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.
It’s come to my attention that a few science and ethics faculty are featuring my situation when they discuss plagiarism. So I thought it might be useful if I made a little graphic for them, to use in their Powerpoint shows and such. The design emulates and pokes fun at the book, Get Funded!, which is authored by Dorin Schumacher, the owner of The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research . . . which still refuses to acknowledge that it is plagiarizing my poster design instructions (and threatining to sue me … since I called them on it).
But no, I don’t have plans to write a book on plagiarism. If you want to know my opinions on the topic, please see my Preventing Plagiarism page.
So I just paid my first legal bill for smacking down CPBR’s insane claim that I violated their copyright. I had naively hoped CPBR would offer a sincere apology and pay my legal fees (because they actually plagiarized me), but they haven’t. But because I know they read my blog rather carefully, I wanted to provide a way for them to privately make it up to me…so here is a link to my Wish List on Amazon, populated with some camera items that I might actually own right now if I hadn’t written a large check to my lawyer. If CPBR bought everything on it, the bill would be a small fraction of what they’ve spent on fancy lawyers already (I’m guessing $50,000 – $100,000). CPBR is a non-profit, so you will be able to see the exact amount when they post their 2013 tax returns online.
If 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.
This post is about a non-profit that calls itself the The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc. (www.cpbr.org). It promotes biotech research, and, apparently, has low regard for intellectual property. Or at least for my intellectual property. Read on if you’re interested.
So I have this little page on designing scientific posters, and it’s had maybe 2 million hits in its lifetime. I published it on the internet to help people around the world design a poster for a meeting, and in return I occasionally receive emails, funny postcards, and even baked goods as thanks. It’s a fun page to maintain and keeps me off the streets. And sometimes people hire me to give seminars on poster design, which is fun, too. And I’ve had a book offer, which impressed my mom.
Of course, the page is on the internet so people plagiarize me. When I stumble onto them, I ask the page owner to remove the text. I have “Copyright Colin Purrington” on all my pages, plus verbiage asking people to not steal my stuff, so most plagiarizers comply pretty quickly.
Still, some drag their feet a bit when I issue take-down requests. Some say, “But I rather like your content on my site, and I’d prefer to keep it without attribution.” Another favorite is, “But I’m a teacher and plagiarizing is protected under Fair Use!” (I’m not making this up.) These instances are really annoying, of course, but thankfully rare.
But this week I got the ultimate response, from The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc. in Georgia (I’ll paraphrase): “No, we won’t comply…and instead we will accuse you of plagiarizing us.” In case you don’t know about CPBR, it is an entity that receives millions of dollars each year from the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Then it gives the money to worthy researchers in the form of grants. Part of the granting process involves applicants making posters and presenting them in D.C., hence their need for a section in their application document for how to craft an effective scientific poster — if you happen to have a copy, it’s Appendix 5. The 2 1/2 pages of tips in that section might seem oddly familiar if you’ve ever been on my site (approximately 90-95% similarity…and trust me, it’s not by chance). You won’t be able to easily find a copy of the document on the internet because they have, in red, at the top “Do not post on the internet.” But there are copies on the internet if you look carefully, and I did.
The CPBR’s response wasn’t just an email, either, it was massive package from a fancy lawyer in a fancy suit at a fancy law firm (Arnold and Porter) demanding I take down my page, forever, or face accruing $150,000 in damages plus litigation fees. It probably cost $5,000 just to craft that document. The lawyer’s suit cost probably cost even more.
Anyway, if you have any thoughts on how I should respond to this, please send me an email via the Contact button.
Personally, I’d like (1) a check from them that fully covers my legal costs, (2) a written apology from the CEO that is posted on their home page for 1 year, (3) a message emailed to all past proposal applicants and research directors stating that Appendix 5 was plagiarized from my site, and (4) an all-expense paid trip to St Simons Island, Georgia for me and my family, to compensate us for the pain and suffering that their bullying has caused. And about that last one — we better end up having a damn good time on St Simons Island. No poison in the soup, or anything like that! Or maybe (5) $150,000 in damages, for each of the years that they infringed upon my copyright?? Oh, and (6) it goes without saying that they can never, ever use my material in the future…so if you are on their mailing list and get the next announcement, please send me a copy if you see my text in Appendix 5 again (I’ll send you cookies if you’re the first!). Finally, (8) I think it would be good to have the plagiarizer fired — that amount of plagiarizing in college would get you expelled for a semester, and is equally inexcusable in the private sector…there should be consequences.
Please share this post with others so that The Consortium of Plant Biotechnology Research (Inc) gets all the press they truly deserve. If you are a reporter and are interested in even more details, contact me, maybe?
By the way, if you’re bored and happen to have a copy of the document, I encourage you to search for the phrase, “intellectual property.” In the most recent version of the document, it’s present 28 times. I think that’s hilarious. Intellectual property is important because many of the proposals funded by CPBR relate to highly secret biotech projects involving member companies (Monsanto, Dupont, etc.). The irony here is too strong to spell out fully. The screen would just crack.