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April 8, 2013
Scientific Posters, Heads on Platters, and Lawsuits
Yep, these all tie together. Have a look at this post at Retraction Watch for the details. It's about Colin Purrington, who has a web site on designing posters for conferences. I hadn't seen it before, but it's attained quite a bit of popularity (as it should; it seems to be full of sound advice). Purrington himself has put a lot of work into it, and has decided to protect his copyright.
That means that you have to police these things. I do a little of that myself, when I come across cheapo content-scraping blog sites that are just ripping off my posts, one after the other. What's silly about that is that I almost always grant permission to reprint things if someone goes to the trouble of asking. Colin Purrington seems to have had his hands full with people helping themselves to his work, and the latest example was from the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research. He sent them a please-take-this-down notice, and his notices apparently lean towards the colorful. It included a request for the head, on a platter, of whoever it was that decided to rip him off without attribution. He did offer to pay for shipping.
That didn't go over too well. He's received one of those the-sky-shall-fall-upon-you letters from CPBR's expensive lawyers, quoting copyright law to him and accusing him of taking his information from them. (There are archives of Purrington's material going back to 1997, so that should be fun to dispose of). And he was also informed that the staff took his head/platter request as a physical threat, worth contacting authorities about if repeated.
I'm sure there will be more to this story. But so far, I think that we can conclude that no matter how expensive your legal counsel, you're going to have to pay them even more if you expect them to exhibit a sense of humor.
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