Two recent Palo Alto High School graduates learned a very public lesson about plagiarism, thanks to the same source that tripped them up — the Internet.
Word that Paly's two-year student body president, Mohammed Abid, and Baccalaureate speaker Malini Veerappan had taken parts of their speeches from existing, online talks spread rapidly throughout the online Paly community.
It caught the notice of the San Jose Mercury News, which broadcast the graduates' transgressions valley-wide.
Abid, who did not comment Wednesday, has apologized to the original authors of a portion of his speech given at the June 11 ceremony and to the broader community.
Veerappan could not be reached.
Fellow Paly graduate Andre Keiser said he spotted the similarities between Abid's speech and that of Mountain View's Lance Jabr when he was watching videos on http://www.CollegeHumor.com a few days after the graduation.
Most of Abid's speech is original, but he copied a joke that compares the college application process to the experience of wooing a bride.
Keiser originally thought that Jabr might have borrowed Abid's riff, but then learned Mountain View's ceremony had been held before Paly's.
"I thought it was really weird," Keiser said.
After a bit more searching, he discovered the links between Veerappan's speech and another online video.
Thinking that others would want to know, Keiser created a Facebook page that included all of the videos.
"I would say most people found it to be disappointing, but also found it kind of funny," Keiser said.
The graduates were surprised the plagiarism had occurred at their school, he said.
Keiser has since removed the page.
"My intent was just so that people would know about it," Keiser said.
He said he wasn't intending to embarrass his classmates, including the Stanford University-bound Abid or Veerappan, who had been active in debate and has said she plans to become a doctor.
"I think it was wrong, but I don't think it was horrible," Keiser said.
And he doesn't think plagiarism is as much of a problem at Paly, where many teachers require students to use http://Turnitin.com , an online service that checks for plagiarism.
School board member Dana Tom said he thinks the Internet has exacerbated the temptation to plagiarize.
"It's regrettable that any kind of plagiarism occurred," Tom said. "I think with the ubiquity of the Internet and access to information, the opportunity to either be inspired by or to plagiarize is quite great. I think it represents a big challenge for students today."
The district's curriculum does stress the proper use of source material, he said.
Although Keiser's Facebook page has been removed, Jabr's video is still available on YouTube.