Tuesday, March 13, 2012

VroniPlag: Case 20

Tonight the twentieth case of plagiarism was documented on the VroniPlag site. It's another doctorate in law, this time from the University of Hanover. And it's another summa cum laude dissertation that even starts off (page 1) with a plagiarism from a book by the person who published the dissertation. Maybe this one will finally get more of a discussion going in Germany.

I've added the case to the open plagiarism table.

And I apologize to all readers with comments - when I turned on the moderation I forgot to put in my email, so they have just been collecting up. I've sorted out the random spam and published the rest. And now have a proper email entered.

27 comments:

  1. A new fake IEEE Conference has been identified by some colleagues
    http://ieee-bogus.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. What about the PhD dissertation of Prof Fischer-Lescano? Has anybody ever checked that or will Vroniplag not do that?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Since all dissertations in Germany are published, you are welcome to obtain a copy and have a look. People at VroniPlag tend to only be willing to commence fragmentation and visualization when there is sufficient evidence that the thesis contains plagiarism. If you find evidence, you can submit it either in chat or via the hush form on the front page. However, there are enough theses already submitted to keep this group of volunteers busy for quite some time. New people are, as always, welcome.

    ReplyDelete
  4. As somebody watching this from the distance I find it very odd that it is only conservative and liberal politicians and people that get nailed. Do labour politicians in Germany not have PhDs? Is there a political agenda behind this? To prove independence I think it would be wise for Vroniplag to check Fischer-Lescano thesis (by the way I have done spot checks out of curiosity and yes, there are copies in there!) and of all the other people involved. Why do the people behind Vroniplag not reveal their names - that way other people could check their bachelor theses etc.? This whole thing is not very transparent I am afraid.

    Also, as a a lawyer I am curious what happens if Vroniplag accuses somebody of plagiarism who as a result of that accusation loses his or her job but then is later cleared of the accusation. There is a clear link of causation as well as palpability and potential liability.
    Also, as I understand it from my law firm's German offices there are potential copyright infringements by re-publishing a whole thesis (albeit page by page) on the internet without the author's permission - the same applies to using software as inevitably a copy is made in RAM and then later in the generated export. This does not seem to be covered by the edcuational or criticism exception as internet publication is not necessary for this - a simple paper copy would be sufficient. So in that case the Vroniplag people would be guilty of the same offence that they accuse others of. Has anybody ever checked those legal issues?
    I am certain that it is those legal issues why the whole Vroniplag affair is not considered relevant or important in the media over here (UK media) or anywhere else in the world, even though Prof Mistelis is now also caught in it. A lot of people here think it is a bit over the top and unfortunately for those people the stereotype of German people is confirmed that way. The handling and apparence of bias towards the conservatives and liberals is not doing Germany any good - at least not here in the UK where those parties are in power.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Actually, only half of the cases have been politicians. And the focus of the work is not on the person, but on the thesis.

    VroniPlag tends to only checks theses for which there is a concrete suspicion, that is, someone demonstrates a source or two. Just checking people's theses because of who they are is quite problematic. If you have found evidence of plagiarism, you are welcome to document that yourself and send it to VroniPlag. Just stating that there are copies without demonstrating them I find quite unethical.

    It is a typical reaction to want to harm the person bringing the bad news - but it is not the fault of the persons who point out the plagiarism. There are good reasons for not going public with one's name. I'm a tenured professor, that gives me the security to point out the truth. Would it change how much any of the 21 cases of plagiarism in a dissertation or habilitation had been plagiarized if even one of the people documenting the plagiarism had themselves once plagiarized? Two wrongs does not make a right.

    VroniPlag is extremely transparent. You can see when which individual documented what. You can obtain a copy of the thesis and the source and check for yourself that the text on the web site is identical. The people doing the documentation are irrelevant.

    VroniPlag does not accuse anyone of anything. VroniPlag documents striking similarities between dissertations and other material that was available at the time the dissertation was submitted.

    The copyright problems you refer to is not the thesis being republished - which it isn't - but the thesis is itself using other people's words without permission. Plagiarism is not a copyright issue. It is a problem of scientific misconduct.

    Again, I don't know where you get the perceived bias from - although there have been statistics collected that conservative and liberal politicians more often tend to have a doctorate than other politicians.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Anonymous.

    As a lawyer, you completely miss the point.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I agree that two wrongs do not make a right but in my opinion one loses the right to make this kind of accusations if one is himself or herself guilty of the same conduct alleged. People in the UK feel that no names are revealed because then people might want to check the work of these people - by not revealing their names this possibility does not exist. A German colleague of mine wrote down a saying (and translated it for me) you have in Germany: "Wer im Glashaus sitzt sollte nicht mit Steinen werfen." I find that quite fitting. The individuals are only indentifiable by nicknames, nothing more. I do not consider that transparency and openness.

    Also, even if a thesis contains a copy of someone else's work, that piece of work (although infringing) still attracts its own copyright. Vroniplag infringes that copyright by republishing a whole piece of work (up to 10% is fine). You even state that "everyone can obtain a copy" - do you really believe that the Vroniplag people go to the library, take the copy home and then use that copy for their work? Is it not more likely that the copy is scanned (copyright infringement!!!) so that the computer can be used for finding duplicate sources? It is copyright infringement which is not allowed and is likely to be not covered by an exception - check your UrhG.

    What about libel and slander issues (defamation) - those people that were accused by Vroniplag but are then subsequently cleared? The damage to their reputation is substantial, isn't it? Who will compensate those people?

    I acknowledge that plagiarism should not occur and in principle I agree with checking written work. However, the manner it is conducted reminds a lot of people here of denunciation and a bit of a witch hunt.
    Also, there are legal issues there whether Vroniplag likes it or not. Once an accused person who has subsequently been cleared sues and wins, this will be acknowledged. But then everybody will complain and ask why nobody warned them.

    I think Vroniplag goes to far in many cases anyway. Ideas cannot be protected and many people all around the world think of the same things, often independently of each other. For example, if I think of a new theory for copyright and put that down in my thesis but I am unaware that this theory has been developed by somebody else three years ago and has been published in an article in an obscure law journal, then Vroniplag will say I copied that idea and did not reference it. However, this is not plagiarism as I developed this idea myself and was not aware of the article. Do you see the problem?
    Also, what about historical facts? If I write 'The Declaration of Independence in 1776 was a turning point for the new colonies" do I need to reference this? It is in many, many books but also common knowledge. Again, one is likely to find the exact phrase in many books - did I plagiarise without ever having read them? There are only so many ways that someone can express certain things (2+2 equals 4) so that inevitably authors will quite often formulate identical sentences (most often when discussing history, formulae, or things like the formation of a contract). Just because phrases are identical does not mean it is plagiarised. People who take that view do not uderstand the issue.

    I am not sure which field you are a professor in but plagiarism does clearly have a relationship with copyright. One of the people accused, Proefroeck or so, has apprently been accused of copyright infringement and has to pay a fine of 4000 Euro. This shows that plagiarism is more than scientific misconduct.

    ReplyDelete
  8. And dear Sotho Tal Ker - would you care to elaborate or should I respond at this kindergarden level?

    Finally, are you aware there is an art form/historical literary style where works are created solely from fragments of other works? This is in fact the style. There was an article about a Professor in Switzerland who was faced with a course work having no footnotes and only conssiting of other people's work. The course was about that art form/literary style. By putting together the fragments into a unique combination a new work is created. is this plagiarism? I think it is not as otherwise many art form would consitute plagiarism.

    ReplyDelete
  9. VroniPlag is not throwing stones. They are documenting apparent plagiarism in publicly available publications. The entire publication is not republished, as the doctoral theses in general use a number of sources. The portions are only for documentation purposes.

    I don't just believe that the "VroniPlag people" go to libraries - I know that they do. I do. I actually believe that a few live at the various libraries.... They are researchers who are well acquainted with libraries. Up until now, six doctorates have been rescinded. Three are said to have determined scientific misconduct, but to not yet have decided on the course of action. One university decided "no case", but was not willing to publish any reasons why they feel that the documented fragments are not plagiarisms, so the case stands.

    Have a look at some of the fragments - there is now a color coding implemented that shows the exact wording copied, making it even easier to see the very minor changes to the texts. This is not two people having independent ideas - this is whole-scale copying. In case 21 it is also some amusing changes: taking texts about Switzerland or Germany and replacing the country name with Northern Iraq.

    There are very many ways to formulate things, and you should know that copyright only protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. Facts, such as 2+2=4, do not fall under copyright.

    I am a professor for Media and Computing. Pröfrock was not fined for copyright infringement. The criminal investigation was closed on the condition that he pay 4000 € to charity. The copyright holder did not file suit, according to the Main Post. This was an ex officio investigation.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am a British academic and I applaud Vroniplag (not least because I was distinctly annoyed to find out that my work and that of colleagues had been heavily plagiarised in an early Vroniplag case that led to a rescinded doctorate). I realise that anonymous is not a native-English speaker as we too have a saying that 'people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones', but I find his/her comments on what is being said about Vroniplag in the UK so bizarre, that I wanted to say that I've yet to hear anyone say anything like that. Cheating is cheating regardless of political affiliation and no, we don't think documenting it is particularly German. After all British academics spend a wearying amount of time each year documenting plagiarism in student essays for our own university disciplinary procedures. If anything what the very few of us, who know the site exists, do think is odd, is the amount of criticism the site gets in Germany for documenting blatant academic dishonesty, and that some of the plagiarists are so brazen that they are taking legal action to prevent the removal of their doctorates.

    ReplyDelete
  11. @JM, I am actually a native speaker (from Huntingdon, if you need to know) - I just clarified the proverbial so that the non-English speakers do understand the correct meaning.

    Again, my colleagues at the law firm and at the uni I teach at are not against Vroniplag prima facie. What they do not condone is the fact that it is anonymous so the public is deprived of checing the credentials of the accuser. After all, in a criminal law suit the credibility of a forger is not very high when he accuses another of forging.
    So, I would like to know the people behind Vroniplag, get a hold of their publications, and then check those. Only when they come out absolutely clean they have the right to accuse in my opinion and also they should then accuse themselves.

    As regards facts, I can guarantee if I published a paper containing a lot of general statements (for example, basic contract law - a valid binding contract comes into existence once a valid offer and a valid acceptance of that offer exist) Vroniplag and the plagiarism software would pick up all these statements as they are written in hundreds of books but yet I have written that using my own head with the knowledge from my uni education. It has happened quite a lot during my LLM that I have developed an idea and then told my supervisor who then mentioned that he has read that idea in some paper. I have not read that paper but if I had put my idea in writing without referencing that paper I would be accused of plagiarism. Sorry, but that is just not acceptable.
    And no, for basic knowledge (at least in law) there are not 100000 ways to say the same thing - so not only is the unprotected idea the sae but also the expression and yet I maintain there would be no copyright infringement. My esteemed academic colleague from the UK might admit that the footnote insanity does not originate in Britain but rather in Germany. If you have looked at recent PhD in Germany you will find that some have 3000 footnotes on 250 pages - that is overcitation and a bit of overkill.
    In fact, a German notary has published an article saying that the people who reformulate ideas and expressions at least show that they have read the sources - he has got a point as no one can really claim to have read 3000+ (probably a lot more as the footnotes often contain several sources) sources fully. Often people just re-use citations from what they have read.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You know, professors should be role models. But are they - is it not often the case in Germany that the academic assistants write articles and do research and then the name of the professor gets put on the article as the lead author. That is something that is very bad and Vroniplag should attack. How can students learn if the role models do not conform to the same standards they impose on students? This does not happen in the UK to my knowledge (and I have attended and worked at several unis there) and even if it does it happens on a much smaller scale. Virtually any German PhD student I know (from a variety of subjects and at various unis) have told me that this has happened to them but for some reason we never hear about that.
    In fact one student even showed me that one professor in a MBA course has copied his WHOLE course materials off the internet and pretended they were his. Students informed the dean of the faculty but nothing happened. Only when students complained the next year when the same thing happened the professor was told it would be wise to retire early. So much for honesty and transparency when it comes to professors. I am happy to provide you with the name and materials of the uni and professor in question if you would like to take this up Prof Dr Weber-Wulff. And I guarantee that this is not an outlier but that this happens on a regular basis all over Germany. Of course most students do not complain as they are afraid of being graded down. During my time as a student I myself have been told by the student counsellor that I should be very careful making complaints as "one crow does not pick out the eyes of another". How much does that say about transparency and independent investigation?


    Dear Prof Weber-Wulff, maybe some people get the actual library copy and use that to go through a thesis. However, I know for a fact that some members of Vroniplag copy the whole thesis and/or scan it in order to use a computer (search/find function in Adobe Acrobat for example) to find duplicates. Is that not a copyright infringement? I find it quite telling that you do not respond to the possible liability issues for defamation and copyright infringement? Has anybody at Vroniplag explored those issues fully? Given the fact that some of the accused defend themselves, this should be off particular interest to you as the risk that Vroniplag is sued at some point is quite substantial . It just needs one law suit with s moderate amount of damages in the mid five figure range to financially ruin most people.
    I think Vroniplag should dispappear from the public eye, continue their work, inform the unis if they find anything and that is fine then. At least that way, no defamation issues arise.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous March 28 - Oh yes, I know that this happens far too often. That is part of what we see as the symptoms of the scientific misconduct that is so prevalent in Germany. And that is why honest researchers are lashing out, trying to force the universities to clean up their act. But as Gerhard Fröhlich from Linz often says: "I have studied all fraud affairs precisely and in almost every case anonymous allegations coupled with mass media outrage – in most recent years with an interim period of outrage on the internet – were necessary before the institutions themselves agreed to take action."

    Every German university has an ombud for good scientific practice - do contact the university in question! When the universities suffer from massive complaints, perhaps they will start cleaning up their act.

    When I scan, I copy a chapter or just the pages in question. Of course, in Germany copies can be made for scientific pursuit as long as they are not publicly distributed (§ 52 a UrhG). Scientific endeavor should not be throttled by fear of lawsuit - research and teaching matters are constitutionally guaranteed rights in Germany.

    If VroniPlag goes "undercover", nothing will happen. Much is not happening at the current time, despite the openness. The rottenness of the university system as exemplified by the cases popping up must be cured at the core. And anyone who does a doctorate in order to have "Dr." on his or her brass doorplate and be called "Herr Dr." or "Frau Dr." must be able to take criticism of what was publishen, IMHO.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous - I do apologise - your phrasing is so Germanic that I was convinced you were not English. I do not work in a discipline that uses footnote referencing so have no idea if Germans overuse footnotes in comparison to other nationalities, or whether legal scholars are particularly dishonest in the way they use such references as you suggest. I shall have to ask my colleagues in Law if they agree with you. In my own discipline cutting and pasting references to works that one has not read would be deemed academically dishonest, and so subject to disciplinary proceedings. And the egregiousness of the cut and pasting in the Vroniplag cases that I have looked at, I cannot imagine being acceptable in any subject.
    Do I think an anonymous wiki is the ideal way to tackle the problem? No. But the German colleagues that I work closely with, all seem to think that it's the only viable way to get action on a widely recognised problem, for the reasons Professor Weber-Wulff has outlined in her earlier comments.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sure, I just list 7 points:

    1. Vroniplag does not target conservative and liberal politicians or people. See also point 2.
    2. Vroniplag does not randomly check the thesis of people, just because someone says "oh I found something" without any evidence. A thesis gets checked when someone notifies the Wiki (anonymously) via the contact form and provides some facts like "Text A from page X is identical to the text from book B page Y".
    3. At least everyone uses a well defined alias, which is much more transparent than "Anonymous". I hope you notice the difference.
    4. Vroniplag is not responsible for the thesis. The author is responsible. Vroniplag just documents facts available in public works.
    5. You do not need to just believe what Vroniplag displays (though you usually can), but you can look up every single fragment in the original works and compare for yourself.
    6. Yes, the legal issues have been checked and were deemed to be no issues.
    7. Vroniplag is not about copyright infringement, but about scientific misconduct. I hope, you know what this term means.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Dear Sotho Tal Ker,

    in response to your little list:

    1. I know the legal issues have not been checked - otherwise my law firm would not have been approached by various people. And if you disagree - please provide evidence as Vroniplag is so transparent.
    2. Secondly, I am an IP lawyer, so without being disrespectful I am certain I know a bit more about the relationship between plagiarism and copyright than you unless you are an IP lawyer yourself of course. See the case mentioned above where a fine was to paid so that NO infringement proceedings were commenced or rather continued.
    3. Anonymous is preselected by this website - so not my doing.
    4. In order to check whether the Vroniplag people are guilty of academic misconduct I need to know their names so that I can check their work. So aliases are not transparent regardless of what you say.

    @JM: Apology accepted. Funny you say that - my colleagues and I were convinced you were not English either due to the style of writing, and the long sentences which are rather typical for Germans. Also, please consider the legal issues - Vroniplag does infringe copyright in my opinion and in the case of allegations turning out unfounded could face defamation claims. How would you feel, for example, if you get accused, investigated by the uni while all of this is made public in the paper for weeks, and then it turns out the allegations were untrue. The damage to your reputation is done and cannot be undone. And what if your employer terminates the contract prematurely - think of all the consequences and steps to be taken to get a relatively normal life back. What do you think about that?

    @Prof Dr Weber-Wulff: I have mentioned the case several times to the Dean, and in fact all the students of the previous intake and of my intake complained (about 100 students) and documentation and proof was provided. Still nothing happened. In fact, the professor in question took revenge on the students involved using grades and inciting other students against them. So much for complaining.
    And yes, scientific pursuit is covered but it is doubtful whether the activities of Vroniplag are covered by this exception as you do not use it for your own research (maybe you personally do but the the majority of Vroniplag). Also
    1. you make it publicly available which is only allowed with the permission of the author.
    2. Subparagraph 4 states an appropriate fee is to be paid for the making available publicly. Does Vroniplag do that?
    3. Subparagraph 1 states that a small portion is OK. Vroniplag puts the whole work on the internet.

    From this you see that Vroniplag's activities are more likely infringing than not. Hence I would be very, very careful. And I have not even considered the defamatory issues potentially incurring liability.
    I suggest that you have Vroniplag check your own work and publish the results - as a role model and to show publicly that the people behind Vroniplag have nothing to hide.

    I wish all of you a lovely weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hello Anonymous Mar 30,

    The VroniPlag documenters are not being accused of academic misconduct - it is the the people who submitted dissertations with copied material and the universities that accepted this work. You don't need to check the work of the people documenting. Just get the books in question and compare. We offer the page and line numbers for you to make it easier.

    Indeed, an IP specialist was consulted rather early in the process.

    The problem that you mention is the reason why names are not named until the plagiarism has been documented to a significant level, for various measures of significance. Each case is a singularity. And again - the work is not recopied as a whole. Any page only has a portion of the works in question and is attributed.

    And not to worry, soon after VroniPlag and my personal connection with it was made public, there were demands that I publish my dissertation online. Since it has been online since 1997, but in Postscript, I made a PDF version: http://www.f4.htw-berlin.de/~weberwu/diss/list.html Never seen so much interest in my work. I worked hard for my dissertation and feel cheated to see all these other people also getting doctorates - and flaunting them - without doing the work.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I understand that the Vroniplag people are not accused - but he who accuses others should come with clean hands and I can only see those clean hands once I know who they are and have checked their names. After all, even in court one has a right to know his or her accuser. That is a basic principle of fairness, isn't it?

    As regards the IP specialist, maybe have him check again, this time also for defamation law and damages flowing from allegations who turn out to be untrue. Have you got this in writing? If you do I would be interested to see that.
    In any case, what is republished is not a small part but a substantial part and that is what matters. Think about it - if you could just copy 50%+ of a work and publish it on the internet under the guise of education many bookshops would go bankrupt.

    Just before I go home - I would be interested in obtaining some of your earlier works, namely the following and would be grateful if you could provide a link to those if possible.

    Displaying Text in Facsimile. In: Proceedings of the 1985 Symposium on Personal and Small Computers, ACM SIGSMALL/PC. Danvers, Mass. Mai, 1985.

    Proof Movie : Proving the Add-Assign Compiler with the Boyer-Moore Prover. ProCoS Technical Report DWW 5/2. Kiel, July 1990.

    Proof Movie : A Proof with the Boyer-Moore Prover, Formal Aspects of Computing, Nr. 5, 1993, pp. 121-151.

    Have a good Friday. I am off home now before I come back in for the weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  19. 1. Void argument, a non sequitur. "People ask me for legal advice" does not mean "Vroniplag never checked the legal issues".
    2. I never said there is no relationship between plagiarism and copyright. I stated that Vroniplag concentrates on scientific misconduct. If other parties feel that their copyright was infringed, they are free to take legal action. Vroniplag cannot and will not do this.
    3. That is a lie. The default is "Select a profile...". And the second option from the bottom (Just above "Anonymous") allows you to freely choose an alias.
    4. You missed the point again. Transparency does not mean that everyone must participate with his or her real name. A specific alias is enough. Each edit in the Wiki can be traced back to the specific user. This is all transparency that is needed. If you need more transparency, you should state a reason why it is needed... and "I want to check your works" is not a reason.

    The other facts: Vroniplag does not make the whole work publicly available. We only make those parts available that contain plagiarism. Maybe you should check your sources again. If you find a link that shows otherwise, feel free to share it here.

    I do not know what you want to achieve by threatening the Wiki. Stirring up some fear among the Vroniplag community? Good luck with that.

    ReplyDelete
  20. @ Sotho Tal Ker

    Fancy Latin words do not make you right I am afraid.

    1. My firm is not asked for legal advice but received formal instructions on these issues which means somebody is actually paying for these issues to be explored - people only pay if they believe issues are worthwhile being explored and there is a prima facie case. Otherwise no-one would spend 500 Euro an hour on lawyers.

    2. Without registering, there is no either way than anonymous. If I can pick an alias each time - fine. But registration on a website - no thank you. Too much abuse is done with data. For that reason no Twitter, Facebook or other like account.

    3. Yes, you put up more than then 10% that is allowed by copyright law. Just check it - I did. Therefore, prima facie copyright infringement by Vroniplag. If you are so certain, give me your name, I draft a legally binding statement that you guarantee that no copyright infringement takes place and that if it does you will be personally liable. Put your money where your mouth is or rather say nothing at all without having written legal advice on these issues.

    4. And yes, transparency with real names is needed. How would you feel if somebody sent the tax man a letter with an alias stating that you don't pay your taxes and as a result you get an audit (which is a lot of hassle, work, and stress). Or somebody going by the alis "good samaritan' accuses you of a crime and then you go to a jail until the investigation into the allegation is finished and then you do not even have any recourse against the nasty accuser as you only know the alias. Really?

    I am not threatening anything - for my law firm all this is great as we make money out of it so please continue for the next ten years - you will be generating work that will pay for my house.
    When a report on Fischer-Lescano works comes out and this is only a matter of time, I am sure a lot of things will be viewed in a different light. Have you checked his thesis - I have and there are some fundamental issues with what you call "Verschleierung".

    ReplyDelete
  21. I do find that rich, that an Anonymous insists that others not be anonymous. I just logged out and checked - you don't have to register, you can give any name you want and use the same name everytime.

    Could you tell us where the "10% that is allowed by copyright law" is codified? I can only find „sofern die Nutzung in ihrem Umfang durch den besonderen Zweck gerechtfertigt ist“, that is, only for the case in which the extent of the use is justifiable for this particular goal.

    If you plagiarize, it doesn't matter who points this out; if you cheat on your taxes, it doesn't matter who accused you; if someone accuses you of a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty (at least in theory in this part of the world). If there is probably cause of plagarism, cheating on taxes, or that you committed the crime, then appropriate steps will be taken.

    Again - making nasty insinuations about Fischer-Lescano's thesis does not change the plagiarism found in zu Guttenberg's thesis, or any of the 21 people on the VroniPlag list. But don't just insinuate: document.

    ReplyDelete
  22. 10% is stipulated by the courts and its case law and accpeted as the general rule. That is why libraries display notices stating exactly this. Either one chapter of book or 10% of the total number of pages. Otherwise prima facie copyright infringement occurs.
    Otherwise I could just say that my particular purpose is to read a work and then copy the whole thing as that is necessary to achieve my particular purpose. If you copy more you deprive the auhtor of income for his or her work. I am astonished that as a uni professor you are not aware of this rule. And to make it clear - I am neither agreeing or disagreeing with the extent of current copyright law but merely apply the law as it currently stands.

    You are right - a wrong is not eradicated by another wrong. However, an accusation has a lot more authority and weight if it does not come from somebody who is guilty of the same crime as the one who he accuses.
    To give you an extreme example: how credible is a murderer in prison when he accuses another of murder?
    Also, although innocent until proven guilty the accusation itself can cause irreparable harm. There are so many cases in Germany (one I know of personally) where for example, some school girls accused their sports teacher of indecent acts, it goes to court, and he then is proven to be innocent. However, because it is reported a stigma is attached to him and he can still leave town as he will always be known as the one "that was accused of abusing girls".
    Seriously, you know that the media attention can cause this. And of course, that is why there is defamation law although again it can only compensate for a damaged reputation but never repair or restore it so therefore one must not make public allegations until guilt is proven. I am not against Vroniplag - I do not condone their publicity greed though. If your goal is really to safeguard academic integrity why don't you check things and then give it to the unis concerned for further investigation if you found something rather than leaking it to the press beforehand before the actual investigation. If somebody is found to be innocent after such an investigation, it really is irrelevant after the media attention - he or she will never lose the stigma. What will Vroniplag do about that? Who will be accountable for that and take responsibility? And no, you cannot shift responsibility to the media as you as educated academics know how the media operates and should safeguard accordingly. If you do not that is morally and ethically wrong.
    That really is the problem with Vroniplag.

    As regards the laws, check with www.vgwort.de
    Also, check various unis - they have guidelines on the websites of their libraries.
    Para 53(1) UrhG also speaks about copies on paper (or with other photomechanical methods) - the internet is not allowed. Apart from the initial copying you are also distributing and publishing the works on your website - that is a seperate issue and could fall fould of paras 16, 17, and 19a.

    Seriously, when you have a 300 page work, find 30 pages with copies, give it to the uni concerned, let them investigate, do not inviolve the media (the uni can do that if they so wish) and you are on the safe side. I have to emphasise again that in addition to the copyright issues there are and will be defamation law issues which are a completely different ballgame again (different standards, different liability issues etc.)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you. The problem is, as I have often stated, that the German universities have very often not acted on cases of academic integrity in the past. There are very few procedures, no academic integrity boards, every professor defines for him- or herself what is valid. This state of affairs cannot continue. Without media pressure, nothing will change. That was what zu Guttenberg tried to do - challenge the integrity of the accusers, instead of looking at the work.

    I just recently did that for a thesis that is an extremely large plagiarism. I sent an email with the relevant data - and got no response. I wrote to the person in charge directly, and received the response that they were no longer responsible, as the person now works at another university. This is nonsense, they are the doctoral degree granting institution. At least I get an answer when I write in my name. When others have written in the past, nothing has happened, or a case dragged on for years without resolution. Something must change in Germany, and it has to be now.

    ReplyDelete
  24. You are right but those people that turn out to be falsely accused cannot be the victim falling on the wayside. Think of the situation where someone loses his or her job because of accusations that turn out to be false and then he or she and her/his wife/husband and the children have no more income and house. The partner and the children are completely innocent victims.
    The answer to your issue is not to make the accusations public but try to write to the unis, maybe the dean, set a deadline, and if the uni has not repsonded then drag the uni into the media for inaction. That is the right approach as at least this way no innocent person will suffer, directly or indirectly, as the uni then deserves being dragged into the limelight for inactivity and/or trying to cover up.
    The way Vroniplag does it know does come across as being a bit of a vendetta - while many people agree with the issue you have you lose a lot of synmpathy and support this way. It would be a lot more constructive if the legal, moral, and ethical issues were given more priority and prominence. Also for IP laywers like me I am unwilling to participate in a project that runs the risk of copyright infringement - if I did and somebody sued my reputation and livelihood would be ruined.
    And as for the accusations: in UK law there is a saying: he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. This basically sums up what I have said before - if you want your right you must be innocent and not have committed any illegal, indecent, immoral etc. act. That is why I insist on transparency and revealing of names. Once the work of the Vroniplag people is checked and has turned out to be absolutely clean, then they have so much more authority and weight when making accusations. It would also make them so much less vulnerable against attacks. You know there is a bit of dogdiness when someone acucses someone else in newspapers without revealing the name - as I said before in a court an accused has the right to face his accuser - that is a cherished principle so why not apply it uniformly?

    P.S.: And if you want my personal opinion: media pressure will only drive the problem elsewhere where it cannot be detected - it won't solve it (for example, all you software can only detect copying - it cannot detect original ghostwritten works which I understand has been a much bigger problem in Germany). The only way to solve it is to change and transform people's attitude - media pressure will not achieve that but rather result in stubborn anti-reaction.

    ReplyDelete
  25. My final decision: Anonymous is a troll.

    The reason:
    No evidence given about the 10%-rule. No paragraphs, no court decisions. But claiming that it exists. The same case with the thesis of Fischer-Lescano. Claiming there is plagiarism inside, without any evidence.
    If he really was a lawyer he would know that such statements should not be written without evidence, especially when saying someone plagiarized. Vroniplag gives evidence for every case that is published.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Note: Even if your reply has interesting information in it, if it contains a personal attack, it will not be published.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello! Great debate!

      - it is not obvious to see how one can invent a name for participation from the drop-down menu ... mine should be test :)
      - I undestand that there are legal issues. But we should keep copy right infringement and the damage arising out of a media campaign apart. The media get sued for damages all the time: Why should VroniPlag not get sued for pinpointing some matter-of-fact plagiarism that ultimately threatens professional careers?
      - Plagiators cannot be blamed to the extent that media campaigns suggest. There is no reason to assume that universities are "rotten". Quite to the contrary: the copy-paste plague aptly illustrates that dissertations nowadays are not much different from the good old German "Promotion in absentia". Why should we care?
      - It is the last point that has turned me into a big fan of VroniPlag. I would never have imagined that scientific rigour could become a public debate. This gives me hope. If VroniPlag goes on, academic standards may rise. You are doing great work!
      - My final point is somewhat pessimistic. As long as a thesis is only defended at the local university and is not subject to the additional scrutiny of national thesis committees (like, e.g., in Russia), we may always need VroniPlag to double-check it.

      Delete