Date: Mon, 01 Dec 1997 16:11:21 +0000
From: Steve McCarty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Academic Websites subject to Attribution Ethics
Pre-season's greetings from Japan, and so sorry for the length.
The struggle continues to reconstitute Academia in cyberspace,
and certain academic standards evidently need to be reaffirmed
or renegotiated. Here my concern is that source files such as
those on Web servers be recognized as intellectual property in
academic if not legalistic discourse. There have been cases in
Academic of wholesale copying of Web pages from source files
without permission or attribution. The practice is most common
with alphabetical lists of links which have a weak claim to
copyright in terms of content. Yet if the plagiarizing of source
files is condoned, those working on e-texts and so forth could
also find their files copied with the rationalization that
copyright has expired on the literature. So awareness needs to
be raised of how academic ethics of attribution apply to the
processing as well the creation of online content by scholars,
while institutions maintaining servers can assert their rights
over computer files as original sources and condemn any form
As these cases can arise from inexperience with Web publishing,
the goal here is prevention of either inadvertent or rationalized
plagiarism by encouraging action along with further clarification
of academic ethics in this new medium. Although illicit copying
will increase with worldwide Internet access, infringements are
not only from the periphery of Academia. My presentation at an
online academic conference was copied onto a server of one of
the University of California campuses. In response to my query
asking why there was not simply a link to the original source,
I received an apology and the site was rectified. Among the
rationalizations by an inexperienced graduate student was one
that will be heard more often from people on distant continents trying
to save money: others in or near their institutions can supposedly load
the Web pages faster.
Now recently I discovered that a South Korean PhD professor
has copied source files from universities in Japan and the U.S.
Prof. Hitoshi Goto of Tohoku University maintains lists of
humanities and linguistics Websites in Japan, and about 650
links have been made to his pages in Japanese and English. This
shows that the one who copied his page and removed his name
and copyright notice was an aberration from the norm even here
in East Asian Academia. Furthermore, Prof. Goto also knew about
the infringement and considered it plagiarism, but had e-mailed
the Korean professor to no avail. The historical enmity between
their two countries is not ostensibly the issue here, as I have
already heard from another Korean condemning the widespread
copying of software in his country along with this WWW case.
First I discovered that the Korean page:
was an unauthorized and unattributed copy of:
Then by checking the index:
I found other pages similarly copied without attribution, viz:
are apparently copied from the source at the U of Rochester:
has the title changed to Korean, but I found the original at
by the following Alta Vista search on consecutive items listed:
+MIT +"Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences"
+"The Center for Biological and Computational Learning"
+"UC San Diego" +"Department of Cognitive Science"
How much easier, then, would it be to catch student plagiarism by
putting eloquent passages in quotes and running Web searches!
Link searches can also uncover information routes, e.g., with Alta
Vista tracing links to Prof. Goto's "Humanities Web Sites in Japan":
is a copy with some changes and the copyright notice cut from:
As a longtime expatriate Japanologist in Japan, what gives me
reverse culture shock is that I e-mailed the administrators of
the Rochester, Indiana and MIT Web sites, offering assistance
and more information, yet none have responded. Whereas I fully
understand Prof. Goto's indignation and he fully backs what I'm
trying to do here to further establish Academia in cyberspace.
My final reason for appealing to this discussion group is therefore to
ask those willing to work on this problem to kindly contact me.
Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>