Former dissident and lecturer loses his face-off with powerful academic
(Aug. 09, 2006)王天成败诉周叶中剽窃案
Wednesday, July 19, 2006, South China Morning Post
A former Peking University lecturer has lost a court bid for a public apology and compensation after accusing Wuhan University law professor Zhou Yezhong of plagiarism.
In a decision handed down yesterday, the Beijing No2 Intermediate Court rejected Wang Tiancheng's claims that Professor Zhou copied ideas and large tracts of his published work on constitutional law without giving him credit.
The case is one of an increasing number of accusations of plagiarism and academic misconduct levelled at prominent college professors this year but one of the few to make it to court.
Mr Wang's suit against the professor was regarded as a test case of how thoroughly courts could safeguard academic integrity. It generated added interest because Mr Wang was a dissident jailed for five years in 1992 and Professor Zhou has advised people at the highest levels of the central government.
Mr Wang lodged the copyright infringement suit against Professor Zhou and student Dai Jitao on May 12, accusing both of deliberately lifting more than 5,000 words in 46 key areas from two papers and including the text without references in their book on constitutional law published last year by the People's Publishing House.
He also accused the publishing house of failing to fulfil its duty to ensure the text included accurate references and asked the court for 60,000 yuan in compensation.
Professor Zhou's lawyers argued that the copyright law protected "academic ideas instead of the format in which the meaning is expressed".
They said their client and his student did not copy Mr Wang's articles but referred to and credited a number of other sources "according to academic criteria".
Mr Wang's papers were already in the public domain and did not constitute the major theme of Professor Zhou's book, they said.
The court said seven points, or 1,398 words, were basically the same in Professor Zhou's book. But when set against Mr Wang's 40,000-word papers and the professor's 220,000-word book, the overlaps "constitute a small ratio, do not make up material content and are scattered in various chapters of Zhou's book".
"It is reasonable reference to others' works rather than infringement," the court said.
Mr Wang said yesterday the decision was "ridiculous, disregarded the concrete facts and was political rather than legal".
He said the Ministry of Public Security had sent police to his hometown in Hunan in June to examine his files and those of family members, a common practice when the authorities wanted to detain somebody.
Professor Zhou declined to comment. The judge, Ge Hong, refused to respond to suggestions that external forces had played a part in the decision.
Peking University law professor He Weifang said the Zhou case was regarded as serious plagiarism and the decision would have a negative social impact because it dealt a blow to academics wanting to safeguard academic integrity.
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