Correspondingly, the number of requests to use some of my material on
other websites has increased tremendously. I appreciate those who do ask
for permission, as they respect the copyright notice as found on my
website. Therefore I usually give this permission, quite happily,
particularly if it is for an educational or non-profit organisation.
However with the increase in viewership has come the unwanted
annoyance of those who take material without permission, or who abuse
that permission once given.
Before going any further, I shall give a (slightly edited) definition
of plagiarism, as found in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary,
so that all will understand the basis for the present page:
Correspondingly, the number of requests to use some of my material on other websites has increased tremendously. I appreciate those who do ask for permission, as they respect the copyright notice as found on my website. Therefore I usually give this permission, quite happily, particularly if it is for an educational or non-profit organisation.
However with the increase in viewership has come the unwanted annoyance of those who take material without permission, or who abuse that permission once given.
Before going any further, I shall give a (slightly edited) definition of plagiarism, as found in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, so that all will understand the basis for the present page:
I have tried to deal with this increased occurance of plagiarism on an individual basis. However I have decided that a simple request to remove an obviously plagiarised graphic or text is not sufficient.
Henceforth I will list every individual, and their organisation, who is guilty of unauthorised use of my material, even after they have removed the offending material, since I believe that this is the only way to deter future plagiarists.
I shall not dignify these websites with links, but a google will quickly find the offenders.
The first of these websites is an elementary school, the Nikiski North Star Elementary School near Kenai, Alaska. I applaud the children's proficiency in making their constellations pages, however absent is proper credit for those who provided the texts, much of which comes directly from my own site.
An email to the webmaster failed to resolve the issue. Indeed, he became quite agitated that the charge of plagiarism should arise; after all, this was an educational institution. As the school has now closed and the children now attend a different school, somehow this absolved him and the school authorities from any responsibility.
While I am delighted to find my work useful for educational purposes, it seems to me that part of one's education must include giving the author proper credit for borrowed material, credit that is clearly visible on the 'borrowed' pages, not buried under another 'reference' page.
Please understand that this isn't an ego question; the question is one of teaching children that when they adapt another's work, they make the original sources clearly visible.
The second website is much more serious, for it consists of a professional quality monthly bulletin, or newsletter, operating under the auspices of a respected world-wide organisation, the Rotary International ("a global network of community volunteers"), which absolved itself from any responsibility in the matter.
The web page in question is a monthy bulletin of astronomical news and information published by the International Fellowship of Rotarian Amateur Astronomers (IFRAA). This bulletin goes under the name of the Captain's Log.
At the change of their Chairman in 2003 it was decided (possibly by the new Chairman himself) to include some new pages to the monthy bulletin, namely a feature entitled "Know Your Constellations". This feature would highlight a particular constellation each month, with some details of its stars as well as recounting the myth associated with the constellation. For inspiration they found my website useful; indeed, it was so useful that it was decided - just by whom is not clear - to copy my text word for word and reproduce the text in their bulletin, without any recourse to asking my permission or even admitting that the work was of another's.
The initial attempt (Andromeda) apparently proved so popular that the following month another constellation was pillaged and reproduced. And so it went; for over a year month after month this procedure was carried out, no one bothering to contact myself over permission. When I discovered the plagiarism, in March of 2005, and contacted the webmaster of the site, the bulletins were quickly deleted. However that was the extent of their response. Any further attempt to wrest a simple apology from the gentlemen in question was met with silence.
The bulletins eventually reappeared, and are now available, with all references to the plagiarised material carefully excised.
For these various reasons then: repeated infractions of the copyright laws, lack of responsibility in admitting to any fault, and an apparent lack of concern over the outrage I myself experienced, for these reasons I offer the International Fellowship of Rotarian Amateur Astronomers' web site as the most serious offender at present.
I truly hope this page acts to keep others from illegally reproducing material. I am more than happy to permit the use of my material when properly requested, but I will resist efforts from those who wish to steal it with impunity, and will bring all such dishonesty to public attention.
Addendum: the thefts continue
A further example of plagiarism comes from our Antipodean friends from New Zealand who call themselves 'Wingmakers' or more precisely "21st Century Wingmakers". (I thank a frequent visitor to my web site for alerting me about this situation.)
The site is slickly designed and promotes a lot of 'good feelings'. The apparent author of the web site describes himself as an 'international author and poet'. He tells us that as far as twenty years ago he levitated and since then has travelled beyond the solar system ("interstellar travel"), apparently without the assistance of any mind-altering drugs. [Following the update (see below) this episode may not be found on the website. I haven't found it, but admit I haven't spent that much time looking.]
A menu is found along the left side of this introductory page. When one skips over such subjects as "How ETs affect our lives", "Psi Energy and Technology", and so on, one reaches 'The Universe', 'Solar System', and 'Constellations'. Clicking on 'constellations' brings up an attractive page which displays the usual list of 88 constellations, and when Andromeda is selected there is a very substantial introduction and detailed itemisation of this constellation's contents, very nicely done.
However toward the end of the display one comes across the very words found on my web site and in my book: "The asterism consists of the brightest star, Alpheratz (or Sirrah) denoting Andromeda's head, and the rest of the principal stars marking other parts of the young woman's body. I like to think that the other stars in fact trace Andromeda's flowing hair, and I've drawn the constellation to reflect that idea." Any reader to the Wingmakers web site would naturally assume that the "I" refers to the unnamed writer of that web site, when in fact of course it refers to the author of the present web site.
I then visited several other constellations here and all that I visited also contained stolen text, word for word, usually in the double star and variable star sections.
I find it particularly galling to come across a web site that purports to "bring the mind, body, and soul together as one" while it blithely rips off whatever content from other websites it wants for its own use. I have no doubt that other web site authors have also been plagiarised by this particular web site.
An email to this website remained unanswered until the update, see below. Perhaps our other-worldly poet is still away from his office, on another interstellar adventure.
UPDATE 21 February 2009.
Well over two years after this episode was recorded, I received on 20 February 2009 a belligerent email from the website operator, who threatened court action against the slanderous accusations (not realising the difference between slander and libel), claiming that nothing of mine was on his website. Indeed, checking now over the Wingmakers website, the constellations of Andromeda and Orion and several others have been edited, with my contributions now apparently omitted. (I say apparently for I haven’t checked every constellation.) While I thank him for finally correcting the situation, I find it interesting that the individual in question—instead of issuing a short apology—would wave a notice of a lawsuit in my face. This from the website of a ‘poet’ no less.
Late November of 2006 my attention was drawn to an astrology site which uses twelve of my constellation descriptions, word for word. This site sells astrological charts and books (to its gullible visitors one could perhaps say) and is so far the most commercial plagiarist I have encountered. They never replied to my several emails.
In late 2007 it was discovered that for some time the Astronomical Society of Northern New England, in Kennebeck, Maine was reproducing my work illegally. For several months under the name of their Vice President, my work was lifted word for word, without any reference to my website, and reproduced in their newsletter called Skylights. For the month of March, 2007, discussing Hydra, not only do they reprint my entire text, but they have the effrontery of reproducing the copyrighted graphic as well. It’s true, they give me credit for the article ("by Richard Dibon-Smith") but then indicate that it was ‘submitted’ by the V.P. (I shall not mention his name.) For the month of April Leo got the same treatment, (this time my name is given as the author, as if I sanctioned the theft) again even including my copyrighted graphic. It should, perhaps, be flattering to find that my work is deemed suitable for astronomy newsletters. Instead I find it a gross insult that individuals choose to blatantly steal my words and my graphics instead of coming up with something original on their own.
I received over a dozen requests to use my material in 2007. None of these requests ever involved any official from the ASNNE. I indicated my displeasure and my disappointment to its Editor. This individual replied, expressing what I felt was sincere regret for the incident and asking me how the situation could be redressed. I suggested that my work be deleted from the offending publications and that an apology be published. It took a week before the issues were taken offline, then on the first of May the issues reappeared, my work now deleted. An apology of sorts was also included, one which mentioned that “[Mr Dibon-Smith’s] records do not show ASNNE having permission to use material”. This is probably as close to a real apology as I will ever get from the ASNNE. Anyone who has had experience with the outright theft of their work will find that those responsible do not readily admit their guilt and accept the responsibility but would rather have the matter left in a kind of ‘my fault-your fault’ limbo.
In December of 2008 a particularly surprising case of plagiarism was brought to my attention. Whenever educational institutions are involved in a case of plagiarism, I tend to shake my head in disbelielf.
This instance involves a work entitled “Legends of the Night Sky, Orion” which was produced by a Florida-based video company. This video is sold to educational institutions and is often shown to the public across the United States. Also produced in conjunction with this video was an ‘Educator's Guide’ which presumably gives teachers more information about Orion.
This ‘educator’s guide’ is copyright 2003 by Audio Visual Imagineering Inc. and is currently available on the internet for anyone to download. It contains text which has been directly lifted from my web site, along with a graphic of the constellation Orion. Also included are graphics of Canis Major, Canis Minor, and Scorpius, all taken from my website, along with the drawn orbit of xi Scorpii. These are all reproduced with no reference to myself or to my website.
The director of the video company responded with an apology and pointed out that one particular individual submitted the text and graphics, which were accepted under the assumption that they were original, and who was then paid for his contribution.
[7 January] The matter has now been resolved, with the plagiarised material removed.
This is an excellent example of how companies who accept the work of others should insist in getting a Statement of Originality from their authors, should any question of possible plagiarism later arise. With such a statement, companies would then be exonerated of any wrongdoing. As it is, companies who fail to insist on asking their contributors for such a 'Statement of Originality' must also be held accountable.
This page last updated 21 February 2009