Scholar admits copying

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 January, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 1995, 12:00am

A LEADING academic has copied material from his former teacher to use in a secondary school textbook without permission.

Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, who is the dean of City University's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, apologised for the 'omission' of acknowledgment and failure to seek permission and has agreed to pay royalties.

He said he would also check if there were other 'omission' cases involving other authors in the textbook, published in 1987, and others he has written.

Professor Cheng admitted some of his book, Government and Public Affairs, was copied from a popular textbook by Dr Norman Miners, The Government and Politics of Hong Kong, five editions of which have been published since 1975.

Professor Cheng, 46, is a prominent local academic and commentator. He has published about 20 research papers and edited dozens of books.

He has taught in a university in Japan, the Chinese University, the Open Learning Institute, and served as an adviser on the Government's Central Policy Unit before joining City University.

Professor Cheng's book - published by Publishers and Research Centre, a subsidiary of Summerson Eastern Publishers Ltd - was for Form Four and Five students and had both English and Chinese versions.

Mavis Ng Ka-yee, an editor at Summerson, yesterday said it was not aware of the case and needed to conduct a study.

Rebecca Ng Chan-mui, director of academic and general units at Oxford University Press, which possesses the copyright for Dr Miners' book, said it would talk to the author and lawyers.

Dr Miners is a reader at Hong Kong University's Department of Politics and Public Administration. He used to teach Professor Cheng, who was among the first batch of undergraduate students studying political science in 1969 to 1972 at Hong Kong University.

Asked which parts of his work he had 'copied', Professor Cheng said: 'Mainly the part on Hong Kong's political system.' A check of the first 24 pages of the English version of his book showed at least 11 pages carried paragraphs from Dr Miners' book. Passages were directly copied with minor alterations.

Professor Cheng's book carries acknowledgments to bodies such as the Education Department, Government Information Services, Xinhua (the New China News Agency) and the police for providing information or advice, or for permission to reproduce copyright material.

But the acknowledgments said: 'In some cases, the Publishers and Research Centre have been unable to trace the copyright owner of certain material and would welcome information which would enable them to do this.

'They offer their apologies in advance for any unintentional copyright infringement.' Dr Miners said it was unlikely that Professor Cheng could not trace the copyright owner for the materials copied from his book.

However, it is understood he has known about the problem for about five years. Professor Cheng apologised to him shortly after that.

Dr Miners said: 'I accepted the apology personally.' But he declined to say why he had not asked Professor Cheng for damages or royalties.

He said Oxford University Press, owners of the copyright, should deal with the legal problem.

Asked why no permission was sought, Professor Cheng said: 'It is a secondary textbook for which I have taken some materials from government year books and Dr Miners' book.

'I have mainly acknowledged the government departments. It is a secondary textbook which usually does not have detail footnotes. It is our negligence.' Professor Cheng yesterday approached Oxford University Press to discuss royalties, which he says would be around $10,000 to $20,000.