Thursday, September 27, 2007

Incorrect assertion of "plagiarism law"

The following comment in the Poshard matter at SIU was sent to the Southern Illinoisian on September 27, 2007:

The text by Wallis:

This is called plagiarism. Under U.S. law, this includes "copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit, failing to put a quotation in quotation marks, (and) changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit" (from

is seriously in error. There is NO U.S. law which has the text cited by Wallis. In fact, under the Supreme Court Dastar case, anyone can claim to be the author of non-copyrighted work, such as Shakepeare's Hamlet or the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" without violating federal law.

[Refer to]

The Wallis citation brings up a more fundamental issue. Thesis committees and editors alike have to take responsibility for knowing their own fields. If they don't have the ability to recognize "word-for-word" copying in their own fields of expertise, then how will the public be protected from perpetual re-inventions of the wheel? Separately, of fraud, recent tricksters such as Jan-Hendrik Schon and Hwang Woo-Suk were caught, in part, because they used duplicated graphs and figures, hoaxes which could have been caught by anyone who was truly studying their work. Journal editors at Nature were warned of problems with Schon's published work, but decided to ignore the warnings.

Lawrence B. Ebert, Ph.D., J.D.
September 27, 2007

[The above text was IMMEDIATELY rejected by the Southern Illinoisian as being "spam." No wonder they have such problems in Southern Illinois: truth is considered spam, and falsities are publishable. Through the looking glass?]

As a different twist, here is the first comment actually published upon the Wallis article:

Jed Rothwell wrote on Sep 27, 2007 10:12 AM:

" You wrote: "In science, a competent cheat can fabricate evidence and fool editors and colleagues. (Remember cold fusion?" You are suggesting that the evidence for cold fusion was fabricated, or fraudulent. This is incorrect. The cold fusion effect was replicated at high signal to noise ratios by researchers at China Lake, Amoco, SRI, Texas A&M, Los Alamos, Mitsubishi Res. Center, BARC Bombay, Tsinghua U. and hundreds of other world-class laboratories. Hundreds of positive, peer-reviewed papers on cold fusion were subsequently published in mainstream journals. I suggest you review this literature before commenting on this research. You can find over 500 full text reprints of scientific papers from all of the institutions listed above, and many others, at our web site: There were a few incidents of fraudulent data in cold fusion but they were in the other direction: fake negatives. For example, after researchers at MIT attack cold fusion, they observed excess heat in their own experiment. They altered the data and published a version showing no excess heat. - Jed Rothwell Librarian, "


Of the comment below:

Your comment was not rejected by It appeared later. There is apparently a considerable delay before comments are posted there.

I noted your comments here because you quoted me.

IPBiz notes that after about five (5) submissions to the SouthernIllinoisan, one variant of the above comment was printed, without any reference to the distinction between copyright and plagiarism. Additionally, followup comments were NOT published by the SouthernIllinoisan. Thus, the comment below is not entirely accurate as to what happened with commentary on the Wallis piece. The SouthernIllinoisan did NOT publish all commentary.

Rothwell is invited to read the IPBiz post of Sept. 29, the salient points of which were submitted to the SouthernIllinoisan but which never have appeared as a comment. Although the text on copyright/plagiarism is a bit tricky in the way it is presented, it does NOT say what Wallis said. Separately, of the substantive issue, there is no federal law with the text quoted by Wallis. Separately, quoting a commercial internet site ( is run by iParadigms, the people who sell turnitin) for a legal proposition is risky behavior.


Blogger Jed Rothwell said...

Your comment was not rejected by It appeared later. There is apparently a considerable delay before comments are posted there.

I noted your comments here because you quoted me.

8:26 AM  

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