Article about copying and forgeries is plagiarized by an IP attorney

plagiat-plagiarismAs an intellectual property litigator, I have worked on many cases involving the infringement of music, art, film, and writing. Infringers generally assume that the author or rightful owner of the IP will not discover illicit copying. As a professor (I teach Art & Cultural Heritage Law at both Fordham University School of Law and St. John’s University School of Law), I’ve had to dole out failing grades to students who have plagiarized papers. Law students can sometimes be a challenge, as they are generally clever enough to “write” papers by piecing together works from a combination of sources, not merely taking entire articles from one author. However, today’s technology helps to uncover dishonest behavior; by entering the text of papers into an app that scans millions of sources for matching language, it is possible to find plagiarism with a click of a button. (In fact, sometimes a simple Google search will even uncover copying.) Surprisingly, I recently stumbled upon a plagiarized piece through an even easier means—I recognized my own words.

As an art and heritage lawyer, some of my work involves the authentication of art and protecting collectors from purchasing forgeries. I assist clients in completing due diligence so that they don’t fall victim to skilled forgers. In addition, I draft purchase and sales agreements that protect potential buyers so that they have a remedy, in the case that a forgery slips through the cracks. (It is painful and embarrassing to purchase a work and later discover that it was a forgery, and that there is no legal recourse, absent costly litigation.) As an expert in this field, I often speak about authentication and I have written extensively on this topic.

Earlier this week a friend posted a magazine article, “The Rise of Fakes and False Attributions in the Art World,” on social media. The article was about art authentication and due diligence. Before I reached the end of the first paragraph, I realized that I was reading a plagiary of my article, “Purchasing Art in a Market Full of Forgeries: Risks and Legal Remedies for Buyers,” published in the International Journal of Cultural Heritage. The author structured her article on my work, a piece that includes extensive research and that is partially based on experience that I cultivated while working with major art collectors. And rather than just using the outline of my article or presenting some of my arguments, she copied entire sentences. In fact, she went as far as copying entire paragraphs. Shockingly, she even kept the same punctuation, quoting words that I had placed in quotations marks in my article. And although she used quotation marks for those words, she didn’t quote me. Nowhere in the article am I quoted or acknowledged.

The copying of my article starts at the very beginning and runs throughout, although it certainly gets more blatant as the article progresses. In the Abstract of the article I write: “The law of supply and demand dictates that there will be no end to the rising value of artworks done by the hands of ‘masters.’” In the plagiarized work the author writes: “The law of supply and demand dictates that there will be no end to the rising values of artworks done by the hands of the ‘Masters’.” Only the most subtle of changes are made in an apparent attempt to not have the entire sentence be literally cut and pasted. This type of copying, which is all too prevalent on the Internet, occurs repeatedly throughout the plagiarized article.

In another passage I write: “Judges are cognizant of the realities of the art market, and more and more often courts expect art collectors to complete due diligence by hiring experts to examine authenticity. In cases involving both auction houses and private dealers, courts have articulated the need for buyers to investigate the true nature of a work before purchasing the good.” The plagiarized article says: “judges have been cognisant of the realities of the art market, and more and more  often courts expect art collectors to complete due diligence by hiring experts to examine authenticity. In cases involving both auction houses and private sales, courts have stressed the need for buyers to investigate the true nature of a work before purchase.”

In yet another passage I write: “As the art market is one of the largest (if not the largest) unregulated markets, what can owners do to protect their investments? It is essential that clients conduct their own authentication investigation by completing due diligence prior to a purchase in order to avoid forgeries sold at galleries…” The plagiarized article says: “The art market is one of the largest (if not the largest) unregulated markets. It is pertinent for owners of art works to protect their investments. The best protection though, for any collector or buyer from art forgery schemes is to conduct both art and legal due diligence.” It is interesting that the plagiarized article uses the word “pertinent,” almost as if someone plugged the word “essential” into a thesaurus to find an alternative, albeit an alternative that doesn’t really fit all that well.

It goes on and on, but you get the idea.

Although upsetting, I had to laugh once I read the author’s identity. The writer, Tejshree Savara, is an art and intellectual property attorney at Anand and Anand, a full service IP law firm located in India. Ms. Savara identifies herself as having expertise in “art, antiquities, and cultural heritage law.” To state the obvious, it seems she is not nearly as well acquainted with copyright law.

It’s hard to believe that an IP attorney would infringe upon another IP attorney’s work on the topic of copying. The entire situation is full of irony. How can a qualified professional speak on a panel about authentication after she has copied another person’s work? It was foolish for her to believe that she’d get away with it. I cannot imagine any client that would feel comfortable heeding her advice on authentication after discovered the plagiarism.

After my initial shock and anger (shortly followed by laughter because of the ludicrous nature of the offense), my partner and I drafted a letter to Ms. Savara’s law firm. It is a basic tenet of copyright law that an idea cannot be copyrighted, but that the expression of an idea is protected. So while it is true that others have written and spoken about the importance of due diligence prior to purchasing art, those attorneys have not used my express language. To prevent infringers from unlawfully taking the intellectual property of others, international treaties and statutes protect authors. Extensive statutory damages are provided to ensure that this illegal behavior is prevented, and that infringers do not defraud authors or the public. As I wrote in my article (and as Ms. Savara copied word-for-word), “The heart of forgery disputes is the determination of authenticity.” Authenticity is at the heart of this copyright dispute. The heart of this matter goes to the inauthentic, and dishonest, way that Ms. Savara presented someone else’s work and expression, my intellectual property, as her own.

My partner and I demanded that this situation be rectified, and we are awaiting a response from Ms. Savara and her firm. For the full text of our letter to Ms. Savara, please visit my law firm’s website. We will be pursuing this case ardently and providing updates.

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Join the Discussion

10 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    May 4, 2016 03:04 pm

    It looks like this matter resolved itself with proper attribution. See:

    http://www.artandiplaw.com/alls-well-that-ends-well/

    -Gene

  • [Avatar for Robot Stem]
    Robot Stem
    April 29, 2016 08:13 pm

    Tell Bill Esehelman auto correct makes him Eshew an

  • [Avatar for Ken]
    Ken
    April 29, 2016 05:57 pm

    Looking further at the A and A website, it appears they only list partners. Per her Linked In profile, on the other hand, Ms. Savara would appear to be a senior associate.

  • [Avatar for Ken]
    Ken
    April 29, 2016 09:44 am

    I do not find Tejshree Savara listed on the A and A site. I wonder if she has been terminated.

    For what it’s worth, I frequently see stuff on the Linked In sites that suggests people at the Indian firms are putting material out there just to be seen and noticed, and that the material is similar to other material I have already seen, at least in terms of subject matter and thrust.

  • [Avatar for S. Clayton Pennington]
    S. Clayton Pennington
    April 29, 2016 07:33 am

    This made my day.

  • [Avatar for Lost In Norway]
    Lost In Norway
    April 29, 2016 05:37 am

    I am glad that it wasn’t just me that started laughing at around paragraph 3. Oh the irony!

  • [Avatar for Ron Alvarez]
    Ron Alvarez
    April 28, 2016 11:30 pm

    Ironic indeed. As an IP private investigator, it never ceases to bewilder how often infringers fail to think their misdeeds through.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    April 28, 2016 02:54 pm

    Thanks Bill. Spelling error corrected.

  • [Avatar for Bill Eshelman]
    Bill Eshelman
    April 28, 2016 02:48 pm

    One spelling correction, “It is a basic tenant of copyright law that an idea cannot be copyrighted, but that the expression of an idea is protected. ” The word “tenant” should be “tenet.”

  • [Avatar for Robot Stem]
    Robot Stem
    April 28, 2016 11:28 am

    I’m overwhelmed by the unintentional humor of the situation. Who is writing the screen play and who would you like to portray you? I’m hoping for Tina Fey.

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