Student files copyright suit

PhD candidate claims his work was copied by fellow reseacher

The alleged plagiarist had approached Coburn about collaborating in 2005.
The alleged plagiarist had approached Coburn about collaborating in 2005.

A Queen’s PhD candidate has filed a lawsuit against another researcher for copyright infringement.

Veldon Coburn, a political studies student, alleges that a document he stumbled upon last summer on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation website was plagiarized from a report he’d written seven years earlier.

Coburn claims he’d worked on the project for over 100 hours on his own time during his contract with the O.I. Native Leasing Services.

The research was to lay the foundation for a collaborative proposal Coburn was hoping to work on with fellow academic Kevin Barlow.

Coburn claims he had been approached by Barlow to work on the proposal for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation grant. Coburn shared his work with Barlow, but believed the collaboration had fallen through when he lost contact with him in 2006.

“I just went my own way and I thought nothing of it, until I saw my words printed just this past July,” Coburn said.

Now, Coburn is seeking

$25,000 in compensation, which if he wins his case, will be donated towards the Legacy of Hope Foundation, a charity for the survivors and victims of residential schools.

“I’m not going to fight over money [when], first of all, I did something for free and then I discover that, wait a second, it’s worth something now,” he said.

Coburn added that he’s most incensed at the thought that someone might’ve profited off the growing “industry” surrounding Aboriginal issues and non-governmental organizations.

One recent book argues that “A lot of NGOs in Aboriginal issues are just in it for the money,” Coburn said.

What separates this situation from a simple case of plagiarism is the money that allegedly changed hands.

Coburn said Barlow was paid $14,000 for the document, which gives him grounds for a copyright infringement suit.

Although the suit was filed last fall, Coburn only recently decided to go public with it.

Barlow had been in email contact with the Journal about the details of the case, but didn’t respond to an interview request.

His defence document alleges that Coburn knew about the paper in question prior to 2012 and if this were true, Coburn’s case could be thrown out under the Statute of Limitations. Barlow’s lawyers admit to Coburn’s claims in regards to small sections of the document. They also claim, however, that the work Coburn completed while under contract at O.I. Native Leasing Services was the property of the organization and therefore Coburn couldn’t claim copyright infringement.

The case is currently unresolved, but both parties have been in discussion since 2012.


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