OT: "Hypothetical" Plagiarism by CEO

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Suppose you read in USAToday of an amazing response to a corporate leadership book written by the CEO of a large defense corporation that everyone's heard of, and that it's sold more than a quarter million copies.
Suppose further that one of the points of this book strikes a chord that prompts you to look through stuff you've collected over the years, and you find a book given you by one old mentor with almost exactly the same title (it's geared to the engineer, not the manager). It's an obscure book--thin, written during the last big war.
You look inside and all, yes, all the points are virtually the same (the occasional dash replaced with a colon), and, though you don't have the CEO's book, you can see that the ideas are basically the same, the number of points made is the same, and the points themselves are the same.
Is this plagiarism, and is it copyright infringement?
[this has happened: not to me but to a friend...]
er
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First, IANAL, and you should take my comments (and any other advice you are likely to get on a forum like this) with a huge grain (block?) of salt.
It seems that using another's ideas that are not generally known and not generally associated with the author of those ideas requires (ethically, not legally) acknowledgment of the source, so this sounds like plagiarism.
EG, if I am going to state "eight principles to live by", and seven of them happen to coincide with Covey's "Habits", I probably should cite that and give credit where credit is due.
But my understanding of copyright is that it protects the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. Sounds to me like your hypothetical author crossed that line. Might be worth looking at the DaVinci Code trial over in England. Don't know if that has been resolved yet, but it deals with this fuzzy line between ideas and their expression.
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^^^ whoops! Meant "are"

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alexy wrote:

There was also a recent suit against someone that published a story with many of the structural elements of the Harry Potter books.
Don't remember the specifics, but I'm inclined to think this is a closer analogy. If the book is not an exact copy of the original, at least the section headers are transferred over with little to no variation. It is clear that even if the (new) author is placing his own personal experiences in each section (including descriptions of how he "discovered" the principle, and even though his domain lies in management rather than engineering, he is very clearly using not only the ideas but the structure, arrangement, exact wording, and intentions from the original book. He didn't attempt to obfuscate anything! Not the title (two word changes...) and not the section titles (occasional small change or addition).
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Enoch Root wrote:

This is plagiarism and copyright infringement (assuming the copyright is still valid). It is also academic cheating/stealing, and morally and ethically wrong. Contact the original author who should contact his publisher.
Once upon a time, I was assigned to critique an automated fingerprint system being designed by a large company for the FBI. The various components ranged from majorly stupid to brilliant. My boss took the finished product (probably 100 pages) and apparently thought seriously about replacing my name with his. He came to me, confessed, apologized, and requested a few minor changes. He showed me something.     mahalo,     jo4hn
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jo4hn wrote:

Some clarifications: Reading over some of the publicity, it seems the company is publishing the book and giving it away. But the CEO is riding a wave of publicity generated by the promotion of "his" management wisdom. When asked if he would hand it over to a publisher he said it was being evaluated.
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jo4hn wrote:

It is possible, of course, that both could have plagiarized from a third party. That does happen.     honest jo4hn (who never stole much)
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Since this is the real world, do you not think you could profit from this. I am not sure who to give credit to for this idea.
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bent wrote:

I'm not sure what you are trying to say. You aren't suggesting profitibility is sufficient justification for it, are you?
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Have some fun! E-mail the CEO and congratulate him on his perception and insight. Also attach a PDF file of enough of the original book to let him know that you're on to him.
FoggyTown
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copies.
Well, the first thing I would do would be to read the CEO's book to see just how close the two really are. It's very common for books on the same topic to be very close. Some things can only be said in a limited number of ways and some principles stand the test of time, so they are easy to find repeated in many places. I don't know how you can say they are basically the same if you haven't read the book.
Is it plagiarism? Maybe not. If the second author is expressing the same thoughts with newer reasoning, or a more up to date purpose, then I don't think it's plagiarism. Copyright infringement? Not if they are common business practices or the likes.
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Mike Marlow wrote:

I haven't ordered the new book, but in several articles and interviews the new author claims to've assembled these valuable principles from his notes over the years of his career, and the main content is these principles.
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In which case it would be perfectly reasonable that the principles are so similar to a previously published work. Few ideas are really original after all.
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Mike Marlow wrote:

Tens of ideas, verbatim? I think you're being flippant, that you haven't considered how improbable it is to come upon the same principles and express them in the same way.
Take "Who moved my cheese" as an example (not relevant to the case!). If someone published a book called "who disturbed my cheese" which had the same insipid self-help industry pap that these books always do, even though there's nothing more than common ideas between the covers, there's still a problem with propriety.
er
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er
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so
after
No - I really wasn't being flippant. It's just that so much of this stuff that is bantered about in the business world today has become cliche. There really are not that many new ideas you hear anymore, but you sure do hear a lot of re-hashing of the same ones.

And... you friend may prove to have a case, I don't know. I wasn't trying to suggest he doesn't as much as I was making a statement that so much of the stuff that gets thrown around today is the same stuff we've been hearing for years now.
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Mike Marlow wrote:

Eh, my reply to this last evening was eaten by a server burp:
Okay, now I understand.
There is an overwhelmingly large amount of funny business going on at all levels, though, and it's hard to get a grip on it all--but it would be a shame to dismiss all the fruits of any efforts to expose it. You'll never get the complete story: perfect knowledge is a tough hurdle, and the gaps are an opportunity to equivocate.
A "lead" on a story is something that should demand more attention, not less. :)
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Ok - I looked at the links you posted in another reply and I have to say that those points certainly do look specific enough to raise an eyebrow. Can't see what the list of points actually are in your friend's booklet but if they are pretty much a one for one match then I'd have to agree with you.
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Mike Marlow wrote:

I looked at the book and saw the passages... I didn't do an analysis but my friend says there is about an 80% match with what was listed in the usatoday article.
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Mike Marlow wrote:

btw, I appreciate that you are concerned about the scope of copyright, and offer an old article about a somewhat different situation--but one which does clarify the distinction between idea and expression:
<URL:http://technology.guardian.co.uk/online/comment/story/0,12449,1510566,00.html
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A very valid point. Extending on that, if these are common principles or common knowledge, both authors may be quoting some earlier savant.
It does sound like it's treading close to the line, but as you say you'd have to read the second book, and confirm that he doesn't acknowledge some other source (which, if it's in a footnote, might not appear in excerpts in the press).
John
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