Tag Archives: copyright

Tyndale House Publishers or Chicago Manual of Style?

Weeks after radio show host Janet Mefferd made her on-air plagiarism accusations against celebrity author and pastor Mark Driscoll, the latter released a joint statement with Tyndale House Publishers, which released the first book in question, at the beginning of this controversy.

Driscoll’s Call to Resurgence apparently relied heavily on the work of Dr. Peter Jones.

Tyndale House threw some elbows in defense, claiming Driscoll “did indeed adequately cite” Jones while others claimed plagiarism.

“While there are many nuanced definitions of plagiarism, most definitions agree that plagiarism is a writer’s deliberate use of someone’s words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source,” Tyndale House said in part of a statement released back in December.

The editors of the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, most likely would take exception to the spirit of Tyndale House’s claims about plagiarism, and maybe even disagree with the letter of the statement.

For those unfamiliar with the Chicago Manual of Style, it is one of the central and long-standing guides for publishing books and magazines.

Section 4.82 of the online version of the manual says, “Bear in mind that although fair use will protect verbatim copying, unfair use will not be excused by paraphrasing. Traditional copyright doctrine treats extensive paraphrase as merely disguised copying.” (underlining added)

Perhaps even more detrimental to Tyndale House’s argument is this excerpt from the Chicago Manual of Style, Section 4.79: “For example, substantial quotation of the original is acceptable in the context of a critique but may well not be acceptable if one is simply using the first author’s words to reiterate the same argument or embellish one’s own prose.” (underlining added)

It’s arguable that Tyndale House’s statement was addressing a case in which the use of “the first author’s words,” in this case Peter Jones’ words, was done in such a way so that Driscoll could “reiterate the same argument.”

In fact, based on Warren Throckmorton’s examinations, Driscoll appears to have “reiterate[d] the same argument[s]” of several authors. Throckmorton has also found what might be called “extensive paraphrase” by the editors of Section 4.82 in the Chicago Manual of Style.

Meanwhile, in opposition to Tyndale House’s statement, at least three sources do not include anything like “deliberate” or “intent” in their definitions of plagiarism: Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster.com, and the Indiana University-Bloomington Writing Tutorial Services webpage.

And as I pointed out yesterday, other universities distinguish between “intentional plagiarism” and “unintentional plagiarism.”

"Daniel Webster Stealing Henry Clay's Thunder." Source: Wikimedia Commons and Project Gutenberg

“Daniel Webster Stealing Henry Clay’s Thunder.” Source: Wikimedia Commons and Project Gutenberg

Throckmorton: ‘More Citation Problems in Mark Driscoll’s Book Real Marriage; Leland Ryken’s Worldly Saints and More’

See Warren Throckmorton’s post, More Citation Problems in Mark Driscoll’s Book Real Marriage; Leland Ryken’s Worldly Saints and More. Increasingly I think Driscoll’s rocket to stardom came at the expense of his integrity and on the coattails of numerous shortcuts. Considering the evidence compiled by Throckmorton in this and numerous other posts, I can’t believe Driscoll sincerely, genuinely thought what he was doing was OK. He might not have intended to plagiarize and possibly break copyright laws, but he surely had a flippant attitude toward the work of others.

Looking back to the original scandal, I hope you’ll join me in refusing to buy anything from Tyndale House Publishers until its executives improve their editorial standards.

Mefferd’s strange moves and Driscoll’s worldly political savvy

“I stand by my allegations of insufficient sourcing, absolutely and unequivocally. His plagiarism is a very serious ethical and moral breach. Academics and journalists alike have lost their jobs over less than what Mark Driscoll has done.” — Radio host Janet Mefferd, who started the Driscoll plagiarism controversy, in a later email to Ruth Graham of Slate


Mark Driscoll responded to Janet Mefferd’s so-called un-Christlike confrontation of his plagiarism during a radio show with some un-Christian behavior of his own.

Wait. Is there a Christlike way to confront plagiarism? Maybe to rip the cords from the curtains and start thrashing evangelical publishing businesses? I’ll mull that.

Anyway, Mefferd asked Driscoll a hard question about the source of some material in his book. The interview got tense. At the end, Driscoll seemed to have hung up.

Two days later, according to Slate (and verifiable here), Driscoll wrote about “Slander/Libel” in a longer post about several  sins “we” commit. As Ruth Graham wrote in Slate, “Though he didn’t mention Mefferd by name, it is hard not to see her in the section on ‘Slander/Libel’.”

Driscoll wrote:

Case-builders collect information like stones to throw at somebody—just waiting for the right opportunity to impugn and attack someone’s character and integrity. If you’re a case-builder, you’ve decided that someone is your enemy and then justify sinful slander as righteous aggression.

But now the blog post using the word “libel” seems like Driscoll’s self-justified “righteous aggression.” Calling Mefferd “accusatory” and “unkind” during the interview — in response to a reasonable question — seems like his own self-justified “righteous aggression.”

What makes the “Slander/Libel” section even stranger is the inclusion of those very words within the blog post. Driscoll quotes the book of Leviticus (always handy for hitting people), and the verse he cites uses the word “slanderer.”

By placing “slander” beside “libel,” however, Driscoll connotes matters of news media and law. He frames these terms as “malicious and often false information used to inflict harm.”

Two problems with any suggestion that Mefferd approached slander or libel:

1. Mefferd provided evidence showing that she had grounds for her questions. Statements followed from Peter Jones and InterVarsity Press that suggested they believed their copyrights had been infringed, and copyright infringement is illegal.

During the interview, Mefferd asked Driscoll about his book A Call to Resurgence and his thinly acknowledged use of Peter Jones’s “intellectual property” in the book.

That confrontation would be considered reasonable by anyone who had visited the website of Driscoll’s church and read MarsHill.com’s Terms of Use and MarsHill.com’s FAQ on Use of Content. The FAQ is blunt about plagiarism. The Terms of Use are direct about copyright and intellectual property.

Even paraphrasing Driscoll requires attribution, the site says.

In other words, Mefferd was not false. Mefferd was accurate. A law had been broken. Driscoll’s name was on the book.

2. While Driscoll was blogging about how “we” libel and slander and lie and deceive, he ignored (or maybe redirected public focus from) the deception of presenting himself as the author of something he didn’t write. Oddly enough, “Deception” was one of the headings in the same post with the “Slander/Libel” heading.

Instead of showing pastoral concern for the offended parties and all the readers who have been misled, Driscoll went into defense mode, asking us to think about “One Big, Important Question” before we share information.

As a veteran of 11 years in the newspaper business, most with the late Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) chain, I can assure you nothing Mefferd did on her show constitutes anything close to libel or slander.

The better question is what Driscoll’s and Mars Hill Church’s responses have constituted.

Mefferd’s strange moves

Meanwhile, I’m guessing only God can understand Mefferd’s thinking. Based on published reports (here and here and here):

1. She confronts Mark Driscoll during a radio interview.

2. She provides evidence for why she confronted Driscoll.

3. She apologizes for trying to hold accountable a powerful, influential celebrity who exercises authority over the lives of a sizable flock (of apparently nearsighted sheep).

4. She makes evidence disappear from her website — something that is astounding in the field of journalism.

5. She clams up about the situation for a while.

6. She holds an email correspondence with Graham of Slate and seems to reinforce the position she seemed to have during her interview with Driscoll: “I stand by my allegations of insufficient sourcing, absolutely and unequivocally. His plagiarism is a very serious ethical and moral breach.”

The justification for apologizing was, as Graham paraphrases, “Mefferd wrote to me that she removed the materials from her site because they had already been widely disseminated, and she wanted to be responsive to those who had criticized her tone and approach.”

Having listened to the interview, I don’t think anything was wrong with her tone and approach. This was not a Mike Wallace gotcha moment.

The only thing I don’t understand about Driscoll’s response is his increasing aggravation at the questions and his attempt to change the subject back to the sales pitch we usually hear from authors in media interviews.

Driscoll announced a new college and seminary after being accused of plagiarism

It’s often said timing is everything in humor, and that’s just as true for unintended humor.

Shortly after the Mark Driscoll plagiarism controversy began, Driscoll announced two new academic institutions, as Sam Tsang reports:

“After this whole thing broke, here’s MD’s [Mark Driscoll’s] initial non-response response by announcing … get this … Western Seminary will open a campus on Mars Hill.  MD peppered his video with all sorts of churchy vocabulary about loving God, and secular vocabulary about bringing ‘accredited’ seminary education to Seattle, never mind that Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University both have accredited divinity programs and never mind that many can love God without going to Western Seminary located at Mars Hill.  The highlight for me in this video is MD calling himself one of the professors for this program. I thought professors have to contribute to the wider academic world and to the institution in order to get the title.  Perhaps, MD is the exception.”

If the paradox has not yet occurred to you, click here to read the academic integrity page at the university where I teach. Pay close attention to the “Honor Pledge” and “Prohibited Conduct” sections. Then watch Driscoll’s announcement about the two academic institutions that will be affiliated with his church, Mars Hill Church.

Mark, HOW DARE YOU? That’s old. I know. Couldn’t resist.

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Driscoll copied Holcomb who copied the New Bible Commentary *UPDATE

New turn of the screw in the Pastor Mark Driscoll plagiarism controversy, especially regarding minister’s book Trial:

Warren Throckmorton has viewed a PDF of a new statement on Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church website (a PDF which, at the moment, won’t open in my Google Chrome for some reason; update, 11:53 p.m.: I can’t open it in Firefox, Explorer, or Chrome; was it taken down?).

The statement apparently shows the research notes taken by Justin Holcomb of Docent Research Group.

Throckmorton writes: “…Holcomb might better get the credit for the sections discussing the background of the books of 1 & 2 Peter.”

Throckmorton also writes, “It appears the Holcomb borrowed [see below] the material from the New Bible Commentary and then Driscoll changed a few words and included it under his authorship. There are multiple instances of this practice throughout the memo. What started in late November with Janet Mefferd’s accusations of plagiarism against Mark Driscoll has morphed into broader concerns over authorship and use of research materials.”

UPDATE — Throckmorton changed the above “borrowed” to “quoted.” He explains: “I changed this word from “borrowed” to “quoted” in the section above because there are quotes around the material starting just under the heading Who Wrote 1 Peter? also on page 147. Then the quote closes on page 148 with a footnote. However, the footnote is not to the New Bible Commentary but to a book by Peter Achtemeier. It is possible that the confusion is a matter of a mistake in this footnote which Driscoll just carried over to his book. In any case, with this new information, the focus seems to be more on Driscoll’s adopting this research report as his own work in the Trial book.”

When Throckmorton says “Holcomb might better get the credit for the selections,” I wonder if the researcher had become the ghost writer.

Ghost writing has been common — and controversial — in evangelical circles, wrote David Moore back in August. Moore called ghost writing “unethical.”

Apparently, Driscoll never has hidden his use of researchers. On the other hand, one wonders about the hand-off from Holcolmb to Driscoll — what assumptions were made, what was assumed about the information.

At any rate, U.S. Copyright Law applies to copyright infringements whether they are intentional and accidental.

For example, “I didn’t know I was speeding, officer!” You’d still get a ticket, right? And would you be right to denounce the officer for bringing up the matter?

Mark Driscoll’s abuse of power evident in plagiarism controversy

By some accounts, Mark Driscoll was a bully to Janet Mefferd, the radio host who challenged Driscoll about plagiarism.

Collin Garbarino, in a new First Thoughts post, writes, “In the initial interview, [Driscoll] says that he’ll look into it, but he takes an aggressive tone and accuses the interviewer of having the wrong spirit.”

A journalist brings illegal activity to the attention of a minister, and the minister accuses the journalist of having the wrong spirit.

So Mark Driscoll believes legitimate questions (see InterVarsity Press’s concerns here) about illegal activity constitute a wrong spirit.

(I wonder how Driscoll preaches on Nathan’s confrontation of King David. Could it be something like this? “Watch it, there, Nathan! You have the wrong spirit! And I have more power than you! I’ll take away your voice!” Not that anyone would really stop someone from speaking out – oh wait.)

That’s a classic two-step often performed by politicians, bullies, and cult leaders: cover up a wrongdoing by attacking the accuser.

Or, to put it another way, turn a question of fact into a question of motive.

After the two-step comes the stonewall.

The following definition and illustration of stonewalling by Steve Becker, LCSW, might be used to describe the story line of this plagiarism controversy:

Stonewalling is when someone shuts you down from communicating. He just ‘bails’ on your efforts at communication, refuses to take you seriously; refuses to engage a discussion of your concerns. He may ignore or dismiss you, express fatigue with you (and your concerns); he may listen without offering a thoughtful, respectful response, and then credit himself for having listened.

“In any case, his unthoughtful, lazy, dismissive, or flat-out non-response to your feelings and concerns captures the essence of stonewalling and will reflect his pure contempt for which he’ll take no responsibility.

“Rather, he may depict you as a boring windbag who doesn’t know when to ‘stop talking,’ or who’s always making or looking for ‘trouble,’ without recognizing or owning how his insistent refusal to listen, his determination NOT to listen, actually provokes, passive-aggressively, your very instinct to ‘talk’ and ‘pursue him’ until he gives a meaningful response. If you do persist, he may complain to others that he is being ‘harassed’ for no reason, pointing out that he is doing ‘nothing’ to you.”

Now, according to Jonathan Merritt, Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church has backpedaled on a portion of yesterday’s statement that a book in question “was never sold.” Why would they take down those three words if the book wasn’t sold after all? That mistaken moment of public relations might be due to an earlier “unthoughtful, lazy, dismissive, or flat-out non-response,” per Becker’s article.

After all, the church just made a mistake describing its handling of money while trying to explain its plagiarism mistake.

This is starting to sound like a presidential administration.

So here’s Mark Driscoll:

When a man is granted so much mystical authority, he begins to believe he is always right and has the best word on everything. Confrontation is either dismissed or attacked. He turns against the Nathans who dare enter his court.

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Copyright infringement and plagiarism in the Mark Driscoll controversy

Mars Hill Church has added an online statement to a webpage, and that statement says Pastor Mark Driscoll’s book Trial suffered from “citation errors.”

The latest news on the Driscoll plagiarism controversy, blogged by Jonathan Merritt, answers questions regarding the minister’s book Trial but does not answer questions about other books suspected of plagiarism

Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church added a statement about Trial to one of its webpages, according to Warren Throckmorton at Patheos (Merritt’s source for the church’s statement).

“Citation errors” might be unintentional, but unintentional mistakes are not necessarily free of legal consequences.

To explain the possibility of legal consequences, we have to get some official definitions.

We might say plagiarism is unethical and dishonest, but not necessarily illegal.

We might say copyright infringement is illegal and actionable.

On its website, the Digital Media Law Project (DMLP) at Harvard University explains copyright infringement and plagiarism.

“Plagiarism is the act of using another’s work and passing it off as your own,” says the Digital Media Law Project. “While such a use could open you up to a copyright infringement claim, there is no legal liability associated with the act of plagiarism.”

Legally, copyright infringement is a different matter.

According to “Copyright Basics,” a fact sheet from the U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of ‘original works of authorship,’ including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.”

The person who produced a work has the “exclusive right to… and to authorize others to… reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords” and “prepare derivative works based upon the work,” says the U.S. Copyright Office.

Later on the fact sheet, the U.S. Copyright Office says, “It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright.”

Use of material without permission very easily could constitute copyright infringement.

DMLP offers the following examples to explain the differences between plagiarism and copyright infringement (read the third example closely):

“If an author publishes a poem on his blog in which he substantially copies from Dante’s Inferno but passes off the words as his own, he has committed plagiarism. However, the author has not committed copyright infringement because Dante’s work is in the public domain.

“In contrast, if a website owner publishes a compilation of contemporary short stories on her website without the permission of the original authors, she would be liable for copyright infringement, even if the compilation properly notes the original authors and thus avoids plagiarism.

“Finally, if a journalist uses content from yesterday’s daily newspaper as his own original article in a weekly online magazine, the journalist has committed both plagiarism and copyright infringement.”

Based some of the examples available here (they’re in Google Drive, so you might have to sign-in to your Google account to read them), Driscoll could easily be guilty of both plagiarism and copyright infringement.

According to DMLP, copyright infringement, once proven, can be legally actionable.

“If [a defendant in a copyright suit] is found liable for copyright infringement, the copyright holder will be entitled to recover his or her actual damages (e.g., lost profits) or, if certain conditions are met, statutory damages between $750 to $30,000 per infringement.  If the plaintiff can prove the infringement was willful, the statutory damages may be as high as $150,000 per infringement,” says DMLP.

Let’s look at that last sentence again, with my emphasis added: “If the plaintiff can prove the infringement was willful, the statutory damages may be as high as $150,000 per infringement.”

In other words, copyright infringement does not have to be intentional to bring legal trouble.

In light of what InterVarsity Press told Christianity Today (apparently just this morning), Driscoll and Mars Hill Church have plenty still to explain — and they’re not necessarily off the hook for legal problems, either.

Also see: 

Following Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism, it’s time to ask serious questions about Tyndale House’s credibility