It’s been a busy week in plagiarism news. Another major journalism scandal comes to surface, a published poet discovers his haikus are being lifted and USA Today runs an article about copyright infringement with some interesting implications for fair use.
Once again though, there wasn’t enough time to cover them all, so here’s a look at what’s been going on this week.
Washington Times Accused of Lifting Quotes
Eric Pfeiffer, a reporter for the Washington Times, was accused of lifting quotes from the Chicago Sun-Times for an article about Illinois Senator Barack Obama. The original story, written by Lynn Sweet, used several quotes from Republican Senators and Daily Kos founder Moulitsas Zuniga, who discovered the theft.
The Washington Times responded by running a correction both in print and online that properly attributed the source of the article. Though the correction appeased Sweet, who called it “gracious”, others are much less sure about it as it took no responsibility nor offered any explanation.
Nonetheless, the matter appears to be closed as all sides have moved on.
Haiku Plagiarism Discussed
David Giacalone, author of the f/k/a blog on the Harvard Law Web site posted a very interesting article about George Swede, a famous Haiku artist who had his works plagiarized by an individual taking advantage of free poetry hosting services.
The incident, which took place back in June, 2005 ended up rallying the Haiku community, prompting them to start a letter-writing campaign on the subject. However, the incident escalated until Albert Victor, the manager of Starlite Cafe, one of the sites involved, felt enough fear for his safety to call the police.
Though the matter was resolved peacefully, with nothing else being heard from the plagiarist and the works being removed, it spawned a pair of essays by Swede, one of which is available online and is a very interesting read.
But even more interesting is the side track this issue has taken regarding the notion of fair use when dealing with short works like Haikus. This is an issue that we will be touching on here shortly as it directly pertains to both poets and the blogging world at large.
College Coursepacks Draw Copyright Suit
USA Today reported on a lawsuit filed by six publishers against the owner of a copy shop near the University of Florida campus in Gainsville. The suit alleges that the copy shop infringed upon their rights by copying and selling “coursepacks” which contained their copyrighted material.
Coursepacks, generally, are a collection of case studies, articles and other requires pieces of literature for use in a specific course. According the article, the coursepack industry does well over 200 million dollars per year in business and accounts for 2% of all textbook sales.
Though fair use provisions allow copying of copyright material for educational purposes, the commercial element of coursepacks have made them a frequent target for lawsuits including similar cases at UCLA and at the University of Massachusetts. Though few of these cases have gone to trial, those that have, to date, have been decided in favor of the publishers.
Though not directly a plagiarism matter, this clearly delves into legal issues that affect the fight against plagiarism. This will become an even greater issue as electronic coursepacks move the fight into cyberspace.