Remember when Shia LaBeouf plagiarized a Daniel Clowes comic book story almost word-for-word and made a short film about it? When he was found out, he tweeted a series of apologies, which turned out to be plagiarized, too. I interview Clowes at Meltdown comic in Hollywood last month and I asked him for an update about his experience with the serial plagiary. Here's the video, queued up to part in the interview where he talked about it:
Clowes explained that LaBeouf had powerful "motherfucker" lawyers who would have ground Clowes into hamburger, had Clowes not had his own motherfuckers to make sure LaBeouf paid Clowes for using his work without permission.
A few days ago LaBeouf released a video demonstrating his freelance rap skills. But it didn't take long for the original lyricist to come forth:
The NY Daily News reports:
Rap group Anomolies called LaBeouf out on Instagram, claiming that his flow comes from their song "Perfectionist," which was written in 1999.
"You can't rip songs from my ANOMOLIES crew, recite them in a freestyle as your own, get credit for it, then not expect to be called out by ACTUAL MCs!" the post stated.
From Watch Loud:
At the the 2:23 mark in his video LaBeouf hushes the crowd and says “The rare commodity, the quality is what it’s gotta be, and my philosophy is farther than what your eyes can see.”
However, on the 1999 track “Perfectionist” you can clearly hear Helixx spit at the 45 second mark, “I recon you want more of that rare commodity/the quality is what it’s gotta be/ and my philosophy is much farther than what your eyes can see.”
Later on in their track you can hear the “Gas mask/last laugh” punchline as well. Listen to it below.
Shia LaBeouf pretending to be freestyle rapping:
Anomolies - Perfectionist
Cody Foster & Co is an art-swiping tchotcke maker, used by big retailers to source fashionable cloneware they want to sell. Accused last year of ripping off a batch of independent designers, Cody Foster wanted to settle. Fast Company's John Brownlee reports the incredible conditions they want to impose on the victim.
Cody Foster's conditions? That the independent designer accusing the company of piracy license her designs to Cody Foster & Co. for $650 and submit to a gag order, deleting any complaints about the company from the web. ... Smith and her attorneys initially declined the offer, indicating that $650 was not worth a gag order on what they had been through, and reached out to Co.Design. Since then, Cody Foster's attorneys have indicated that they are willing to discuss a larger payment in exchange for licensing Smith's designs. As of publication, this remains unresolved.
Since at least 2001, Colin Purrington, a former Swarthmore Evolutionary Biology prof, has been publishing a great guide to conference posters that is widely read and linked. It's also widely plagiarized, and Purrington sends notices to people whom he catches passing it off as their own work, asking them to remove it. Normally, this works.
But not in the case of The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc., a company that receives millions in federal grants to fund biotech research. When Purrington sent CPBR an email telling them off for plagiarizing him, they responded by accusing him of being the plagiarist, threating him with massive damages, and demanding that he remove his own work immediately and permanently.
Purrington responded with a pretty good note about the whole awful mess. Though I think he overstates the copyright case here. In particular, he discounts out of hand the idea that reproduction in educational contexts can't be fair use; this is just wrong -- fair use is fact intensive, and educational use tilts the scales in favor of a successful defense. On the other hand, plagiarism (though not illegal) is a cardinal sin in education, and educators who pass off his work as their own may not be breaking the law, but they are unambiguously violating a core ethic of education and scholarship.
But back to CPBR. This is not only plagiarism, it's also copyright infringement, and it's copyfraud -- claiming copyright on something you hold no rights to. It's unethical, it's illegal, and it's fraudulent. CPBR president and chairman Dorin Schumaker (also sole employee -- who, according to its most recent 990, receives $213,964 a year) is not available for comment, and both its attorneys and whomever answers its phone hung up on the Chronicle of Higher Ed when called for clarification.
So: crooks and cowards.
I called the main number for the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research and was told that the president and chairman, Dorin Schumaker, was not available and might not be available for weeks. Schumaker is the only paid employee listed on the nonprofit’s most recent available Form 990 tax filing (her salary, according to the filing, is $213,964). I then called a number listed for a Dorin Schumaker in St. Simons Island, Ga., where the consortium is based. The person who picked up the phone declined to answer questions and hung up when asked if she was Dorin Schumaker. The consortium’s lawyer, David Metzger, also hung up on me. In a follow-up e-mail, he said he was abiding by his client’s wishes.
If they can explain how they created, in 2005, a document that Purrington posted online years before, they’re keeping that explanation mum for now.
Too often in plagiarism cases, the victim never really gets satisfaction. Maybe the offending passage is taken down. Perhaps a footnote is added. The plagiarist might even manage a mumbled apology. But the penalties are often piddling. This is the first case I’ve heard of in which the apparent victim may be the one who gets punished.
Purrington also states that he prohibits "paraphrase plagiarism, which is when you copy sentences and phrases but make minor word changes to mask your theft" -- which, again, overstates the scope of copyright. Paraphrasing material, quoting, and transformative adaptation are, in fact, classic fair use, despite Purrington's statement that he's "lost my patience with people claiming that Fair Use allows them to bypass my copyright. Really, folks?" Well, yes, really: fair use is the right to make uses and copies without permission from the copyright holder. It's not without limits, but it's also not nothing. Incidental copying, copying for the purposes of commentary and criticism, format-shifting, archiving, adaptation to assistive formats, etc -- all potentially fair use. Scholarship depends on fair use and other limitations in copyright, and while Purrington's poster is a great and informative work that greatly assists scholarship, his statements about the scope of copyright and its limitations and exceptions are greatly harmful to it.
I applaud the good work he's done in his guide, and am firmly on his side when it comes to the terrible treatment he's gotten at the hands of the CPBR. But I wish he'd check out some of the equally excellent guides to fair use so that all of the information he disseminates was just as accurate and useful as his conference poster piece.
Adding Insult to Plagiary? [Chronicle of Higher Education/Tom Bartlett]
My latest Guardian column is "Internet copyright law has to have public support if it's going to work," and it goes into the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism, and tries to understand why so many people got upset at Glee's legal ripoff of a Jonathan Coulton song:
Copyright experts were quick to explain that Fox's plagiarism was legal – the same rules that allowed Coulton to record his cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's original "Baby Got Back" also allow Fox to produce a sound-alike version. But it's shoddy, because it is, at heart, a lie.
(Coulton got his own back on Fox: he rereleased his own "Baby Got Back" and billed it as a cover of the Glee version, with proceeds to charity – it climbed the iTunes chart while the Fox version was clobbered by angry Coulton fans who gave it one-star reviews)
Why does Fox's sin stick in the internet's craw? I think it's because Fox hasn't just wronged Coulton: they've wronged the public. We have been misled about the origin of a product we're being asked to purchase.
This is different from, say, a fake designer handbag that's offered as a cheap knockoff, where there's no intent to fool the purchaser, who understands that a 99% discount on a Vuitton bag means that it's really a "Vuitton" bag.
This kind of plagiarism is more like selling horsemeat labelled as beef burgers. Horsemeat can be perfectly harmless, and many people happily eat it, but when you buy beef burgers, you expect that you're getting what you paid for.
Jonathan Coulton responds to Fox/Glee's plagiarism of his song by "covering" it and making rival version available for sale
You'll have heard that Jonathan Coulton's iconic cover of Baby's Got Back was plagiarised by the Fox TV show "Glee" (it's not the first time). Coulton's story has been widely reported, but Fox/Glee have remained shameless about this.
Coulton's got a brilliant solution to this: he's released a "cover" of Glee's plagiarized version of his song, put it on Itunes as a rival to the official Fox version, and has announced that the proceeds will go to charity.
Last weekend, I blogged about Jonathan Coulton's discovery that the TV show Glee had plagiarized his arrangement for "Baby's Got Back."
Now, the magnificent DJ Earworm writes, "This is my call-out tweet from last February, expressing surprise at the similarities between Glee's arrangement and my own which had aired just a few months previously. I didn't think much about it, but I read that Jonathan Coulton story, and it seemed so similar to my own experience, I thought I'd share."
Jonathan Coulton has publicly shamed Fox for plagiarizing his arrangement for "Baby's Got Back" on its TV show "Glee":
Writing on Techdirt, Mike Masnick has a good, nuanced view of how this kind of thing works:
Yes, his is a cover song, but he introduced some variations that appear to be directly copied in Glee. Is there a potential copyright claim here? Well, that depends -- and the copyright law here is complex. You can cover a song by paying compulsory license fees, and Fox likely did that to whoever holds the copyright on the original. But they copied specific changes (and possibly the music) that Coulton added, which, could potentially be covered by his own copyright (of course, whether or not he registered them could also impact what he could do about it). And, let's not even get into the issue of things like sync licenses for video, and the (still open) question of whether or not Glee actually used part of Coulton's own recording.
In the end, though, almost none of that probably matters. Because Coulton seems unlikely (we hope) to go legal here. Instead, he's just going with the public shame route -- with a simple tweet about the situation, which has set off "the internet" to help him make his case and embarrass Fox and Glee.
Yesterday, I blogged about Bob Basset, the Ukrainian steampunk leatherworker, discovering one of his designs in the Design Toscano catalog without credit or royalty. The publicity that the Internet gave to Basset's cause caused Toscano to contact Basset and offer him a royalty, and they blame an unscrupulous supplier who claimed the design as its own:
To clear up the issue on the Steampunk piece that has some of our customers questioning our motives we would like to explain.
The statue was produced and offered to Design Toscano as one of a portfolio of new sculptures to review. There was some confusion between Mr. Bob Basset and the factory that produced this piece for Design Toscano. Mr. Mike Stopka, president of Design Toscano, spoke directly with Mr. Basset and explained that Design Toscano had been mislead in the creation of this piece. Mr. Basset and Mr. Stopka have worked out a generous plan that the artist will get compensation for his work and Mr. Basset has graciously allowed Design Toscano to continue to sell his fantastic work of art. Design Toscano is appreciative to its customers who informed us of this oversight and as always we celebrate artists and their creative work
Update: Design Toscano has apologized for this and agreed to pay a royalty to Bob Basset. They blame an unscrupulous supplier who presented the design as its own.
Design Toscano, a wealthy, fast-growing company, is selling a leather steampunk mask that clearly plagiarises the work of Ukrainian leatherworker Bob Basset, a favorite around these parts. As Rob Murdoch points out in his post, Toscano could easily spare the budget to work with Basset to produce masks or designs for them -- the ethical thing to do. Basset, a poor artists living in Ukraine, feels powerless to do anything about it. This ugly business calls all of Toscano's products into question: are all the designs in their catalog unacknowledged rip-offs from independent designers, or just this one?
So having known and loved Bob’s work for 10 years at this point, imagine my happiness for him when I came across a sculpture of one of his masks being sold on this site. I thought “Great for Bob! More of his work is out there and it’s a great paying gig for him!” (Toscano is a multi-million dollar company so they can afford to pay their artists well and they often give credit to the artist). Then I had the horrible thought that maybe this isn’t good and it’s a case of a big company ripping off the little guy, which has happened before and will happen again so long as companies can get away with it. So I popped over to Bob’s personal Facebook page and linked him the online catalogue page with his mask and asked if he knew about it. An hour later, he replied with “Yes, I know they simply stolen our design. But what I can do from Ukraine I don’t know.”
So there you have it. There is no mistaking that the sculpture is a copy of Bob Basset work: his style is so unique. Not only was he not given credit for it, but he was not compensated at all for their using his mask. Now I hate to have to bring this to light because I have loved Design Toscano for years. I have a lot of fantastic statues and art from them lining my walls. But something has to be said. And you have to wonder, why did this happen? Toscano makes good money on the art they sell. They didn’t need to copy this work without compensation. Why not have approached the artist who made the masks they obviously liked and wanted to sell and commission a sculpture from him? Artists live or die by their sales. They need to be paid by people who want to make use of their work, and they need to be credited for their art.
Toscano's catalog copy is an exercise in chutzpah: "Get ready for a little anti-establishment, alternate history with our forward-thinking Steampunk gas mask that boasts a gramophone for hearing and no end of techno-Victorian charm!" They even call it a "Design Toscano Exclusive." Well, yes, they are the exclusive purveyor of the cheap knock-off.
In this video, blogger Duane Lester confronts the editor of a newspaper which plagiarized something he wrote. The best part is when the editor tries to physically intimidate him, a moment so inexplicable and hilarious I created a YouTube Infinite Loop of it for you.
There's a happy ending, though: he ultimately saw reason and paid Lester for the article.
How to Assert Copyright Over Your Work When It’s Been Plagiarized [All American Blogger via Jim Romenesko]
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's recent op-ed in the Salt Lake City Tribune is full of quotes and paraphrases from promotional materials produced by the MPAA and execs from its member-companies in support of SOPA. This uncited quotation is the kind of thing that academics call cheating, and that the MPAA (incorrectly) calls "copyright theft."
“Congress can make a significant contribution to that effort with legislation to strengthen law enforcement tools. In the interests of American citizens and businesses, it is time for Congress to enact rogue sites legislation.”
The sentence above is copied from a pro-COICA column (bottom paragraph) written by Mike McCurry, co-chairman of the pro-copyright outfit Arts+Labs. At the time, McCurry’s piece was praised by pro-copyright lobby groups and in his writing McCurry also uses the previously mentioned sentence from the MPAA’s former president.
But there’s more. The column from McCurry, which is often quoted by the MPAA and affiliated groups such as FightOnlineTheft, displays more similarities with the article published by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Perhaps he's just experiencing the ecstasy of influence.