Plagiarism: The Lawsuit/Web Site, The Building, The Movie

Here’s kind of a catch-up post on some stuff I’ve come across lately:

  • Bill H-D sent me this link to an article in Inside Higher Ed, “New Tack Against Term Paper Providers.” Here’s a quote:

    Lawyers for a graduate student named Blue Macellari filed a lawsuit in federal court in Illinois alleging that three Web sites that sell term papers made a manuscript she had written available without her permission. She is charging the owner of the sites (as well as the sites’ Internet service provider) with copyright infringement, consumer fraud and invasion of privacy, among other things.

    But it gets a bit more complicated than that.

    According to Macellari’s complaint, a friend doing a casual Google search of Macellari’s name last January came across references to a paper she had written during a year abroad at the University of Cape Town in 1998, which Macellari had posted in 1999 on a personal Web site at Mount Holyoke College, where she earned her degree.

    But the friend found links to the paper not on her Mount Holyoke page but on two Web sites, DoingMyHomework.com and FreeforEssays.com, that said the paper was in their databases. Macellari says she later found several hundred words of her paper on another site, FreeforTermPapers.com.

    In other words, Macellari’s essay got lifted from her web site by some online papermill. Great, just great. Those papermill/spam bastards ruin it for everyone.

    Stopping students from publishing their writing on their web sites obviously isn’t much of a solution. But it is probably not a bad idea for me to recommend to students that they slap a creative commons agreement on their work. It isn’t going to stop people from taking their work, but it might give them ammo for a legal remedy.

  • In the “building” department and via Johndan’s blog comes this article “Brothers From Another Mother,” by Clay Risen and published in a web periodical called “The Morning News.” Here’s a quote from the first paragraph:

    Plagiarism is usually associated with college term papers and the occasional historical bestseller. Recently, though, the big story in architecture circles has been a growing list of supposedly “copycat� designs—in other words, architectural plagiarism. The hot architecture gossip blog, The Gutter, has made a regular feature—called the Gutterland Police Blotter—out of tagging similarities between, say, Rem Koolhaas’s elevated subway sheath at the Illinois Institute of Technology and a train station in Santiago, Chile. In a groundbreaking ruling earlier this month, a federal judge allowed a suit against Freedom Tower architect David Childs to go forward; the suit, by a former architecture student, accuses Childs of stealing the tower’s design from one the student had presented in a class project. And a recent New York Times article noted three other high-profile clashes between purported plagiarizers and their alleged sources.

    Johndan talks more about this on his site as well; for me, it raises some interesting questions about what counts as a “text,” what’s the difference between “copying” and “imitating” (I guess, as they say, doing it well is part of it), and do the rules of “words in a row” literacy apply to things like architecture.

  • Finally, Plagiarism the Movie. Well, okay; just kind of a cool flash intro to Washington State University’s plagiarism site, which also has some good info.
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