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The update is that CPBR has not withdrawn its “Cease and Desist All Copyright Infringement” letter that they had sent to me via their lawyer.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