Friday, May 29, 2009

Not plagiarism 'per se'

As I mentioned before, my (2008) work and others' works were plagiarised at an international conference. I have now been reassured that it was not plagiarism 'per se'. [Someone else at UNICRI has now accepted that 'all what you claimed is true'.]

In 2008, the Director of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) presented a paper on frequency and figures..., at the United Nations' International Scientific and Professional Advisory Council's (ISPAC's) International Conference on Organised Crime in Art and Antiquities.

But the paper was nearly all other people's work, nearly all copied and pasted in paragraphs or even pages; nearly the only new words were the ones used to connect the copied and pasted paragraphs together. And none of the original authors were cited. (One was "cited" by job title, and another by article title, but otherwise, nothing.)

Someone at UNICRI reassured me:
I have checked with the colleague who prepared the speech... and who unfortunately is no longer with UNICRI. I would like to reassure you that there was no intention of plagiarism whatsoever on our part.
[The] speech was meant to be a broad presentation accompanied by power point slides, and not an article or a scholar essay with references: being such a document just an outline for a speech it cannot per se be claimed a plagiary.
I agree. It is very unfortunate, very inconvenient, that the anonymous colleague UNICRI is blaming just so happened to leave UNICRI in precisely the months between when the speech was presented at the conference and when the copying and pasting was discovered.

It is difficult to imagine who could have 'no intention of plagiarism whatsoever' when copying and pasting (maybe more than) 90% of their "work" from other people's (and it is certainly uncomfortable to imagine what a person would be like if he or she genuinely could not understand that was plagiarism). But it is noticeable that something written with 'no intention of plagiarism whatsoever' quickly became something that couldn't be claimed as plagiarism 'per se'.

As for the logic that the speech could not be claimed as plagiarism 'per se' because it 'was meant to be a broad presentation', indeed that it was meant not to be 'a scholar[ly] essay with references', plagiarism is not only committed by 'scholar[s]', or by people writing 'essay[s] with references'.

As examples: an American newspaper journalist's stories were plagiarised; a Canadian prime minister's parliamentary speech was plagiarised (and a staffer was 'scapegoat[ed]' for it); and an American politician's dinner speech was plagiarised.

It seems disingenuous to dismiss the published speech as 'just an outline', when the "outline" was a complete speech, as long or longer than an average conference paper. It seems insultingly lazily disingenuous to dismiss the published speech as 'just an outline' when the "colleague" went to the effort of editing the opening and closing sentences of some of the plagiarised passages, or writing complete new sentences to join one cut and shut piece with another, so that it read fluidly, precisely as a complete speech.

Hardy, S A. 2008: "Illicit antiquities trade: Source, transit, market, mafia". Human rights archaeology: Cultural heritage and community [weblog], 20th May. Available at:

UNICRI. 2008: "Frequency and figures of organised crime in art and antiquities". Paper presented at the ISPAC International Conference on Organised Crime in Art and Antiquities, Courmayeur Mont Blanc, Italy, 12th-14th December. Available at:

[I edited this post on 3rd July 2009, after I got more information.]

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