Friday, January 17, 2014

Tempting fate

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

I was reading Jonathan's piece from Wednesday and, as one often does on seeing a passage from Ray's oeuvre

I had a little look in Google to see if it might have appeared anywhere else.

Much to my surprise, it turned up on, where the notes are given, in all probability correctly, as being Ray's.

Oddly, though, there is no mention

of the book from whence it comes.

This blog ran a few pieces on and Ray last week and to give credit, the plagiarised annotations to Botvinnik-Euwe

have now been removed, and the source of the notes (which now consist purely of an introduction and afterword) is now given as a book of Ray's from 2008.

Good effort, and being a librarian by profession and a bookseller by happenstance, I'm always especially pleased to see an ISBN.

Well done, Still, there's a couple of questions that arise.

The first is - were there any game notes in Ray's 2008 book? Not that we're entitled to see them, but it's curious to see a set of annotations with no actual game notes.

The second is - how come an introduction to a book published in 2008

is identical to a passage published in the Spectator in 2007?

Presumably will be adding a note to the effect that the introduction originally appeared there. (As the Kasparov-Ivanchuk notes might usefully carry some mention of their Spectator debut.)

They might also like to add a note, with or without ISBN, to say where the Keene-Toth notes originally appeared. Not that I'm much fussed about that particular instance (it's copyright Ray and Shaun anyway) but it's proper practice to give the original place of publication, where you can.

It's proper practice. Just a good habit, the sort of habit Ray doesn't have. A good habit, like not publishing the notes of a notorious plagiarist without checking their origin first.

Because that's tempting fate.

[Ray copies Ray index]
[Ray Keene index]


an ordinary chessplayer said...

It's like one of those picture puzzles where we are supposed to find the differences:
* mano a mano - is italicized.
* top two - the words are reversed.
* (1886) - brackets changed to parentheses.
* exception is spelled correctly.
* 1948, - comma is added.
* five-man - is hyphenated.
* desti-nation - is hyphenated at the line break.

(It looks like the newspaper piece went through a style checker, suggesting the two have a common antecedent.)

Justin, do you know of any place online where current and historical standards for chess journalism are debated? I know Ray Keene is pretty far out there, but he might have a plausible defence, at least in the eyes of his employers, based on what other chess authors have done in the previously. Copying is pretty rampant and always has been; attribution is lax to nonexistent. Anyway I was wondering if anybody has already discussed this in an organized way.

ejh said...

Not as far as I'm aware. But the answer to questions like this is basically always the same: if and when Ray or his publishers wish to make a proper defence, then it can be properly responded to. As it stands, there's essentially nothing.

(Incidentally, I can't see "everybody does it" being advanced publicly as a defence, can you?)

an ordinary chessplayer said...

Well, that's one of the questions I was hoping had been or could be debated.

I think you are correct that nobody would make that defence in public, because in fact I haven't seen it made. But someone might already have made that defence in private. I can imagine the conversation going something like this: Author: "Where I have copied I can make at least some claim that I have rights to copy. Even if the original authors should want to dispute that claim, they will not sue because they also have copied, if not this material then some other. In principle the notes are copyright and the games are not, but in practice everyone copies notes as well. Therefore they will not sue." Editor: "You cannot be serious." Author: "Just wait, and you will see that I am right." Decades go by....

Such a private rationale would greatly explain the awkward public silence that prevails. I am aware that at least one person did sue, but that was rather the exception that tests the rule. I am also aware that the extent of copying is greater now than previously, but the lawsuits remain scarce.

I view your efforts to defend journalist standards, (like the ACLU's efforts in the USA to defend our Bill of Rights), as noble and selfless, perhaps even self-sacrificing, but too abstract because you have no actual plaintiff to argue on behalf of. One curious thing for me is my own lack of passion about the subject. Onset of senility most likely.

ejh said...

Such a private rationale would greatly explain the awkward public silence that prevails.

Yes, but it's not the case. Although some authors do copy, others do not, and Ray has copied from many authors. (When Ray plagiarised Edward Winter, for instance, was there evidence that Winter himself had been copying?) But people may not sue for a variety of reasons, one being that they can't afford it. Some of these reasons are better than others.

That's not to say that it's never true, of course. But as a catchall explanation, it simply fails.

That said, Ray couldn't survive a lawsuit. That's for sure.

Jonathan B said...

Comlpetely different kettle of fish, but "everybody does it" was Jonathan King's defence many years ago, as I recall.