Tuesday, September 28, 2004

More excuses

Local coverage of the Tribe plagiarism scandal has revealed more pitiful excuses for unscholarly conduct.

From the Boston Globe:
In an interview with the Globe about Ogletree's book earlier this month, Tribe said people who "get on a high horse" about inadvertent plagiarism are "probably revealing more about their lack of self-knowledge than their high scholarly standards."

"I have a feeling that more than a few people who would not want to admit it have in the course of their careers accidentally found something in their own work -- a paragraph, a sentence, a line -- that they had intended to take down as a research note, but that ended up, not on the cutting room floor, but instead being sent by an assistant to a publisher," Tribe said.
This is so weak. More than a few others have been similarly careless, so we shouldn't criticize? I for one am very familar with high scholarly standards, considering every honor code and plagiarism policy I have ever had to comply with has been more rigorous than what's required of HLS professors. That an error is easy to make and difficult to detect should imply that we must be very vigilant to guard against it, not forgiving of those who commit it.

From the Boston Herald:
A supporter of Tribe, Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky said it wasn't plagiarism because the passages Tribe used inappropriately were historic statements of fact, rather than another author's ideas.
I am only beginning my copyright class, but even a couple of weeks have hammered in the idea/expression distinction. The issue is not just that Tribe wrote a book about the same facts as Abraham - it's that he used Abraham's unique expressions to describe those facts. I am not a fan of Duke Law professors in general, but Chemerinsky only drives that disdain home.
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