Discussion in 'SF Open Government' started by Reiku, Dec 19, 2011.

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  1. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Yes but that doesn't mean that the concepts aren't related.

    You can't copyright a formula.

    If I write pi = C/D who do I give credit to?

    Formulas represent essential truths and so they don't belong to anyone.

    (sure, some equations are of such a revelation to science that we often pay homage by attaching the discover's name to them, such as Pythagorus still getting credit for a2 + b2 = c2, but you can use that formula in any post you want and not be required to give ol Pythagorus credit for it)

    Which is why you can copywrite the words that describe what the formula represents, but not the formula.

    Probably the most common example I can think of is all the time the Lorentz transformations are used on physics sites without ever mentioning good ol Lorentz.

    So if I write in a post "that because E=MC^2 then xxxxxxxx" and I don't cite Einstein I'm still not guilty of plagiarism.

    On the other hand, if I copied a section of Einstein's book that included the explanation that led to that equation, that would be plagiarism.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2011
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  3. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Hmm…I’m not sure. Perhaps, AN could shed some light on it?
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  5. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    And this is why that's an impossible standard.

    Who decides that an equation is "so well known"?

    There is no way to know.

    So to avoid the charge of plagiarism one would have to cite every equation one uses.

    Which pretty much no one actually does.

    To then single out one poster and say, ah ha, since we've not seen that equation before, thus YOU'RE GUILTY OF PLAGIARISM, makes no sense at all.

    So in the absence of any clear rules, then either all equations need to be cited, or none do.

    Take your pick, but a workable rule isn't that one should "just know".
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2011
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  7. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    Wow, for a thread that progressed this far, I'm surprised I wasn't invited to it earlier given how many times my handle was used.

    First of all, let me start by saying I am not a lawyer and I am not an academic. I am certainly not your lawyer or academic career guidance representative. But it seems to me that the OP has gone about things in seriously wrong manner.

    From Post 1:
    The OP confuses copyright infringement with plagiarism with the violation of the forum rules.

    Copyright infringement is the act of violating laws that protect authors of original material to exclusively profit from the reproduction of that original material. Plagiarism is the social gaffe of hiding that ideas you present as if they are your own were obtained somewhere else. Forum rules are the rules you can expect moderators to try to enforce, and may derive from basis in criminal law, civil law, custom, civility, economics or any goal of the forum owners.

    Copyright infringement: legal protection of authors' economic interests by forbidding unauthorized duplication of material
    Plagiarism: society protecting assessment of reputation by forbidding silently copying ideas
    Violation of rules: forum owners protecting goals by forbidding actions detrimental to goal of running an esteemable forum

    In the academic community, the magnitude of the breach of civility represented by plagiarist is right up there with public urination on some elderly close relation of the head of state. It does not get you invited to parties. In an educational or employment setting, serious penalties are typically imposed upon those found to plagiarize. Termination and expulsion are to be expected.

    Post 1 begins with an unattributed excerpt of section F of this general announcement and ironically highlights line 5 which concerns the forum requirement for attribution of materials. One may well question what line of thinking went into this post.

    The next paragraph asserts that "other members" copy equations from textbooks. Nothing about the link to prometheus' post is obviously copied and no textbook is cited by Mister to make anyone think otherwise. Prometheus' only action appears to be demonstrating a knowledge of special relativity, a physical theory he cited in post #220, just 5 posts earlier. Nowhere is prometheus claiming to originate any aspect of the material presented, he is just illustrating the meaning of the norm of the momentum 4-vector to support his claim of post #220.

    Later, Mister claims this other post by prometheus has a plagiarized equation. But this is not an equation, just elementary illustration of electroweak theory, part of the Standard Model of particle physics. Prometheus also attributed it to the correct physical theory and in no way represented it as his original work.

    Next, Mister links to an entire thread. Presumably, he means to criticize the initial post asking a question about flatness in and contrasts it with a post of his own post on gauge potentials which make no sense, and in post #13, Captain Kremmen identifies them as copied from a post on another site and may be derived from the original work of Tsao Chang. But Mister copies it verbatim, errors included.

    There a many more ways to be uniquely wrong than uniquely right, so when errors are copied in material without attribution this sends a strong signal of not only plagiarism but lack of understanding of the copied material. A related case is the uncovering of the Wegman scandal.

    Mister claims he was copying verbatim from himself. In academic papers, this too is plagiarism because they expect you to be honest and to present original work. In a thread OP, this is simply spammy and sloppy, especially when it comes to abuse of the equals sign. But then Mister also claims that this is the original work of Tsao Chang which renders it pure plagiarism again.

    Next, Mister not only accuses me but finds me "guilty of massive amounts of" plagiarism. But the post linked to is one of AlphaNumeric's. Perhaps Mister means my post 66 or post 70 from that thread where I mix physical theory and geometry. Some of it is my own original work, and some of it is cited to various physical theories or mathematical sources. Where is that specific example which gives rise to a charge of plagiarism? More fitting might be a charge of jealousy against the knowledgeable -- it appears that Mister's accusing finger has wound up pointing at himself!
    This is a naked argument from personal incredulity.

    Answering questions may not be your strong point.

    Copyright, being a legal construct with a long history, is not that simple to decide.

    We look forward to your improved behavior. Also, copyright infringement is, in some places and in some cases, a crime punishable by imprisonment. IANAL, but it's not necessarily in your interests to plead guilty.



    Even people without math degrees sometimes make original math discoveries. And working from axioms and definitions, lots of people do original work to come to the same results. (Otherwise, math wouldn't be reliable.) Are you saying that lots of people use common definitions and axioms? Are you sure you understand math?

    All good advice. The slur of accusing someone of plagiarism immediately gives rise to demands of proof of such charges.

    Actually, I found citations going as far back as Euclid. Some of these citations were in other posts, but that's natural for a threaded discussion forum.

    It's not the worst baseless charge I've seen this month, but ...

    And you can't establish good grounds without good reading skills and a facility for making logical arguments from established facts.

    Knavish, churlish and naive.

    If you cannot trace the source of the material or some other indica, then you have no basis to assert it was copied. It means that your charge was reckless and unable to be demonstrated to be true.

    This appears to be a hateful and baseless charge.

    We are still waiting for you to demonstrate this claim. You link to posts, say it is obvious, and when others say it doesn't look obvious you don't improve your claim.

    I am not more mathematical than Alphanumeric. One one occasion I helped his math with my library skills and that's the best showing I can think of. My original demonstration that A189766(n)/n = A178790 pales in comparison to his average day in 2005-2009.

    I still disagree with you about copyright infringement, but IANAL and I don't know your local laws.

    The poster boy of plagiarism is the one who performs the canonical example of the act. I believe you meant to say you are the whipping boy -- the boy who is punished because others are untouchable. If that's what you mean, you are talking nonsense.

    The Internet is not public domain in many jurisdictions. Copyright is about the right to copy. Stuff on the Internet is protected in many of the same way as stuff in books -- if you copy it, especially wholesale and especially for profit or to the detriment of the copyright holder, you are in trouble.

    The idea of \(F = ma\) or \(\vec{F} = m \vec{a}\) or \(\nabla U(\vec{x}) \; + \; m \ddot{\vec{x}}\) should be cited as Newton's second law of motion except in such places where the context makes it clear that the idea has already been attributed to Newton or some more specific physical theory. Examples of where the context is clear include in classwork on mechanics after week one, answering a question about Newton's second law, following up on a post that assumed Newtonian mechanics or posting to a thread titled for Newton's physics. A journal entitled "Classical Mechanics" might possibly be a place where you could publish a sentence like "This is just \(F = ma\) for particles confined to the surface geometry." as a sort of sloppy citation to Newton, since for the target audience there is no mystery from where it arises.

    Citing the name of a widely developed physical theory or area of mathematics (like "Electroweak theory", "The standard model", "special relativity", "functional calculus", "ring theory", etc.) is frequently better than linking to authors and papers where the ideas were first expounded. For example, Einstein came up with the idea of general relativity, but others developed it. Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism are named for him but developed some pretty big ideas of others.

    Universal gravitation was one of Newton's biggest ideas. Certainly, anyone equipped to apply the equation should have heard that Newton authored it. But if the context doesn't make the source obvious, citing it as "Universal Gravitation" or "Newton's gravity" would be strongly preferred.

    A bold claim. What is your basis for this claim?
    Because many equations tend to be short, they may run afoul of limits of how short something can be and still be copyrightable. (One can't copyright letters of the alphabet and then sue people for making words.) But some equations run to many pages and, in my opinion, should be protected by copyright. (IANAL.)

    I disagree. I believe if the context does not make it clear, you should definitely cite Einstein or Special Relativity.

    Or if he was just copying the parts written by himself under a different Internet handle, he is guilty of cross-posting, gratuitous abuse of the equals sign, and a technical type of plagiarism that pseudonymous authors can run into. In formal writing, one cites papers where one wrote original ideas first. In informal writing, what assurances do we have that this master of 1001 Internet handles is indeed the author of this other post? For all I know, Texas Governor Rick Perry is Mister and Lord Monckton is the author of the other post.

    I agree to a point, but disagree in main part. A law of nature may not (under US Law) be patented, but the scientific article in which it is first described is automatically copyrighted upon publication in a "fixed form" (unless published by the US Govt, in which case it is in the public domain). An equation in that paper may or may not be too small for copyright to apply, and the manner in which it is used may be a "fair use" exception to copyright. If the paper is 80% a new approximate description of the motion of the moon an stretches over 5 or more pages, I'm guessing copyright is likely to apply.

    News reports which are terse statements of fact, like a one-inch description from a police report, may be "simple facts" without the creative expression required for copyright protection.

    Over the years, I have learned that very few understand anything about copyright. To support this claim, you should cite statue, provision, regulation, publication or case law. You have not done so. So I defer to my years of experience and reading sites like
    The same source says ideas are not copyrightable, but an equation is not an idea but a work of authorship in my opinion.

    In a snarky moment, I once told a crackpot that he couldn't patent a law of nature, but if his physical theory is complete fiction than it is entirely protected by copyright. The same would seem to apply to equations which are used as set dressing.

    Context is important in having good communication skills.

    Time matters, and due to the nature of the pseudonymous conduct, a defense of "we are the same person" is weak.

    I disagree. Copying from yourself without attribution could be plagiarism, especially in a serious academic context.

    Readers with good reading skills and knowledge of the context.

    Naked assertion is not conducive to a meeting of the minds.

    If you need to give credit, you could do it like this:

    Equations may be expressions of laws of nature, but they are not laws of nature themselves.

    Do you have an example in mind?

    Readers with good reading skills and knowledge of the context.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  8. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    I've been a business that requires us to copywrite things and so I'm reasonably familiar with the provisions and you can't copywrite just a formula.

    Wasn't hard to find the gov take on it either:

    Which is what I've been saying all along.
    It's not the formula that you can copywrite, but the "substantial literary expression" that explains the formula which you can copywrite.

    I disagree, but regardless, this isn't in a serious academic context.

    As to pi, nope even your citation would be challenged:

    But that's not the point is it?
    Today no one ever cites who came up with pi when they use it. To claim otherwise is simply being silly.

    As to your final point: I ask: Who decides that an equation is "so well known"? and you reply with a flippant and totally useless answer: Readers with good reading skills and knowledge of the context.

    Like that helps?

    It doesn't.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Just to add a little to rpenner's post:

    In academia, plagiarism is taken very seriously indeed. It is a form of academic misconduct.

    To consider just one case, take a student cutting and pasting information from wikipedia (say) into an essay they submit for assessment, without providing a reference or link anywhere in the essay (e.g. in the bibliography).

    A student caught doing that for the first time would ordinarily be called up in front of a committee or senior person in the department concerned and asked to justify their actions. The matter would be noted on their academic record. They might be "let off" with a warning and a mark of zero for that piece of assessment. (For some subjects, the essay may be worth 50% of the student's final mark for the subject, making it impossible for them to pass the subject this time around and forcing them to re-take it in the next available semester.)

    A student caught plagiarising a second time will likely find themselves in front of an official committee of the university as a whole - usually the Academic Misconduct committee. Unless they have an excellent reason for plagiarising, chances are that they will end up expelled from the university.

    In terms of student essays and the like, most universities also take collusion and reproduction very seriously. Collusion is where two students work cooperatively on a piece of assessment that they have been told is something they must work on individually. It is often discovered when the work of two students contains exactly the same errors and/or idiosyncrasies of expression.

    Reproduction is where a student submits the same piece of work for two assessments (e.g. the same essay used in two different subjects). It might be an essay they wrote themselves previously (even in a previous year). But when they submit, students usually have to sign a form that explicitly warrants that the work they are submitting is (a) their own, (b) properly referenced and (c) original.

    Both collusion and reproduction tend to be treated similary to plagiarism. Submitting an essay given to you by a friend who did the subject last year is both plagiarism and collusion. In such a case, BOTH students involved may be penalised.
  10. AlphaNumeric Fully ionized Registered Senior Member

    You cannot copyright numbers or equations. its why Intel calls their chips Pentium and no longer 486. However you can claim intellectual property rights for derivation and algorithms based on formula, especially if you were the first to derive the formula. Compression and encryption algorithms being prime examples. Just last week i had an instance where a company considered input values to a program as confidential even though the program wasn't. In academia its different from private research, academics love to tell each other how they solved something but in doing so they stamp their intellectual rights on it, requiring recognition from anyone who continues that work. Damn cheaper than paying a licence fee though, all it needs is a bit of honesty.
  11. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    I also took all the required law courses, and it would seem to me that almost anything posted originally on-line is fair game to be copied.

    Let me explain.

    Lets say I quoted from a blog somewhere and forgot to put quotes around it, and even made it sound like my own. I think the person would be hard pressed to sue someone, and would in many cases be flattered somewhat.

    I understand that any copying of work without credit to the author could be construed as plagiarism, but look at the following facts.

    - If a person makes a comment on a Forum, who is to say the comment was not edited by administration of the website or a hacker soon after it was posted?
    - With quoting on-line, it could be harder to prove who copied whom. Dates can become "fuzzy" without hard copies.
    - By posting on-line you are putting stuff into a public domain and there is a greater "assumption of risk" involved.

    Where people should be more careful is copying words and pictures that have been published in paper form (book/newspaper). Once the expense of printing is involved then there is potentially more damages also.

    If a reference is left off a quotation then anybody with "google" could easily find the source, so it is not the end of the world.

    So be careful if reproducing printed materials/photos, but ease up on your rules if copying something originating on-line. Not only would the damages be negligible, but there is also a greater "assumption of risk", followed by a harder burden of proof.

    Having said all that. It is illegal to copy anybodies work without express permission. Even quoting the source does not qualify as permission unless stated so by the author/website.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  12. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    And I'm not saying to ignore plagiarism on this board, even if we aren't part of academia.

    Indeed it's one of the things I'd consider that banning is appropriate for.

    What I'm saying is that as far as I can tell, Mister was accused of plagiarism based on finding the same post data on the internet under the User Name Mystery111. But if Mister's post claiming that the material posted by Mystery111 is also his work is true (too bad we can't ask him to prove it though) then I have seen no evidence that he has plagiarized anything.
  13. ReikuMeister Banned Banned


    Quite right ... not fair at all I have had no chance to defend myself as usual.

    AN is partially right. I was caught on plagairizing work, but he has also failed to mention I was quite aware that it happened when mentioned to me. What happened was that I had when through some written work. What I tended to do (almost 5 years ago now) was that I used to write a lot of the work down instead of saving it to files. I accidently came across something I assumed I wrote myself.

    Though, of course, AN found it like in his first search and accused me of all sorts. Night of the living rerun.

    I am also Carstein, Mystery ect. But don't believe for one minute I am as twisted as AN tries to make out. I am far from it.
  14. ReikuMeister Banned Banned

    And adoucette is right. I should not have been infractioned or banned for any of this if indeed the link which was provided was written by me, which is was, so what a farce all this has been anyway!
  15. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Then please post something, like just the letter A, as Mystery and Carstein to prove you are them and clear this confusion up.
  16. ReikuMeister Banned Banned

    I will write A on the Mystery account.

    Done. Now I have proven I have not plagiarized anything, with the help of others here.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  17. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Wait a minute. While we’re on the subject of intellectual honesty, it’s not just about plagiarism or cheating, right? A broader definition is honesty in the acquisition, analysis, and transmission of ideas, but what I’m curious about is PhDs. Didn’t Mister claim to have a degree in physics?

    You can verify a license but not a PhD. The public can check on a physician’s license, but I don’t know of any free online databases to verify degrees. There’s the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, but it only applies to institutions that receive funding under a program administered by the U.S. Department of Education. In this day and age, you’d think that there would be free online databases. If I paid a fortune for a degree, I would want the public to have access.

    For example, there’s also another member in here, who claims in his profile that he’s a physicist, biologist, lawyer, and educator.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    I want to know if you can claim to be a physicist without having a doctorate. If you only have, let’s say a BS degree in physics, does that make you a physicist? :shrug:
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  18. ReikuMeister Banned Banned

    No, I've never claimed to have a PhD degree.

    You've made a mistake somewhere. :shrug:
  19. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Did you ever claim to have any type of degree in physics?
  20. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

  21. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Sure, if you got your major in that subject and work in the field, why not?

    My daughter is getting her BA degree with a major in Art History.
    I assure you, given the number and level of courses she is taking, by the time she graduates she will be able to legitimately claim that title.

    Her boyfriend just graduated with a BS in Geology and is now working for an oil drilling company as their Geologist analyzing the "mud" returned from the drilling operation to determine age of strata.
  22. ReikuMeister Banned Banned

    Never a degree. Never university level. Only college level.
  23. ReikuMeister Banned Banned

    Right, just about to... ok done.
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