From Plagiarism Today:
Imagine paying $115,000 for a report and not being able to do anything with it due to plagiarism and/or attribution issues. Likewise, imagine being a well-known expert and professor, one that’s routinely cited in the media, and now having one of your best-known stories being a lawsuit over said issues.
That’s exactly the situation that’s befallen a right-leaning advocacy group, the State Government Leadership Foundation, and Stuart N. Brotman, a current professor at the University of Tennessee.
The story involves a massive mess that, after nearly two years in court, finally reached a settlement. Along the way, the case damaged the career of an otherwise-respected expert, the work of an organization and may have hindered the efforts that the State Government Leadership Foundation was undertaking.
The worst part of it is that it all could have easily been avoided. The case winds up being a frustrating lesson not only in the need to avoid plagiarism, but in the need for organizations to think about and prepare for plagiarism, even when dealing with very expensive reports.
. . . .
Today, Stuart Brotman is the University of Tennessee Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law. However, in 2015, he was working for his own firm, Brotman Communications.
It was in 2015 that he was first contacted by the State Government Leadership Foundation (SGLF). The SGLF is, by its own description, a conservative non-profit that focuses on helping states implement conservative policies.
Around that time the SGLF took interest in a plan by the FCC attempted to block states from passing laws that barred the creation and expansion of municipal broadband services.
. . . .
Internet providers opposed the FCC on this issue and the SGLF sought the help of Brotman to craft a report on the laws surrounding the issue.
He submitted that report to the SGLF later that year and was paid $115,000 for it. The SGLF then sent it to Dr. George Ford, a researcher that was assigned to examine the economic aspects of the issue. However, when Ford submitted the report to Lawrence Spiwak, another expert on the relevant laws, Spiwak recognized his own words.
Ford then conducted an investigation and showed that he had used passages from a variety of sources without quotations or proper attribution. They forwarded their findings to the SGLF, who ended up not publishing the report.
Instead, they asked him to revise the report, which Brotman said he did, but the SGLF found the finished report was still too-poorly attributed to be used. Brotman couldn’t explain how so much content remained, but said that it could be because, in March 2018, some of his files were “corrupted” in a hack from Iran that targeted thousands of processors.
The SGLF demanded its money back but Brotman proactively sued them, accusing the foundation of sharing his “confidential” report. That element was quickly dismissed but the SGLF countersued in hopes of getting their money back.
. . . .
According to Brotman in the lawsuit, he said he was not asked to produce an original report but was instead asked to provide a “review” of prior research. However, that argument is, to put it mildly, glib.
As both a journalism professor and an expert in the field of law, Brotman likely knew that the SGLF wanted a report that they could use public discourse and that even a review requires proper citations. Simply put, he plagiarized and that appears to be pretty clear from his own testimony at the trial, even if he avoided using the word “plagiarism” on the stand and still denies doing it.
. . . .
No one likes to believe an expert or author they hire would ever plagiarize, but you have to prepare for that possibility and, perhaps, that inevitability.
Having strong anti-plagiarism clauses in your contracts and a process for checking works upon receipt (and before payment) could have headed this off. To be clear, the SGLF is not to blame for being given a plagiarized report, but a better plagiarism plan likely could have averted the embarrassment and the litigation.
When it comes to plagiarism, this case is a reminder that you can’t afford to trust blindly. Despite spending $115,000 for the report, the SGLF didn’t spend a few hundred dollars for an automated analysis or a few thousand for a human one.
Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today
PG says that during primeval times before the explosion of the internet, an author of dubious repute might risk significant plagiarism, particularly if writing an article directed toward a small non-expert audience (patients reading magazines in physicians’ waiting rooms) regarding a topic about which only a handful of individuals were real experts who, therefore, would be uninterested in reading People magazine under any circumstances.
Regarding the OP, if the author of the plagiarised report were a law school professor, he would be accustomed to reading and writing documents filled with footnotes documenting authorities and sources for nearly every paragraph. See, for example, a page from the April, 2019, issue of The Duke Law Journal:
PG finds the behavior of the professor described in the OP (which may not accurately describe such behavior) to be very strange.
Not being either a law school professor (although he and two other lawyers had a pleasant lunch with a law school professor yesterday in a meeting of a very local bar association) or an expert on the Federal Communications Commission and its various and sundry activities, PG would expect that an advocacy document such as the professor wrote for the plaintiff in the OP would gain some sort increased credibility if it contained footnotes and a copious appendix of sources.
(PG notes in passing that Mrs. Lascelles, one of his marvelous elementary school teachers, would have gently pointed out the run-on characteristics of the prior sentence. No computer grammar checker could ever exceed Mrs. Lascelles at that task.)
(PG also notes that the author described in the OP was not a law school professor at the time he wrote the article, but dense and extensive footnotes are something a law school professor is expected to understand on the first minute of the first day he/she begins work. Additionally, nothing is easier than padding an expert’s report by copying and pasting a list of sources into an appendix.)
(PG also notes that he is in a startlingly verbose mood today and promises to rein in such tendencies for the remainder of today’s posts.)