Tag Archives: infringement

Encouraging image credit on Twitter

Adding photo credit to Twitter post
“The image or video is uncredited” is not currently an option on Twitter app. It should be.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to nudge a user to credit the person who made a photograph or video? I.e., users could click on Report, then indicate that an image has been posted without credit in a situation where creator might easily have been determined. There would have to be some algorithm, of course, that used reports from multiple reporters to somehow nudge the account holder to either delete the tweet (and repost with credit info) or to change the user’s future behavior. Maybe the offending, reported tweet would start showing up with red text to indicate to the world that they should be ashamed. Or maybe after a certain number of complaints the tweet gets (gasp) auto-deleted. Or (my preference) the account gets hobbled so user can’t post images anymore (but text-only Tweets just fine). There are lots of really fun ways to do this.

Here’s what does not appear to work: choosing to not follow those accounts that are flagrant copyright abusers.

What also doesn’t work is allowing only copyright-holders to file complaints to Twitter HQ. Not all artists have Twitter accounts, plus the forms are hard to find even if they did. Furthermore, most photographers don’t even know their images are on Twitter, uncredited. Encouraging a culture of credit is something that can be easily crowdsourced, and should be.

By the way, credit can be a Twitter handle (best) or just the artist’s name (when a good-faith search reveals they don’t have an account). And the credit can be in the text (best) but you can sometimes (or additionally) add credit by adding the text onto the image before you post (and that doesn’t eat up your 140 characters).

[ FYI, I made this image using a blank iPhone vector image from pixabay. No attribution requested by this company, but I added it anyway. ]

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This post is for people tracking the bizarre ethical slide of The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc. (CPBR).

As you probably know from my earlier posts, CPBR sends out a yearly invitation to plant biotechnology researchers to submit grant proposals.  Part of the emailed PDF has instructions on how to make a scientific poster, and a big part of that section was created by copying/pasting text from my page on the topic (but with no quotation marks and no attribution).

Because I happen to have an official copyright registration on my poster design page, the PDF is in violation of U.S. copyright law.  So, in addition to being able to sue CPBR rather easily, I can can also use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to send Notifications of Copyright Infringement (NOCIs) to have the CPBR document (PDF and any paper copies) destroyed.

So here’s what I’ve done.

  1. I’ve asked every member university to delete the PDF when received from CPBR.  In other words, the grants administration office will no longer forward that PDF to faculty on campus.  Because CPBR forbids member institutions from posting the PDF online (don’t ask me why), this means CPBR will not receive grant applications in the future.  Note that asking universities to help protect my copyright is a friendly request — I was not accusing the universities of anything.  It’s just like asking them to help protect copyrighted movies that might be illegally shared by students.  With one exception (University of Minnesota), they are happy to help. The University of Minnesota’s lawyers insist email forwarding of PDFs is exempt from copyright law (lingering effect of cold temperature?).
  2. I’ve asked every member company to do the same.
  3. I’ve informed the Fraud Alert representatives of the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agencies that CPBR is violating U.S. Copyright Law and should stop receiving Federal funds (DOE has given them almost $23 million, for example).
  4. I’ve informed CPBR’s internet provider that CPBR is using email to send content that infringes on my copyright.

All of the above could have been avoided if CPBR simply linked to my Designing Conference Posters page.  I love it when people link to my page.  Alternatively, if CPBR wanted to quote a sentence or two, that would be totally fine.  Here are two examples (book, website) of how to use quotation marks and attribution.

“Yet the politics of shipwreck can be avoided, I think, if we can construct a theory of feminist criticism within the framework of a general theory of the critical process that is neither purely objective nor purely intuitive; in that way, its processes can be examined beside, compared with, and contrasted to other branches of criticism with some degree of dispassionate distance.” [translate]

— Schumacher, D. 1989.  Subjectivities: a theory of the critical process.  Pages 29-36 in Feminist Literary Criticism: Explorations in Theory, edited by Josephine Donovan. University Press of Kentucky.

“CPBR speeds the transfer of plant-related biotechnologies from the research laboratory to the marketplace, expanding economic opportunities through university research and global networking. Its highly competitive project selection process includes … industrial evaluation of research concepts to insure [sic] industrial relevance … ”

— The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc. Retrieved 22 March 2014, from http://www.cpbr.org/content.html.

It’s really odd that CPBR didn’t just use quotations and attribution.  The CEO has a PhD in literature, and CPBR’s website has images and quotes that are all nicely attributed. Plus the core mission of the company is to foster commercialization of the intellectual property of participating scientists — and CPBR has IP lawyers on retainer for that very purpose.  There are, in short, so many reasons why this is not a company you’d expect to plagiarize or to infringe on copyrights.

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Petition to Dorin Schumacher at CPBR

Thanks for visiting my website. I’d be grateful if you could fill in the form below so that an email is sent to Dr Dorin Schumacher, the CEO of The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research.  CPBR copy/pasted some of my copyrighted text … and then served me with legal papers demanding I take my site down, charging me with copyright infringement). The letter is already composed so all you have to do is hit the Send button. But feel free to modify the text if you have the time and feel so moved. If you want to visit any of the links I’ve mentioned, they’re at the bottom of this page. I’d be hugely grateful if you could get the word out to others via Facebook and Twitter…would love to flood their inbox with several thousand petitions. Would. make. my. day.

[emailpetition id=”1″]

Links mentioned in the petition

Dr Dorin Schumacher, CEO of The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, based in the resort town of St Simons Island, Georgia. Photograph from the Cambridge Who’s Who website.
Dr Dorin Schumacher, CEO of The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, based in the resort town of St Simons Island, Georgia. Photograph from the Cambridge Who’s Who website.

Evidence of copyright infringement

“Designing conference posters”

CPBR’s member institutions

Beer Donation button

Colin Purrington’s Amazon wish list



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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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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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