In one of the more bizarre episodes of plagiarism in recent memory, Hollywood star Shia Labeouf faces possible legal action after admitting using the plot, characters and dialogue of a Daniel Clowes comic for his short film without permission or acknowledgement. At the same time, the troubled would-be director also faces possible legal action from Brooklyn indie publisher Melville House after it was discovered that LaBeouf also ripped off sections of Melville House author Benoit Duteurtre’s novel The Little Girl and the Cigarette to use in his mini-comics.
Indeed in the week since LaBeouf’s plagiarism of the Clowes comic was exposed in articles in BuzzFeed and Wired, new evidence of his plagiarism has emerged and its range grows more extensive and troubling with each passing day. While Labeouf has issued tweets and statements admitting that he plagiarized just about everything in Clowes' comic Justin M. Damiano, a 2007 comic about a film critic, to create his own film HowardCantour.com, a short film about a film critic, he has not addressed the plagiarism of Duteurtre’s novel. In The Melville House blog, Alex Shephard provides the details of Labeouf’s plagiarism.
Labeouf’s film HowardCantour.com was shown at Cannes Film festival in May but the plagiarism was first reported when he put the film online last week. He has since removed it, but the film and comic can be seen at BuzzFeed. But since this story broke on December 16, it appears that Labeouf is a serial plagiarizer, who grabs text or expressive material from anyone or anywhere without regard to acknowledgements, permissions, or even common sense. Dan Nadel, publisher of PictureBox, a New York City indie art comics publisher, reports that Labeouf lifted text from the PictureBox "about" page for his own Web site, replacing PictureBox in the text with the name of his venture.
In a series of articles over the last week, various publications have shown that not only has Labeouf plagiarized Clowes for his short film, but even a series of tweets apologizing for his actions were found to be expressions borrowed or plagiarized from other celebrities. Labeouf, who has portrayed himself as a would-be comics artist in the past, has attended at least one comics convention to show off a series of arty mini-comics he produced and to proclaim his love of the medium. The actor attended C2E2 in 2012, set up in Artist’s Alley and signed comics and talked to fans.
However, in his article on the Melville blog, Shephard shows that much of the text in some of these mini-comics has also been plagiarized, including large chunks of The Little Girl and the Cigarette which were used in the Labeouf comic Stale N Mate. Labeouf’s mini-comics were available online but have been removed.
Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds told PW that “Clowes is exploring all legal options,” in regard to Labeouf's acts of plagiarism. Fantagraphics was contacted by the BuzzFeed authors and Reynolds described watching the short film as “absurd and surreal.” Reynolds said, “it's like he can’t write a word without borrowing from someone else. It was funny on Monday but as this thing goes on its become creepy and sad.”
PW also spoke with Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson though he referred PW to a statement released by the house on Friday in which he said the company is “exploring all legal actions.” Johnson said the publisher has not heard directly from Labeouf about the plagiarism. “We take the rights of our authors very seriously and are exploring all legal options" the statement said. "We intend to vigorously defend the copyright of our author.”