Wrap Up: Blowing Glass and More

These past few days have been unusually active for articles on plagiarism, copyright infringement and content theft.

While they’ve been great to read and to follow, there just hasn’t been enough hours in the day to cover them all. There’s simply been too much going on to do any of them justice.

However, rather than let them slip off of the radar completely, I’ve decided to do a compilation post going over some of the highlights as they are all important issues that need to be covered. If this goes over well, this might become a weekly column here at PT, sort of a weekly round up of the articles that were just too important to ignore.

Nonetheless, here’s what’s been going on this week in plagiarism:

Blowing Glass or Blowing Smoke

The Seattle Times reports that Dale Chihuly, a world-renowned glass blower, has sued two fellow blowers, one a former apprentice for copyright infringement. Chihuly claims that the two have conspired to sell knockoffs of his valuable designs, which can sell in the tens of thousands, and is asking for at least one million in damages.

Most seem to agree that Chihuly has an uphill battle in proving his case. Copyright Infringement lawsuits are very rare to start with but even more rare in the fine arts world. These cases are tough to prove, even under the best of circumstances and the case itself will test the boundaries between inspiration and plagiarism.

Steve Mallett from O’Reilly Accused of Stealing Code

Steve Mallet, an author for the O’reilly company, which produces a wide variety of computer books and Web sites, has been accused of stealing CSS code from digg.com, a popular technology site that “combines social bookmarking, blogging, RSS, and non-hierarchical editorial control”. The code, which appears on Mallet’s LinuxFilter.com site, shares many lines with the original digg.com code and even uses many of the same names, including ones with the word “digg” in them.

The accusation goes on to show examples of Mallet lifting formatting images from digg.com and the reuse of other formatting techniques. As of yet, there is no word from Digg.com or Mallet on the matter. Though Mallet regularly sings the praises of Digg.com in his posts on O’Reilly, the lack of attribution, especially when creating such a similar site, is very disconcerting to many.

Update: According to Mallet’s personal blog, it appears that the stolen code was not the fault of Mallet, but of Pligg, the open source Digg clone that Mallet was using in the creation of his sites. Mallet is working with the developers of the project to ensure that the stolen code is removed in future versions and has promised to update his sites to bring them into line as soon as possible. Even Digg has accepted this explanation by voting the retraction piece to the front page.

Man Bites Dog

Wikipedia has a very interesting article about how its editors discovered and handled an incident where a journalist plagiarized content from the encyclopedia. In the incident Tim Ryan, a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, lifted, without attribution, several paragraphs from the online encyclopedia’s article on Aloha Flight 243 for a review he was doing on a History Channel documentary.

Wikipedia, along with other wiki sites, which allow anyone to edit or add content, have long been criticized as havens for plagiarists. Several sites, including this one, have reported on the problems with wiki plagiarism and proposed solutions for it. Mainstream media, such as newspapers, have long been some of the favorite subjects for such plagairists and this incident is, for many, a marked case of irony.

Nonetheless, the incident did force the Star-Bulletin to post a correction for the story saying that it “failed to attribute the information to either source” and the editors did push on to discover other examples of unattributed work in Ryan’s writings, including one incident where he allegedly passed off quotes from an NPR broadcast as those from a personal interview he conducted.

Neither Ryan nor his paper have had any further comment on the matter.

[tags]Plagiarism, Copyright Infringement, Content Theft, CSS, Glass Blowing, Art, Wikipedia, Wiki[/tags]

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