Tag Archives: Arnold & Porter

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The update is that CPBR has not withdrawn its “Cease and Desist All Copyright Infringement” letter that they had sent to me via their lawyer.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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Bad PR day for The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc.

Logo of the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc.  From its website.
Logo of the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc. From its website.

CPBR, based in St Simons Island, Georgia, is apparently in the process of registering a copyright on some of my text in “Designing conference posters,” and is in the process of preparing for litigation against me, claiming I infringed on their copyright. I had previously accused them of infringing upon my copyright. I know, sounds like two kids in the back seat, bickering. And, for the record, Mom, they started it.

I thought I’d share a few newsy links with anyone who might be curious in the details. Listed chronologically.

  1. Plagiarism spat over scientific poster prep advice escalates to legal threats” (by Adam Marcus @ Retraction Watch blog)
  2. Adding Insult to Plagiary?” (by Tom Bartlett @ The Chronicle of Higher Education)
  3. Scientist writes funny, helpful guide for making science posters. A big company steals it. Then the company sues him” (tomb123 @ reddit)
  4. Bring Me The Head Of That Threatening Lawyer!” (by Ken at Popehat blog)
  5. Swarthmore Biologist Accused of Plagiarizing…his Own Work” (by Simon van Zuylen-Wood @ The Philly Post)

From tax records (gross receipts in 2010 = $3,314,709), it appears that the CPBR show is run by founder and CEO extraordinaire, Dorin Schumacher. She is, I guess, also in charge of public relations, so I’m sure she’ll be on this, soon. If you’d like to know more about her, she has posted a listing in the Cambridge Who’s Who [thanks Dina Smith for link], where you can read about her amazing accomplishments and also see a photograph of her grandmother in a slinky dress. (I remember getting letters from Cambridge Who’s Who, but I’d always assumed it was a scam. Typically, you have to pay to get yourself listed in these things, and I’m not so easily suckered. Also, once you pay, you have to say flattering things about yourself in the third person, which is really against Colin Purrington’s personality type.)

If you’re interested in even more details of my little drama, here you go:

PDF showing how CPBR plagiarized me (this is the same method of highlighting I’d use when my students at Swarthmore College plagiarized; this is the worst I’ve ever seen)

If you’re curious about anything else, or might have information that would be useful for my defense, please email ASAP. Operators are standing by.

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