s so easy - just Google it.”

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Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, https://www.newstribune.com

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