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

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.

About Colin Purrington

evolutionary biologist, photographer
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3 Responses to DMCA NOCI RE CPBR PDF

  1. I am so curious here about this situation. I mean, 1 … it was an emailed PDF? Why didn’t they just link and credit your site. That is ridiculous! 2. How did you find out! Awesome that you did, but how? 3. Did you ask them to cease and desist “unofficially” first before a notification? Did you send out a DMCA notification? Did you receive a counter notification if you did? In order to continue, if you receive a counter, you will need to file in court… Very interesting that they did not simply make a link and attribute you. What in the world were they thinking?

    • I’m clueless why CPBR didn’t just link to my site. In other spots in the PDF they DO provide URLs, so I don’t think the issue was ignorance about the existence of the internet and the value of linking. I found out about the document totally by chance … Purdue University had posted the PDF, and their posting showed up in a Google search I occasionally do to see who might be quoting my site (I’ve had poster and sign-making sites that steal my site entirely … and then claim Fair Use … so it’s something I have to check for). I asked Purdue to remove the document and to make sure the person responsible for the plagiarism was punished. In my original DMCA letter to Purdue, included CPBR as email recipient (at the time, thought they were part of Purdue). Purdue complied immediately … but CPBR eventually hired an expensive law firm to threaten me with suit unless I took down my site. Yeah, a non-profit funded by US tax dollars used its money to bully me — just hilarious. As to “what were they thinking?” … clearly somebody in charge at their HQ was not. A typical response, once they had received MY take-down request, was to contact me via email/phone and claim that they had written the content, and then I could explain why they were delusional (or whatever). _Somebody_ at CPBR used the copy/paste function. Just shameful. Suing me is just a way to cover it up, it seams. Alternatively, somebody at CPBR used the copy/paste function and then had catastrophic memory loss.

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