|by Eric D. Snider
How beloved are the sassy film critics at HollywoodBitchslap and EFilmCritic? So beloved that some tool at the University of Missouri-Kansas City has plagiarized from us almost 60 times in the past year alone.
Imagine loving a site so much that you felt compelled to steal its content and put your own name on it! That's devotion, friends.
It's also illegal, which is why we sent a letter on April 6 to faculty adviser Fred Wickman, college dean Karen S. Vorst, university provost Bruce Bubacz, and English department chair Jeff Rydberg-Cox, informing them of what Samir Patel has been up to.
As best as we can figure, here's what Patel does. On Fridays, he visits HBS/EFC and reads our reviews of the new releases. His university newspaper, the cleverly titled University News, doesn't come out until Monday. So that gives him most of the weekend to choose a film, find two or three reviews of it that he likes, and steal elements from them to create "his" version, Frankenstein-style.
A typical Patel review has components from as many as four other reviews. In a few cases, NOT A WORD of his review is his own, consisting ENTIRELY of chunks of other people's work. Usually, though, he writes his own two-sentence introduction, then steals the rest.
He has stolen from 15 HBS/EFC writers, plus another four writers -- Steve Rhodes, Eugene Novikov, Mr. Cranky and Willie Waffle -- whose work appears elsewhere on the Net.
The tally: 38 of his reviews in the past 13 months were wholly or mostly plagiarized from a total of 97 other reviews.
Now here's the REALLY alarming part: Samir Patel isn't some knucklehead freshman. He's a 27-year-old graduate student who teaches a writing class in the UMKC English Department! He was also, up until April 6, the University News' ombudsman, the person you contact when you have a complaint, correction, problem or concern about the paper itself.
A phone call to the University News' faculty adviser from our own Uri Lessing (one of the plagiarism victims) led to an internal investigation, and on April 6, University News editor-in-chief Emily Iorg told us that Patel had resigned.
What Iorg, Patel and the rest didn't know was that a letter detailing Patel's 58 HBS/EFC plagiarisms was already winging its way to them via overnight mail. The letter makes it clear that simply firing Patel from the paper is not good enough. We want the paper to devote front-page attention to apologizing for his actions, and to list the reviews that were stolen, along with their true authors. Some monetary compensation is in order, too, considering that writing film reviews is how some of us make our living.
We are also sending word to Kansas City news media and to journalism sources like the Poynter Institute and Editor & Publisher magazine. We want the story to be made public. We want the university to feel appropriately embarrassed. And most of all, we want Samir Patel to feel deeply, deeply ashamed.
One boneheaded case of poor judgment is one thing. A consistent pattern of unethical and illegal behavior is something else. How in the world did he think he would get away with this in 2006, the age of Google?
Here's the letter we sent to the university:
I represent myself and 14 other film critics at the sites HollywoodBitchslap.com and EFilmCritic.com. We have just learned that a University News writer, Samir Patel, has been plagiarizing our work regularly and repeatedly for over a year.
We have found 58 instances in which he plagiarized us, plus another 40 times that he stole from writers from other Web sites. (We do not represent those writers, but we have forwarded our findings to them.)
These are not mere sentence fragments, either. These are entire paragraphs, sometimes 200 words at a time, lifted word-for-word from our reviews and placed into Patelís.
In short, Patel is a brazen plagiarist with a clear pattern of theft. In fact, among all the reviews he has published in The University News in the past 13 months, only five were NOT at least partially stolen.
Plagiarism is a serious crime, as you know. Here is what we expect:
1. An apology on the front page of The University News in which all of the offending reviews are listed, along with the names of their true authors.
2. That the offending reviews be removed from the UNews.com Web site.
3. The sum of $25 for each HBS/EFC review that Patel borrowed from. If you had come to us up front and asked permission to reprint the reviews, thatís the syndication fee we would have charged you. With 58 of our reviews plagiarized, thatís $1,450. Payment can be sent to me at the above address.
Iím sure I donít need to point out the irony in having Patel serve as the paperís ombudsman, or in the fact that he teaches a writing course in the English Department. To suggest that he be fired from all of his positions at the university and with the newspaper is no doubt also superfluous.
If we do not receive a satisfactory response from you -- i.e., execution of the three requirements just listed -- by April 30, we will take legal action.
Please feel free to contact me if you require clarification on any of the above. I have enclosed documentation of Patelís 58 plagiarisms.
Eric D. Snider
West Coast editor, HollywoodBitchslap.com / EFilmCritic.com
ON BEHALF OF:
Doug Bentin (1 review plagiarized)
Paul Bryant (1)
Erik Childress (4)
David Cornelius (2)
Hank Graham (aka Dionwr) (1)
William Goss (1)
Uri Lessing (2)
Dan Lybarger (1)
Brian Orndorf (9)
Luke Pyzik (1)
Mark Rodger-Snelson (1)
Eric D. Snider (7)
Peter Sobczynski (22)
Mel Valentin (2)
Scott Weinberg (3)
The documentation of Patel's plagiarisms -- with side-by-side comparisons of his versions and the originals -- can be found at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/docs/hbsplagiarismreport.html .
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1791
originally posted: 04/07/06 16:20:09
last updated: 04/28/06 07:02:19