Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Plagiarism or ghost-writing?

Shelly Mar in the UNLV Rebel quotes one Andrew Schwartz of

“What we do is ghost writing – not plagiarism,” Schwartz said. “We are paid for the writing.”

Schwartz says customers request shorter assignments, between 6 and 7 pages, more frequently than longer assignments and dissertations. Most of the students using the website are third or fourth year college students, and science majors make up approximately 50 percent of their clientele. Business majors comprise 30 percent, social sciences make up 15 percent, and only 5 percent are other majors.

Long, long ago, during the plagiarism matter involving Laurence Tribe of the Harvard Law School, someone brought up the possibility that Tribe's book had been ghost-written, which was considered a far worse problem than the specific plagiarism matter at hand. This was based in part on the rather convoluted form of Tribe's apology, which never acknowledged that Tribe plagiarized and allowed for the fact that the ghost-writer was the one who plagiarized the work of the University of Virginia professor.

To the Schwartz matter, plagiarism is utilizing the words of another without giving credit to the other person (i.e., citing them). Passing-off ghost-written work as one's own is plagiarism, plain and simple. Under the copyright doctrine of "work-for-hire", it likely would NOT be copyright infringement, but as repeatedly noted on this blog and elsewhere, plagiarism and copyright infringement are two different things.

Of plagiarism note also:


The problem of what to do with the plagiarizing ghostwriter is not unrelated to the problem of what to do about the "student researcher" who gets the research wrong, but the professor author doesn't realize it. Does the "professor author" get to blame the student researcher? One would not think so. However, the Lemley Patenting Nanotechnology piece proclaiming Gary Boone to be the inventor of the integrated circuit [IC] might suggest otherwise.

Further on plagiarism v. ghost writing, the Chronicle of Higher Education has text:

The most recent addition to the [plagiarism] club is the Yale law professor Ian Ayres, who has acknowledged that several passages in his 2007 book Super Crunchers contain unattributed reproductions or nearly identical paraphrases of other sources. (The Yale Daily News found nine such instances.) In a statement to the Yale Daily News, Ayres says that his citations are proper for a book intended for a popular audience but that he will make changes in future printings of the book.

What is going on here? Dorf has a theory: These are not plagiarism scandals, they are ghostwriting scandals. "For it's easier to believe that a research assistant whose own reputation is not on the line and who may not be as familiar with the norms of attribution (even if he or she should be) would ever so slightly change the prose of another author as a means of cutting corners on a project that has been delegated to him or her."

IPBiz notes that Dorf's theory was previously proposed by Dean Velvel (and others) to account for the Laurence Tribe (Harvard Law) plagiarism matter. Dorf's blog obliquely relates the issue with Tribe, but doesn't note that the other folks were far more explicit:

I raise this question painfully aware that as a co-author, former research assistant and friend of Larry Tribe, readers will infer something about his own practices from my asking it, and so I'll say that I did not ghost-write anything substantial [IPBiz: !!] for Larry's academic projects when I worked as his research assistant. My speculations about the failure to attribute in his work (which does not include anything I worked on) are just speculations, just as I'm speculating about ghostwriting in the work of Ayres and the others.


Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

See the letter of Julie Wan in the 3 Sept 07 Wash Post, Plagiarists' Words of Woe Fall Flat.

It begins:

We once were accused of plagiarism by a college professor who admitted that she didn't know from where we had "copied" our paper but that it was "obviously far, far too good" to be our own work. When we made a thoroughly convincing case that we wrote the paper, she relented and gave us a B. "Far too good" deserves a B? Go figure.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

An odd story on plagiarism, titled Naomi Ragen sued for plagiarism - again, appeared in the Jerusalem Post on 1 Sept 07.

6:07 AM  
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