Blatant Plagiarism in the London Daily Telegraph (Update: The Telegraph Credits, Links OFK)

pla ·gia ·rism /ˈpleɪdʒəˌrɪzÉ™m, -dÊ’iəˌrɪz-/ [pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz-] ““noun 1. the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.

You know, I write this with some ambivalence, because I’m always glad to see that the result of many, many hours of scouring North Korea on Google Earth, of poring through scholarly reports, and of cross-checking clues has brought much-needed attention to the horrors of North Korea’s prison camps. Attracting that kind of attention to this story is the whole purpose of all of the work I did to research and publish this information. Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining that major news sites would want to steal my work.

Of course, the readers of this Daily Telegraph photo essay might learn a great deal more if they could see the images in the context in which I published them, along with the text and video clips with which they’re presented. And perhaps because I’ve never seen dime one from all of the hard work I put into this, it angers me to see my work published below slick banner ads from airlines, sports promotions, or advocacy groups with big budgets … without any attribution whatsoever.

Compare and contrast. Screen grabs from the Telegraph on the left; my original images on the right. Click any image for full size, and you’ll see that the altitudes match down to the foot, and that the coordinates match down to the thousandth of a degree:

telegraph4.jpg Camp 22 guard post

telegraph3.jpg Camp 22

telegraph2.jpg camp 22 gate

The Chosun Ilbo, which cites the Telegraph’s photo essay, but had no way of knowing what the Telegraph’s original source was. I don’t blame them. And again, I’m glad to see these images in front of more eyes. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent wondering who these people were and what ever became of them. Now, others will wonder, too, which means that I’ve accomplished something here.

In the next image, you can still see my distinctive yellow arrow placemarks on the screen grab from the Telegraph, and the caption for the image is copied verbatim from this page.
telegraph1.jpg sinuiju prison

The Telegraph’s caption:

Labour-rehabilitation camps, or kyo-hwa-so, are usually built in a penitentiary style with perimeter walls and guard towers, and hold populations of up to 10,000 political prisoners, economic criminals, and ordinary criminals

My text:

Labor-rehabilitation camps, or kyo-hwa-so, are usually built in a penitentiary style with perimeter walls and guard towers, and hold populations of up to 10,000 political prisoners, economic criminals, and ordinary criminals.

To be clear, I am accusing the Telegraph of stealing images and text directly from this website and republishing them on its own website for commercial use, without my permission, and without attribution. As of the time of publication of this post, there’s no link or attribution at the Telegraph’s site. That is something no ethical journalist would do.

I’ll let Curtis speak for himself, but the Telegraph appears to have borrowed liberally from his research, too. “Research” is the operative word here. I don’t claim any rights over the satellite imagery; it’s the analysis that’s my intellectual property, without which you might not know what you’re looking at.

Really — if the Telegraph had just bothered to ask me for permission, I would have gladly given them permission to republish, asking only for attribution in return. I’m not in this for the money. The Telegraph can keep the ad revenue, or better yet, let me designate a charity to receive it. All would be forgiven.

So is a little attribution so much to ask?

Update, June 3, 2010:

The Daily Telegraph is now crediting OFK for the four images in question, and even added some nice links. I want to publicly thank the Telegraph for doing the right thing, crediting this site, and for taking the extra step of inserting the links and the complimentary words.

Above all, I want to thank them for showing interest in Camp 22 at all, and informing its readers about atrocities that are paradoxically both massive in scale and widely ignored.

19 Comments

  1. As someone who has had both blogged items and printed items plagiarized, I share your indignation. Had they done it right the first time, they would simply owe you attribution (with your permission), but now they owe you an apology and perhaps some cash.

    I’m not sure what Google’s position is on people using Google maps in their blogs and what-not (they seem to encourage it), but clearly your labeling is value-added work that goes beyond the original Google image. Were The Telegraph to have stopped there, I’d say it was enough of a gray area to let it go, but when they actually co-opt your description word for word and pass it off as their own, that’s gone too far.




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  2. Wow. Call me naive, but I can’t believe they had the chutzpah to copy your work verbatim, even in part. Changing “labor” to its British spelling reminds me of a schoolkid who relies on an encyclopedia to write his paper on dinosaurs (or whatever) and alters a word here and there, figuring that the teacher will never pick up on the fact that he copied from his source essentially word-for-word.

    Shame on them.




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  3. Wow what bad luck for the Telegraph. To steal off a blogger who also happens to be a lawyer.




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  4. This is a wonderful snafu by the Telegraph. Write a polite email to the editor, copy to the Press Complaint Commission, asking for attribution, an explanation of the purpose of One Free Korea, and a link. Here’s the PCC: http://www.pcc.org.uk/about/whatispcc.html.

    What you should be trying for is for the Telegraph to give you the international recognition you deserve. Good luck and happy hunting.




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  5. You’re making a moral argument, but the legal position may not be in your favor. Have you read the Google Earth user agreement, and tried to puzzle through what is “Content” under that agreement?

    I think once you, as an end user, upload markers and other annotations, those become Content owned by Google.

    The Telegraph may have stolen material, but it’s probably legally correct to say they stole from Google if they stole it.

    [OFK: First, I did not upload the markers. I placed them in my own private placemarks, took screenshots, and then published the distinctively marked imagery. Second, as you will see if you read my post carefully, I did not claim ownership of the imagery itself, but of the research that allows me to know what to display, and how to describe and verify what I display. The Telegraph suggests by omission that its staff did this research and then uses it to sell advertising. Third, Google is well aware of what Curtis and I have done with Google Earth imagery of North Korea, and that’s all I’ll say about that, other than my use and comment on images of tiny portions of GE’s imagery for non-commercial, public-interest use is well within the fair use doctrine. Google Earth provided the haystack, but Curtis and I found the needles that the Telegraph is now selling. And if there is no intellectual property in the enhancement and interpretation of fair use, then I submit that very few bloggers own any intellectual property at all, and P. Diddy owes someone a lot of money.

    That being said, the direct and unattributed quotation of my text is a classic case of plagiarism.]




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  6. Brendon Carr wrote:

    The Telegraph may have stolen material, but it’s probably legally correct to say they stole from Google if they stole it.

    Thanks for chiming in, Brendon. I’m certainly not a lawyer, but I did wonder whether Joshua’s amended Google maps either (a) fell into the sphere of what Google controls, à la its user agreement, in a way that would allow The Telegraph‘s reprinting, or (b) possibly even violated Google’s own copyright.

    But let’s assume for the sake of argument that neither The Telegraph nor Joshua has violated any user agreements or private-party agreements regarding the usage of the maps. There is still the problem of The Telegraph having co-opted his descriptions of what’s being shown in the maps without attribution.

    Never mind that they used maps that he had gone to the trouble of “interpreting”; they plagiarized written material that in no way could be reasonably considered Google property.




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  7. This sort of thing happens all the time with British newspapers, and it’s appalling that they so often get away with it. The Telegraph is a broadsheet, generally considered the more respectable type of newspaper (as opposed to tabloids such as The Sun or The Daily Mail) and while I would expect this of the latter it is especially shameful in the former.

    I have emailed The Telegraph (email: dtnews@telegraph.co.uk) to draw their attention to the fact that someone has noticed their plagarism and requesting that they correct this. I’ll let you know if I get a reply.




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  8. Let me put it this way: for years, if there is anyone worth plagiarizing off of on NK matters for its quality and depth of coverage not to mention knowledge, it’s Josh’s work on this blogg. I myself did it — although I did attribute it — for floor statements on the floor of the US Senate. Kudos to you Josh for finally being recognized, on the one hand. but on the other hand, from one lawyer to another, make sure they are painfully aware of what they have done. As always, keep up the great work. Cheers, S

    [OFK: Thank you for those very kind words.]




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  9. Changing “labor” to its British spelling reminds me of a schoolkid who relies on an encyclopedia to write his paper on dinosaurs (or whatever) and alters a word here and there, figuring that the teacher will never pick up on the fact that he copied from his source essentially word-for-word.

    Changing US spellings is standard editing among British publications. US media do the same although they are less consistent and sometimes retain original spellings like Labour Party or Centre-Right.

    Back on topic, you are justified in publicly shaming The Telegraph.




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  10. I really hate plagiarism — as my students can tell you. I’m surprised to see it in The Telegraph.

    Brendon may be right about the map issue, but the stealing of your very words amounts to egregious plagiarism.

    In my opinion, however, you might want to use this incident as a way of drawing more attention toward the North Korean issues to which this blog is devoted. As someone suggested, write a nice letter to The Telegraph to ‘thank’ them for using your work. That’ll shame them into an apology but allow them to save face and perhaps help further your own aims.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *




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  11. The Google user agreement for Google Earth’s consumer version (I haven’t looked at the agreement for the Pro version used at CNN or other media outlets) does specifically address the creation of “derivative works” — it says the user cannot use Google Earth to create derivative works. This means, on the face of it, that Joshua Stanton’s screen captures are not his intellectual property — they still belong to Google.

    But if that explanatory text was not uploaded to Google Earth as annotation to the map, but rather remains here on this website alone, then yes — the Telegraph has a problem.

    Boorish and thieving! For shame. Go get ’em.




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  12. Thanks, Brendon.

    You are the wronged party, Joshua, and I guess we all should leave it up to you how you want to deal with The Telegraph directly. But I volunteer to write letters or something along those lines to support you if you see fit.

    For now I’ll just put up a post on my blog.




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  13. The DT currently is running salacious stories about the expenses of Liberal Democrat Cabinet ministers, with the clear inference that it’s because they’re Liberal Democrat Cabinet ministers. Not that there’s owt inherently wrong with that, but the Barclay Brothers who own it are domiciled, for tax purposes, on Sark in the Channel Islands and seem to treat the Yu Kay as their own Norman fiefdom – which the LibDems propose to put an end to.

    Whilst I agreed with the case against the first casualty, the next (the first’s replacement, in fact) had done nowt which a member of the public couldn’t… it related to a particular tax on the sale of his house which, in the same edition of the DT, there were tips on how to avoid.

    Plus, they don’t have an up-to-date photo-archive.




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