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ELECTIONS 2022/Institute sues TPP lawmaker for copyright infringements

10/26/2022 03:47 PM
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Taiwan People's Party Legislator Kao Hung-an responding to the lawsuit on Wednesday. CNA photo Oct. 26, 2022

Taipei, Oct. 26 (CNA) The government-funded Institute for Information Industry (III) has filed a criminal lawsuit against Taiwan People's Party (TPP) Legislator Kao Hung-an (高虹安) over her allegedly improper use of III copyrighted material in her doctoral thesis.

The III said Wednesday it had filed the lawsuit a day earlier after it became clear that the two sides were not likely to reach a consensus on the issue, making it impossible to reach a settlement out of court.

It also vowed to file a civil suit against Kao at a later date to protect its rights and interests, it said.

The III charged Kao with taking passages from copyrighted research reports that Kao co-authored when she worked for the institute and used them in her Ph.D. thesis at the University of Cincinnati without crediting the III.

The III said Wednesday that its lawyer sent Kao a letter on Oct. 13 demanding that she explain and offer solutions for parts of her thesis that were copied from the III research papers without first gaining the consent of the III.

That letter was also sent to related faculty at the University of Cincinnati, including John Walter Weidner, dean of the university's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where Kao studied for her doctorate, as well as to OhioLINK and ProQuest.

On Oct. 20, the III received Kao's response, which reiterated that her usage of the research papers were a case of "fair use," which was a stance that was vastly different from the III's, it said.

III President C.H. Cho (卓政宏) had said previously on Oct. 5 that based on an analysis using two types of software, Kao had duplicated 70 percent to 80 percent of the III reports in her thesis, which he argued exceeded the scope of what could be considered "fair use."

Allegations that Kao had "plagiarized" her doctoral thesis first surfaced in the Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine on Sept. 20.

Kao, the TPP's Hsinchu mayoral candidate in the Nov. 26 local elections, immediately rejected the charges, presenting an email dated Aug. 22 by Jane Strasser, senior associate vice president for research at the University of Cincinnati's Research Integrity Office, to back her up.

"The allegations involve self-plagiarism, which is not considered research misconduct," Strasser wrote, stating that there were "no copyright concerns" with Kao's thesis.

Members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have since accused Kao of being guilty of plagiarism, copyright infringements or improper citations, though those moves have been viewed by some as politically motivated ahead of the Nov. 26 elections.

As of press time, the III's Google Business page has been hit with more than 200 one-star reviews since Tuesday evening, many of which accused the institute of violating the principle of administrative neutrality and behaving as though it was a DPP affiliate.

That sense has been fueled in part by a reversal in the III's position.

When the allegations against Kao first emerged, the III said in a statement on Sept. 20 that authorization for the use of research it funded was only needed if it was intended for "practical applications," not for academic use.

The III was also criticized by Kao for political interference after it separately accused her of illegally working part-time jobs at Taipei-based technology company Servtech and for concealing her admission to the university's doctoral program, at which time she was still an III employee.

Kao on Wednesday called a news conference to refute the allegations, which she said were "blatant lies."

She presented an email dating to 2015, which showed her supervisor at the III addressing her as "Servtech business division head," suggesting that the III had known about her job at Servtech all along, she said.

All of her work at the III, including taking up the unpaid post at Servtech, was done according to the instructions of her supervisor or III management, she said.

In 2012, the III sent her to the United States to undertake a joint research project with the University of Cincinnati, when she concurrently enrolled in the university's doctoral program and informed the III of doing so, she said.

In an email copied to her direct supervisors at the time, then III Vice President Gary Gong (龔仁文) even asked her how she was adapting to her work and studies at the university, she said.

III President Cho should apologize to her for saying during a hearing at the Legislature that the III was unaware of her enrollment at the university, which was a pure fabrication, she said.

"The extent to which the III had distorted these facts suggests that it could have come under immense political pressure," she said.

The DPP has aggressively gone after candidates in the upcoming elections for plagiarism issues and other improper acts after its original candidate for Taoyuan mayor, former Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien (林智堅), was hit with similar accusations.

Lin had to eventually pull out of the race after National Taiwan University found that he had indeed committed plagiarism in his master's thesis and described the offense as serious.

Kao is running to take Lin's old job, and has remained on top in the polls in what is essentially a three-candidate race despite the accusations against her.

(By Su Ssu-yun, Wang Cheng-chung and Sean Lin)


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