St. Louis, MO
Posted - 02/02/2011 : 4:10 PM
What are the charges and what do they mean?
If M$F does end up filing an actual and not mythical suit, what would their claims be?
I was sent a document in which Paul Vitrano, outside general counsel for M$F, refers to the supposed legal issues that would be, could be filed against OSU/TEAM Oregon. He both said this in a telephone call and then put it in writing. This is from a letter from the Attorney General's office that sums up what was said in the phone call with Vitrano and in the subsequent written communication:
"MSF has previously asserted a plagiarism claim against Steve Garets of Oregon State University/Team Oregon. MSF has also notified OSU/Team Oregon of it's intent to pursue claims against them arising from MSF's allegations that Team Oregon has misappropriated MSF curricular products in preparation of the Team Oregon's Basic Rider Training (BRT) curriculum materials. Subject to approval of the MSF Board of Directors, MSF is prepared to assert claims against OSU/Team Oregon for copyright infringement, violation of the federal Lanham Act, common law misappropriation and/or a governmental "takings" claim. MSF has deferred legal action pending a decision on its request to the Oregon Department of Transportation for approval of MSF's Basic Rider Course curriculum in Oregon."
First let me say I am not a lawyer nor is the following legal advice or opinion.
Let's look at plagiarism since that term has been bandied about for two years now:
According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary 9th ed, (Springfield, Ma: Merriam 1981, p. 870): Plagiarize \'pla je ,riz also j \ vb rized; rizing vt [plagiary] : to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (a created production) without crediting the source vi: to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source plagiarizer n.
Dr. Petterson's report did not claim TOMS plagiarizes M$F curricula as such. In fact, he clearly lays out the differences between the three curricula starting on page 46 of the report "Review, Analysis and Comparison of Team Oregon's Basic Rider Training (BRT) Curriculum to MSF's Motorcycle Rider Course: Riding and Street Skills (MRC: RSS) and Basic Rider Course (BRC)."
He insinuates it, though: "All three participant books are essentially identical." But are they, and does TOMS show evidence of plagiarism?
Dr. Daniel D. Petterson, as we know, was the 2004 M$F National Coach Trainer of the Year. No vested interest there! According to http://motorcycletraining.accn.org/dr_dan.htm, Dr. Dan's expertise lies in educational *administration* and he was an elementary school principal. I'm not sure that gives him the credentials to pass as a curriculum expert, but, hey, we're talking about M$F here.
Dr. Dan also has a short piece on choosing a helmet at: motorcycletraining.accn.org/NEW_HELM.doc in which he recommends buying the most expensive helmet you can: "Just like anything else, cost most often represents quality." He says it's too complicated to explain the difference between DOT and Snell so buy one that meets both. Since the safety in a helmet comes from meeting DOT standards and the expense in a helmet comes from factors involving comfort and design, if this is a sample of Dr. Dan's understanding of motorcycling, god help Michigan's students.
But be that as it may, he did the report and this retired elementary school principal is the one ODOT is taking as an expert opinion comparing the curriculums.
On the other hand, I am a university composition instructor and have been specifically in recognizing plagiarism and have dealt with various forms of plagiarism over the years. So take that for what it's worth when reading:
Dr. Petterson or perhaps it was M$F's fiddling with his report, who knows gives several examples of this supposed similarity including the sections dealing with the friction zone, which he claims are similar in sequence and language. Let's see how close they are:
RSS student handbook: "Using the Friction Zone to Get the Motorcycle Underway": "The friction zone is that area of clutch lever travel where the clutch just starts to transmit power to the rear wheel. Squeeze the clutch. Shift to first gear. Place both feet on the ground. Hold the throttle slightly open and slowly ease the clutch lever out to the friction zone. Practice the techniques again: open the throttle slightly and slowly ease the clutch lever out. Para. Break: You may stall the engine if you do not open the throttle enough or if you release the clutch too quickly. If you feel the engine stalling, squeeze the clutch lever, release the throttle, and try again (p.20).
BRC student handbook: "Using the Friction Zone": "The friction zone is that area in the travel of the clutch lever that begins where the clutch starts to transmit power to the rear wheel and ends just before the clutch becomes fully engaged. It is a region of partial engagement in which the clutch "slips" to permit you to precisely control engine power to the rear wheel. Proper use of the friction zone is one of the most important skills you must develop as it is how motorcyclists get moving smoothly from a stop" ( p. 20).
BRT student handbook: "Use the Friction Zone": "Squeeze the clutch and shift into first gear. Because a motorcycle has a manual transmission, it takes a little "clutch slip" to get underway. Use the friction zone areas of clutch travel where the engine's power begins to transmit to the rear wheel. This partial engagement allows you to smoothly and precisely control engine power to the rear wheel. Don't be in a hurry. Take your time easing out the clutch. Let the motorcycle get underway before fully releasing the clutch."
First of all, the purposes of the BRC passage versus the RSS and BRT passages are vastly different the BRC is an intellectual cursory description of what the friction zone does works and stresses it's an important skill. The RSS and BRT are practical what to do descriptions that includes a simplified description of what the friction zone does.
While the material regarding what the friction zone is and how it works is similar, even a cursory glance at other descriptions of the friction zone in either cars or motorcycles that are available on the Internet use the same or similar words, phrases and sequences because, gee, that's how the darn thing works and that's what those things are called. Clutch slip, partial engagement, engine power to the rear wheel, precisely control aren't copyrightable nor plagiarism. It's common knowledge being found in five or more sources.
Unless, of course, M$F is now claiming they invented how the friction zone works and how it's described.
Every example given by Dr. Petterson is comparable. In terms of how various things are described or illustrated, there are enough differences that no claim of plagiarism could be sustained. Iow, if they were papers submitted to a class, no university professor would see plagiarism.
However, M$F self-plagiarizes (yes, that's an actual category of plagiarism). The acknowledgments on the inside cover of both the MCR: RSS and BRC handbooks does not adequately cite their relationship to earlier versions of the curriculum. Nor the sources the curriculum was drawn from but that's another entry.
It seems to me that M$F dropped talking about plagiarism because they realized it would be, to continue our cola analogy, like Coke protesting that Pepsi uses carbonated water, corn syrup, caramel color and caffeine in their soda, too, and, get this they *call* them carbonated water, corn syrup, caramel and caffeine, too! The nerve of Pepsi cola! How dare they?
Occam's Razor, folks. Use it.