Australian actresses are plagiarizing my quantum mechanics lecture to sell printers

I tried to think of a witty, ironic title for this post, but in the end, I simply couldn’t. The above title is a literal statement of fact.

A reader named Warren Smith informs me of an Australian TV commercial (which you can watch on YouTube), in which two fashion models have the following conversation:

Model 1: But if quantum mechanics isn’t physics in the usual sense — if it’s not about matter, or energy, or waves — then what is it about?

Model 2: Well, from my perspective, it’s about information, probabilities, and observables, and how they relate to each other.

Model 1: That’s interesting!

The commercial then flashes the tagline “A more intelligent model,” followed by a picture of a Ricoh printer.

More intelligent, or simply more shameless? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, allow me to quote from Lecture 9 of my Quantum Computing Since Democritus notes:

But if quantum mechanics isn’t physics in the usual sense — if it’s not about matter, or energy, or waves, or particles — then what is it about? From my perspective, it’s about information and probabilities and observables, and how they relate to each other.

For almost the first time in my life, I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know which of 500,000 possible jokes to make. Help me, readers. Should I be flattered? Should I be calling a lawyer?

Update (10/3): [Sydney Morning Herald] [The Age] [Slashdot] [BoingBoing] [AdNews] [Scientific American blog] (Let me know if you find others) (I’m actually in Riga, Latvia, where it’s 8:30am, and just woke up to find all this. I’m going to take a shower now.)

Also: Please let me know if you get any more “CPU quota exceeded” errors. I just enabled an option to speed up PHP scripts, which might or might not solve the problem. Bluehost sucks — never use them for anything!

Update (10/4): Thanks, everyone, for the free legal advice! From half of you I’ve learned that I’d be an arrogant, stereotypically-American jerk to pursue this case further; from the other half I’ve learned that I’d be a naïve idiot not to. The longer I blog, the more I despair of ever achieving my central goal in life, namely for everyone to like me.

Also: Many commenters seem to assume the pilfered quote is just my expression of the conventional wisdom. Well, it should be, and I wish it were! But as Avi Wigderson pointed out to me, the idea that quantum mechanics is about information rather than waves or particles is still extremely non-standard, and would have been considered insane fifteen years ago.

Update (10/5): This is not to say it’s my idea (as other commenters assumed I was saying)! If any entity can claim “ownership” of the idea, I would think it’s the entire quantum computing and information community. The longer I blog, the more I despair of ever achieving my secondary goal in life, namely for everyone to understand me.

284 Responses to “Australian actresses are plagiarizing my quantum mechanics lecture to sell printers”

  1. John Smith Says:

    Call a good lawyer. Press charges. Meanwhile use the publicity to your advantage.

  2. James Says:

    This is freaking great. I am *so* jealous.

  3. James Says:

    Actually, this raises a possibly interesting legal point. I had always thought that the grounds on which you sue someone for plagiarism is that they’ve taken some of the profit you would have made from publication. Here, they’re making money off the commercials, but not directly because they’re selling them but indirectly from the propaganda effect. In fact, it cost them a lot of money to get the commercials broadcast. Maybe you should sue them for a negative amount.

  4. milkshake Says:

    I don’t think you can make money out of it (unless you have copyright) but you can extract some fun out of it: I would suggest to contact the advertisment agency AND the printer-maker and shame them into giving you a high-quality promo artwork posters made for the advertisement campain. Which you can then use to impress people at your lectures and home parties.

    What do you know – you may even end up with a lucrative contract to write new lines for the upcoming printer ads. And if they need a geek impersonator for their adds, you nascent showbiz career can take off in style; the australian models can be a fringe benefit.

  5. James Says:

    This really could be the funniest thing that has ever happened.

  6. Wouter Lievens Says:

    Definitely contact them and shame them into bribing you with some silly perks. Or a new printer :-)

  7. Carl Says:

    Milkshake has forgotten that under current law everyone in the US automatically has copyright over everything they write unless they specifically opt out of it. So, I say threaten to sue, but settle at the first chance you get. $50k sounds more than fair to me.

  8. Mark Probst Says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that “That’s interesting!” is probably the lamest thing to reply in that situation? A yet more intelligent model might have said “Hmm, I’ll have to think about that.”. Or “Can you explain that in more detail?”. Maybe even “I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”. Or, my personal favorite “That’s a bunch of crap!”. But “That’s interesting!”??? Spoils the whole thing.

  9. Kelly Says:

    There was a similar case recently by another Australian company using an American girl’s photo off flickr for an advertisement:

    http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9783931-7.html
    http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22461951-462,00.html

    And another similar case I just found:
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/09/22/flickr-funk.html

    Is this a new trend for advertisement?

  10. Scott Says:

    But “That’s interesting!”??? Spoils the whole thing.

    For the record, that’s the one line in the commercial that I didn’t write. :-)

  11. nic Says:

    demand that the company replace the advert with one in which you get to play both models.

  12. David Moles Says:

    Actually, this raises a possibly interesting legal point.

    Not really. The ad agency is making money directly.

    Send the agency a “Sorry to trouble you, but my consultant’s fee seems to have been lost in the mail — perhaps due to my recent move to MIT?” letter. (I’m not sure exactly how you’d find out out who handles Ricoh’s Australian advertising, but I’m sure they can be tracked down.) I doubt it’s worth suing anybody over, but it’d be nice to at least get an acknowledgment and an apology.

  13. Craig Says:

    What — you don’t recognize those women from your class?

    Perhaps you could shame Ricoh into creating an endowed chair for you. Or they could fund your research. Or at least send you a printer.

  14. Nagesh Adluru Says:

    I think you should sue the ad company.

  15. Not even right Says:

    Quantum mechanics in a commercial? That is incredible!

  16. Jay Says:

    Scott’s lawyer: Don’t say a word. Just let me do the talking.
    (later)
    Ricoh’s lawyer: Gentleman come in. Now we don’t want to take up much of your time. Let’s make this short and sweet. We’re prepared to offer you all the free printing you want throughout North America and Europe, Plus..
    Scott (interrupting and jumping up to shake hands with the lawyer): I’LL TAKE IT!

    shamelessy paraphrased from Seinfeld, The Maestro episode

  17. John Says:

    Suing them is a bit lame, but some public shaming is definitely in order. I like David Moles’s letter suggestion.

    Funny though how the conversation doesn’t sound that intelligent at all, even disregarding the moronic “that’s interesting”. Which shouldn’t be very surprising. After all, Scott’s lecture is rather basic. If they really wanted the joke to be effective they should have taken something that it takes more than half a freshman course to know something about. Random suggestion:

    Model 1: Maybe this is trivial, but do you know whether it is possible to give a QCMA protocol for verifying membership in finite groups?

    Model 2: It is indeed, and even without plausible group-theoretic assumptions, it makes only polynomically many queries to the group oracle.

    Model 1: That’s pretty neat. Makes you wonder if a classical separation between QMA and QCMA is possible.

    (Randomly taken (and slightly modified) from another of Scott’s papers.)

  18. Anup Says:

    Shame them into giving you a spot on their next quantum mechanics themed commercial… you get paid for it and you get to meet some very intelligent models. At the very least, offer to write for their next commercial…

  19. Greg Egan Says:

    It’s certainly shameless and unconscionable that they didn’t bother to ask your permission and offer you a fee. I’d be amazed if they don’t buckle and pay you something when confronted with the facts, without you needing to involve a lawyer, let alone go to court.

    One mildly encouraging aspect, though, is that they took the trouble to steal something that actually made sense! When you think of all the quantum-flavoured sludge they might have dredged off the internet, who’d have thought that advertising copy writers would show some class?

  20. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    For almost the first time in my life, I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know which of 500,000 possible jokes to make. Help me, readers. Should I be flattered? Should I be calling a lawyer?

    Of course you should be flattered, Scott! At first I thought that this was a rhetorical question/joke, but the comments have me worried. Jay has it exactly right.

    Instead of suing the ad agency, you should talk to them about appearing in another ad!

  21. Bram Cohen Says:

    Unlike everyone else here, I’m not very gung ho on you threatening to sue. It would most likely result in them just pulling the commercial, and then you’d lose bragging rights, and what good would that do anybody?

  22. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Let me put it this way: Surely you feel flattered, don’t you? Maybe they got it slightly wrong by not asking for permission, but so what? Use that to your advantage, or not; but whatever the hell you do, stay on good terms.

  23. Greg Egan Says:

    I think I’ve found the agency. According to this page:

    The Intelligent Model campaign was developed at Love by creative director Scot Waterhouse, art director Andrew Leftley, copywriter Guy Lemberg and agency producer Paul Johnston. Filming was shot by director Mark Furmie via Filmgraphics with producer Simon Ritch.

    What is “Love”? (Creepy name, huh?) I think I’ve found them in the yellow pages:

    Love Communications
    Level 8, 155 George St Sydney NSW 2000
    ph: (02) 8916 4800

    They have a web site and here are the contact details, including the managing director’s email.

  24. Scott Says:

    Yeah, I found their contact info too … still weighing what to do though.

  25. Greg Egan Says:

    FWIW, Scott, if I was in your shoes I’d start with a polite letter or email pointing out that you are the author of copyright material that they have used without your permission, and offer them a chance to licence the use of that material. Don’t threaten legal action unless you get a brush-off.

    This is all assuming that your aim is to get maybe a couple of thousand dollars and a quiet life. (Well, maybe they’ll offer more, but it’s not a Rolling Stones song they’re licensing.) If you want to milk it for fun and/or publicity instead, well, the options are endless.

  26. ScentOfViolets Says:

    What are their personal backgrounds? Could be that one of the parties is the Mike Judge of the advertising world. As John points out, this is a rather basic observation. How many times has this fact been independently ‘discovered’ if it wasn’t explicitly pounded home in some book or lecture? I could see an exchange where, Scott (I can’t really believe he would employ a lawyer!), after initiating a conversation with the appropriate party would get the response ‘but I thought everyone knew that!’

    True, the phrasing is suspect, but I’d check out the alternative first.

  27. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Yeah, I found their contact info too … still weighing what to do though.

    Don’t sprain your brain. Here for comparison is my own situation. When I was in high school, I wrote some video games for the IBM PC. They sold pretty well and I earned some Real Money. As you might expect, the games were later pirated. A number of people apologized to me for this over the years. But eventually I realized that it felt good to pirated. After all, I want people to use my theorems. My royalties from these games are long gone anyway.

    Your situation is even more one-sided than this. What would you have wanted from them, a check for a hundred dollars? A “citation”? How could it possibly hold a candle to the ego value?

  28. ripero Says:

    First of all, LOL. Did they really think you wouldn’t get to know about the ad?

    Whatever you do, I think you should try to get at least respect, fun, money and a printer, not necessarily in this order.

    By the way,
    I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know which of 500,000 possible jokes to make.
    Just make two or three of them, they are usually good ;-)

  29. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Clearly what the world needs is another Ricoh commercial with Scott in it. Scott can explain that their copiers really must be very good since they copied him. Then it can end with a shot of him in the dressing room with those two actresses, his groupies.

    Failing that, he should at least use the commercial in his lectures. “Here, they said it as well as I could!” Surely both sides can claim fair use.

  30. onymous Says:

    The answer is simple: threaten to start referring to the quantum no-xerox principle as the no-ricoh principle.

  31. Anon. I. Says:

    I totally agree with Mark Probst.

    Scott, you should demand to be able to write the dialogue for the next commercial, as well as to be able to make a cameo with those models. If this is declined to you, I move to sue!

  32. Mark Probst Says:

    Blogged!

  33. John S. Jacob Says:

    Ricoh paid the ad agency to make the ad. Your work is part of the ad. Assuming you didn’t explicitly or implicitly license your work in such a way that it is being used legally, then you deserve compensation.

  34. Nagesh Adluru Says:

    Doing business with them is not a good idea (at least not with that company) since they would have offered to do it in the first place, if they were ethical enough to do business properly.

    While you sue them you can contact other ad agencies if you want to use your really great popularizing skills. This company kind of provided a proof of concept to your such skills:)

  35. Nagesh Adluru Says:

    Actually TechnologyReview of MIT already prove the concept.

  36. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    The answer is simple: threaten to start referring to the quantum no-xerox principle as the no-ricoh principle.

    There you go. “Ricoh copiers may be good, but they still can’t copy quantum states!”

  37. Corcoran Havlin Says:

    I think you should at least get to bang the models.

  38. Dave Says:

    Be flattered. People are respecting your work.
    Take a bow, and continue making a living doing what you know best rather than taking money from others.
    The idea that a person with the intelligence to construct reputable theories in quantum physics would be concerned with a statement from an Australian model astounds me.
    Move on to bigger and better things…

  39. Scott Says:

    Scott, you should demand to … be able to make a cameo with those models.

    If it’s between that and a free printer, I’ll go for the printer.

  40. anonymous Says:

    You should be happy. This commercial will give your blog a significant increase in popularity in a week or so as this blog post spreads to major news sites.

  41. Mark Says:

    Hey, speaking of your quantum computing lecture notes…

    Will we ever get another set of lecture notes?

    Maybe you can get the ad agency to pay you for writing up new lectures. That way they’ll have fresh material in the future.

  42. James Says:

    Before deciding on a course of action perhaps it would be illuminating to reflect on exactly what the problem is. Is it a question of attribution? A question of control and power (‘permission’)? Merely an opportunity to take advantage of the situation and ‘cash in’?

    It seems that it is currently ‘conventional wisdom’ that we should need permission to repeat, even if it word-for-word, the ideas of another. Regardless of what the law says this stance should be troubling to an academic and anyone who believes in freedom of thought and communication.

  43. Ian S Says:

    My advice:

    1) Laugh about it.
    2) Make as many of the 500,000 jokes as possible.
    3) Enjoy the free publicity.
    4) Save the video for posterity. (And for the posteriors :-)
    5) Forget your lawyer.

  44. anonymous Says:

    Conan and Jim Carrey – Quantum Physics

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah24BkyUcZs

  45. Scott Says:

    Will we ever get another set of lecture notes?

    Soon. I just hired some talented undergrads to help me with it.

  46. Drew Arrowood Says:

    Scott,

    You are a professor now. Have you called over to the university counsel’s office, and told them? How many 20-something professors have been quoted by the New York Times this year? Lawyers know how to be charming in these situations, and they will try to do everything they can to get good publicity for MIT. Good publicity for your institution means more grant opportunities.

  47. Greg Perkins Says:

    I would think this qualifies as parody or some other form of fair use. I mean, unless that was some large percentage of your lecture, they’re relly not presenting something with the same intent at all, so I wouldn’t think it’s a strong copyright infringement case.

    Plus, you should really take it as a compliment. They were looking for one good quote about QM and yours was it.

  48. David Klempner Says:

    Be flattered. People are respecting your work.

    Plagiarism seems fairly disrespectful to me. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, not “of respect”.

  49. Wim van Dam Says:

    Scott, you can expect me to yell “that’s interesting!” at the most inopportune moments during your next talk.

  50. Morgan Says:

    I think it’s a coincidence.

  51. Jon Says:

    I really don’t see why you have cause to be upset or bring lawyers into the situation. Did they lessen the value of the lectures or cost you money or time with the short quote? If not, then why do you feel the need to be compensated?

  52. Osias Says:

    Wait a second, Creative Commons license says what about that?

  53. Andrey Says:

    Re: James

    Commercials are usually made by PR companies, not the manufacturers. So someone _is_ making money off of the production of commercials directly.

  54. Nagesh Adluru Says:

    The Richo printing company gets even more attention because of being mentioned on your blog. Could they have wanted this on purpose so that they can give you some free printer or something and keep you quiet later saying you got your popularity we got ours etc.(?)

  55. Hewo Says:

    boohoo, get it on youtube and just enjoy it. that wasnt an incredibly proprietary swing of artistry they nabbed form you. it was a basic dialogue. be flattered, don’t be a dick.

  56. Jerry Abrams Says:

    Obviously, the models are students from one of your classes. How else would they have gotten your notes without plagerizing you.I think that that to show your magnanimity you should offer to have the models come to your office so that you can discuss the issues rasied by them in more detail. Isn’t that what professors are supposed to do for students who are having difficulty understanding the material?

  57. anonymous Says:

    1. The title of this post would be the best wacko conspiracy theory ever, except it’s true.

    2. At the very least in situations like this, you should probably talk to a lawyer. IANAL, so I’d have no idea whether to sue or what, but there are people out there who know more than readers of your blog. For comparison, I’m looking at doing some interesting things involving CC and college essays, and even I plan to talk to a copyright lawyer first. (Although none of the obvious Google queries put your result on the first page, so apparently there exist advertising copywriters who are Shtetl fans…)

  58. Noeao Says:

    I don’t like the phrase or your conclusions. Physics IS about those things. Physics is NOT jacking off to the information age. But seek an apology *at the minimum*

  59. nobody Says:

    Get a good lawyer and for your mental state I suggest to read your own headline and laugh it off.

    Face it, it’s hilarious.

  60. Bernard Sumption Says:

    All the people suggesting that you use a lawyer seem to be labouring under the delusion that (a) suing a company for using a few words of a lecture is a respectable thing to do, and (b) you would win.

    What damage has happened here? It’s obviously not the idea behind the passage that are proprietary, in which case it must be the arrangements of words. While the whole lecture would no doubt be an original and highly copyrightable work, those few phrases are not. It may be sloppy to copy them verbatim, but they could equally well have rephrased the idea into a new sentence that you would not have copyright over. All that copying the phrase verbatim did was save them 5 minutes rephrasing the idea.

    It would be much better form to see if you can wangle some free stuff out of them as a thank you present, rather than calling in the lawyers.

    I liked peoples’ ideas about large-format promotional posters, and maybe a free printer.

  61. Scott Says:

    Physics IS about those things. Physics is NOT jacking off to the information age.

    Noeao, reread the quote: I said that quantum mechanics is not physics in the usual sense. I didn’t say that physics is not physics. :-)

  62. Michael Nielsen Says:

    Just think, Scott, you can now add “Television advertising copywriter” to your resume!

    My advice: don’t go for the legal option. Your time is worth more than that. On the other hand, I do hope this post gets spread around the web, and the people responsible are suitably embarassed.

  63. Peter Sheldrick Says:

    From my German perspective the simple idea that you should sue a marketing company on the other side of the world for using your formulation of something that fundamental, which you put on your website, has the three letters “USA” stamped all over it.

    Push strg+f with your browser highlighted and open on your comment section, then type in the string “Greg Kuperberg”. Finally read or reread his comments to learn what to do.

  64. Jud Says:

    IAAL. Don’t hire one yourself, at least not yet. International copyright law is complicated (not that plain old U.S. copyright is that simple), so competent legal help in this area is apt to be expensive. Don’t know why MIT would give you free legal assistance, since the work cribbed for the ad wasn’t done while you were at MIT, but I suppose there’s no harm in asking.

    Right now, the best thing you could do, IMHO, barring free MIT help, is to (1) as Greg counsels, stay on their good side; (2) consider asking for something reasonable, like a free printer, in your most charming manner, making the request to *both* Ricoh and the ad agency.

  65. Robin Blume-Kohout Says:

    First of all, this is just plain delicious. Very cool. Even if it did set off your hosting company’s “Excess CPU usage” alert, thus proving once again that they’re… suboptimal.

    As to “What should I do?”, the two extremes are probably not the right choice — those being: (a) do nothing; and (b) hire a lawyer and sue for money. The former is a bad idea because you are being taken advantage of here (see below); the latter is a bad idea because you probably wouldn’t make a profit, wouldn’t have any fun, and would look like a prick.

    You should do something, because both law and custom are very clear that it’s Not Okay for Alice to pass off Bob’s creative work as her own, for profit. When I hork a JPEG off Google Image for my seminar slides, that’s probably fair use (though even then, I should give credit). When an ad agency reproduces your words verbatim in a commercial product, that’s stealing (because now it’s got value).
    Furthermore, letting ‘em do it sets a legal precedent — which is why corporations have to aggressively defend their trademarks, ’cause if they don’t, they lose ‘em. I don’t think you can lose copyright that way, but I think it’s worth standing up for your rights.

    So what, exactly, should you do? I agree with an earlier poster: consult with MIT’s IP people. This sort of thing is exactly what your sugar daddy (a.k.a. academic institution) is for.

    That said, the core moral issue here is: they are profiting from your work, so you deserve compensation. That does not have to mean money. Perhaps the free publicity is sufficient compensation for you! Or, maybe you’d like a citation… or a charitable donation to the Old Computer Scientists’ Home, or whatever. If they’d asked you first, what kind of compensation would you have asked for?

  66. Harry Says:

    I have to say, the acting in the commercial is shitty. The models don’t know what they’re saying. They’re basically just reading lines… Oh yeah and uh — don’t resort to suing. It’d probably just be best to complain to the company. Might get a free printer out of it. The amount of text they used is extremely minute, you probably wouldn’t get compensated in court (properly).

  67. Scott Says:

    Sex. Plagiarism. Aussies. Quantum mechanics. Printers.

    I thank Thee, BlogLord, for truly hast Thou favored me with the Post of Posts, the Topic of Topics. May I continue to be worthy of Thy grace. Amen.

  68. S. Leonard Rubinstein Says:

    Scott,

    Your father sent me the commercial and your proof that your work has been plagiarized. Your welfare aside, if you are concerned with the advancement of science, then be gladsome. Your provocative ideas are reaching an audience surprising in size and kind. God knows what in whom they are generating, but generating they are, and science it is, distorted as it may be. How unexpected. How strange. Scott moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform. Congratulations.

  69. Peter Says:

    Congratulations! That’s pretty cool.

    In this case, I think you don’t have a legal leg to stand on. This is clearly short enough to be fair use. On the other hand, if you do contact the company about the plagiarism, you may be able to negotiate some goodies. If you’ve got a 10% chance of winning $100,000, then most companies will settle for $10k. Heck, if you’ve got a small chance of suing, they’ll probably settle to avoid the legal fees. You probably don’t want to be that direct about it (at least initially), but see if you can’t get yourself a free printer or something out of it.

  70. Pius Says:

    This is a hilarious story, but the people who think that you’ve got a case here ought to get real.

    This isn’t plagiarism, this is satire.

  71. Dave Says:

    I am confused as to all the commotion here. You are citing Democritus in your lecture and the ad agency is citing him as well in their ad. What the hell is the problem with that?

  72. mick Says:

    Ha! This has been quite possibly the funniest blog post of all time.

    I would suggest that suing wouldn’t be a good option. Just laugh it off, it is very funny and very flattering.

    Surely it’s fantastic publicity for the field of quantum information science no?

  73. Peter Sheldrick Says:

    Dave,

    Democritus suprises me every time by his advanced ideas ;)

  74. Scott Says:

    You are citing Democritus in your lecture and the ad agency is citing him as well in their ad. What the hell is the problem with that?

    Dave: What are you talking about? I wasn’t citing Democritus in that passage, and the ad didn’t cite him or anyone else. Can’t you get the most basic facts straight?

  75. Koray Says:

    Scott, this is hilarious. However, having this discussion on your public blog may not be the right thing to do if you end up suing them or demand money. Like Kramer’s, your level of “outrage” will probably get you only a year’s supply of toner.

    What are the chances, though. Of all the intelligent-sounding gobbledygook they could have mined from texts long out of copyright, they picked your stuff. Incredibly funny.

  76. Brittany Says:

    Forget making money. You should use your add to promote your lecture. 8). Hey, they didn’t have to write their own script, and you didn’t have to hire your own models…Double win!

  77. Phill K. Says:

    While it may be disquieting, there really is nothing here. Under US law, this would be considered fair use, as it is such a small piece of the original. Or even a parody of the original. Don’t be a copyright dolt and sue. All it will do is make you look bad and perhaps jealous that you don’t have sexy models hanging around. We have too many people perpetuating myths about copyright law as it is. Take the high ground here.

  78. Richard Says:

    This is why you should call a lawyer. It’s a commercial. And they pay out the ass to make them, especially for a printer company. Think in the realm of $100-$300K for that commercial, possibly more. You essentially wrote the commercial. If you had been paid an up-front rate for your dialogue, it would have been in the thousands. Because they stole it, it’s going to be more, so:

    Be flattered.
    Enjoy the publicity.
    And have your lawyer talk to them. This will be settled out of court and you will be a happy man.

    Cheers.

  79. Chloe Says:

    OMG It’s the Quantum Monkey phenomenon! http://www.uhh.hawaii.edu/~ronald/HMP.htm
    Now you can apply for the Nobel Prize!

  80. randyman Says:

    Just out of curiosity, what would have said/demanded/acceded to if they *had* called you *beforehand*?

  81. Osias Says:

    Won’t anybody answer my question about Creative Commons?

  82. Ron Garret Says:

    Not directly on point, but given the quote in question you might find this interesting:

    http://www.flownet.com/ron/qm.pdf

  83. Marsvin Says:

    What’s with the lawyers?
    I think the situation is its own reward.

  84. Robin Blume-Kohout Says:

    The various assertions along the lines of “This is clearly fair use” seem ill-informed. Wikipedia’s extensive article points out that “[t]he practical effect… is that it is usually possible to quote from a copyrighted work in order to criticize or comment upon it, teach students about it, and possibly for other uses.” I suppose selling printers might count as “other uses”. However, in general, “one must demonstrate how it either advances knowledge or the progress of the arts through the addition of something new.

    When the derivative work is creative (rather than critical or pedagogical), a critical part of the test for fair use is “the extent to which the use is interpreted as transformative, as opposed to merely derivative.

    It’s not clear that the TV ad satisfies any of these criteria.

  85. Jeff Says:

    First things first, contact a lawyer no matter what you decide to do (he or she should give you some options). Don’t in anyway contact the company before doing this. If you decide that legal action is not in the cards, so be it but better to know what you CAN do before you decide what you WANT to do.

  86. Osias Says:

    > It’s not clear that the TV ad
    > satisfies any of these criteria.

    Using it to create a joke, maybe?

  87. Scott Evans Says:

    I’d be asking for a free printer and a personal tutorial with the two young ladies. Since they’re so interested in quantum physics you’ll all have a lot to talk about

  88. Andrew Says:

    You have neglected to account for the possibility that the models in question have reached the same conclusions from similair observations. Clearly you should ask them to share their numbers so you can check their measurements in person.

  89. shmack Says:

    “For almost the first time in my life, I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know which of 500,000 possible jokes to make. Help me, readers. Should I be flattered? Should I be calling a lawyer?”

    easy here – calm down. they have used 2(!) sentences from your entire work – w.o.w!!! and no, no 500.000 possible jokes here either. someone googled and found your piece (btw you don’t even have copyright notes on your site (don’t add them now, you are in several caches). is the situation really oh so crazy that you are oh so lost for words?! how old are you?! grow up, for heaven’s sake. and instead of having dollar signs on your eyeballs give the whole thing a smile and leave it with that. all those persons who suggest to sue! sue! sue! are either from the US or completely new to this planet. a copywriter in an ad agency earns shit. what are you people thinking? sheesh!

  90. Johan Richter Says:

    At lot of people here seam to be assuming that Australian copyright law is exactly the same as American which I advise against. The limits of fair use, what kind of compensation you can get etc, are things that can vary from country to country. And any suit would probaly have to be brought in Australia under Australian law.

    Also, this makes the idea of consulting an American lawyer bad, I think. It is not likely that he/she will possess any knowledge about Australian law that Scott can’t look up himself. (Lets face it, law isn’t quantum complexity theory.)

  91. mollishka Says:

    Hilarious.

  92. Michael Bacon Says:

    “. . . easy here – calm down. they have used 2(!) sentences from your entire work – w.o.w!!! and no, no 500.000 possible jokes here either.”

    shmack, I think you are taking this a lot more seriously than Scott. :(

  93. EntropyFails Says:

    Johan Ricther brings up a good point about what sort of copyright lawyer to contact. I’m not certain you’d want an Australian lawyer, however. You would want a lawyer well versed in international copyright disputed. There are firms dedicated to this sort of work. I’m certain you can find them with ease.

    The only problem I see with this is that when you do contact a lawyer, the $$ will appear in their eyes and you’ll have made a new best friend.

  94. Javier Marti Says:

    Interesting. It proves that quantum physics is real. Your words were in two places…not exactly at the same time…but almost!
    (I guess in quantum terms, bearing the possibility of paralell realities and time travel, your words may have actually appeared at the same exact time here and there, it is just that we are not able to see it. Another possible explanation is that your words physically traveled to someone else’s computer as soon as you typed them in yours :)

    Regards
    Javier Marti

    Trendirama.com

  95. EntropyFails Says:

    Shmack said,
    “a copywriter in an ad agency earns shit. what are you people thinking? sheesh!”

    I think the point is that Scott should have been earning that shit, not the dude that stole his work. It is a commercial and commercials have to pay for pretty much every piece of copyrighted material they use. If it is morally ok for a rock star to get a ton of money for commercial use of their material to use on a cocaine binge, I think it is morally ok for Scott to get a ton of money to use on furthering science.

    I’m not certain how you would want copyright to work, Shmack. The writers could not think up their own smart joke so they stole Scott’s. He wrote it less than 20 years ago so even if you take a traditionalist view of limited copyright, this still falls well within what would be actionable. They didn’t transform or parody the work, they simply used Scott as an unattributed and unpaid copywriter. When people get used like that, the legal system is a civil way of handling the problem.

  96. jsnx Says:

    It would be in poor taste to sue them.

  97. Gabriel Durazo Says:

    Hahaha! Be proud. :-)

    Seriously, though, whether there is a legal ground or not, I don’t think it’s right to sue.

    Why do you think you deserve to be compensated at all? The ad was funny and a good ad because they took quantum mechanics and had ditzy models say it. All the VALUE added to that commercial came from the ad-company, since the value is in the setup and joke, not the straightforward quantum mechanics.

    That said, you should enjoy that they happened to pick your version of the facts, and remember this as a funny and cool thing. I really like the suggestion above about maybe getting some of the ad promo materials or something like that as a conversation starter!

  98. matt Says:

    This would fall under fair use for them, the only thing that you could possibly get them for is not citing the work if your work was published or recognized at a university. I wouldn’t sue, but I would ask for a free printer.

  99. Chui Says:

    It would be the ad agency that would have to answer for ripping it off. On the other hand, they were only using it for satire, which, I suppose qualifies as fair use.

  100. harrison Says:

    I wonder if this is the first time the guy who wrote this has pulled this kinda stunt?

    Link is to an mp3 file of an award-winning radio ad written by the same guy; Google isn’t picking up anything if I type it in word-for-word, but if anyone can find something similar enough, I imagine Love Communications would be very interested.

  101. cody Says:

    personally, i would be flattered. thats probably one of the most intelligent statements of all time on television, and its yours! but on the other hand, since someone got paid to ‘write’ that commercial, you ought to at least try to contact them and ask for something. since i myself dont like lawyers and the whole bit, and am pretty forgiving about stuff, id only give moderate effort to receive compensation, but thats just me.

  102. Mr Angry Says:

    On the plus side, you did get one of the best titles for a blog post in all of history.

  103. Dennis Furey Says:

    Although the lack of attribution constitutes plagiarism, that
    in itself might not be illegal, only academically dishonest.
    Regarding the copyright issue, they’re quoting less than 20%
    of the copyrighted work and it’s arguably for an educational
    purpose. Isn’t there a fair use exception to copyright
    regulations for that kind of thing?

  104. camarks Says:

    “Should I be flattered? Should I be calling a lawyer?”

    My vote is for both!

  105. Tim McKenzie Says:

    As Bram Cohen and others have suggested, excessively aggressively pursuing compensation may discourage future dissemination of genuine quantum mechanics in the popular media; however, it might be reasonable to request attribution. What would you expect from Elsevier if an academic publication quoted that much of your material?

  106. Sean Carroll Says:

    Everyone here seems just to accept Scott’s claim that the actresses plagiarized these opinions about quantum mechanics from him, rather than the other way around. How do we know that most of the QCSD lectures weren’t cribbed from a variety of Australian TV ads, spliced together in creative ways?

  107. Richard B Says:

    Jeez, Why oh why, if anything like this happens do people instantly think “sue”, “make a lot of money” it’s disgusting. I thought the main idea of the ad was to highlight the concept of the “smart model” they could have used any physics/maths/science quote. Plagiarism? It’s an ad not a science journal.

  108. JeffE Says:

    For Dirac’s sake, don’t be another Carl “Butt-Head Astronomer” Sagan. Laugh it up, see if you can get some swag out of it, and see if the ad agency wants any more. Set yourself up as the Einstein/Hawking/Dawkins of quantum complexity. If you play your cards right, you might get to play yourself on Aqua Teen Hunger Force!

    Oh, wait, I forgot Aqua Teen Hunger Force is illegal where you are. You might have to settle for Yo Gabba Gabba.

  109. Jon Says:

    You should definitely talk to the legal people at MIT before you do anything. At least they’re not going to be seeing dollar signs. Oh, and you wouldn’t be a dick to threaten legal action. They are profiting from your creative output.

  110. Duncan Says:

    Hi Scott. I’ve just had a reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald chasing up this story. I’ve added the following comment to my post on the ad:

    This is a classic case of cognitive dissonance – viewers struggle to comprehend that these apparent airheads are actually thinking and talking about quantum mechanics. It’s also a case of careless plagiarism that’s been found out. Scott Aaronson, lecturer at MIT, Boston, reveals that the models are quoting his online notes word for word.

    One commenter on Scott Aaronson’s blog suggests that the models could have talked about something more intelligent that only an academic would understand. However Ricoh is not suggesting an academic model or intellectual model. Intelligent implies the capacity to communicate in ways that are able to be grasped by people from different mindsets. So… Scott should be congratulated for his linguistic intelligence. What remains to be seen is how legally and interpersonally intelligent Aaronson and Ricoh are…

  111. James Killen Says:

    Yup, the story is right now headlining on the Sydney Morning Herald Website! http://www.smh.com.au

  112. stephen Says:

    Scott,

    Get a life, mate. :)

    It’s a couple of lines of text. Dwell on the idea that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and worry about something important. Plagiarism is something that matters within academia (for good reasons) but this is not an academic using your ideas. As for litigation, it’s a sick world if we litigate over such trivia.

    I wish you well in your professional career (and I like the way you express QM ideas) but don’t get your knickers in a knot over this one. in the end, you will look silly not the ad company.

  113. share the love Says:

    Hi there,

    I definately think you should take legal action – Love Communications is a large ad agency here in Australia and they won’t want their image tarnished. What ad agency would want to be portrayed in the media for not having original ideas – that’s so lame they did this to you.
    Obviously, no one at Love Communication’s creative team is talented enough to write ads so they look to copy and paste from people’s work.

    Also did you know that the Sydney Morning Herald has published this as a story now. http://www.smh.com.au

    Call in your lawyer for sure and definately send Love Communications your CV applying for the role of Creative Director – obviously they’re struggling with their copywriting and need your help!

    As Ivanna Trump says in the First Wives Club – don’t get mad, get everything!

  114. mark Says:

    The Sydney Morning Herald’s website is now running the article here – although I presume it won’t make it into the print edition till tomorrow, during which time the story will mutate according to developments most likely.

    Sue, sue, sue. Sue for the plagiarism, and sure for damaging your reputation.

    I find it pretty funny that these guys thought they could steal material from the internet for their ads without taking account of the fact that their ads will appear on the internet and thus out them to those they steal from.

  115. Hugh Manatee Says:

    That’s hilarious. Take their money.

    Normally an ad agency will pay some kind of relative pittance for people providing the parts of their whole – scripts, voiceovers, surveys, etc. – and then whack on a generous mark-up for themselves. These people buy 30 second tv spots for anywhere from five to fifty thousand dollars. They have already profited from their theft of your words, and it wouldn’t be surprising if both they and their client are profiting further from the increased exposure over this theft. Ad agency people are intechangeable with the characters of most lawyer jokes. The difference is that lawyers speak a language which it can frequently be useful to understand.

    If you’re hesitant about slamming the agency’s privates in a drawer, can I suggest you watch Bill Hicks’ stand-up performance Revelations. I think his tirade against marketing people and what they bring to this wordl will absolutely set you right.

  116. Murray Says:

    As far as I’m aware, if you make a public lecture, then all of what you say is in the public domain. You cannot claim copyright, plagiarism or any other legalese. Unless you specifically mentioned in the lecture that you are claiming legal ownership. You might also find that the university has all rights anyway.

    Buy yourself a beer – you’ve just become famous.

  117. Andrew White Says:

    Wow! First Dave Kielpinski makes it into science fiction, and now your blog is getting ripped off for bad ads … it does seem to suggest that quantum information is hitting the mainstream!

    Seriously though:
    a) Talk to your university, both the lawyers AND the media folk. It’s time to have some fun with this!

    b) Let the parody videos commence…

    (c) Notice I left out obvious jokes involving you and models … too easy)

    P.S. As an Australian I’m bemused … I haven’t seen the ad yet! How on earth did you find it?

  118. Dan Says:

    Scott,

    One bright side is that more people will get to know your work (not that that pays the bills in itself). I’m an former engineer and now maths teacher in Australia. As an engineer, I did plenty of classical physics but there’s not much point in teaching civil engineers too much modern physics. I’m curious about it though.

    I’ve read the lecture mentioned and learnt more about connecting maths that I do know to some physics that I don’t. Now I’ll go and read some more. Thanks for that.

    If you were interested, I think the shame angle would work best on the ad agency – they all think they are “so original”. I like the suggestion of an earlier commenter about getting some of the promotional material and then using it in your classes.

  119. ripero Says:

    If beer is the thing, a good full one-liter Maßkrug from the Oktoberfest before Thursday’s seminar would be nice – specially for the audience…

    Just kidding ;-)

  120. James Killen Says:

    Murray, you are wrong about the work being in the public domain. Making a lecture public does not imply any license to exploit a work. There is not requirement to claim legal ownership. A breach of copyright (for which under Australian law there would seem to be no ‘fair use’ defence) clearly occured.

    The question of whether Scott or his employer are the legal owners of the copyright in the work is more difficult. It depends on the the circumstances under which the work was made, the terms of his employment and any relevant statutory provisions (which would presumably differ if he decided to sue in the US or in Australia). Also, at least in Australia, while plagarism is an academic misdemeanor, it in no way enlivens any legal claims above and beyond those he has in copyright.

    You are quite right about buying himself a beer though. This is likely to be a far more satifying than embarking on any course of legal action.

  121. Jack in Danville Says:

    Scott,
    You know when lurkers like me start posting that you might be on track for a record number of replies to this post.

    This is Great! You should leverage this into turning the Democritus lectures into your first popular book (but not too “popular”, a little bit softer than The Road to Reality would be about right), especially now that you have an assistant. I’m getting a little tired of waiting for the following lectures, and I much rather read serious stuff while supine anyway (which makes hard copy preferable, unless I want to read it on my PDA phone). Keep up the good work!

  122. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Wow! The discussion has leapt off of the blog and into the newspaper. The article said that they even contacted you with an apology in case of hurt feelings. So it’s the perfect time for magnanimity.

  123. bignuts Says:

    you should be flattered

    other than that, get over it.

    cheers,
    bignuts

  124. Shish Says:

    What are you most upset about, the plagiarizism or the fact your lecture is being used to sell printers?
    Chill out…. they are just words, and if you are a lecturer you should have the intelligence know that this litigation driven trend is destroying our society!

  125. howard is a looser Says:

    it could have been worse,

    johnny howard could have been in the comercial and tried to

    actually relate it to politics in some twisted form.
    ;P

  126. different anon Says:

    “Yup, the story is right now headlining on the Sydney Morning Herald Website! http://www.smh.com.au

    I wonder if it’ll make it to Slashdot. Hint, hint.

  127. Sandra Says:

    “If they really wanted the joke to be effective they should have taken something that it takes more than half a freshman course to know something about”

    Unfortunately that would have taken actresses with more than 12 months of NIDA to memorise.

    Honestly, I’m so jealous though. It’s a great compliment.

  128. James Cook Says:

    As far as I’m aware, if you make a public lecture, then all of what you say is in the public domain. You cannot claim copyright, plagiarism or any other legalese. Unless you specifically mentioned in the lecture that you are claiming legal ownership.

    Wrong.

  129. K Says:

    Congratulations, Scott! This is the ultimate compliment!

  130. Deltoro Says:

    The only issue here is that Love Communications has a person they call a “copywriter”. This person’s job is to come up with the copy, i.e. text or speech that will be used in the ad. This person gets paid a lot of money to deliver original text, and Love charge Ricoh whatever the copywriter cost, plus profit on top. As is the case, you were the copywriter in this instance, and someone else got paid for it.

    This in Australia (I think) is considered theft on behalf of Love Communications as I’m pretty sure they did not credit your intellectual property to you, and SOLD your text as their own work. If they did not credit your text to you, they would have effectivelly committed an act of fraud against their client Ricoh.

    I have a physics degree and work in advertising in Sydney, and thought the ad was great. i was wondering where the copywriter got the text from as it reminded me of my physics lectures at Sydney Uni many years ago.

    So here’s where I think you stand: if a Love Communications copywriter wrote an original script for the ad, they woudl retain the intellectual rights to that script. This means that they would have to get paid royalties EVERY time the ad runs. In my opinion you should request roylaties based on current market rates as you are the intellectual rights owner, and if they turned you down I think you should definitely take legal action.

    If not to get money, then to make sure the fat, lazy bastard who gets paid more than you do, but can’t come up with two lines of text doesn’t get the opportunity to rip more people off.

  131. Deltoro Says:

    By the way, I think the people who are advising you NOT to take legal action via their coments most likely work for Love Communications :)

  132. Dunks in Australia Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Sue. And laugh while you do it.

    Because even your fine words couldn’t make those two young ladies look smart.

    And what’s with the weird-looking brunette – what have the make-up artists done to her????

    They’re bringing scientits … I mean … scientists into disrepute!

    :) xxxxxxxxxxx

  133. sarah Says:

    Who cares, its your fault for placing it on the internet..the world is different these days

  134. David Says:

    The marketing director from the ad agency (Gary Campbell) who is quoted in the article at http://www.theage.com.au is totally blowing smoke.

    This: http://www.copyright.org.au seems to be a very useful site on Australian copyright law. Click “Copyright information” and then “introductory information”. “Literary work” means “textual material”, i.e., pretty much anything written (e.g. it includes journal articles, reports, and computer programs), and you own the copyright if the text is original to you. You the copyright holder have the exclusive right to reproduce the work, including by filming or recording.

    Now click over to “Writing and publishing”, then “Quotes and extracts”. Whether permission is needed for the use of a quote depends on whether the quote is “substantial”, not in the sense of length but whether it is “important, essential, or distinctive”, as judged by the quality of the quote. I think the ad company will have a hard time trying to claim that they do not feel that their choice of extract for a million-dollar ad contract is language of high quality! Finally, “the purpose of the use may also be relevant”, with commercial purposes more likely to require permission.

  135. numb Says:

    This is not important enough to sue. Get over the poor victim mentality and play it for what you can.

    Nobody would have heard of Scott or his theory if it was not for this advert. This is a total positive.

    If you sue, nobody will ever hear of you again. If you ask to write/appear in the next advert (and get a credit) the promotion of your ideas will continue.

    PS When I first saw the ad on TV, not only did it give me another insight into quantum theory, but it totally changed the way I viewed blonds. Thank you.

  136. Sean Says:

    You should defnitely sue the advertising firm. But you should also go after Ricoh. The firm created the ad, but they are not likely the sole agents involved in its publication: Ricoh probably bought spots. This is good because Ricoh is a much much bigger company than Love, with far deeper pockets and a name to protect. This campaign probably cost Ricoh north of two or three million, meaning that they expected to garner at least that much in sales as a result of your words. I’d say you’re probably a several-hundred-thousandare as a result, if not a millionare. Congratulations, sign nothing, and go get yourself a good lawyer as soon as possible.

  137. Robin Blume-Kohout Says:

    After reading David’s post above, I checked out the marketing director’s comments in The Age. I’m especially delighted by his comment, “`Even if the extract was considered to be substantial enough in its own right to be considered a literary work, there is also a reasonable argument that its reproduction is incidental. In other words, its content is not pertinent or relevant to the storyline of the commercial or the product being promoted.‘”

    Really? The extract was the entire bloody dialogue of the commercial. There isn’t any other storyline!

  138. Kurt Says:

    Noeao said:

    Physics is NOT jacking off to the information age.

    Actually, that would have made a much better reply in the commercial than, “That’s interesting.”

    Shish said:

    What are you most upset about, the plagiarizism or the fact your lecture is being used to sell printers?

    Just guessing here, but I imagine Scott is most upset about the fact that it wasn’t a better commercial.

  139. I Peed My Pants Says:

    The story has now been picked up by one of our local newspapers here in melbourne.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/technology/hey-thats-my-lecture/2007/10/03/1191091161163.html

    First, Mr Campell has it wrong on the topic of ‘literary works’. Courts take a much broader interpretation of what is a ‘literary work’ than the usual meaning of the term. A lecture or a webpage would be considered ‘literary works’ for the purpose of the law of copyright.

    Second, separate from copyright, you also have what is called an author’s right of attribution of ownership. http://www.austlii.edu.au/Eau/legis/cth/consol_act/ca1968133/s193.html
    This means you can hassle to either receive an attribution on the commercial, or alternatively (and more likely) to get some $$ / printers / front row seats at the catwalk in return for them using your text without attribution.

    I’m pretty sure you could enforce your ‘moral right’ in Australia, but I’m not so sure you can use Australian courts to enforce your copyright, since your ‘literary work’ was first published outside Australia. This would be different if you were an Australian citizen, but I assume you are not?? Of course, you could potentially sue in US courts, which might be a scarier proposition for those who use your lectures.

    Good luck.

  140. David Says:

    (p.s. Long time no see since Seattle in ’96!)

  141. commercial reality Says:

    Scott,

    If love communications doesn’t have the creative capacity to use a thesaurus or editor to re-write your words, they deserve the publicity that their efforts bring.

    I would assume they got paid for their contribution of the ad and yet how unwilling they are to accept responsibility or who is responsible..

    From smh.com.au.. “The managing director of Sydney-based Love Communications, Glen Campbell, denied that the commercial’s script was plagiarised from the lecture.

    Mr Campbell told smh.com.au that they “don’t believe we should accept responsibility for infringing Mr [sic] Aaronson’s copyright”.”..”

    Seek some remuneration from them or bring it to the notice of their clients. I’m sure their clients would not appreciate working with a creative marketing business that uses the work of others in their work without consent, especially once it has circulated the web and gained publicity.

  142. Greg Egan Says:

    From the SMH article:

    Mr Campbell [MD of Love Communications] said the Copyright Act in Australia only protects `literary work’ and provides “a defence for accidental or incidental reproductions of works in a television commercial”.

    “Even if the extract was considered to be substantial enough in its own right to be considered a literary work, there is also a reasonable argument that its reproduction is incidental. In other words, its content is not pertinent or relevant to the storyline of the commercial or the product being promoted.”

    What a load of bollocks. They should have asked permission and offered a reasonable fee in the context, it’s as simple as that. Content not pertinent to the storyline? Well, “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones wasn’t all that pertinent to Windows either, but I gather permission was sought and paid for in that campaign.

    The investment of time and money in actually suing would seem wildly disproportionate to me … but for the sake of precedent, I hope these faux-creative pickpockets are made to suffer in some way.

    While I agree that Scott has not been harmed by this, and indeed is gaining a bit of fame and fun, I believe that people who make substantial profits from their commercial activities ought to pay for the inputs. The actors were paid, the lighting crew was paid, the make-up artists were paid. If the film crew had come and borrowed your truck to help them shift some gear, should they have asked your permission and offered to pay you, or should you have just been flattered by the sheer glamour of having it taken for a joy-ride by people who might have been to the same parties as someone famous?

  143. Greg Egan Says:

    Sarah wrote:

    Who cares, its your fault for placing it on the internet..the world is different these days

    People are entitled to control the fruits of their own labour. Scott being generous enough to put his lectures online is not a licence for anyone to exploit that generosity for their own profit.

  144. Steve Smith Says:

    I’m in Australia and would be happy to help hunt down the models and send them over to apologize.

  145. Catherine Says:

    Agree with Richard B (and quite a few others here) that the knee-jerk reaction to sue is concerning.

    Sure the ad company was sloppy and they SHOULD have asked for permission prior to using the snippet. But what’s there really to compensate? It’s a few sentences out of a much longer work.

    Sometimes I wonder how much we actually lose as a community when even the smallest thing is reduced to a monetary value in this increasingly user-pays world.

  146. Gabe Says:

    Actually, Greg, while having “asked permission and offered a reasonable fee in the context”, the SMH article offers a decent overview of the intellectual property law. Which, in Scott’s case, must seem odd (hence his flabbergasted post); but the incidental, insubstantial nature of the reproduction suggests imho that it wouldn’t be an actionable case.

    It would be worth, however, sending off a threatening legal letter, Scott. You’d suspect a million-dollar advertising account might throw a few grand your way to keep you quiet.

    Good luck mate!

  147. John Dekker Says:

    This is your 15 minutes. Use it wisely.

  148. Greg Egan Says:

    Actually, Gabe, there is nothing either incidental or insubstantial in providing 100% of the quantum-mechanics-based dialogue of an advertisement whose entire schtick is “models talk quantum mechanics”.

    Imagine a beer ad in which a couple of tough-looking construction workers speak two verses from some sentimental pop song. Sure, the joke would be in some sense independent of the specific choice of song … but that’s entirely beside the point, and they would still have had to pay for the lyrics. The fact that these arseholes might have stolen any one of a thousand passages other than Scott’s and still achieved more or less the same effect only demonstrates that they had an idea for the campaign that was not itself stolen from Scott. His words were still an indisputably substantial component of the production.

  149. Peter Norvig Says:

    Hey, congratulations. Send them a humorous embarrassing note, but otherwise forget it and enjoy it. I had my Lisp code stolen for an episode of the short-lived TV series “The Net”, and I never got anything out of it. (See http://norvig.com/paip-tv.html)

  150. Job Says:

    Boy, Technology Review sure missed out on a chance to make some income with Ricoh ads. With their page wide ad banners they’d’ve made a fortune. :)

  151. Scott Says:

    Nobody would have heard of Scott or his theory if it was not for this advert.

    Well, except for people who followed the D-Wave story!

    (Also, my theory? Which theory are you talking about? The one discussed in the ad is Bohr, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger’s.)

  152. Troy Says:

    Granted it is an Ad company; but I’m sure they will find a litigious gene in the genomes of American people one day.

    I found the commercial hilarious!! I could’nt believe they’d just said what they did. I mean, I’m interested in physics and the universe and especially in concepts like information since I’d first heard of it; and here it was casually being talked about by 2 attractive models while waiting to be ushered into a restaurant (I think)? It was the funniest thing I’d heard all week. Kudos to them for trying something different and clever.

    I suppose its plagarism so sue them if you need the money Scott. Being flattered and letting it pass would be the more gracious alternative

  153. James Killen Says:

    Gabe wrote:

    the SMH article offers a decent overview of the intellectual property law

    It does no such thing. It merely gives the response of the advertiser as to what he might like intellectual property law to be in this instance. He is mistaken on every count.

    Firstly, despite the common meaning of ‘literary,’ Scott’s lectures are clearly a ‘literary work’ for the purposes of copyright law. Secondly, substantiality refers not to the amount of the work copied, but the quality, importance and value of that part taken. It would be an odd result indeed if the advertiser were able to claim copyright over those words because the form (as in this case) a substantial part of their (derivative) work, but the original author could not. As to the claim that the infringement was accidental or incidental, well …

    I Peed my Pants wrote:

    … I’m not so sure you can use Australian courts to enforce your copyright, since your ‘literary work’ was first published outside Australia. This would be different if you were an Australian citizen, but I assume you are not??

    Wouldn’t it be enough that the infringing copy was made in Australia. I’m not sure about the Federal Court rules in this regard (and am too lazy to look it up), but the NSW rules, for instance, allow the court jurisdiction over any tort commited in jurisdiction. As to being an Australian citizen, the Act makes special provision to deny non-citizens from taking action where they come from a country which does not adequately protect Australian works (s185). I doubt an American citizen would be disqualified nowadays.

    Of course, you could potentially sue in US courts, which might be a scarier proposition for those who use your lectures.

    It might be. On the other hand the American law allows for more defences (especially ‘fair use’ defences) than would be available to the defendant here.

    So yes an actionable case exists. which does not mean, of course, that any action ought to be taken. I also note the OJ Simpson (oh and now Shane Warne) has now knocked Scott off his top billing … well at least it lasted longer than 15 minutes. :)

  154. Job Says:

    In the end who pays with this are the readers who end up buying Ricoh printers, getting a second rate product.

    I already ordered two..

  155. Eccles9 Says:

    Or for the Australian ad industry’s spin on it all…

    http://www.adnews.com.au/news.cfm?NewsID=3751&alpha=3627&beta=69978

  156. D. Eppstein Says:

    150 responses, and nobody’s yet asked whether your Warren Smith is the Warren Smith, last seen at the Temple U. math department? If it is, I wonder how he knows so much about Australian printer ads.

  157. J Says:

    I know from personal experience this isn’t the first time the dude who wrote the ad has plagiarised.

  158. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    You can keep searching Google News for “Scott Aaronson” (with quotes). Here is a blog entry in Scientific American. Meanwhile here is a clip in the L.A. Times on your figurative sculpture of Joe Camel.

  159. Scott Says:

    D. Eppstein: No, it’s not that Warren Smith. (I actually had a previous run-in with that one, over his brilliant theory that Israel masterminded 9/11.) This Warren Smith is Australian and pleasant.

  160. Nerd Pride Says:

    I happen to agree with Greg Egan that : “entire schtick (of an advertisement, insert by Goran.) is “models talk quantum mechanics”…”. Moreover this was probably Love’s selling pitch, thus their assertion that dialogue in question is not central or important is ridicules. The Love company did not have decency to engage a person qualified to write such dialogue nor to give Scott credit for material they pluck of www. People outside of academia are sometimes quick to overlook how much effort and thinking is required to produce an effective lecture material. In most cases only reward that is available to us in academia is to be acknowledged for our work. The whole system I might add depends on people honesty, thus plagiarism is serious offence which should not be taken lightly. Love plagiarised Scott’s work and they should not be allowed to get away with it.
    As for the punishment I reckon… hit them where it hurts… shame and money, shame and money… mate.
    It’s time to draw the line in the sand not just for your sake but also for the rest of us nerds out there.

    p.s.
    Note to Love the first sentence in this post is an example of how to cite someone. See it’s actually not that hard. But have you done that you would probably have to send some tim-tams Scott’s way.Would ya’

  161. Warren Smith Says:

    “I Peed” makes an error where he says that Australian courts do not have jurisdiction.

    The protection in the Copyright Act 1968 is extended to other Berne Convention countries by Copyright (International Protection) Regulations 1969 reg 4
    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_reg/cpr1969506/s4.html

    This means you can sue in australian courts for breach of copyright or alternatively, you can enforce your moral right of attribution (in case for some reason there was no actual breach of copyright). Interestingly, this moral right is unavailable to you in US courts because US copyright law does not give moral rights to literary works. (Remember, literary works has a broad meaning including your lectures).

    Sorry – I’m no relation to the Warren Smith with the 9/11 conspiracy theory.

    I wonder in which other countries this advertisement is playing??

  162. Ian McDonald Says:

    Ricoh. They also make copiers. It’s karma!

  163. Eyal Says:

    I wonder how the advertising agency found your text in the first place. I guess they decided to have models discuss something smart-sounding (idea: quantum mechanics!!!). Then they googled for something related that sounds good. But what layperson search about quantum mechanics brought your lecture to the top results? Perhaps you should ask them. (a search for “quantum mechanics computer” puts the lecture in the second results page, but with an unpromising snippet, and why would they search for this string to begin with?)

  164. David Byrden Says:

    Speaking as a fashion supermodel, I object to the implicit assumption that we are all stupid. That’s the real crime here.

  165. Wen Says:

    I guess that means the commercial is intelligent and not intelligent at the same time.

  166. William Says:

    Eyal says:
    I wonder how the advertising agency found your text in the first place.

    My guess is a google search for “quantum mechanics information age” which brings up the lecture in question as the sixth result.

  167. hronir Says:

    BTW (which means OT), are you going to update the online transcription of your lectures? They stand still to lecture 11 since very long time…

  168. Chris Crutchfield Says:

    Eyal, Google for “quantum mechanics lecture” (without the quotes). Scott’s poor lecture is the 5th hit.

  169. Chris Crutchfield Says:

    Followup: although that is likely due to the fact that all these news articles are now linking to it. Duh.

  170. Ron Williams Says:

    Anyhow, I think the title of your blog entry is funnier than than the advert.

  171. Not even right Says:

    Watched the video clip on YouTube. I am puzzled by why they used QM in the commericial but not other more popular things. I thought not many people knew QM, not to mention undestanding QM.

  172. jk Says:

    They may have taken your words directly, but your stating facts or scientific ideas, which IMO should be public domain anyway. I suggest you stop being so upset about something as trivial as this.

  173. anonymous Says:

    shameless, yes. but no-one really expects brilliance from the majority of the advertising world.

    my question is, now that perhaps you’ve had some time to let this all sink in, what is your next action? people are getting upset about suggestions that you sue, but would you really think of doing this?

    imho, i think that’d be totally ridiculous. you should be flattered (that your words were good enough to steal) and embarrassed (that it’s for a pretty bad ad and concept) and just have a laugh. of course the ad agency is lazy and it would have been nice if they’d contacted you, telling you what they were planning, but we all know we don’t live in an entirely fair and just world. fighting for what you believe to be right is noble, but this definitely isn’t one of those times

  174. GMan Says:

    whats with Americans and suing for everything..get real mate..im sure you never got so many hits on your blog ever..so enjoy the publicity

  175. Jay Says:

    All publicity is good publicity.

    I predict this being settled in a way that maximizes publicity for Ricoh and Love and nets Scott something of value, be it a printer, appearance on a late night talk show or perhaps something as simple as a blog post with a couple hundred comments.

  176. Blake Stacey Says:

    Maybe Love Communications has just been trying to get their ad video to “go viral.”

  177. Jonathan Says:

    Be flattered and enjoy the publicity.

  178. Annie Says:

    I think it’s a little odd that there seem to be *two* camps commenting (rather than three): either this is a huge miscarriage of justice and lawyers should be brought in, or it’s completely blown out of proportion and should be considered flattery. What about the middle ground? It’s clear that we can argue all day about whether this action was *illegal*, but I don’t think it’s far out of bounds to say that it was definitely unethical, a weird way to behave, and something that could have been avoided by putting in a minimum of effort in the first place.

  179. Jemaleddin Says:

    Dude, you can totally get a free printer out of this. Or two printers, and send one to me. :-)

  180. Gerry Quach Says:

    I find it curious that there are quite a few anonymous coward armchair jockeys here insisting that Scott should be “flattered” by this attention, and that he does not deserve compensation of any kind.

    I wonder how you would feel if someone ripped off your work and is making hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, without giving paying you a cent in return.

    To all you anonymous cowards: shame on you. Get some self-esteem and self-worth, and stop dragging others down to your level.

    Admit it: you certainly wouldn’t work for free, and neither should anyone else. Freeloading other people’s work and passing it off as your own is downright disgraceful.

  181. abec Says:

    man that add was crap anyhow id ask for something

  182. Graham Says:

    I bet you can get a great new printer out of this.

  183. Miss Teen South Carolina Says:

    “I personally believe that quantum mechanics is about, uhmmm, particles and waves, and some people out there in our nation don’t have particles and uh, I believe that our, I, waves reach as far as uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, but everywhere else has particles, and I believe that probability functions in the US should be observable by, uh, South Africa, they should collapse in the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to draw Feynman diagrams, for us.”

  184. Peter Shor Says:

    Scott, That’s great!

    And for those of you who are complaining that Scott shouldn’t feel upset but flattered, I strongly suspect that he does, and you have just been confused (as I have been at times, and as Lubos Motl was on a memorable occasion) by his idiosyncratic sense of humor.

  185. Douglas Knight Says:

    I am shocked and appalled to see a German complaining about American views on intellectual property.

  186. Anonymous Says:

    I wonder if the October 3rd, 2007 at 9:22 am anonymous post was from the ad agency trying to dissuade legal action against them?

  187. OmegaMan Says:

    Its similar to the two cats….your article was the dead cat and the models are the live…hmmm…cats. I think we have seen a new day in Quantum Physics.

  188. ctdonath Says:

    FWIW: Composer Philip Glass had a few seconds of music from his 4-hour opera “Einstein On The Beach” used in an Einstein-themed Coca-Cola commercial (yes, with prior arrangement). He wouldn’t say how much he got, but did say “it was enough to run my studio for a year”.

    You might want to look into that precedent.

  189. KWRegan Says:

    To complement posts by Eyal (Oct. 3 2:59am) and William (5:43am), try making a Google query out of every major word common to the two texts:

    quantum mechanics physics usual sense about matter energy waves particles perspective information probabilities observables relate other

    Right now I get 3 “Scholarly articles” that are not Scott’s (of course they aren’t—Scott’s article is at the level pop TV:), then the first hit is Boing Boing’s item on this matter. Next hit is an article for highschoolers from EduWeb UK (“Learning Alive”). Then a Springerlink paper, then the “Bohmian Mechanics” article from the Stanford Ency. of Phil., then Wikipedia on “Determinism”, and…no sign of Democritus. First blog item (13th hit) is Terry Tao on “Tomb Raider”. But if you take the subset

    quantum mechanics information probabilities observables relate other

    then this current blog item is 3rd hit, and Scott’s Dem-9 lecture is indented as 4th hit. Which serves as a case where adding matching words can make a hit disappear. That in itself is normal—the added words may match other articles better—but this strikes me as an extreme case. Unless Google has a word-count buffer that my long query overflowed—? And evidently this is a way Google differs from plagiarism-detection algorithms…

  190. EntropyFails Says:

    Incidental similarities? These guys deserve getting the lawyers sicked on them. *grin*

    My first reaction after I stopped laughing was one of “let it slide.” But as I thought about it more, it upset me that we as a society find no problem with the band getting paid for commercial use of their work and Scott going unpaid for the same exact thing. The rewards system of a society that does that seems out of whack.

    There was a reason the models didn’t simply discuss some arcane mathematical equation. The reason that the joke was derived using Scott’s words was because although many people can recognize the individual words, the ideas behind them are profound and poorly understood by most. But Scott’s explanation actually gives easily understood enlightenment on quantum mechanics. They needed that mix in the copy to pull off the ad. Quoting Einstein isn’t as compelling to a modern audience as Scott’s quote. That’s why we all read Scott’s blog.

    The point being, they targeted and infringed on Scott’s work because it is so full of quick, yet profound quotes like these and they thought he would never find out. Someone read his blog and said, “Hey, I’m going to pitch this line to the ad team as my own. It’s way better than anything we came up with this week.” I find that morally repugnant.

    As for the copyright issue due to it being a speech, if he spoke extemporaneously, then the passage is not covered by copyright. If he spoke from prepared notes, then it is covered by copyright. Since the material was developed for his employer, it probably would be subject to whatever terms Scott agreed to when he was hired, which may have had a commercial use clause. It makes it very likely that we’ll see lawyers on this, now that the cat has ran out of the bag and done a dance on the front page of a newspaper.

    It also is still very, very funny. The unimaginable improbability of this universe will always delight me.

  191. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    you have just been confused (as I have been at times, and as Lubos Motl was on a memorable occasion) by his idiosyncratic sense of humor.

    Now and then Scott fools a lot of people with his sense of humor, even himself.

  192. Jon Says:

    Perhaps you should just ask them for their going rate as a copy writer – Lord knows they would have paid some twat a bundle to have come up with that on his own.

  193. anonymous Says:

    On the plus side, you now have the slickest TV commercial ever made for a CS course.

    I recommend using images of these models as much as possible in your slides and lecture notes.

    Maybe you can have other friends with vaguely foreign accents and similarly wooden delivery dub over their voices with any new pithy pearls of wisdom you think up. Just think: “Quantum computing with Sasha and Jenna, episode 5!” (insert John’s sample dialog about QMA vs QCMA) “That’s interesting!”

    (I got a CPU quota exceeded error when clicking on the link to the lecture just now. It went away when I tried again a few minutes later.)

  194. Raoul Ohio Says:

    1. My recollection is that the Rolling Stones got US$7E6 for letting MS use “Start me up” for the Windows 95 launch. An extreme example.
    2. I like the “middle ground” remark. On one hand, it is usually a bummer to get involved with lawyers (not a comment about my former girlfriend Janine). But this crowd does not appear to have enough class to play it for laughs and offer up some swag, so they deserve to sweat a little.
    3. My suggestion is that Scott demand a free printer for everyone who has commented on the issue in his blog! Color laser, of course.

  195. Wim van Dam Says:

    This “Adfreak” piece about it is pretty well written:

    http://adweek.blogs.com/adfreak/2007/10/printer-spot-cr.html

  196. Tyler DiPietro Says:

    Dude, I just watched the video. That commercial sucked. I think Scott should sue for that fact alone, or at least somebody should. It’s just bad.

  197. James Says:

    I believe that people who make substantial profits from their commercial activities ought to pay for the inputs.

    Should they pay the estates of every scientist over the last 100 years that made modern video recording and distribution possible? The person that came up with the concept of advertising? The examples you give (e.g. lighting crew) is pay for labour. You are insisting on permission to use thoughts.

    People are entitled to control the fruits of their own labour.

    To a large extent no. You can’t dictate what people do with a mower after you sell it to them. You can’t say my Theory X shall never be used to in the Field Y. You can’t say that my work shall never be criticized. You can’t say people of type Z shall not read my work. You can’t say no one shall ever make money off idea X unless I give them permission. Patents and copyrights expire and are limited in scope. They wouldn’t if the reason they existed was to enforce the rights you describe.

    Freedom is important. Control over others should be used exceedingly sparingly.

    I had my Lisp code stolen for an episode of the short-lived TV series “The Net”, and I never got anything out of it.

    They flashed 15 lines of code from your instructional text book for ‘special effects’. Grave injustice. You must have cried yourself to sleep that night.

    Quoting Einstein isn’t as compelling to a modern audience as Scott’s quote.

    Of course quoting Einstein would have been perceived as kosher. Why is that?

    I wonder how you would feel if someone ripped off your work and is making hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, without giving paying you a cent in return.

    Maybe it is like mathematicians feel about it. Or how businesses feel in free markets when a competitor enters. Don’t curse the laws of nature or the consequences of freedom.

    Admit it: you certainly wouldn’t work for free, and neither should anyone else.

    Nobody is making anyone work for free.

    Freeloading other people’s work and passing it off as your own is downright disgraceful.

    Everyone ‘freeloads’ off millions of people’s work everyday. To any scientist this should be obvious. This is a good thing. ‘Passing it off as your own’ is a misrepresentation of events but some sort of attribution is probably appropriate.

  198. Sumwan Says:

    I’m dying of jealousy. Seriously, it is a recognition of the fact that your literary style is beautiful and captures the attention of everyone, and not only the scientists.

  199. Mike Says:

    EntropyFails makes a good point. Initially I would be inclined to also say “let it slide”, but in retrospect I think it’s worth pursuing this, at least for a formal apology.

    I live in Australia and saw the ads on TV a few days ago. My first reaction was: “This is a pretty stupid ad, but I see what they’re trying to do.” Now I think even less of it. If they had a more original script, or credited you for it, it might be a different matter.

    I’m no law expert, but read about similar cases in the past. As others mentioned, you get automatic copyright over your work the moment you write it. You most likely already know this. I’m not 100% sure though how that applies in this case though, considering the ad was made in Australia.

    Nevertheless kudos to you for the great lines. You never know, you might become well quoted for this. :)

  200. Eric Says:

    I didn’t bother reading the advice listed below…. mostly because it is wrong.
    Truth is, the advertising company who stole your copy (your words) used it for public broadcast. This violates so many rules, you have no idea. The writers guild and the directors guild should be contacted and complaints filed.
    The broadcasters must immediately pull the adverts until you receive payment for the copy and authorize the use of your work for broadcast, and royalties for each time the commercial aired. Also punitive damages for running your work without contract. They will have that information, as the broadcasters paid it out.

    Since you are the writer of the commercial, you own the concept.

    It is a simple case and the money belongs to you.
    The ad company will probably never do professional business again.

    Cheers.

  201. Gerry McCusker Says:

    Hi Scott; I’m afraid its just another example of an Ad agency PR disaster. But thanks to your predicament, I have a new blog entry at http://www.prdisasters.com/?p=389

    Good luck, Gerry

  202. Jrf Says:

    Ahum… the comments are nearly funnier than your original article …

    Congratulations on the publicity boost ;-)

  203. Michael A. Roberts Says:

    You make a living by thinking rationally. So let’s answer your question by rational thinking.

    It is obvious that some advertising copy writer knew of, or was made aware of your lecture, and quoted a portion of it without attribution.

    If we could rewind time, and put ourselves in the copy writer’s position, you might ask yourself, “How could I present my commercial with a proper respect for the man whose words I am quoting?”

    So, what would you do? Put a tag line at the bottom of the screen, stating, “NOT REALLY THE WORDS OF THIS OR ANY FASHION MODEL, BUT RATHER, A REAL SCIENTIST, NAMED SCOTT AARONSON, TO WHOM WE ARE GRATEFUL”?

    Not very effective, for either party. Besides, who doesn’t get the larger point, that the whole idea is that your attention is captured by the presumption that fashion models do not usually speak of such matters? (But oh, we can dream, can’t we?)

    So, again, having rewound time, what if they had approached you before taping, asking if they could quote from a public lecture that you gave, in a printer commercial?

    I’m betting that you would be flattered. I know that I would be, even if I knew that it would used in the unrelated context of selling printers.

    You have two choices. Say no, in which case, they find some other scientific lecture to quote, and the case is closed. Or, say yes.

    If you give permission, then we come to the issue of compensation. What are the quoted words worth to you, as used in a printer commercial?

    I would argue that their value to you is vanishingly small. For one thing, they are VERY fungible. I could use any Feynman lecture, or maybe some Nobel Prize lecture from almost any year, and be on my way. I could even lift an old textbook where the copyright had expired. For another thing, the use of your words is not the focus of the advertisement. It is an attention-capturing device, and nothing more.

    Your claim that you are owed some recompense doesn’t have much merit, it would seem. Further, any action that you take would only send the message that scientists are a bunch of ornery curmudgeons who should be avoided. And we don’t need that kind of “publicity”.

    My advice? Make your own “compensation”. USE THIS OPPORTUNITY! Write a nice letter to everyone involved; the advertising production company, Ricoh, . . . heck, find those models and write them (make those dreams come true!!), expressing your surprise and delight when you saw the commercial. Thank them for using it, and tell them to feel free to contact you again at anytime, for any purpose.

    I’ll bet that you stand a MUCH better chance of having something good come out of this if you take this approach.

    I’m just saying.

    Congratulations.

    All the best. . .

  204. Tim McKenzie Says:

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to be careful about how much we attribute to Scott here. Remember, almost all of these comments are by other people, and may have very little to do with what’s going on in Scott’s head; he’s been relatively quiet about that. As far as I know, he’s never suggested that he’ll be looking for monetary compensation. He hasn’t even expressed a desire to meet the models.

  205. Greg Egan Says:

    Michael A. Roberts says:

    How could I present my commercial with a proper respect for the man whose words I am quoting?

    By asking his permission. Nobody [sane] is requesting an on-screen footnote citing the source; I believe they do this in ads that include any names or images of Marvel Comics characters, but Scott hasn’t quite ascended to that level of proprietorial majesty yet.

    Academic works should cite their sources. Commercial users should obtain permission.

    In the first novel I wrote, I included a brief excerpt from Vincent Canby’s New York Times review of the movie Catch-22. In order to include it, I asked permission of the copyright holder, which they granted me for a fee of US$35. I was selling my novel for money (thus proving that mere words have some monetary value) and I was making use of someone else’s words, so I was legally (and IMO, morally) obliged to do this. Had the New York Times asked for an exorbitant fee, well, I was always free to rewrite my novel in a way that did not require the excerpt, and that would not have been the end of civilisation.

    Had I written, instead, a book of film criticism, I believe I would have been entitled to quote the same short excerpt, so long as I acknowledged the source, without seeking permission or paying a fee. Why is that different? Because copyright law in most countries makes fair use exemptions to avoid impeding the free discussion of ideas.

    Now, let me see, does an advertisement for printers fall into the first case, or the second case?

    James says:

    You are insisting on permission to use thoughts.

    Yes, James, that’s exactly what I’m doing, so please stop thinking about quantum entanglement or you’ll be receiving a very stern letter from my lawyers, Podolski, Rosen and Associates.

  206. Mike Says:

    I agree with Michael Roberts’ comments to some degree. However there are a lot of ‘ifs’ in there. If Scott did this, or the ad agency did that.

    The fact of the matter is that the ad agency, which allegedly copied his material, didn’t approach him to ask for permission. That’s tight and it’s foolish to think that people won’t notice.

    I would have assumed that is something you learn in Advertising 101. Or if you can’t use it, rephrase it or reference non copyrighted material.

    I think publicity is probably the best thing coming out of this for Scott. Enjoy it mate! There are heaps of articles popping up on this, even by amateur bloggers like me in Australia: http://www.ohmike.com/?p=48

  207. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Okay, notwithstanding my previous advice about staying on good terms with the ad agency, it is true that they have been caught with their pants down. Part of it is that the ad wasn’t that great; the humor was kind-of strained. Conan O’Brien’s stunt was a lot funnier, and apparently they had a consultant on hand for fresh verbiage.

    Another part of it is that their excuses and their apology to Scott were both lame.

  208. Scott Says:

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to be careful about how much we attribute to Scott here. Remember, almost all of these comments are by other people, and may have very little to do with what’s going on in Scott’s head

    Hmmm, good point!

  209. Scott Says:

    You make a living by thinking rationally. So let’s answer your question by rational thinking.

    Michael: Good idea! I wonder why none of the previous ~200 commenters thought of that.

  210. Sylvan Says:

    Hey Scott,

    Congrats on your recent publicity!

    I’m an Australian studing Nanoscience. The add jumped to my attention first time i saw it, then i took great delight in discussing it with my less scientifically minded friends over a couple of beers!

    Legal implications aside…I think the real winner here is Quantum Mechanics…The applied sciences are not a popular field of study down under, the add gave me and my fellow colleagues a chance to shine :)

    It speaks to the quality of your teaching material that the advertisers quoted you! Congrats! Schrodinger would be proud!

  211. Georg Says:

    Oh, come on. They took just two sentences, which even weren’t that special. It is not like you came up with a new key observation there.

    It is clear that you should be, and probably are, flattered that of all professors out there they took words from you. However, to go as far as to speak about plagiarism is just very childish. I agree that they could have sent you a prior notice though.

  212. Bram Cohen Says:

    On your last update about the quote in question being a very non-standard view, I think what made the commercial really funny is that they not only pulled out some random mumbo-jumbo about quantum mechanics to make the models sound smart, but actually managed to lift the central thesis of your quite well-written populist essay. It would have been even funnier if instead of “That’s interesting” the final line had been “That’s very much a computer science point of view”, and then Ray Laflamme could have gotten involved in this whole debate about what to do about plagiarism as well.

    It’s possible that the quote was simply picked out for technical reasons. It’s a question followed by an answer, and mostly contains words which the general public recognizes as being words, but given how obscure your essay was prior to this bit of PR it seems likely that somebody read a quote of yours in connection with d-wave, and in the process of following up to that came across your quantum computing since democritus lectures, and mostly understood them and picked out the most salient quote.

    While they’re publicizing little-known but good theories in their fake model dialogue, Ricoh should make another commercial in which the models explain that maxwell’s demon isn’t foiled by quantum mechanics but instead by information theory.

    Given how much publicity you’ve gotten over this incident, your next course of action is clear. You should bribe another PR agency to plagiarize more of your work.

  213. a highly amused shash Says:

    careful scott, the media can destroy you as quickly as they build you up. you don’t want to end up like britney….:-)

    b.t.w. whoever signed in as “miss teen south carolina” is a comic genius.

  214. KLD-R Says:

    How about giving Warren Smith a bit more credit! I hear he is an enterprising law student studying, inter alia, IPL law, taught by a whiz of a lecturer at a rather marvellous University in Australia.

  215. Scott Says:

    How about giving Warren Smith a bit more credit!

    Hear hear! My hat is off to Warren for not only noticing this and contacting me about it, but also tracking down the YouTube video.

  216. nathancipher Says:

    hey at least Ricoh makes boss wide format printers. they’re not a bad company, just probably hired the wrong marketing goons who stole your work which is NOT COOL. i’d bet that upon contacting ricoh they would compensate you with a fair amount of money, but probably not a ton, just to save themselves some embarassment.

  217. Johan Richter Says:

    Of course the Youtube video is violating copyright in of itself, which is kind of fun. In fact, I’d say Scott is the only one morally entitled to watch the Youtube video.

    And, to answer another commentator: it is not an uniquely American reflex to think about suing when someone is ripping of your work. There is a reason mosts rich countries have copyright laws. (I am not suggesting that Scott should in fact sue, I doubt the hassel would be worth it.)

  218. Jan Says:

    I wonder whether the ad agency also didn’t ask Madonna for permission to use a bit of her song ‘Hung Up’…

  219. Dave Bacon Says:

    Many commenters seem to assume the pilfered quote is just my expression of the conventional wisdom. Well, it should be, and I wish it were! But as Avi Wigderson pointed out to me, the idea that quantum mechanics is about information rather than waves or particles is still extremely non-standard, and would have been considered insane fifteen years ago.

    I’m imagining Chris Fuchs and Carl Caves and a whole host of others dancing up and down in joyous glory upon viewing the ad. When this view of quantum theory finally takes hold (as I think it rightfully should), I will call this “the battle of Aaronson and the ad agency” and forever mark this day as the day that Bohr was finally toppled.

  220. Lilly Buchwitz Says:

    Every good writer knows, the truth is in the detail. The writers of the ad went looking for real copy; real phrases that would be spoken by a real physics professor. You should be flattered.

    (And — sorry — it’s true that only a stereotypical American jerk immediately thinks of lawsuits.)

  221. Scott Says:

    The writers of the ad went looking for real copy; real phrases that would be spoken by a real physics professor.

    The trouble is, most “real physics professors” wouldn’t be caught dead speaking those words! A CS professor, on the other hand…

  222. Lilly Buchwitz Says:

    Whoops, sorry.

    I just went to look up the word fungible and the brilliant Michael Roberts (one of the mid-level commenters) nailed it. The analogies to the Rolling Stones song and other original works of art are specious. Your words were neither unique nor special, just fantastically accurate and appropriate to use as dialog in the mouths of bimbos.

    I’m a professor, too, by the way, and I’m vicariously thrilled by your experience.

    (And, in case you’re wondering, no, I’m not American. The “let’s sue the bastard!” really is a uniquely American knee-jerk response.)

  223. Matan Says:

    The “let’s sue the bastard!” really is a uniquely American knee-jerk response

    I don’t agree. I’m not an americn, and I woud seriously contemplate suing the ad company for pulling this stunt.

  224. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

    Lilly:

    (1) “Fungible” is the applicable word, speaking as an author of some mathematical Economics papers.

    (2) “The ‘let’s sue the bastard!’ really is a uniquely American knee-jerk response.)” is also applicable. There are more lawyers in West Los Angeles than in the entire country of Japan. My son, after his B.S. in Math and B.S. in Computer Science is now in a top-10 Law School, and deeply interested in Intellectual Property issues.

    The supply curve for legal services, to use one data point, is that I’ve earned $30/hour now and then for over a decade as a paralegal for law firms in beverly Hills and Pasadena, due to my expertise in Appellate Court and State Supreme Court procedure. But the same skill set in the san Francisco area would earn over $75/hour.

    What one calls “the law” is (as I’ve been saying for about 15 years) actually a chaotic attractor in the space of all possible laws. This comes from the Stare Decisis hierarchical structure of Superior/Appellate/Supreme Court precedent-based logic.

  225. lylebot Says:

    The “let’s sue the bastard!” really is a uniquely American knee-jerk response.

    Did you really have to say this twice?

    If not in the courts, how do people in your country (planet?) protect their intellectual property, then?

  226. Frank Says:

    I’m a professor, too, by the way, and I’m vicariously thrilled by your experience.

    I hope you will make your lectures available online, so we will have the chance to use unattributed excerpts from them to make money.

  227. Malcolm Lambe Says:

    That is so funny. I found your blog quite by accident although I did read the piece in both BoingBoing and the Sydney Morning Herald. I’d send the ad agency a copywriting bill.

  228. Malcolm Lambe Says:

    Here you go, I just submitted it to Digg. Vote it up and Scott will be famous!

  229. Richard Cleve Says:

    Many commenters seem to assume the pilfered quote is just my expression of the conventional wisdom. Well, it should be, and I wish it were! But as Avi Wigderson pointed out to me, the idea that quantum mechanics is about information rather than waves or particles is still extremely non-standard, and would have been considered insane fifteen years ago.

    That seems a bit exaggerated to me. There is a substantial community of quantum computing/information researchers who do view what you wrote as conventional wisdom. How big? My guestimate would be 500 people in the community and maybe another 500 people are influenced by this community. Granted, it’s still smaller than the world-wide community of physicists.

  230. Scott Says:

    The analogies to the Rolling Stones song and other original works of art are specious. Your words were neither unique nor special…

    Prof. Buchwitz, when you wrote that, did you even consider how much you might be hurting my feelings? I consider myself a unique and special person. And every word I write — even “randomized” or “superpolynomial” — is like a delicate flower, imbued with the specialness of its author. You see, beneath the nerdy exterior beats the tender heart of a painter, an artiste, whose medium just happens to be quantum computing lectures and sarcastic blog comments. Or were you entirely deaf to the poetry of my words?

      From my per- /
      spective it’s about infor- /
      mation and probab- /
      ilities and observables and /
      how they relate to each oth- /
      er.
  231. Cheshire Cat Says:

    “From my per-/
    spective it’s about infor-/
    mation and probab-/
    ilities and observables and /
    how they relate to each oth- /
    er.”

    So you’re one of those horrifying radical free-verse peeps? Makes sense – you went to Berkeley. For myself, I’d put it like this:

    “From my per-/
    spective it’s about informa-/
    tion and probab-/
    ilities and observab-/
    les and how they rela-/
    te to each other.”

  232. Jason Says:

    Scott – I hope you do exactly what you want in reaction to this. They’re your words, it’s your time at stake.

    This has provoked an incredibly visceral set of reactions from people… kind of mind-blowing. Your initial post asked “Should I be flattered? Should I be calling a lawyer?” Which in one line sums up the two extremes of the commenters’ spectrum of (sometimes harshly) expressed opinions.

    You never even hinted that you were even *leaning* toward legal action, never mind typifying the supposed “ugly American” with litigious tendencies.

    I hesitate to express my own opinion here in the interest of standing apart from the rest of this motley crew (notwithstanding a few astute observers), but here goes…

    Hope you bleed the bastards dry.

  233. Cheshire Cat Says:

    There seem to be two prevailing sentiments – (1) The plagiarists should be made to pay (2) Scott should not seek to profit personally. So maybe it’s time to get the “Ricoh Institute of Complexity Research” started up – that would close the loop, if nothing else.

  234. Greg Egan Says:

    Lilly Buchwitz wrote:

    The analogies to the Rolling Stones song and other original works of art are specious. Your words were neither unique nor special

    Sounds like you’re not a professor of law (or economics, if you had to look up fungible). And this sounds like the stereotypical response of a literary academic, albeit one from about 1930.

    How well known, how aesthetically stunning (like, er, “Start me up! Start me up!”), how unique the sentiment expressed, all have absolutely nothing to do with either copyright law or the moral issues. It is undeniable that the passage was knowingly stolen, not independently invented, and that it forms the bulk of the (commercially valuable) final product. That other words by other authors (or even original words by the copywriter) could have served the same purpose equally well is irrelevant; it lowers the fee that might have been offered if the agency had done the right thing, but it does not ameliorate what they actually did.

    When Woody Allen quoted a single line from The Waste Land in Love and Death, the joke depended (largely) on the audience recognising the words, and you can bet that if permission had not been sought and paid for, the estate of T.S. Eliot would have dragged him to hell and back. But the legal and moral issues would have been identical if the joke had made use of the words of some obscure Brooklyn poet who had given Allen one of the 50 remaindered copies of his critically derided collection, Borough Park Blues.

  235. Mike Says:

    I think Scott should be hired by Ricoh to develop quantum printers. Working in an office every day I find that too many people queue for printers, thus it takes ages to print your own document. Not to mention the countless arguments that arise between disgruntled colleagues.

    The solution is for them to hire you to apply quantum physics theories to printer production, such as for instance sending print jobs to parallel universes to get printed, then while your co-workers are not observing the printers, pumping them concurrently back to our own universe.

    You would prevent a lot of arguments and keep millions of office workers happy, making our mundane 9 to 5 jobs a bit more bearable.

  236. William Burns Says:

    Quantum Physics is about information, and that is a groundbreaking sentiment that only you have the rights to? I am unconvinced, actually.

    How about Seth Lloyd, Quantum Physics Professor at M.I.T., and Author of Programming the Universe. I think he has a stake in the academic field concerning the “Quatum Physics is Information” angle that you seem to lay claim to.

    In that 15 years ago this idea would have been thought completely crazy, I would not contest. But it’s not to assume that a single person woke up one day and decided to say it was all information – thus changing history and the world. But there are many people who actually program in quantum so I guess they get higher regards than somebody who merely talks about how they convey information. At this point in the game, I think the models in the commercial are merely conveying common knowledge at this point.

  237. Nerd Pride Says:

    Hate to repeat myself BUT Greg Egan again maid excellent argument. Pleases do listen him and sue the bastards mate. p.s.
    Australians are just as happy to sue as are American or Europeans but like the letter would prefer no to admit this.

  238. Scott Says:

    sending print jobs to parallel universes to get printed, then while your co-workers are not observing the printers, pumping them concurrently back to our own universe.

    Alas, that proposal violates quantum-mechanical linearity. (Do you suppose Ricoh has any interest in impossibility theorems for quantum printers?)

  239. Ze Says:

    Scott Says:
    The trouble is, most “real physics professors” wouldn’t be caught dead speaking those words! A CS professor, on the other hand…
    Well Scott enjoy pulling the wool over the eyes and making fun of our physics brethren.

    I’m an aussie and honestly I couldn’t care less if you hit em up for cash or not. It’s your choice and dealing with things like that is a business expense for them.

  240. Scott Says:

    How about Seth Lloyd, Quantum Physics Professor at M.I.T., and Author of Programming the Universe.

    Yes, I’ve heard of him. :-) He’s actually a mechanical engineering professor.

    I certainly can’t take credit for the idea that quantum physics is about information, any more than the Rolling Stones can take credit for the idea of “starting up.” What’s at issue is the words — do you understand this distinction?

  241. Elimis Says:

    Here’s my take on this, for what it’s worth:

    Sue them, don’t sue them, be a “typical american” or not, whatever you choose to do seems (to me at least) understandable.

    The ad company, however, decided to steal your words, but couldn’t be bothered even to send you an email about it. This being people who are paid thousands of dollars for their work on this commercial… I really can’t understand anybody who would take your work without bothering to ask you, or even to *inform* you that they’re doing it..

    I guess what I’m trying to say is this: The real amoral crooks in this story are the people who stole your work. No matter how you decide to take this, I can’t understand anybody who thinks *you* are the one behaving badly here…

  242. nic Says:

    “How about Seth Lloyd….”

    Oh no…

    Dude, just sue them. Think of all the awesome blog entries it wouild generate.

  243. a highly amused shash Says:

    No! Don’t sue! Prophets want their Lord’s word to spread unhindered….

    Don’t take that comparison too seriously.

  244. Niel Says:

    Lilly Buchwitz wrote: The analogies to the Rolling Stones song and other original works of art are specious. Your words were neither unique nor special…

    Well, are the lyrics to “Start Me Up”, or the notes involved, really all that unique or special in any measurable sense? Would any minor change have turned the song into something that just wouldn’t work?

    What makes anything done by the Rolling Stones unique or special? Or for that matter, Shakespeare? They were only writing about ideas that everyone had. The Rolling Stones did not pioneer the concept of “making a grown man cry”, for instance. Shakespeare didn’t invent the idea of romantic love, or treachery, or regret, or paranoia, or anything else that he wrote about: obviously, his works are therefore nothing special.

    The most significant difference between the Rolling Stones and Scott is that the Rolling Stones are millionaire drug-using rock stars, whereas Scott is a professor in computer science, and unwitting physicist / copy writer for ad agencies. (That, and Scott writes about things that most people cannot comprehend, and so cannot hope to leverage to break into the music industry by any means I know of.)

    Both Scott and the Rolling Stones are creative writers of some sort, and make their living thereby. By the laws of the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, both Scott and the Rolling Stones have their creative works protected by law, and they are are each legally entitled to some renumeration for uses of their creative work.

    Whether this means that Scott should sue is another question; but I don’t see how anything that the Rolling Stones has written is special in any way thst Scott’s work lacks, except in its ablity to produce a lot of money by exploiting demand for it’s performance.

  245. Ted Says:

    To be fair to Lily Buchwitz, I take her remarks about words being unique or special not as a judgement about the intrinsic value of the quoted excerpt, but about their ability to be substituted by others in the commercial (that is, their fungibility).

    Whatever you think about the Stones’ “Start Me Up,” it’s fair to say most other songs would not have fit as well with the “Start Button” theme of the Windows 95 launch campaign. By comparison, a lot of statements about quantum mechanics would have worked as well in the Ricoh commercial.

    That said, this doesn’t make what the ad agency did acceptable. You can’t just take others’ work on the grounds that you could just as easily have used someone else’s work; you still have to pay for it. The fungibility question is relevant only when negotiating the price. The creator sets the price, and you decide whether you’re willing to pay it or not. If their work could be easily substituted by someone else’s, the price you’re willing to pay is low. If there are no other substitutes, the price you’re willing to pay is high. But you don’t get to unilaterally set a price of 0.

  246. niel Says:

    Whatever you think about the Stones’ “Start Me Up,” it’s fair to say most other songs would not have fit as well with the “Start Button” theme of the Windows 95 launch campaign. By comparison, a lot of statements about quantum mechanics would have worked as well in the Ricoh commercial.

    I think it’s quite likely that the Start button is the “Start” button because Microsoft was able to secure a catchy tune featuring the word “Start” as their jingle. If they couldn’t, but could get something featuring “Go”, it would be the “Go” button. Certainly, it doesn’t require a lot of change in the code to make it something different. — Having said this, I don’t have anything to support this hypothesis except the assumption that Microsoft is an expedient agent.

    I doubt that many other statements about QM would work in the Ricoh commercial. Unless they’re going to take the approach that the models are in the midst of a long debate, they’re going to need something that sounds succinct and self-contained. How many such statements regarding QM (aside from, e.g., Feynamn’s “Nobody understand quantum mechanics”) do you think there are, that an ad agency writer can easily find?

    Once again, we’re back to complexity.

  247. Scott Says:

    Certainly, it doesn’t require a lot of change in the code to make it [the Start button] something different.

    I can confirm that: back in high school, a friend of mine changed it to the “Crash” button.

  248. Johan Richter Says:

    If we are to give some credit to the ad agency, at least the ads science-babble didn’t sound so terrible that science/techno-babble often does in teh mainstream media.

    P.S. How would have tought that a discussion of copyright law would rival the discussion about biting vaginas for most comments?

  249. Job Says:

    Scotland, you can search your web server’s logs for the ad agency’s external static IP: 64.158.56.56.
    A common setup for small companies is to have a single gateway for incoming and outgoing traffic, meaning anybody browsing the web from within the company uses the same source IP (the company’s), via NAT.
    If the IP is there then it’s conclusive proof that they accessed the plagiarized content at some point.

    If anything it would allow to point to the fact that they are liars, etc, which in my experience is always worthwhile.

  250. Job Says:

    Nevermind, these guys don’t even host their own site.

  251. Ted Says:

    Certainly, it doesn’t require a lot of change in the code to make it something different.

    True, but it would require changing innumerable screen shots and textual references in manuals, help files, and third-party books. Having worked in software, I imagine that such a central element of the user interface was frozen well before the ad campaign was devised.

  252. Peter Says:

    There is a universe in which Scott sues the ad guys, and another where he does nothing. Most physicists would say they both have equal status in reality. So why should any of us get upset about finding ourselves in one or the other?

  253. Peter Says:

    I was only joking of course – the many-worlds argument is only as applicable here as it is to anything one might choose to get upset about – which is to say, not at all. Sue them Scott.

  254. wolfgang Says:

    Scott,

    if you would have switched to the new blog location, you would at least have gotten some ad revenue out of this episode…

  255. Damien Says:

    I didn’t read any of the above comments, so I’m sure it’s already been said, but take the free publicity, and demand that the company at Least put your name in the fine print.

    Good luck.

  256. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    But as Avi Wigderson pointed out to me, the idea that quantum mechanics is about information rather than waves or particles is still extremely non-standard, and would have been considered insane fifteen years ago.

    I am with Richard Cleve on this one; this remark has been bothering me. I think that it is an unreasonable exaggeration, moreover kind-of pompous coming from someone in quantum information theory. No one said that Holevo, Kraus, or even von Neumann were “insane” for describing quantum mechanics in terms of information. You could still call it non-standard, but it certainly isn’t “extremely” non-standard. What I mean by that is that it doesn’t contradict standards of explaining quantum mechanics, even if it is different. There are a lot of physicists who still usually talk in terms of particles and waves, but wouldn’t really disagree with you.

  257. Jim Says:

    Why not just ask the ad company to give you credit in a footnote, a la a scholarly journal?

  258. Peter Shor Says:

    In the interest of giving credit where it belongs, I think John Wheeler was the first person to say that quantum mechanics was information. He was certainly the first respected physicist to say it loudly to the physics community, many of whom probably thought he had gone completely nutso at the time. And while none of his papers have had a major influence on the field of quantum information, several of his students have had an enormous influence on the field.

  259. Not even right Says:

    Sue it!

  260. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    He was certainly the first respected physicist to say it loudly to the physics community

    If that was Wheeler, what did von Neumann do?

    This discussion reminds me a bit of the great revolution in chaos, fractals, and nonlinear dynamics. For instance, Mandelbrot is sometimes called the “father” of fractals — but if that is what Mandelbrot did, what did Cantor and Hausdorff do? Sometimes mathematicians as a group are in the same position as Japanese hearing about the “discovery” of Japan in 1543. (Although this point is surely not news to you, Peter, since you have a math PhD.)

  261. Peter Morgan Says:

    Lecture Notes: QM is “about information, probabilities, and observables, and how they relate to each other”. Later comment: “the idea that quantum mechanics is about information rather than waves or particles is still extremely non-standard”.
    True, but perhaps the merit of your lecture notes version is that there are “observables” as well as “information”, which at least makes it less non-standard. “observables” call for a physical semantics in a way that “information” does not, at least to the same extent; it rather more suggests that there is something that is observed. “What we observe gives us information about What There Is”, for example, makes some sort of person-in-the-street sense, whereas “Information is What there is” is much more a manifesto for a hard-line information-theory point of view.
    Stick with the person-in-the-street, real world semantics, keep the complexity of using three words instead of one, if you want another Ad agency lifting stuff (and for other reasons, which we can hope might be better).
    Of course, it’s a major thread of QM interpretations that “observable” does not imply that there is a “What is observed”, but I suppose it’s precisely because it seemed to the people who accepted the Ad (not just the copywriter) that your words make sense of something supposedly incomprehensible that they liked it.

  262. Niel Says:

    Ted said about the Windows Start button being something other than the “Start” button: […] it would require changing innumerable screen shots and textual references in manuals, help files, and third-party books. Having worked in software, I imagine that such a central element of the user interface was frozen well before the ad campaign was devised.

    I suppose you have the benefit of experience: but with the word choice being otherwise something so orthogonal to the actual working of the OS, I’d be surprised if they didn’t consider ways to take advantage of the word choice in advertising well before they started promoting or documenting their software. As one of the major changes between Win9x and Win31, it was a natural thing to hilight in their advertising, and so choosing the word would be likely to be integral to their marketing.

  263. John Baez Says:

    One reason to let Ricoh know those lines are yours is so they don’t turn around and go after you for violating their copyright. Similar crazy things have happened already. You don’t need to sue ‘em — you can just tell them, in a sufficiently scary way.

  264. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Re: “For instance, Mandelbrot is sometimes called the “father” of fractals — but if that is what Mandelbrot did, what did Cantor and Hausdorff do?”
    1. One can make the same remark about the father of anything; for example, vastly more calculus was known before Newton than fractals before Mandelbrot. Does this mean Newton was a duffer?
    2. Mandelbrot’s books are arguably the best combination of correct math and popularization ever. Runner up is Abraham and Shaw’s comic books of nonlinear dynamics.
    3. I think Mandelbrot worked for IBM and had a color monitor before any other mathematician, which is why he made so many easy discoveries. For example, I also discovered fractals about the third day I had a color monitor: Noting that the included gw (gee whiz) basic allowed me to address pixels, I was trying to think of what to graph in color. My first Fortran exercise in the 60’s had been newton’s method, and I had always wondered what points went to the various roots, and, …, wow! these are fractals! Of course, it was easy to spot fractals when I had already read Mendelbrot’s book.

  265. docdwayne Says:

    You own the copyright in your lecture. Copyright protects the form of expression, not the idea itself. Therefore – though the “idea” that physics is about information, etc., is not copyright – your expression of that idea certainly is. And they stole that expression, word for word. This means they’ve violated your copyright. My advice is get a lawyer and ask for money: they’ll give it to you, since they’ve clearly broken the law.

  266. Johan Richter Says:

    I hope you don’t mind if a ask a question that doesn’t have to do with Australian fashion models.

    Is there a definition of what it means for a “not equal” result to algebraize? I am thinking of results like P!= Space(n).

  267. Scott Says:

    Johan: Interesting question! I suppose we’d just expand out P!=SPACE(n) as “P⊄SPACE(n) or SPACE(n)⊄P”. Then what it would mean for it to algebrize is that, for all oracles A and extensions ~A of A, either P~A⊄SPACEA(n) or SPACE~A(n)⊄PA.

  268. Coin Says:

    You own the copyright in your lecture. Copyright protects the form of expression, not the idea itself. Therefore – though the “idea” that physics is about information, etc., is not copyright – your expression of that idea certainly is. And they stole that expression, word for word. This means they’ve violated your copyright.

    It’s worth noting that when it comes to quantum physics, original ideas are not nearly so hard to come by as lucid expressions of established ideas…

  269. milkshake Says:

    Scott: Did you see the story on Slashdot – about a company that tries to make its custommers to shut up (threatening to sue for defamation) and their letter promises to bring also a COPYRIGHT lawsuit should their cease-and-desist letter be publicly disclosed.

    I think there is a Scientology-caliber hillarity at work:

    http://pubcit.typepad.com/clpblog/2007/10/dont-publish-th.html

  270. Amara Says:

    (I’m actually in Riga, Latvia,

    well, me too.. (in those days). There are worst places to be, while famous printer makers and Australian actresses are quoting your lectures.. ;-)

  271. Anonymous Says:

    Clearly, the ideal solution to this entire episode would have been if the second model had said “Well, according to Scott Aaronson, it’s about information, probabilities, and observables, and how they relate to each other.”

    That would have (1) acknowledged the author of these lines (or at least half of them), (2) sounded more intelligent and informed, (3) gotten Scott some well-deserved traffic, and (4) made the last line somewhat less inane.

    But, alas, they didn’t ask me.

  272. Anon Says:

    The perfect solution would be if Rioch changed the ad so that the first model starts out by saying: “Do you know what I read on Shtetl Optimized ?”. ..

  273. James Says:

    Clearly, the ideal solution to this entire episode would have been if the second model had said “Well, according to Scott Aaronson, it’s about information, probabilities, and observables, and how they relate to each other.”

    It seems that people here don’t seem to be upset so much by the lack of attribution but by the lack of ‘permission’.

  274. Frank Says:

    Here’s a similar case where the company actually made a small payment:

    http://eirikso.com/2007/10/04/they-stole-an-image-of-my-son-and-just-had-to-pay-4000/

  275. Not Lilly Buchwitz Says:

    Lilly Buchwitz
    Assistant Professor, Advertising

    sweet!

  276. Pete Weiss Says:

    Without wanting to say “that’s interesting”, I find this entire blog and its’ subject matter facinating. They say that plagiarism is the most sincere form of flattery. You could just get Ricoh to agree to re-shoot the commercial and have the models wear “I love Scott Aaronson” buttons. That’ll provide you with the recognition you should have gotten in the first place.

    Pete

  277. Mark Trodden Says:

    Hi Scott,

    I’m spending 3 weeks in Australia and just saw the ad for the first time. I was in the other room and heard people talking about QM and came in to see two models being made up while chatting about information.

  278. Robert Wolfersteig Says:

    Hi Scott:

    And we all thought advertising was dumbing us down!You should be flattered that an advertising agency writer would understand physics and quantum physics to boot. Most think a quark is a page design program.

    Unfortunately, you may have to arm wrestle Brian Greene, who wrote something similar in FABRIC of the COSMOS.

    Great blog by the way.

  279. Robert Wolfersteig Says:

    One more random thought. Use the clip to open your lectures. May keep the guys interested…

  280. forsyth Says:

    I’m amazed that people would suggest something as squalid and mercenary as a lawsuit. Why should lawyers benefit? You are now quite famous well outside your field as a result of this, but I do think the advertising agency or perhaps Ricoh does owe you a little something. If I were you, I should argue that equitable, agreeable and perhaps even stylish compensation would be First Class return tickets to Sydney on a respectable airline, a reasonable hotel, and a champagne lunch with the director and actresses. (If you’re attached, obviously your partner would be included in the deal.)

  281. Brandon Says:

    David Moles’s comment (#12) is a good one, but I’d recommend writing Ricoh instead; such a move by their ad agency is embarrassing for the company, and Ricoh would have more sway with the agency than a single individual. And Ricoh will be more likely to offer freely some sort of compensation for the mistake, if that’s of any interest.

    But Jeff (#85) is right, too: you really should be asking a lawyer, who could tell you exactly what your best move is (whether you are interested in compensation, or an apology, or whatever), rather than a bunch of people in the comments boxes.

  282. Jason Stockmann Says:

    This doesn’t speak to the copyright issues being batted around in this thread, but it’s a delightful riff on the idea of the “intelligent model”:

    http://myspew.com/pics/v/geek/physchicks.jpg.html?g2_imageViewsIndex=1

    http://www.cafepress.com/physchicks

    As an undergrad, I had a physics friend who convinced some of his “colleagues” to help explain the Standard Model — introducing, from left to right, Ladies Relativity, Electromagnetism, Classical and Statistical Mechanics, and Quantum Mechanics. Titled “Beyond the Standard Model,” it used to have a subtitle that read “Nineteen things that we understand, and four that we don’t.”

  283. Celui Says:

    This plagiarism was mentioned yesterday in a talk by Ignacio Cirac in a public lecture with Aspect and Glauber in Barcelona.. and we saw it ! Everybody was laughing. (I’m wondering, is making people laugh your third goal in your life ?)

  284. Thore Says:

    I think Scott should aim for a whole series of commercials, written by Computer Scientists, so that technobabble becomes CS-talk, not physics-talk, and the field can take its rightful place as the queen of sciences also in popular culture.

    Model 1: Data structures can be interesting sometimes, but our real goal is to understand computation.
    Model 2: But data structures are no more artificial than other computational questions.
    Model 1: That’s interesting.

    Or

    Model 1: Did you know that if we can reduce Sat modulo seventeen to a sparse set then it’s actually in P?
    Model 2: That’s interesting. But I can’t quite say why.

    Or

    Model 1: I think that almost all systems that are not ‘obviously simple’ are in some sense equivalent to a universal Turing
    machine.
    Model 2: Isn’t that just the Church-Turing thesis?
    Model 1: No-no. This is all new.
    Model 2: Really? That’s interesting!