Agency of Commerce Report Lifts News Stories, Photos Without Attribution | Off Message

Agency of Commerce Report Lifts News Stories, Photos Without Attribution

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A screenshot of the report - AGENCY OF COMMERCE AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
  • Agency of Commerce and Community Development
  • A screenshot of the report
In a report submitted last week to the Vermont legislature, the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development appears to have plagiarized three news stories and used photographs without permission.

The 24-page report updates legislators on the state's newly implemented Remote Worker Grant Program, which provides up to $10,000 worth of reimbursements to those who relocate to Vermont and retain their old jobs. A section of the report titled "Success Stories" lifts phrases, sentences and, in at least one instance, a whole paragraph from local and national news stories about the program — without permission, attribution or any indication that the work was not original.

Commissioner Joan Goldstein, whose Department of Economic Development issued the report, called the situation an "oversight" and "definitely an aberration." She said her department would reissue the report after removing the content in question or securing the rights to use it. Goldstein said use of the material met "the textbook definition" of plagiarism, even if it was unintentional.



The report lifts material published by Seven Days, CNBC and CNN. One section focuses on Miguel Turner, a cyber-security expert who tapped the grant program to move with his family from Miami to Vermont. The passages about Turner consist entirely of information and quotations pulled from a March 2019 story written by Seven Days' Kevin McCallum.

The Agency of Commerce report includes this paragraph:

Turner, said he, too, feels the taxes he's paying and the restaurants, wineries and other businesses his family plans to patronize as they explore their new home will more than make their clan a net contributor to the state's economy. "I'd like to think that I'm the type of person they were looking for," he said.
The Seven Days story reads:

Turner, the new Cambridge resident, said he, too, feels the taxes he's paying and the restaurants, wineries and other businesses his family plans to patronize as they explore their new home will more than make their clan a net contributor to the state's economy.

"I'd like to think that I'm the type of person they were looking for," he said.
That section of the report also features two photographs of Turner taken by Seven Days freelancer Jeb Wallace-Brodeur. The state did not credit Wallace-Brodeur, nor did it request permission from the photographer or Seven Days to use the images, which is required by law.
According to Wallace-Brodeur, such unauthorized use is not a victimless crime.

"Having my photos get used without my permission isn't a rare occurrence, unfortunately," the photographer said. "If I google my name I can find plenty of examples of unauthorized usage of my work. I don't typically charge much at all for things I've already shot, and for nonprofits I often don't charge at all for a reuse. But people sometimes don't realize this is how I make a living. I have a kid in college and this is my livelihood."

Goldstein declined to say who was responsible for authoring the report, but she took responsibility for releasing it. "We put our name on it, so, my bad," she said.

Read the full report below:

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