Detecting Plagiarism

From: Sally Morris <>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 17:25:36 +0100

Actually, it is pretty difficult for individual authors to pursue
plagiarists, whereas in my experience journal publishers both can and do
(often via their contacts with the publishers of the offending journals). I
don't think publishers' *willingness* to do so has anything at all to do
with copyright ownership; however, their *ability* to act immediately and
decisively, in the courts if absolutely necessary, is strengthened by
copyright ownership, as Martin Blume convincingly pointed out at the last
Zwolle Group conference


Sally Morris, Secretary-General
Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
South House, The Street, Clapham, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3UU, UK

Phone: 01903 871686 Fax: 01903 871457 E-mail:
ALPSP Website

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stevan Harnad" <>
Sent: Sunday, July 20, 2003 1:00 AM
Subject: Re: Learned Society Publisher's Comment on PLoS/Sabo

> On Sat, 19 Jul 2003, Patrick Brown wrote:
> > On Saturday, July 19, 2003, at 08:07 AM, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> >
> >sh> The Sabo act is indeed a bit flaky on copyright. Copyright protection
> >sh> against plagiarism (theft-of-authorship) and text-corruption will of
> >sh> course have to be maintained. But this has nothing whatsoever to do
> >sh> with toll-access publishers' use of copyright as protection against
> >sh> piracy (theft-of-text).
> >
> > Copyright protection has never been used as a defense against
> > plagiarism of scientific and scholarly work published in research
> > journals.
> "Never" is probably overstating it, but I am sure that journals have
> rarely gone after plagiarists, partly because research plagiarism is
> rare, and partly because, as I noted, their main interest is in
> copyright protection against theft-of-text, not theft-of-authorship.
> But I do think that research authors need and want protection from
> theft-of-authorship, as well as from text-corruption (reproduction of
> altered text).
> > The disincentive to those who would be tempted to plagiarize
> > is not the law but very effective and clear community standards of
> > behavior.
> But the fact that it also happens to be illegal helps. (And the way to
> win researchers over to the benefits of open access is not by awakening
> their fears of plagiarism.)
> > Exposure of an act of plagiarism ruins the perpetrator's
> > reputations and almost inevitably costs them their grant support and
> > their jobs.
> I agree. And I would even add that it is mostly a victimless crime.
> (Important research's priority is immediately and widely known;
> unimportant research is less worth worrying about. I am not the victim
> if you take my papers and publish them as your own in some obscure
> journal in order to get tenure or funding at some uninformed
> institution. At worst, the victim is the duped institution, not me.)
> But authors nevertheless don't like the prospect of plagiarism, and
> there is no reason *whatsoever* to couple open-access with any lesser
> legal protection against plagiarism than that afforded by copyright
> law.
> > The classic academic plagiarism involves stealing work
> > from an obscure publication, and often publishing it in an equally
> > obscure publication, so that the risk of detection is minimized. There
> > could be no better protection than to have immediate, easy free online
> > access to an authoritative copy of the original work, from a trusted
> > source.
> I agree 100%. Open access maximizes the likelihood of detection. But now,
> when we are still trying to allay the research community's prima facie
> hesitancy about open access, a time when open access is already long
> overdue, but definitiely not yet upon us -- this is *not* the time to
> reinforce their worries that open access might come at the cost of a loss
> of legal protection against plagiarism and corruption of their texts!
> > Copyright, to the extent that it is used to restrict access
> > (and for most online academic journals, proscribe independent users
> > from automatic searching and indexing of the text), protects
> > plagiarizers from being detected.
> Copyright, when it is used for (publisher) protection against
> theft-of-text, does the refereed-research community no good
> whatsoever, diminishing both research impact *and* the detectability
> of plagiarism. But the remedy for that is *open access*, i.e., freedom
> from access-tolls -- and not freedom from copyright-protection against
> theft-of-authorship (plagiarism)!
> 5. PostGutenberg Copyright Concerns
> Stevan Harnad
> NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
> access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
> the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):
> or
> Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Wed Jul 23 2003 - 17:25:36 BST

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