Search Results for: plagiarism

How publishers deal with plagiarism

Alex Haley's Roots
Image from Wikipedia.

Just because I was curious … here’s how various publishers have dealt with books that contained plagiarism.  Of course, publishers don’t always make public statements about such things, so if you have additions or corrections, please let me know.  Similarly, it’s hard to figure out whether the source authors took the plagiarizer (and/or publisher) to court.  I know I have 19 in the list … am sort of reserving #20.

  1. Roots (Alex Haley 1976). Doubleday & Company was publisher.  Amazon still sells this book.  Haley was taken to court by author of The African, which Haley mined for characters, plot, quotes, etc. [details]
  2. The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys (Doris Kearns Goodwin 1987).  I gather she settled with one of her “sources” (Lynne McTaggart) before the plagiarism news was released. Goodwin requested that all copies be destroyed. [details]
  3. Alexander Graham Bell: A Life (James Mackay 1989).  He apparently paid the John Wiley & Sons to have the book recalled … as part of deal to avoid being sued by Robert V. Bruce.  Mackay was caught plagiarizing his next book, by the way. [details]
  4. The Survivor Personality (Patsy Westcott 1995).  Bloomsbury Publishers recalled all the books and had them destroyed.  Amazon sells used copies of this book. [details]
  5. When Love Calls (Gail A. McFarland 1999).  BET Publications recalled the book.  You can still buy used copies on Amazon. Gina Wilkins, who was the author plagiarized, won an out-of-court settlement. [details]
  6. The Wild Blue (Stephen Ambrose 2001).  Simon & Schuster publishes paperback with plagiarism removed. [details]
  7. Captain Henry Wirz and Andersonville Prison: A Reappraisal (R. Fred Ruhlman 2006)University of Tennessee Press recalled the book. [details]
  8. How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life (Kaavya Viswanathan 2006).  Little, Brown and Company recalled book, cancelled book deal with author. [details]
  9. Shadow Bear (Cassie Edwards 2008).  Signet said it found no evidence of plagiarism, then claimed the plagiarism was “fair use”, then decided to part ways with Edwards. [details]
  10. Free (Chris Anderson 2009).  Hyperion didn’t pull version with plagiarized passages, but did promise to correct future editions. [details]
  11. Axolotl Roadkill (Helene Hegemann 2010).  Ullstein bought rights from plagiarized author, then republished book. [details]
  12. How We Decide (Jonah Lehrer 2010).  Pulled by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. [details]
  13. Assassin of Secrets (Quentin Rowan 2011).  Little, Brown and Company issued apology, recalled all books from online, brick-and-mortar stores, offered full refund to anyone who purchased book. [details]
  14. The Raven’s Bride (Lenore Hart 2011).  St Martin’s Press defends author.  The best response to this defense is a Poe via the blog, The World of Edgar Allan Poe: “All I can do is offer some more words of wisdom from Mr. Poe himself: ‘To attempt the rebutting of a charge of plagiarism by the broad assertion that no such thing as plagiarism exists, is a sotticism, and no more.’ “  [Here’s the definition of sotticism.]  Amazon still sells this book.
  15. You’re Looking Well (Lewis Wolpert 2011).  Faber and Faber stopped selling the book in 2014.  Though it seems to be on Amazon.  He plagiarized parts of his next book, it appears. [details]
  16. Imagine (Jonah Lehrer 2012).  Houghton Mifflin recalled all copies, reimbursed people if they wanted to bring in copy to where they bought it. [details]
  17. Government Bullies (Rand Paul 2012).  Center Street promised to fix the “misunderstanding.” [details]
  18. A Call to Resurgence (Mark Driscoll 2013).  InterVarsity Press seemed sorry, and explained how author erred, but I don’t think it recalled the book. [details]
  19. Seeds of Hope (Jane Goodall with Gail Hudson 2013).  Grand Central (Hachette) had author(s) rework the book for new publication. Hachette made public announcements about recall, reasons. [details]

 

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Plagiarism detection in elementary schools

Turnitin, the leading provider of plagiarism-detection software, is ubiquitous at the high school and college level.  But I’ve always wondered if and when the service will be used in middle schools and, gasp, elementary schools.  Well, Turnitin recently answered my query:  middle schools are adopting it at “a fine clip,” but usage among elementary schools is rare.  That latter, nonzero number is interesting — I would love to know how those elementary school teachers use it, potentially when some of their students cannot even read yet.  As I’ve written elsewhere, elementary school is probably the best time to teach about authorship and honesty — it’s in those early grades that kids learn how to cut-and-paste, the plagiarizer’s favorite tool.

I will not plagiarizeAnd for those districts that start using it with first graders, that means students will be exposed to plagiarism discussions for a good 12 years before they hit their first college course — that’s just amazing.  If you’ve ever taught college students, you’ll know that when caught cheating, the top excuse is “but I didn’t know it was plagiarism … we never learned about that in high school.”  With up to 12 (twelve!!) years of exposure, that certainly will be a lame excuse … though I’m sure they’ll still use it.

If anyone does research on the risk factors contributing to plagiarism among college students, it would be interesting to look at how their grade school teachers dealt with the plagiarism issue (ostriching, Turnitin, etc.).  If you do it, please let me know …

 

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Powerpoint plagiarism

Open up a Powerpoint or Prezi show on the Internet and it is likely to be packed with text and images copied from others: no quotation marks and no image attributions.  I think this is unfortunate, but not surprising — kids probably learn to plagiarize in grade school from their teachers, and then they watch their college professors do the same.  When students graduate and get jobs that require them to post slide decks on the internet, they’ll do the same: use other people’s text and images without indicating that that’s what they’ve done.

Powerpoint plagiarismBut why don’t teachers use quotation marks and attributions?  Teachers ask their students to cite sources on papers, so teachers clearly know about academic honesty in writing.  Here are my guesses:

  1. Teachers think that quotation marks and attribution text ruin the aesthetics of their slides.
  2. Teachers think citing others for copied text and images undermines their authority in class.
  3. Teachers know it’s wrong to plagiarize (and steal copyrighted images) but are busy and hope nobody will notice/complain.

For many teachers, it’s probably a little of all three.  And about #3, I’m left wondering why so many teachers place their plagiarized slide decks on the internet for the whole world to examine, rather than hiding them behind Blackboard and Moodle like everyone else does.

Given the common Powerpoint plagiarism by teachers, one might think education/teacher organizations would develop clear policies urging their members not to plagiarize (and not to use uncredited, copyrighted images).  The only statement on this topic I’ve found so far is from the American Historical Association (website):

“All who participate in the community of inquiry, as amateurs or as professionals, as students or as established historians, have an obligation to oppose deception. This obligation bears with special weight on teachers…”

More groups should plagiarize that sentence.

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Plagiarism examples

10 famous plagiaristsIf you are in need of a slide showing examples of plagiarism, the one at right might work for you.  My suggestion is to show the image in class and ask students to choose the plagiarist they’d like to hear more about as a way to teach about plagiarism and proper attribution.  Links to full details on all 10 examples are below.  See also my “Preventing plagiarism” page if you want further thoughts on the topic.

  1. H.G. Wells (The Outline of History)
  2. T.S. Eliot (The Waste Land)
  3. Martin Luther King (PhD dissertation, speeches)
  4. Alex Haley (Roots)
  5. Doris Kearns Goodwin (The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys)
  6. Joe Biden (speeches, law school paper)
  7. Michael Bolton (Love is a Wonderful Thing)
  8. Stephen Ambrose (The Wild Blue)
  9. Jane Goodall (Seeds of Hope)
  10. The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research (Symposium Poster Rules and Guidelines)
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Update on The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research plagiarism charge

Definition of plagiarismHundreds of people have been asking, so I wanted to give a quick update on the plagiarism charge brought against me by The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology (CBPR).  But first, in the likely event that you haven’t heard: CPBR has accused me of violating the copyright on its “Call for Preproposals,” a document that is delivered to thousands of interested grant applicants each year.  It has demanded that I permanently remove my “Designing conference posters” page or face over $150,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.  The bizarre part of all this is that CPBR’s content is actually, truly, verifiably mine — they infringed upon my clearly copyrighted text and are thus using a threat of bankruptcy-via-legal-action to force me to just give it to them.  Somebody at CPBR is certifiably demented or delusional, perhaps both.

The update is that CPBR has not withdrawn its “Cease and Desist All Copyright Infringement” letter that they had sent to me via their lawyer.

Just in case you doubt me when I say CPBR clearly plagiarized my text, the image below shows the similarity between my document and the relevant section in CPBR’s.  I highlighted phrases that are identical to phrases found on my site.

Copyright disputes are decided on primacy, of course — who wrote the text first.  I created my version in 1997 for students at Swarthmore College (as part of my Evolution course), and you can see archives of my page via the Wayback Machine if you doubt me. CPBR claims to have first drafted its version in 2005. Because I wrote mine eight years before they wrote their instructions, there is no possible way I could have copied them. Zero possibility that I copied them.  100% proof that they copied me.  Facts, folks!  Verifiable ones, too!

I’m being frequently asked why CPBR brought infringement charges against me when their guide text was clearly taken from me.  I actually don’t have the slightest idea. Dorin Schumacher, the founder, CEO, most surely knows.  She’s been called by reporters but seems to hang up on them. But according to a reporter who tried to reach her, her voice sounded really, really angry.  She clearly thought this would all go differently. CPBR is in a public relations mess that can only be fixed by doing things she really doesn’t want to do.  In a way, I feel for her. Sucks to be her.

That’s the update, unexciting as it is.  If you are an administrator at any of the CPBR member companies or universities, I’d be grateful to be alerted if my content is included in future CPBR documents in any way, even if it’s pared down to short phrases.  If CPBR chooses to remove my content in future “call for proposals”, that’s sort of admitting that they were previously infringing… so it’s likely they will keep things as is.  Similarly, if you are a grant applicant and attend the annual CPBR poster session in D.C., I’d be grateful to know whether my text is distributed in the how-to sessions.

UPDATE on UPDATE: According to the site tracking software that is built into WordPress, CPBR.org has read this update.  Several times.

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