Saturday, May 16, 2015

TechDirt discusses Hersh copying matter

In a post titled No, Just Because Seymour Hersh Had The Same Story As You, It's Not 'Plagiarism', Techdirt notes:


Seymour Hersh's story, "The Killing of Bin Laden," in the London Review of Books has a fundamental problem: it's either plagiarism or unoriginal.
If it's fiction--as some have implied, it's plagiarism. If it's true, it's not original. The story was broken here on The Spy Who Billed Me four years ago, in August 2011
[ RJ Hillhouse ]

That's silly. First of all, it's not plagiarism, even if it's not true. Just because he heard the same thing from other sources, that wouldn't make it plagiarism. As for the "not original" claim -- well, who really cares? There's this weird obsession some people have with who "broke" a particular story. But the fact is that the story itself happened to others before whoever reported it learned about it. Yes, breaking a story is a nice thing, but it's weird how some people seem to want to claim "ownership" over a story just because they were the first ones to write about it. [Techdirt]


Yes, it's interesting that Hillhouse had a very similar story a few years ago -- which may lend some additional credence to Hersh's story -- but being first isn't always the most important thing. Getting the story widely spread seems a lot more important, which is evidenced by the fact that the story is only now "news" -- whereas Hillhouse's version more or less faded away. It seems like yet another case in which people overvalue being "first" as opposed to actually getting something more widely accepted and understood. [Techdirt]


As to what TechDirt says about Hersh have plagiarized, plagiarism is simply copying without attribution. Hersh probably did not copy the exact words of Hillhouse, but he did use the same idea. If, for sake of argument, the story is pure fiction, and first created by Hillhouse, then there might be issues with both plagiarism and copyright infringement. If the story was created by someone else, and reproduced by Hillhouse, that might be a different situation.

Techdirt's text -- it's interesting that Hillhouse had a very similar story a few years ago -- which may lend some additional credence to Hersh's story --, IPBiz notes one might have said Hersh's account lends credibility to Hillhouse's initial account, rather than the other way around.

Some of the issues related to Hillhouse's charges against Hersh are similar to issues raised earlier concerning Carhart's book about the Civil War action at East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg.

**For example, from the IPBiz post titled Was Tom Carhart's book on Gettysburg pre-empted?

In the law review business, if someone has already addressed a particular issue, a later person is not supposed to write on the same question. Of Carhart's suggestion of Lee's "real plan" at Gettysburg, one notes the following from a review by Steven Leonard of a 2002 book by Paul D. Walker:

In The Cavalry Battle that Saved the Union:
Custer vs. Stuart at Gettysburg, Paul D. Walker
reveals the apparent genius behind the plan:
Confederate General Robert E. Lee's grand scheme was
to attack with infantry from the front while
Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry swept into
the rear of the Union formations.

Sadly, the 2004 review also states:

Only David F. Riggs' relatively short account of the
battle East of Gettysburg: Custer vs. Stuart (Old Army
Press, Fort Collins, CO, 1970 [revised 1985]),
chronicles the engagement.

Unfortunately, among other sources, Wert's 2001 "Gettysburg Day 3" spends much time discussing the cavalry engagement.

D. Scott Hartwig got it right when he wrote:

Our final book this month is yet another revelation of Robert E. Lee’s real plan at Gettysburg. Tom Carhart, in Lost Triumph: Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg—and Why it Failed (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2005), contends that Lee planned to attack the Union rear with Jeb Stuart’s cavalry while James Longstreet’s assault struck their front on Cemetery Ridge, and that the plan failed due to the bravery and impetuousness of George Custer. Carhart is not the first to advance this notion of Lee’s plan for July 3. It has been around for many years, but lacks evidence to support it.

Once again (as with patent grant rate), we have a situation wherein the federal employee called it correctly, and the professor at the elite institution (here Princeton University) was way off base. Proxies for good scholarship don't always work. Separately, we have a moral for the business method/software patent area: what can appear to be novel might only be so for lack of a thorough search.


As to the Carhart matter, although, without more, one could NOT say Carhart copied (plagiarized?) the idea of Walker (and others), one can definitively say it was not "new." Of Techdirt's text -- As for the "not original" claim -- well, who really cares? --, if a book buyer of Carhart's book bought the book because they buyer was told it had a "new" theory (when the theory was not in fact new), the book buyer might care. Maybe some scholars might care too.

**As to pure plagiarism, one might consult the post
JEB Stuart travels to India
which includes the text:

In a March 2007 post, Still plagiarizing after all these years?, IPBiz noted

The onlypunjab web site still has the article:

Edison as a Patent Troll, or Where is California Going in Stem Cell Research? -
By: Annie Kaszina

in which "Annie Kaszina" had substituted her name for LBE in an article which had appeared on ezines in June 2006. Unfortunately for "Annie," the bio of LBE was left at the bottom of the article, and as of May 12, 2007, the bio still is within the plagiarized article on theonlypunjab site:

Lawrence B. Ebert is a registered patent attorney located in central New Jersey. He holds a Ph.D. from Stanford, a J.D. from the University of Chicago, maintains a blog at, and is the author of LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM THE HWANG MATTER: ANALYZING INNOVATION THE RIGHT WAY, published in the Journal of the Patent & Trademark Office Society [88 JPTOS 239 (March 2006)]. The above material is based on a submission to Intellectual Property Today [IPT] which was supposed to have been published in April 2006, but which was not published. Most endnotes of the IPT submission have not been reproduced here. The contents of Endnote 18 of the IPT submission did appear within comments to the USPTO concerning proposed rulemaking about continuing patent applications. Ezine draft submitted June 16, 2006.

As a different blog noted, if one is going to copy the work of another, one should be careful NOT to include the bio of the original author in the copied text [!]



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