Thursday, November 28, 2013

Jonathan Merrit: Mark Driscoll silent amid mounting allegations of plagiarism--

The larger context of this story about Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill and intellectual property may be framed with a few details in mind:

If I use material from one of Pastor Mark’s sermon’s do I need to cite him as the source of that material?

Yes. If you don’t cite him, you are plagiarizing. If you use content from one of Pastor Mark’s sermons or from one of his books, you need to attribute the content (whether it is a quote or paraphrase) to Pastor Mark. Also, even though we make transcripts available of our sermons, this does not mean you can take the transcript and deliver the sermon as though it is your own. This too is plagiarism.

Notice that part about citing sources even for a paraphrase.  If even an uncited paraphrase of one of Driscoll's sermons is considered plagiarism then this necessarily raises the question of whether an unattributed paraphrase by a Driscoll of someone else's material would also be considered plagiarism.  It would be problematic if Mark or Grace Driscoll or any affiliated people with Mars Hill were to paraphrase material from others without attribution while the church itself wants even paraphrases of Driscoll content given citation.  As Wenatchee The Hatchet has put it earlier, the concern here is not necessarily "just" allegations of plagiarism but the possible existence of a double standard that Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, and its associates may have about intellectual property. 

We may also live in a time in which debate about the legitimacy of intellectual property itself is a broader part of the current news cycle. There are Christians who believe that intellectual property itself is theft for reasons Wenatchee The Hatchet is not going to get into in a post.  It is the opinion of Wenatchee, though, that copyright and intellectual property have multiple and often conflicting functions that need to be delicately balanced.  One aim is to ensure the possibility of financial benefit from creativity but another is that there can be a legally actionable basis from which to potentially adjudicate a situation of fraud.  If information wants to be completely free then it cannot be stolen, can it? 

For those who were at Mars Hill a decade and more ago you may remember the pastors used to say things such as that copyright in its traditional form was outmoded and out of date and that open copyright was a better way to go.  Go look at the terms of use web page for Mars Hill content some time.  Clearly a great deal has changed. 

Let the record show that Scott Bailey at Scotteriology stated that Mark Driscoll misrepresented the Targum Neofiti at multiple levels in a sermon from Driscoll's Doctrine series: 1) Bailey alleged that Driscoll claimed the rabbinical commentary on Genesis pre-dated the birth of Jesus when the majority of scholarship has stated it was probably written in the second century CE not BCE 2) as a pre-Christian document it would not have said anything promoting Trinitarian thought (discussed at considerably more length by Robert Cargill). And here.  While Driscoll and his fans could claim that liberal/agnostic scholars don't count Christian Brady's a Spurgeon fan and also took issue with the credibility of Driscoll/Breshears scholarship (Driscoll credited Gerry Breshears with some information on Neofiti).

So it may be worth noting that questions about plagiarism and certain comments in response from readers raise a new question, if the Trial booklet was an internal booklet for members to consult that was more of a committee effort, as some say, then there's now the question of how much of the material with Mark Driscoll's name on it may have actually been written by Mark Driscoll to begin with. 

For instance:

Paul               Nov 28, 2013 at 12:43 am

Well it seems the Peter Jones accusations were simply untrue. Driscoll cited Jones for coming up with the terms “one-ism” and “two-ism” and the rest is not word-for-word transposition. Driscoll was simply writing history so of course the events being accounted for will be the same regardless of author. As for these new accusations, Mefferd is grasping at straws. Driscoll is NOT even the author of the pamphlet that accompanied his 1 & 2 Peter series. I remember when this took place back in 2008. It was a study guide meant to accompany a series with many different contributors and editors. [emphasis added]

Fair enough, let's go look at who owns the copyright to the book.  If it was a Mark Driscoll book we'd expect Mark Driscoll to own the copyright directly or through a firm that owns the copyright to a book such as Real Marriage  or some possible connection to such firm but ...

even though the booklet states that the author is "by Mark Driscoll" the copyright is actually listed as Mars Hill Church.  So whatever the nature of Mefferd's allegations at this point the allegation of plagiarism would and should not merely include Driscoll alone as a variable but perhaps also Mars Hill Church as a corporation?  Maybe?

Now if Tall Skinny Kiwi is right in saying Mark Driscoll is not guilty of intentionally plagiarizing and if the booklet Mefferd cites as a case of plagiarizing is a work with a copyright owned by Mars Hill Church and not Mark Driscoll himself then maybe Tall Skinny Kiwi's got a point.  If so then the broader question of plagiarism-or-not connected to Mark Driscoll could be shifted to include Mars Hill as a whole.  If Mars Hill Church owns the copyright in a work that turns out to be an act of plagiarism then Mars Hill would become legally responsible.  ... of course since Mark Driscoll is the legal president of Mars Hill Church as a corporation this all may be a bit moot. Incidentally there's now a Mars Hill Church Investment Fund, LLC and a Mars Hill Foundation for Planting Churches.

In any event, happy Thanksgiving for folks in the United States.  For folks in Canada and elsewhere may you have a safe and pleasant day.


Anonymous said...

Actually if you go to the beginning of the introduction where the copied material from New Bible Commentary is found in Trials

It says


So it states he wrote the introduction.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Clear enough but, again, who owns the copyright in the book? Mars Hill Church. It's a little unusual to see Mars Hill Church own the copyright of something with Mark Driscoll's name on it in the introduction.

Anonymous said...

Why is that unusual?

Presumably he gets paid a salary by the church, the docent/research service he uses gets paid by the church, numerous interns and church staff assist in the research and actual drafting, much of his "writing" comes directly from sermons he preached - all of these would be the church's intellectual property - so why shouldn't the church own the copyright?

What is troubling is that his other books do not list the church as the copyright owner. They should.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Precisely how and how much Driscoll gets paid is a bit of a mystery. Many books with his name on it are copyrighted to him and not Mars Hill Church. The company that owns the copyright to Real Marriage is actually based in Colorado and not Washington and has some connection to Bill Moritz.

By Driscoll's own account in Confessions of a Reformission Rev, "I take more time to write and study and work from my home library". This was back in 2006 and while the reason given was a work/life balance doing most of the writing and research from his personal property could be the technicality that has been used to say none of his work was compiled within church doors using church-owned equipment and that this is a basis for Mark Driscoll to retain full ownership of the copyright of his work, possibly?

Not suggesting that it "should" be that way but that many pastors who have written books sold by Mars Hill seem to own the copyrights in their works rather than the church itself.

It's probably worth noting that many books associated with Mars Hill Church seem to come through The Resurgence which is not a non-profit.

Resurgence Publishing Inc is definitely registered as a for-profit corporation. Sutton Turner has been the president, secretary, chairman and treasurer all-in-one for The Resurgence since 2012, apparently.

Anonymous said...

FREE plagiarism checker: