Andrea Morisette Grazzini

CEO, WetheP, Inc.


This conversation is closed.

How should plagiarism be handled at online communities like TED Conversations?

An interesting exercise in socially catalyzed ethics is burbling on a TEDConversation that debates Darwinism and Creationism.

What makes the question unusually compelling isn't the question.

Rather it is the fact that the question, according to several commenters, is plagiarized. Several paragraphs, it seems, have been cut and pasted from the internet, with no source citation.

The questioner and some who have defended his arguments have made no visible effort to correct or explain the ethical, if not legal faux pas.

Though they have interacted with commenters who have noted the apparent plagiarism. And some uncivil comments have been removed, though it is unclear by whom.

TED policy suggests it is intolerant of plagiarism.

Questions specific to this situation are:

1. How does and/or should TED Conversations handle this?
2. How and/or should TED commenters respond?


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    Jun 29 2011: Maybe we should try and get rid of copyright altogether.
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      Jun 29 2011: Christophe,

      This copyright topic is a pressure point for me. In part because I'm a published writer and I know the blood-sweat-tears (and pound of flesh) that goes into creating a piece.

      To put this into context other creative productions:

      I also was co-inventor of three patents on wireless technology, though I feel less protective about them. Perhaps in part because creating our technology was clearly focused on the outcome of creating a novel product to produce income for our company. And they aren't as easily open-sourced as words. At this point are near prior-art, anyway.

      I just completed coauthored phenomenological research, which took nearly two-years to do. My colleague and I went to great lengths to maintain our data purity and protect our ideas and texts until they are published. The research is unlikely (and indeed not solely focused on) to produce much in terms of income for me. It was, as much writing is, a labor of love.

      In writers circles writers will sometimes refer to challenging pieces they've written as their "babies." Through this lens, plagiarism can be akin to kidnapping of words.

      If you see my (admittedly somewhat overwrought) point, how would writers protect their "babies" from kidnapping and being prostituted to others?

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        Jun 29 2011: every law has beneficiaries. it does not make the law just.
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          Jun 29 2011: Something we often forget when talking about copyright is that it is supposed to benefit not only the creator, but also society at large.
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          Jul 18 2011: Glipona,

          I agree intertextuality is an interesting form of communication.

          The space between you refer to, however, is just that: space between. I'd add it can also be "space beyond." Generally constructed as stylized allusion or metaphor. Often via iterative, dialogic and/or contextualized semantics.

          But intertextuality is, as you note, by definition novel. As you put it, created by a new authorial voice. This new creation echoes key themes if not key words or images from original texts, but it is generally not frank and blatant plagiarism.

          Which, by contrast, the several paragraphs of text this question refers to was.

          Sophisticated forms of intertextuality often embed references to the original author and/or text. Perhaps with anagrams, homophones, cryptograms or linguistic codes. Think Steinbeck or Dickins.

          As for the video dialogues you refer to having, from your description, they don't fit criteria for intertextuality, unless they are published. They sound closer to intersubjective trans-media convergence, where different media are brought in to communicate something. That might be viewed similarly, but at the same time differently, by dialogue participants.

          Video collages more representative of intertextuality are mash-ups, found on YouTube, etc. Notably, YouTube takes action against plagiarism. So compilers tend to run credits as prophylactic measure, if nothing else. Or, like LadyGaga, risk getting the hook.

          Beyond copyright concerns creators may have, I suggest it is self-evident that if a person puts their name to a piece, they are indicating their assumption of author- and ownership and all these imply.

          In other words, if others deem something worth adapting its assumed they'll credit the original producer. And/or if they become aware they mistakenly haven't, immediately rectify.

          As Doris Kearns Goodwin did. She immediately addressed her failure to put Lynne McTaggert's texts in quotes, to McTaggerts satisfaction.

        • Jul 21 2011: Towards the idea of intertextual conversation... Cool! But I think it's still plagiarism without a source.

          I understand the idea that owning a phrase or writing is ridiculous. But I also understand Andrea's plight, that when you put effort into something, it's important to you.

          I guess the only advice I could give on the subject of whether or not plagiarism is wrong is: If you copyright it, you don't want people stealing it. And people should respect that. But if you choose not to, it's fair game.
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        • Jun 29 2011: I said that Kathy and so I guess you owe me....well, I mean I have said that the same thing? Real plagiarism is trying to pass someone else's idea or writing as your own, as if you actually wrote it in that way not just copying and pasting...however, when someone does it blatantly it should be dealt with.
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          Jun 29 2011: Given the context of TED conversations I would hope that we don't need to state that the words we publish under our names are our own. This is something readers in this community should be able to assume. The defense that "he never claimed the words to be his own" is absurd.

          In general, I think almost all discussion that moves from focusing on the ideas to focusing on the people delivering them is off topic. But I don't think the comments about the source of the material are off topic. If we are to have a meaningful exchange, we need to trust that we are dealing with the ideas of another person, not the conduit of propaganda. When we engage with the ideas, another person will engage us back. This does not happen if somebody is just cutting and pasting canned responses. Judging from the thoughtfulness of most of the contributions to discussions on TED, it's safe to assume that people spend considerable time and energy being part of this community. To post material under your name that is not your own, material about which you can't or won't have a meaningful conversation, wastes the time of the people who respond. It's not only dishonest, it's disrespectful.
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        Jun 30 2011: I understand your point of view Andrea.

        But look at this:

        There are a myriad of ways to make profit without copyrights.
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          Jun 30 2011: Christophe,

          I took a look at "Lessons from Fashion's Free Culture" video. It is a provocative way of looking at open-sourced work. And, certainly holds appeal.

          I'm going to invest time digesting the ideas deeper. And will also share them with my favorite fashion experts. Two young writers -- one publishing from California scene, the other who commutes between NYC and London. I knew both when they grew up in the Midwest, just a couple of years ago.

          Very exciting to see their success and I find their read of the foreign language fashion can be for a middle-ager like me comes in handy. Much of what Johanna Blakely says regards street-inspired design tracks with what they also observe. I imagine her economic arguments might track with them, too.

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          Jun 30 2011: Thanks for that link Christophe. That's a very thought-provoking talk. As someone who earns a living under the protection of copyright and has spent a considerable amount of effort defending copyright, it is difficult to watch without being defensive. But it's also impossible to ignore her arguments.

          One thing that caught my attention is the difference between fashion and something like music. About fashion she said: "A knock-off is never the same as an original…" In music, this is also true when a band plays a cover song, but it is decidedly NOT true of a digital file. There is nothing in the fashion industry like Napster. If there was a way to copy a dress with almost no cost that was identical to the original, I imagine the fashion industry would seek some sort of intellectual property right. In photography, music, and books, identical copies are already a reality. Short of DRM and encryption there is no way to make a music file or digital photo difficult to copy in the way designers can in fashion.
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          Jul 1 2011: Sigh…

          It's absurd because nobody expects that a comment or a question would be by anyone other than the poster. It should be safe to assume the authorship even if the poster does not explicitly claim authorship with every post.

          I'm not sure why you think I was offended—I don't remember being offended. Luckily Google was nice enough to cache my response, which I think is rather measured, dry, and unemotional. Here it is:

          --------Quoted from original topic:
          "First of all, your question is a verbatim copy and paste from Harun Yahya's book "The Error of the Evolution of Species." You could at least tell people that these aren't your own thoughts so we can consider the source.

          If anyone is interest in Yahya's text, it can be downloaded here:

          As for the "famous molecular biologist Michael Behe," keep in mind that he is famous for his views on evolution and not much else. Behe's arguments have been demolished by other scientists who generally consider his work nothing more than a hoax. His own university felt it necessary to publish a disclaimer about his views. It's here if you'd care to read it:

          My advice, Abdul, is to seek some views from scientists who are looking for the truth at all costs, not those actively seeking to cast doubt on anything that contradicts creationism. There is plenty of information from real scientists that address the concerns of Behe and Yahya.
          --------- End quote

          If you have a real argument about why we should accept, ignore, or otherwise not address borrowed and unattributed contributions to TED forums, I'm all ears. If you continue to characterize other contributors, and direct the conversation toward ad hominen arguments, I can't think of any reason to continue reading or responding.
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        Jun 30 2011: I think it's a precise description.

        Robert Proctor begins his book, "Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance" with this quote:

        "Doubt is our product."
        Brown & Williamsom Tobacco Company, internal memo, 1969

        (I recommend the book: [])

        In the previous thread, the copied and pasted "question" (I put it in quotes because it was in fact a statement) didn't offer any ideas or new knowledge. It only casted doubt on well-accepted science for political purposes using frequently discredited claims. Like the Brown & Williamson quote, it is almost the definition of propaganda.

        The poster didn't show any knowledge of the material and wasn't able to form a cogent defense when people challenged it. He was more or less a neutral party that simply copied from a source and pasted into a box. He was a conduit of the information.
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      Jul 4 2011: Christophe,Five and counting on that comment.

      .nonetheless copy right is still meaningful in the world of traditionally published material and in due course that wolrd provides for all to fall into the public domain. There is no one to seek permission from to publish a beautiful book of Shakespeares sonnets.

      Also for artists it's important. If my collection includes the works of living artists I do not have the right to reproduce for profit or for any reason without the artsists permisssion .. That is as it should be. Most of the relevant artists I know couldn't possibly make enough on the sale of the art alone to produce works. They need control of the rights to reprint to make ends meet.

      But here at TED Conversations we have a unique world which is really "conversation in transcript". I don't think the rules and standrads of "published text" are fully traslatable to what we do here. I think we as memebers of this unique global community have to figure out what rules to apply here, of course in partnership with TED and our sponsor.I do think we need an entirely new vocabulary..enetirely new host & user eveolved standrds for what we do here at TED Conversations...this is very different*
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        Jul 14 2011: I do think that any law can both create and kill opportunities.

        If I do (my partial, fallible) evaluation of all copyright laws (including patents and the like), there are flaws in it. Big companies can register, popular musicians get money even when only creative common music gets played at parties,.... Parallel discoveries get in trouble if they forgot to register first,...

        I do respect that people need money and want to be creative... that does not mean that their creative output necessarily is valuable.
        And I do understand that developing a drug takes more money than copying the formula once found.

        But mixing things up, mentioning the original artist, giving 'credit' (sic) to the ones you drew upon should not lead to lawsuits...

        This might be a bit degrading to some artists but: if you cannot earn enough money without copyrights, maybe your work is not worth it.
        And a capping of the incomes from copyright might be a good start, as indeed, I don't think abrupt changes of laws are always favorable...

        Though on a whole: there are possible solutions to lack of income that even lie outside of whatever you do (creative or not creative), as there remain a lot of opportunities to monetize your ideas and works of art even without copyrights.

        Ask your friends to do the exercise: live with your non-copyright money (put that money on a savings account), find new sources of income, and make them promise to invest the saved money to new artists, supporting them and giving them the opportunity to do the same.
  • Jun 29 2011: Hi Andrea, I browsed that conversation and noted that despite being apprised of the offence, the person who posted the conversation has not credited the true author. To answer your questions, TED commenters should most certainly respond and TED should not tolerate plagiarism.
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    Jun 30 2011: This topic caught my eye because I had recently had a conversation like this with a professor. I had written a paper for him and in the references I listed works that were not cited in the body of the paper. He found it unusually because most people cite their references. My argument was that these texts had a direct effect on the direct and ideas formulated in the paper even if I did use the word for word text from the papers. The reason for this story is that we crossed over from papers to on-line discussion boards and we both agreed that you should write the reference in some way if you are quoting it. I understand especially if you read constantly that ideas get muddled together but you should make an attempt to reference the matter. For example, I believe Newton came up with the law of gravity. (Please don’t make fun of my pedestrian idea; it’s just to show a point). If you flat out cut and paste, it is stealing intellectual property. Like Andrea said, people put blood, sweat, and tears into creating such ideas. I think the least you can do is apologize if you do it on accident but don’t try to deny it. I think it is harder here on discussion board to enforce it because how do you copyright a discussion. I think on discussion boards it just comes down to decency and an individual’s morals. If they can’t be decent and admit the used someone else’s work, they should be suspended. For myself, I come to this board to discuss topics of interest with peers of a like mind. If they want to peddle others work as their own then they can go to a board that it is the norm. It does not need to happen on TED.
    • Jun 30 2011: Bravo Edward....would be an A+ for me....that is citation at it's best. Thanks for being another voice for civility and common sense here.
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      Jun 30 2011: Edward..excellent practice I do it as well..usually as bibliography on published work sometimes with back notes. Nice to meet you by the way and hope to see you in other conversations.
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      Jun 30 2011: Here-here, Edward.

      I echo Michael's "A+" and would also give one, if I were a professor. Though I'm not.

      I, too, have run into academics who wondered why I cite inspiration-providers. However, I know others who use Lindsey's style, which I think is exceedingly robust. .

      In fairness, APA-style required by some if not many academic journals, seek only direct (though quite strict) text citations. But journalistic ethics calls for citing all sources that meaningfully influence content, wherever possible. So I tried to develop this habit, which I still feel is the most authentic reflection of respect and professionalism.

      I also think your style provides richer voice to any text. By over, rather than under-voicing others words.

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  • Jun 29 2011: Andrea
    I dislike plagiarism. Here on TED, the best way is the civil way of signaling the act and asking to see the correct source or at least a reference to it. Flagging doesn't help, it is only a crude weapon at best and TED moderators really probably do not have the time. I heartily agree with you that intellectual theft is still theft. But since this is a conversational forum, perhaps a conversational policing is quite enough.
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      Jul 4 2011: Yes and memes. Couldn't agree more..Start it.

      Ted is supposed to be about ideas worth spreading..seems like we waste an awful lot of this really precious opportunity on ideas that aren't worth spreading and shouldn't have been spread on the first place..but again..the topic at hand is plagiarism.
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          Jul 4 2011: ok..I'll wait til you're up to it..seems closely related to your work, no? I think you'd be necessary to a fruitful exploration in nay event.
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          Jul 5 2011: no I see two different conversations..Helena was interested as well inhow belief systems affect what we see how they work as a lens a sort of hidden bias..we should do that one first.
  • Jul 3 2011: If you are a plagiarist then you are in good company. Several years ago I published an article called, "Albert Einstein: Plagiarist of the Century." The article is on line. I have defined his premiere work on special relativity called, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" one of the so-called 1905 "Miracle Year" papers as the greatest act of plagiarism in any peer-reviewed science journal in all of the 20th Century. Christopher Jon Bjerknes has written a book called, "Albert Einstein: The Incorrigible Plagiarist".

    Ajay Sharma who wrote "E=mc^2 Generalized" has assured me that Sir Isaac Newton was a great plagiarist and another physicist claimed the same is true of Stephen Hawking. What is it about physicists and plagiarism?

    Einstein wrote that 30 page article without a single reference even though most of the ideas were already known. His wife Mileva was actively involved with Einstein when he wrote the treatise, but once he wrote it, she was not a coauthor, he did not reference a single idea she contributed and he did not even include her in the acknowledgments. Einstein plagiarized his own wife.

    Here is how I defined plagiarism from "Webster's New International Dictiornary of the English Language Second Edition, Unabridged". To plagiarize: "To use without due credit the ideas, expressions or productions of another." You will note that the first element of "to plagiarize" is the theft of ideas; theft of product is third e.g. verbiage.
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      Jul 3 2011: Well, Richard, l,I will look further ino this rather astonishng claim of yours and your paper ( perhaps you'd like to provide a link so we can all evaluate your paper for ourselves

      I see it was in Nexus magazine who describe themselves at their wesbsite as:

      "NEXUS is a bi-monthly alternative news magazine covering health breakthroughs, future science and technology, suppressed news, free energy, religious revisionism, conspiracy, the environment, history and ancient mysteries, the mind, UFOs, paranormal and the unexplained. "

      The first reference that popped up on a google search to explore your statements was at a not very credible or professional looking site called ( .

      A book on the same topic popped up. Here is a well researched review by a fellow Amazon reviewer that is more persuasive to me about the characterof this information and the apparently very organized effort to propagate and frame it as valid:

      This is TED, sir, not Facebook or social networking. Please provide responsible and creditable links if you are offering information of this nature and out of respect for our community here please bring us only creditable information.. At the moment what you have written is only ringing my meme bells.
      • Jul 3 2011: The Nexus article is the "poor" version; the better version is in Infinite Energy Magazine. Just ignore the nonsense at the end of the Nexus article. What is sad is that the Jews who died in the holocaust are heroes to me. I hate the skin heads and the neo nazis, but that does not give the supporters of Einstein a pass on his plagiarism. Einstein called the support for him "grostesque", because he knew the excesses during his lifetime were extreme.

        Here aside from the plagiarism (which had to be known to the editors of Annalen der Physik where the "Miracle Year" papers appeared) is the little known fact that according to Ohanian (I have been unable to find an English version of his autobiography) Einstein did not include E=mc^2 in his autobiography which is not a surprise since he practically nothing to do with except get credit for it. He didn't originate the equation (It was known to Preston, Poincare and de Pretto). He tried and failed seven times to derive it (Ohanian). He did not originate the concept of the conversion of matter into light. This was known to Sir Isaac Newton in 1704 in the book called, "Opticks", where he stated, "Gross bodies and light are convertible into one another." At least seven scientists before Einstein described the conversion of matter into light or matter into energy before Einstein including Newton, Preston, Keely, Becquerel, de Pretto, Soddy, Poincare, Hasenhorl, etc.. He did not invent the conversion factor c^2. This was known to Preston, Poincare, de Pretto, Hasenhorl, etc.

        So why isn't Einstein's plagiarism better known and his completely ineffective attempts to do anything useful or original with respect to E=mc^2? The gnomes of Einstein---they endorse his plagiarism and have corrupted science, the scientific method (Read my article called, "The Eclipse Data from 1919: The Greatest Hoax in 20th Century Science".

        Einstein's reputation is worth billions of dollars to his supporters. Why kill the cash cow, the rainmaker?
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          Jul 3 2011: Hi Richard,

          I did actually read your cite Max Born as having said long before you and others that Einstein got credit for work he built on or was influenced by, in paricular that Poincare deserved at least a nod by Einstein ( which we all might agree is different from plagiarism..did Einstein know or cite Poincare? Many different minds can come to the same insight indepedently)

          Plagiarism is when you knowingly steal someone else's idea and claim it as your own. I believe "rediscovery" and "reinterpretaion"which is what Einstein did is constantlya at work in science).I would be very interested in anyhting you can link us to on what Max Born has said about the originality of Einsteins work and in particlaur whether Max Born ever suggested Einstein "plagiarized"

          .I am very sorry if in fact you have done a credible and scholarly piece of work on Einstein which has just been adopted and spread by entities that impair its reception as credible by others.( I would be very dismayed if that happened to a scholarly work of mine)

          Of course, I was not able to independently verify any of what my fellow Amazon reviewer said so I cannot argue for against it. I can only say it resonated with me.
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          Jul 4 2011: Hi again Richard,

          On further research I see no foundation for your suggestion that Max Born ever in any way accused Einstein of plagiarism..The published letters of Einstein & Born show a great admiration and affection betweent he two men.

          .Einstein himself spoke about his process and especially about the kind of intellectual leaps of sysnthesis which lead him to his important theories.In short, I would have to say, based on my own research of the very sources you use, that you have not made a good case for Einstein as plagiarist nor for any ethical impunities at all on his part..
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          Jul 4 2011: Lindsay, relativity has some interesting things to say about time, but even it can't account for an exchange between Einstein and Leibniz. Maybe you mistyped and meant Lorentz?
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          Jul 4 2011: Mark thanks..yes of course Lorentz..I removed my reference until I can retrieve the cite..I think it was in unpublished letters between him and Max Born that Einstein exctedy refernced some experiment that Lorentz had just completed that moved understanding forward.Interesting that I referred to Leibnitz..I think I saw somewhre, perhaps again inletters that Einstein had said he was not aware of Poincare's work or Libenitz? I am most likely wrong on that and will bring a cite if I find it)..but we are off topic here..
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          Jul 4 2011: Maybe a little off topic, but the relationship between the work of Leibniz and Newton on calculus is rather on topic. Both independently created very similar solutions to similar problems at the same time. Leibniz published first, but Newton's work was known. There were many accusations of plagiarism. Here's an interesting account:

          It strikes me as similar to the state physics in the early 1900s. Everyone knew there were discoveries to be made and many physicists were looking at the same material. They all knew Maxwell's work and the Michelson–Morley experiment—it should be no surprise that their work has similarities and even arrives at similar conclusions. But that isn't plagiarism.

          Mr. Moody might be able to make a case the Einstein has received too much credit for work not created in a vacuum, but he seems to want to go a step farther, which too me rings false.
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          Jul 5 2011: Mark,

          Interesting parallel to the plagiarism at hand..and of course in real life we all have that expereience all the time where something we arrive at independently turns up as someone else's work long ago or much later or even parallel in time. I have heard painters say the say thing.

          Plagiarism is very clearly an intentional use of someone else'e work known to you and repsresented as your own.

          Intetested in your thought on my comment to Andrea about whether any of hat we apply to writtenwork applies to what we do here conversation" in transnscript".
      • Jul 3 2011: As for the review---I highly recommend reading the book---it is not surprising that a pro-Einstein person would publish that review. Bjerknes has done one of the most exhausive research works of science I have ever seen and I have been a scientist for 40 years. Read his rebuttal to the diehard Einstein fans like John Stachel.
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        • Jul 4 2011: My "smear" campaign is based on a reasonable reading ot the historic record. Five classes of individuals have benefitted from Einstein's reputation. First it was the German journal Annalen der Physik who wanted to promote the German expatriate Einstein at the expense of the Frenchman Jules Henri Poincare. Annalen der Physik supposedly a "peer-review" journal encourages plagiarism by recommending their authors "underreference". Witness a 30 page article without a single reference.

          What physicists don't tell you was told me by Michel Gendrot. Germany and France in 1905 were in a hot diplomatic war. France had made diplomatic inroads in North Africa and Europe so the German Journal AdP, decided to annex intellectual turf, stick their thumb in the eye of Poincare and give his discoveries to Einstein.

          Einstein was a patent clerk. What did he do for a living? Research. What was the one thing Einstein refused to do as physicist? Research.

          Next it was the Quaker Pacificist Eddington who corrupted science, the scientific method, society and history because of his fraudulent data from the Eclipse of 1919 to prove the Pacifist Einstein right about general relativity. (see my article posted earlier.)

          Einstein was a great Zionist---his only major positive accomplishment.

          The media invented a superstar based on Eddington's fraudulent data where he bamboozled the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Sociey (read my article).The press gets to push the ink by running stories about this great genius. One Albert Einstein is worth 100 Stephen Hawking's

          Finally physicists knew that they had a cash cow, a rainmaker, the sugar daddy of big physics. Einstein is a product with fantastic brand recognition, hence the need to palm off the so-called "Miracle Year" papers as an act of genius. Never mind the fact that Einstein called his 1905 Brownian Motion "miracle year" paper, "...the worthless work of a novice."

          Jason---You call it smear. I call it truth; the truth matters.
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    • Jun 30 2011: Jim, I agree. Plagiarism is a serious offence and this instance appeared to be a clear case. The correct action would have been for the person to apologise, properly cite the source and that would have been the end of that aspect of the discussion. People make mistakes and it would have been quite acceptable for him to note that it was inadvertent, fix it and move on. That fact that he did nothing to credit the author, despite multiple cautions, is telling.

      Additional information on plagiarism can be found online, including at
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          Jun 30 2011: Kathy,

          My understanding is that terrorist investigators use plagiarizing identifying technologies to track terrorists and their proxies online.

          You've clearly expressed your dissent with others regarding the plagiarism.

          Kindly exhaust your considerable energies in some other manner than with this conversation.

          Thank you,

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      Jun 30 2011: Hi Jim,

      Just want you to know I had not read the conversation. Based on what you said above you were correct to call the questioner on non attribution

      My commmets on plagiarism, below, were not with specific reference to the conversation or to your remarks there..just "risk management guidance" on "plagiarism as a general topic.

      You are right though that your second statement "by commiting plagiaraism you have already discredited yourself" does fall under risk management guidance #1 . But as you were speaking truth ( I am assuming) it is not slander

      .Nevertheless, discretion is a large part of civiility and civility is the standard here at TED. I'm curious..why didn't you just say "I recognize the text of your question as a quote from "XYZ" a text which explores..yah dah yah dah

      . I gather that whatever the conversation was about got your "Dawkins Doers" dander up. I agree with you completely that it's important to o tspeak to ideas that one considers dangerous to healthy society.but .not by silencing them, not by ridiculing the questioner/commenter not by characterization of the ideas of the other but by simple, clear, eloiquence in one's own statements..that is real militism, that is real strength

      .By the way, I admire you very much for fessing up here as the "commenter at issue"

      With Respect & Good Regards

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          Jul 1 2011: Jim

          Thnak you for the correction and the very important distinction.. I will remember..

          I like the term "gnu atheists" and I am glad you are not a Dawkins atheist.

          With sincere apologies for any offense,for none was intended, Lindsay
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        Jul 1 2011: Jim,

        I appreciate your illumination of facts from the plagiarized conversation. However, I think a more constructive use of your wisdom here would be helpful in moving us forward. There is plethora of well-argued evidence that the content was plagiarized.

        Perhaps most telling of all to me was that TED pulled it down. I emailed TED asking them to reestablish it, to preserve it as evidence. TED emailed me back saying they would not because they cannot be proxies for proven plagiarized materials.

        If you decide to provide more, may I suggest it might be useful when you quote other commenters words, that you name who you are quoting.

        Certainly it is clear in the context of the thread who you are quoting. However, I'm sensitive that if your comments were isolated outside this thread, the larger tone and identity of the person you quote would be unclear.

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    Jun 30 2011: Plagiarism = not cool. Credit where credit is due.

    Intellectual Property - ha, I sneeringly laugh at the idea.

    Copyright - should be waived for the purposes of education.

    "You can't, like, own a potato, man." - Homer J. Simpson.
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    • +1
    Jun 29 2011: Our admins and moderators can't search and do fact checking for all comments and conversations to check for plagiarism, so we do rely on user reports to identify the issue. Users are responsible for what they are posting and we have contacted the author of the conversations about this case accordingly.
    If you notice similar cases, please let us know at

    We appreciate your cooperation!
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          Jul 4 2011: "whack a mole"

          ..I love it..and I think my fiend I will always remember the attributio

          n"to use a rase Jim LLoyd coined..this is mole whacking"

          right up there with Debra Smiths invention of the term "wearing a speedo"

          which means looking like an idiot and having not a clue that is so

          So what shall we make the official TED definition for "mole whacking".. attacking the wrong enemy? .
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        Jul 7 2011: Oh Ok..I misunderstood mole whacking..still a possible contender for the TED Conversations dictionary though.
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      Jun 29 2011: Thanks, Jaime.

      I think your practice of moral copyright is a good one. In a sense, it is similar to what I do with blogs I publish.

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        Jul 3 2011: Andrea the ethics in the moral copyright are universal, here, there and everywhere, even at TED.
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      Jun 30 2011: Jaime,

      As these things seem to so often go, now that you've mentioned the little books you make, I managed to see two small books when I made a quick-stop at colleagues offices today.

      As I scrambled to get in a quick question in my rush to another place, I was stopped in my tracks by the books. They were not hand-made, so I don't believe based on your description that they were produced by your design atelier.

      However, they and your comments here, reminded me of a hand made book of haiku given to me by a man I used to chat with at a coffee shop. I was fascinated by his interests in haiku, which he taught me about.

      One day he brought in a book he helped a friend produce. It is called " River" written by his friend, Phylllis Walsh. It was published by Hummingbird Press, with copyright date 1993. Designed, handset and printed by Pentagram Press. On Frankfurt paper, with Suminagashi wrapper hand-crafted in Japan.

      It is beautiful and has become one of my most orienting possessions.

      There is no greater gift, in my mind, than another sharing their personal creation. This, needless to say is one of the best I've received.

      As for the man who gave it to me, I only know him as Steve O, which he inscribed in the book. And haven't seen him at the coffee shop since shortly after he gave me the book.

      But I remain grateful for his thoughtful generosity.

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    Jun 29 2011: It's a matter of honesty & integretity ...... shamefully true that it's a old trick as rightly said by Jamie Lubin in his post below.
    Anyone who spots such dishonest act should immediately FLAG it, as rightly done by some fellow TEDsters in the thread you referred here on Darwinism.
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    Jun 29 2011: (1) publicly and in writing acusing a person of plagiarism is slander and actionable under law. The only defense under law to slander is that the acusation was truth. (in otherwords that the person actually did plagiarize)

    .(2) I consider it a huge breech of civility in general and even TED Conversations rather lossey goosey version of civility to make such an acusation in writing in a public without provding proof..where the is the cite of the accuser?

    (3) without such a cite, the accuser should apologize and remove all comments. Having writen it, it is still slander if untrue and still actionable under law. If questioner has denied plagiarism and accuser hasn't furnished proof, TED has been remiss if all of accusers comments are still standing. ( but that wouldn't be so at TED where civlity is a bit loosey goosey and slander may be cosnidered avante gard)

    (4) plagiarism is theft of intellectual property and even if not protected by copyright is a serious breech of ethics and not tolerable in any place of civil wring and discourrse. Appropriation and use of protected material is a mtter beween the two parries,,the unlawful user and the proper owner of the text and so it should be here. TED is not a "publisher" and therefore has no liability for the legal consequences of what a mambers might post. So it has no affirmative duty to investigate and resolve the dispute at hand. ( although again, TED does have and should already
    have excercised its right to delete and expunge without notice to remove the acusation made in the absence of proof)

    (5) Has anyone here at TED ever looked up the word "discretion"? When there are issues of consequence, as th s is, handling it so indiscretely and publicly is unwise and not in the bounds of civility..but again..this is TED where that's a bit loosey goosey ideas of discretion and civility

    (6) Have you taken these issues up with TED Admin
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      Jun 29 2011: Lindsey,

      As for proof of the apparent plagiarism, it is provided in the discussion linked above. And here:

      I couldn't agree with you more regards discretion and civility. TED, perhaps for reasons you mention and for other reasons that might be illuminated by the linked conversation, have chosen not to expunge the plagiarized text. They did remove several uncivil posts.

      My read is that TED is leaving this ethical debate up to stakeholders in the conversation. Who perceive clearly willful, uncorrected and unapologetic plagiarism as a violation on several levels, related to those you mention.

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    Jun 29 2011: youtube does this well. they track down the copyright holder, contact him/her/it, and inform about the possible violation. then the holder can decide what to do, and the site take steps accordingly by removing or leaving the content, or informing the uploader to do something.
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        Jun 29 2011: at least the flag works perfectly, isn't it?
        • Jun 29 2011: I have to agree with Kathy. Some people use the flagging system as a weapon. That isn't what we need on this topic. We need a way to just say, "show me the source", if there is actually a claim to such.
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        Jun 29 2011: Krisztian and Kathy,

        Kindly refrain from taunting one another or others on this discussion.

        Thank you,
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      Jun 29 2011: Michael,

      I agree with you, to a point. Yes, flagging should not be used as a weapon.

      In this case, however, the plagiarism was politely addressed by numerous commenters. Some with clearly articulated respect, who asked the plagiarist to "please cite your source," etc. repeatedly.

      When he didn't, some commenters (from both viewpoints) became sarcastic and a few were pretty nasty.

      I presume his implied refusal to not cite his sources, as well as those comments by others which were uncivil were flagged.

      I wouldn't perceive such use of flags as aggressive. I'd perceive them as alerting TED to potential issues.

      • Jun 29 2011: We do not particularly need either acerbic sarcasm or nastiness. Again, one would hope that a bit of civil discourse would prevail, but alas we no longer live in that world it seems.
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          Jun 30 2011: Hey Michael..we're not giving up are we..civility and discretion is achievable even here in the wild wooly world of TED Conversations (Imust say though I have been in think tanks all my adult life and I have never seen anything as rowdy and out of bounds as what prevails here as TEd Conversations where some think civility is a made up word)
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        • Jun 29 2011: Kathy
          I also dislike "smokescreen" attacks anywhere. It appears I may never be able to read the whole context, if as it seems below, it was totally removed. However, the idea of talking about this as a problem is a good one Andrea
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          Jun 29 2011: Michael,

          I also dislike smokescreen attacks. Which is rather what the plagiarism seemed to exemplify.

          I'm disappointed that the conversation was removed.

          I hope whoever removed it will reconsider, and reconstitute it, in full.

          I'm unclear why you did not read it while it was up, so you could make comments that were informed by it. I linked twice in this conversation to it.

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      • Jun 30 2011: To your first point... I replied to your post, so I thought I was being clear enough to whom I was directing my comment. This system of replies can be very confusing. I see now that I should have listed your name as the person to whom i was speaking. So, to answer your first question, yes Kathy, I was directing my comment toward you. No passive aggressive behavior intended, although it is funny you bring that topic up. I witnessed you thoroughly and efficiently destroy a lady in another discussion where you accused her of Passive Aggression as well. My opinion is that it was a valid statement of her behavior at the time, but the post was extremely aggressive and was removed for tone, according to you in the same thread. This would be one of the attacks to which I was referring. The way you went after "the translators" would be another reference. I will go into this in detail if requested.

        As far as me taking a dose of my own medicine, I kindly ask that you point to where I am acting as a hypocrite. Not saying I am perfect, just that I don't see your point.

        I bring up the Antii-semitism aspect (along with other offensive examples) to better explain the tone of the replies to this particular person. This is important to my reasoning as to why the tone was justifiable in this case. This is my opinion and not meant to be taken as anything more, but as far as a debate goes, I feel it is a respected practice to explain your viewpoint.

        Where do you get the idea that I only support a stronger reaction when it is one that I agree with? I thought I was clear in saying that tolerance of another's action was preferable to changing your own in this case?

        To your last point, I assert again that the "vehement outcry against the so-called plagiarism" also had to do with the specific work that was used to borrow from (I thought the Hitler example spoke to why this has bearing) and the fact that the poster admitted to not knowing anything about the subject.
  • Jul 22 2011:

    7. Respect the law. Do not attempt to engage in illegal behavior of any sort, including the posting of copyrighted material. If you observe another commenter behaving inappropriately, please tell us.

    8. TED reserves the right to remove any conversations, comments or content from the site, for any reason and without prior warning.

    9. If you violate these terms, or otherwise act disrespectfully, disruptively or illegally on, we reserve the right to terminate your membership, at any time, and without prior warning.

    Then again, some countries may not have copyright laws. But I this is about all Ted can do as far as handling it. They can't sue someone for stealing someone else's stuff, especially when not everyone on Ted is from somewhere with copyright laws.
  • Jul 21 2011: Hmm.

    Not alot. Delete it. There's alot of issue wth internet/technological freedom these days, so I think it'd be a little muddy to say "If you plagiarize, we will advise the author to take legal actions"... IF legal actions for plagiarism even exist on the Web. A ban? Some people just don't think about it. Perhaps, it'd be better to give warning, and then if plagiarism continues, execute the user (virtually).
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          Jul 8 2011: Hi I just looked at it..I think it is also unquestionably about Good News as well but his is about the idea of establsihing "and all good news" news network..yours is baout inviting us to share good I wrong?

          So I wouldn't call it plagiarism or even intentional copying.
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      Jul 7 2011: Kate,

      I looked at your conversation and his. It does not seem self evident to me that this is a case of plagiarism or stolen ideas. Yes, his echos themes of yours, but I unless I'm missing something, it seems to me this could just as easily be a case of "all great minds think alike" more than a case of idea or words theft.

      In any case, it's a great question you've posted.

  • Jul 4 2011: Lindsay: If memory serves, Born's exact words in his book Physics in My Generation were, "The striking point is the absence of references (special relativity paper). It gives you the impression of quite a new venture. But that is, of course, as I have tried to explain, not true." Born may well have been willing to overlook Einstein's repeated dalliances with plagiarism.

    It isn't Einstein's plagiarism that is the problem---it is the fact that his reputation has been used as a pry bar to gain access to research dollars at the expense of our National Security and every other legitimate branch of science i.e. if we had spent the $15 billion on hot fusion reseach on any other attempt to achieve energy independence starting 35 years ago e.g. better batteries, more fuel efficient cars, better insulation, more conservation, we would have energy independence today. Instead we have a boondoggle---multibillions of dollars spent on hot fusion in this country and ITER in Europe; add to that neutrino detectors and particle accelerators (CERN) to find the "God" particle. Meanwhile 200,000 people die simply because we could not afford an early warning system in the Indian Ocean or adequate funding for research into earthquake prediction.

    All scientists in academic research establishments compete for the same pot of money. When you have "The Person of the Century" in your corner think how that distorts funding! Physicists have convinced the funding agencies that their research is really, really important hence the need for billions of dollars for all their toys. Big toys for big boys. America should get out of the business of subsidizing big physics at the expense of every other branch of science.
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      Jul 4 2011: Richard.

      There may be a few in this TED community who are willing to further entertain your weddedness to the idea that Einstein was a plagiarist..I am not one of them.

      For anyone interested here is the link to Einstein's actual paper on relativity, originally known as the Einstein-Lorentz theory in which Lorentz is mentioned in two foot notes.

      .Further, This is all off topic except for whatever light your charge against Einstein sheds on the topic at hand.."plagiarism."My apologies Andrea for letting this exchange take up even thi s much room.

      It is relevant though in that I think you have misused the word "plaigiarism". building on work that has alreday been laid down ti build a new and previously unexplored "proof" or exploration is the nromal course of science. Everyone at every moment in a given field of inquiry is working with the same "kit". It is what is added form the original insights and work of the new contributor, in this case Einstein, that estbalished credit for that particular work. Lorentz clearly hadn't a clue about relativity as expounded by Einstein in this historic paper..his foundation work is thr platform from which Einstein leaped to create this new work. That is not plagiarism.Tha's how science works.

      Andrea, Very happy at your request to delete any of my comments that you feel distract.
      • Jul 4 2011: The charge of plagiarism dogged Einstein throughout his career. Plagiarism was used as a research tool by Einstein. He set the bar for ethics in physics that has persisted ever since. From Bjerknes:

        In a 1907 paper in Annalen der Physik Einstein stated, "It appears to me that it is the nature of the business that what follows has already been partly solved by other authors. Despite that fact, since the issues of concern are here addressed from a new point of view, I believe I am entitled to leave out a thoroughly pedantic survey of the literature." This is a remarkable attitude towards research. Obviously if you do no research at all, 100% of your ideas will be "new".

        "Physicist Ernst Gehrcke gave a lecture on the theory of relativity in the Berlin Philharmonic on August 24, 1920, and publicly confronted Einstein who was in attendance, with Einstein's plagiarism of Lorentz's mathematical formulation of the special theory of relativity, Palagy's space-time concepts, Varicak's non-Euclidean geometry and the plagiarism of the mathematical solution to the problem of the perihelion of Mercury first arrived at by Gerber."

        Here is a practical example of what Einstein has done to ethics in physics. A friend of mine was on an ethics panel involving a physicist. In an unrelated part of the inquiry, the physicist provided a graph showing that a carbon peak indicated that carbon was a contaminant. Next he showed a graph where the carbon had been removed. But my friend noticed that because the background radiation was the same for both graphs (as unique as a fingerprint), the physicist had merely copied the one diagram and put white out on the peak and drawn a squiggly line through the base. When my friend pointed this out to the physicists present, they responded, "We do this all the time; sometimes we have deadlines to meet and it is necessary to draw the graphs before the data is obtained."
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    Jul 4 2011: A little off center but on topic with ideas and commentray amongstt ourselves here in TED community, I find so much information and commentray often makes it impossible to track back to partcilur thought or comment an dtarribute it as I am accutsomed to do doing for pubkication ( even at my own blogs) It all gets so merged into my own thinking it is not segregable. What I remember as a "quote" from someone else ( and I almost never remember who) may no linger be in it original form when my recallofit is triggered by a post.

    When I write at my own blog I do it as I have always doneusing stabdrd shlraly style and stabdrds..collecting and documentaing relevant quotes and bibliography. But posting as we all do it every day here at TED is much more fluid and dynamic and fast paced than that. Information just gets mainkined into us from many different people.

    We have a very unusual experience here at TED conversations, a very complex and fluid informatin exchange with far more people thana is normal in most our lives. My own thoughts change and merge and grow everyday so that what I speak somehow includes the entire content of that in invisible ways that Iam not even sure I understand.

    Citing sources of other commenters is not that easy and with admin and commeneter deletions and the automatic deletuions of all comments when a member terminatesor is terminated by TED , the context of the omment sometimes becomes ambigupus on reference to the archive.

    Mostly here at TED, that fleuncy and dynamic os understood. It i sundersttod that when we speak, especially in community, we arereferring to shared expereinec atTEd ( that isn't universally shared amonsgt all commenters) and that we are cross ferilizing each other and our lives outside of TED in invsible ways.

    What we post here is "conversation" not "intellectual work"..It is written but it is best viewed, I think as a transcript of what was "spoken".i
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      Jul 4 2011: Lindsey,

      I think your point on how difficult it is to track particular thoughts on threads like these is valid. Two thoughts to make help manage this:

      1. Set up responses to others comments by echoing the theme of the comments you are responding to. This way your comments can "stand-alone" if need-be due to the editing and deleting shuffle that goes on here.
      2. Attribute commenters where their points are novel or quotable and/or, when referencing them isn't over-stiff or non-fluid.

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        Jul 4 2011: Thnaks Andrea,

        What happens to me here as far as attribution goes is that the input to my own thinking that happens here at TED Comversations is very fluiid and doesn't remain "separate" in the way ideas and information are "separate" if I am writing an article or an essay.

        I think in the context of a discussion of "plagiraism" it is imporant to give more attention to the idea that "plagiraism" usuually refers to written works passed off as one's own (intentionally). Here at TED conversations although our words are written it is really still "conversation". The term "plagiarism" doesn't usually apply yo "conversation" or transcripts of "conversation" which is what we have here.

        What we have here, hopefully, what a global conversation might aspire to be is a contiual cross fertilization one to the other..many to one; one to many. We are constantly affecting one another; constantly effecting changes in our thinking and awareness.

        What TED is; what TED aspires to be almost needs its own user eveolved sensibility and guidelines..nothing about "intellectual property" or "copy rights" or "plagiarism" is really relevant here.

        I missed the whole conversation that started this conversation and would like to have geard what the moderator/host of that had to say on this.

        When I am at my dynamic, flid, growing, learning best I am not concerned with attribution. I can't homestly say precisely where my thoughts it all fit tigether..where I got this idea or hat idea. It's a very differnt process from anything I've ever engaged in before.

        We need to evolve our own sensibility about ethics in this very new territory we are exploring together.
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    Jun 30 2011: Andrea & Others Here

    ,May I suggest in all humility that further dissection of what happened in the conversation that brought this issue to mind is not as fruitful and enlightening as pursuing the topic itself and in general good practice on citation in cyberspace.
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      Jun 30 2011: A very good suggestion, Lindsey.

      I agree.

      There are more constructive threads we can take this topic from here.

      Many thanks for offering redirection -- and keeping us moving forward.

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    Jun 29 2011: It appears the plagiarized question was removed from TEDConversations.
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      Jun 29 2011: Kathy,

      If his plagiarism distracted the conversation, one wonders why the plagiarist didn't cite his sources.

      One could correlate that by not citing sources, the plagiarist is his colluding with, if not conspiring in the distraction his plagiarism caused.

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          Jun 29 2011: Kathy,

          Apparently TED does not view the comments regarding plagiarism as off-topic. Though numerous apparently off-topic comments have been removed from the thread. Presumably they were flagged.

          And it appears the plagiarist has distanced himself from his question. While comments that shine light on his act of plagiarism remain.