Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Déjà vu

Last week, on the workshop in Bonn, I was in for a nasty surprise. Sitting there, listening to one talk after the other about black holes, I saw pictures reappear that I had made. Four different pictures of mine, in four different talks. All without picture credits. When I told the speakers later that they've been using a picture that took me in some cases hours to make without even putting my name below it, they apologized. One shrugged shoulders and said "It came up in Google." I checked that, it did come up when doing a Google image source for "Black Hole Evaporation," the source being my home page. I'm not surprised by this, my homepage has always been well indexed by Google. Apparently I was expecting too much when thinking people could at least look at the front page and find my name.

I will admit that I am very dismayed by this. Yes, I too sometimes do use other people's figures and plots in my talks, but I usually add a source, if possible to find. It's more complicated with photos, who will typically appear in so many copies on some dozen websites that it's next to impossible to find out who originally took the photo. In any case, some of the pictures I saw reappearing in those talks I don't even hold the copyright on. They were published in one of my papers, and with that the copyright went to the publisher.

I don't mind at all if people use my pictures, otherwise I wouldn't upload them to my website. I receive the occasional email from somebody asking if they can use one or the other for a talk or a paper and I always say yes. (I once was asked for a picture to be reprinted in a popular science book, but when the publisher of my picture was asked for the reprint permission they said no for reasons I still don't understand.) But of course I do expect that people add at least my name below it. It has previously happened that I saw pictures of mine reappear, this one showing an evaporating black hole seems to be the favorite



but that workshop convinced me to add my name in a corner of all these pictures. Sure, one can cut it out, but it takes a deliberate effort.

This also reminds me that I once received a paper for peer review. It was written in dramatically bad English, then all of a sudden there were two paragraphs that weren't only readable but sounded eerily familiar. A quick check confirmed my suspicion that it was an introduction from one of my own papers. They had cited my paper somewhere, but it was by no means clear they had copied half a page from it. Again, my paper was published, the copyright was with the publisher. The paper I reviewed wasn't only badly written but also wrong, so it didn't get published. However, I later wrote to the authors making it very clear that this is not an appropriate way to cite. They either mark it as a quotation, or they rewrite it. They apologized and then rearranged a few words here and there. I know other people who have made exactly the same experience with one of their papers.

I find it very worrisome that more and more people make so unashamedly use of other's work without even thinking about it. My mother is a high school teacher and as a standard procedure she'll have to check every essay for whether it's been copied elsewhere. Evidently, there's still kids stupid enough to try nevertheless. I know these checks are being done in many other places too, there's even software for it so you don't have to Google every sentence manually. An extreme case that I know of was a PhD candidate who had copied together half of his thesis from other people's review articles, including equations, references and footnotes. He did cite the papers he used, but certainly didn't mark the "borrowed" pieces as quotations.

It is clear that when thousands of people write introductions to the same topic, then many of them will sound quite similar. I also understand that when you find a nice picture for your talk online it seems superfluous to spend time yourself on what Google gives it to you on a silver plate. Certainly you have better things to do than making a pictures for your talk, right? But what you're doing is simply using someone else's effort and selling them as your own. So next time, spend the three seconds and check whose homepage you've been downloading your pictures from.




And here's a recent copyright story that I found hilarious "Greek man sues Swedish firm over Turkish yoghurt pic"
"A Greek man has sued a dairy firm in southern Sweden after his picture ended up on a Turkish yoghurt product. The man whose picture adorns the Turkish yoghurt product, manufactured by Lindahls dairy in Jönköping, argues that the company does not have permission to use his image [...]

The man, who lives in Greece, was made aware of the use of his picture on the popular Swedish product when an acquaintance living in Stockholm recognized his bearded friend [...]

In his writ the man has underlined that he is not Turkish, he is Greek, and lives in Greece, and the use of his picture is thus misleading both for those who know him and for buyers of the product.

Lindahls dairy has expressed surprise at the writ and argues that the image was bought from a picture agency [...]"

29 comments:

Savvas said...

I also remember the story in which Facebook had taken a photo from the profile of a (very very pretty girl) living in the States and used it in ads in Australia without her consent (ads in FB are region targeted). Some friend or cousin of hers living in Australia noticed it.

This was in the early days of Facebook, so it didn't get much publicity but you can see the similarity.

Bee said...

Very sad, I hadn't known of that story. I believe the fineprint of the Facebook terms of agreement says that everything you upload is their property. Needless to say, most people don't read the terms of agreement. (It's like 40 pages or so I think. Haven't read them either.) I'm not even sure that's legal actually. I thought there's some sort of law protecting people from deliberate obfuscation of their rights in what they sign.

Georg said...

One
of the latin teachers I had in grammar school,
used to give "1" (very good) to "5"
(deficient) grades.
This is common German prctice since
more than 100 Years, I suppose,
nevertheless a grade "6" (fail) exists,
but is almost never used.
One day the abovementioned teacher
used a "fail" and gave a interesting
reason for his decision:
"I reseve a "6" (fail) for those
which are silly enough to include
their neighbours name when stealing his text" :=)
Regards
Georg

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I’ve always believed credit and acknowledgement should be given to those that create things and yet must admit I’m somewhat lax in this myself when it comes to images. Now that you’ve made the case I will have to review my own few scribblings to see if I can find where the image material originates. I always wished I had the talent to create my own illustrations as what could serve better to get a point across than something formed out of one’s own head.

However in respect tp physicists I haven’t found many that are capable and or seem to enjoy doing their own sketches, except perhaps for yourself and Roger Penrose. In fact the PI lecture of his I attended I was as much impressed with his doodlings as I was with his subject matter. It was also interesting to see him scramble with all his hand crafted transparencies with such great dexterity and effectiveness with not having it all neatly choreographed with a power point presentation. That is the juggling act alone I found to have performance and entertainment value:-)

Then again I think it’s a little high handed of any journal publisher to deny use of an illustration if the creator themselves had approved it, especially when what they publish have payed no royalty for. Perhaps researchers should take their cues from the dot com crowd and only grant publishers limited licences instead of surrendering copyright. Anyway as time progresses this whole issue of intellectual property seems to be getting more complex, confused and obscure. In the end however when it comes to things that qualify as discovery I think the greatest reason for giving the originator credit is to reinforce its human connection with maintaining the value of personal gratitude.

Best,

Phil

literalman said...

It seems that turnitin.com is used quite commonly in the US -- both at the high school and college level -- to detect possible plagarism.

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

Ah, the master students/researchers of Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V of these days...

Very worrisome because they avoid altogether the hard (but absolutely necessary) path of reading, understanding, thinking and writing in their own words. They just skim a text and if they see some connection, they are quick into the Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V thing.

Most do not even think that such an action is plagiarism, or in case they do think, most fail to understand how serious that means.

Yes, put your name in your pictures. If fact, most will not notice it or even give any importance. They will just paste the pictures into their "work", in the same unreflective mood as they will do with a text. The name is small and at the bottom anyway, no one will care.

Alternatively, you may put a small picture online with very low resolution and indicate "click to enlarge". Then, in the enlarged version, put a watermark on it with your name. Then if someone would like to use it without the watermark, they should send you a request for the original picture and agree to give credit to you.

Best,
Christine

Christine said...

Ah, and of course keep your name at the bottom also in the requested picture without watermark.

Uncle Al said...

About your bursting arrows... some have an even-numbered burst, some an odd-numbered burst. Surely they cannot both occur with the same statistics and kinetics! Think about singlet versus triplet positronium decays and conservation of angular momentum.

In principle you could add a steganographic overlay into the least signficant bits of each pixel. As eyes converge upon the graphic, a Magic Eye

http://www.magiceye.com/

image appears: STOLEN. (In my experience, physicists cannot comprehend stereoimages.) Watermarking is a common option in graphics software, as is merely inserting a copyright notice into the header.

Steven Colyer said...

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Bee.

:-)

But of course you are right, credit should be given for the source material.

At the end of the day, it's a matter of politeness. Bringing lawyers into things only complicates the waters.

Bee said...

Uncle: These arrows indicate fragmentation into hadrons, not decay into elementary particles. The rough picture to have in mind is a color flux-tube ripping into neutral pieces (confinement etc). Could be any number of pieces.

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

Yes, I've thought about the watermarks, thanks for the advice. Thing is however that I myself find them very annoying because of the time delay it takes to get a useful picture. While I typically have my talks pretty much done ahead of time, I only add the pictures in the end (after all, I can do without them if I mess up my time management). If I have to wait 2 days for a picture, I'd rather not use it (or make a similar one myself). Add to this that I believe pictures can vastly contribute to clarifying a talk (not to mention make it more interesting) and you see why it's not my intention to prevent people from using my pictures. I just don't want them to take credits for my work, that's what annoys me. I'd guess that the watermark would have the result that people just don't use them. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Steven,

Yes, it's a matter of politeness. It's also a matter of honesty not to take credit for somebody else's work. However, beyond that it's also worrisome if you extrapolate to the future: Appropriately crediting (whether by referencing or paying) other people's work is an extremely important incentive for creative processes. That's basically what copyrights and patents are good for: that the person who has the work gets something out of it. If it becomes a standard procedure to use somebody else's work without mentioning it's not our own, in the end nobody will see the point of creating anything themselves. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Well, the thing with the figures is that you need the right software and you need to know how to use it. That takes some time and, depending on what your institution offers, money for the software. I'm using Corel X4 (expensive) sometimes povray (shareware) or gle for data plots. If you haven't used the software before it will take a considerable time till you've figured out how to make a sensible graphic, though the ones I'm doing are not exactly very sophisticated. I think considerably more people would use their own sketches if there was a simple, good, and affordable way to convert a hand-drawing into a graphic. We talked about that before. Drawing pads exist, but my experience isn't the best. Alternatively you can take a photo, but the quality will be shaky. Also, it takes too much time and effort. Easier to do a Google image search... For their plots, most people seem to use Mathematica which I find seriously awful (esp in 3D), but that's details. Reason is probably simply that the software is widespread, well documented, and everybody knows how to use it.

You're of course right with what you say about the copyright going to the publisher (it was not a journal in this case), but that's currently the standard procedure. It works because researchers can call themselves lucky if their paper gets published at all, so you're not being picky with the details. In any case, I have on some occasions asked for reprint permission of somebody else's figures and I've never had a problem. Usually, it's just a formality. I was thus stunned that this particular publisher did not want the picture to be reprinted, but there wasn't much I could have done about it. Best,

B.

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

I just don't want them to take credits for my work, that's what annoys me. I'd guess that the watermark would have the result that people just don't use them.

They'd have to contact you to ask for the pictures with no watermarks. A fraction of people would give up this procedure and search elsewhere (or make the pictures themselves), another fraction would contact you. In any case, you would have more work to do, yes.

Best,
Christine

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

my sister found her Diploma thesis 100% percent copied as a Diploma from another guy. I couldn't convince her to go to the secretary of her faculty to talk about this.

Best, Kay

Christine said...

BTW I find watermarks very annoying as well, that's why they came immediately to my mind when I read your post. :)

My solution is of course not so good, since some people would give up using your pictures, but I believe some would contact you if the pictures are really great and worth the effort and the time required to wait for your response. But I can understand that many people are always in a hurry and late in their work and sometimes cannot wait for a couple of days. If you find another solution, let me know!

Best,
Christine

Arun said...

Hi Bee, there is a whole website devoted to such issues:

http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/

For photographs, the copyright info can be embedded in the EXIF data.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,


Speaking of original work, I hope you find time and inclination to explain at some point in this blog your latest paper dealing with the rebuttal of Amelino-Camelia et al of the implications for DSR that where brought forward in your Box Problem paper. I’m particularly interested in you fleshing out what aspect of their most recent proposal which you find to be “unphysical”.

I acknowledge perhaps the nuances might be more than I or many here may be able to have firmly grasped and yet as it does focus on one of the symmetries so central within modern physics I for one would greatly appreciate any expansion of insight you could provide. Perhaps I have it all confused, yet it appears to me that this current debate which you’ve given rise to brings the core principles of invariance and nonlocality in nature to be uncomfortably incompatible in some respect. So I guess what I’m asking if it is possible you are able to express what questions it forces to be faced more so than any answer(s) it suggests.


Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...

The Box Problem in Special Relativity thing between Bee and Amelino-Camelia is working itself out in the world of scientific papers, and in peer opinions. I for one am going to watch it but not comment until I gain the expertise to do so. Even if I had the expertise I think it's up to the principles only at this point to comment, and mostly to each other. Since they will meet in about two weeks at the ESQG conference (where among other things, I expect Joy Christian to expound on his opinions of John Stewart Bell's assumptions), I expect I'll wait until then to see how this all bangs out.

At least Amelino-Camelia is being civil, unlike Dali Motl. But I hear you, Phil. When great intellectual minds collide, we're all entranced. ;-)

Bee said...

Steven, Phil,

Explanations are in my reply to Giovanni. There'll be an update of this (addressing his update) next week or so. His assumption that I find unphysical is (roughly) putting the origin of the coordinate system in the detector to fix the outcome of a calculation. I find it unphysical because he could have put the origin anywhere, which would have changed the result. While it changes the result of the calculation, it does however not change the final conclusion anyway, so actually arguing about this assumption is somewhat irrelevant. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

What you mentioned as what you found to be unphysical about their proposal is the same as I had gathered from your paper. However I still look forward to you eventually getting around to writing a piece that has it made more clear in the context of the more general discussion that surrounds QG itself. Then again perhaps not everyone enjoys attempting to flush out the subtleties that so often accompany the type of observations you have come to expose here. Also I can’t help thinking that you have come upon something that has ramifications that extend past just simply how DSR should be considered as to its limitations and after reading Smolin’s paper I’m left being no less suspicious this be the case..

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,


I’m not so much intrigued by the thoughts of observing sharp minds clashing, yet more so the debate it has rekindled that is focused around aspects of physics being among the most adhered to basic physical assumptions. It’s also interesting for me that this would be resultant of a careful examination by a physicist whose emphasis rests with the constraints of phenomalogical considerations.

I would point out that J.S. Bell was also just such a person, who chose to keep his eye on the ball in respect to the central issues, rather than be distracted by what I would call the overlaying dogma, built on the unsupported assumptions of his times. If you have the opportunity to read it, that is if you already haven’t, I would recommend you look at what Smolin had to say about all this in his paper of this past April. The bottom line being as he expressed that is even if Sabine’s paradox can be resolved by essentially not having classical theory found able to dictate the actions of the quanta, never the less some of its most cherished assumptions will have to be re-examined in the effort to move things forward.


Best,

Phil

Plato said...

Hi Bee,

I hope over the years I have been fair to you two this way in the cross links to your postings from which you both had sparked thoughts in relation to those postings?

Was this one of yours as well??

Best,

Steven Colyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Colyer said...

Bee, thank you very much for your response, and my response to you would be that in the next 2-1/2 weeks ... pay NO attention to your Blog! Let the next two and a half weeks be ALL about the ESQG, that is to say The Experimental Search for Quantum Gravity Workshop (Solvay VI !) at Nordita!

Let the Wookie win, Bee, is all I'm saying. Let Stefan take over, is my suggestion. Let's hear more about quarks, gluons, or whatever Stefan talks about. Girl, you have a HUGE workshop on your plate! Let all discussion re same pass until said workshop is over, is my humble suggestion.

Or are you SO efficient that Lee and Greg can handle what needs to be handled between now and then and through?

Awesome, if so, in which case, you're Superwoman!

Bee said...

Hi Plato,

Yes, you've been fair. No, this picture is not mine. It's from PI's 5 year plan, I wrote a post about it at some point. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Steven,

In my experience the most busy time in organizing a workshop is actually not the event itself, but the week before it. Suddenly there's one million things to be arranged (name batches, welcome folders, coffee, pin boards, internet access?, what if it rains at the BBQ? who does the a/v recording? where's the remote for the beamer? how many vegetarians? and so on and so forth). Once you have all people together in a room and coffee is flowing, things take on an own dynamics.

I've recruited some students to help out (since most of our staff is away) so no need to ask Lee or Greg.

I'm certainly not superwomen, the color choice of the outfit doesn't go with my taint. Blogging is currently a little slow not only because of the workshop org but also because of some dozen other things that I have to take care of, like more fun with my health insurance - bureaucracy can be such a pain. In any case, I'll go on vacation when the workshop is over, so I probably have time to finish up some halfdone thoughts then. Best,

B.

chimpanzee said...

To Stop Cheats, Colleges Learn Their Trickery

"As the eternal temptation of students to cheat has gone high-tech — not just on exams, but also by cutting and pasting from the Internet and sharing of homework online like music files — educators have responded with their own efforts to crack down.

This summer, as incoming freshmen fill out forms to select roommates and courses, some colleges — Duke and Bowdoin among them — are also requiring them to complete online tutorials about plagiarism before they can enroll."

"At M.I.T., David E. Pritchard, a physics professor, was able to accurately measure homework copying with software he had developed for another purpose — to allow students to complete sets of physics problems online. Some answered the questions so fast, “at first I thought we had some geniuses here at M.I.T.,” Dr. Pritchard said. Then he realized they were completing problems in less time than it took to read them and were copying the answers — mostly, it turned out, from e-mail from friends who had already done the assignment."

"The tutorial that Bowdoin uses was developed with its neighbor colleges Bates and Colby several years ago. Part of the reason it is required for enrollment, said Suzanne B. Lovett, a Bowdoin psychology professor whose specialty is cognitive development, is that Internet-age students see so many examples of text, music and images copied online without credit that they may not fully understand the idea of plagiarism."