The University of Texas at Austin has filed suit against itself for theft of intellectual property. A countersuit, also by the University against itself, demands recompense for emotional damages. The University expects a net windfall of at least $12 million from these lawsuits.
In the Fall semester of 2012, ninety undergraduates enrolled in the Linguistics Department’s popular class “Introduction to Sociolinguistics as Observed by Watching a Whole Lot of Movies and Making a Few Notes about Language Use in Them.” One of the course requirements was a final paper, which the instructor, Professor Gregor Samsa, intended to collect and publish. A publication contract had already been signed with Lingkom. On the final day of the course, eighty-
“This irresponsible act of mass plagiarism leaves us no choice but to seek legal redress,” said University President Willard Bowers III. “The reputation of our Linguistics Department cannot be sullied in this way, and in this era of state funding cuts, we cannot afford the revenue loss this represents.”
The University is seeking redress in the amount of $4 million for lost revenue (the projected sales of the book), and an additional $11 million for damage to its reputation as a major research institution. The countersuit demands payment for emotional damages (for University staff, particularly the legal department), in the amount of $15 million.
Since the University is both Plaintiff and Defendant, arguments for both sides will be presented by University staff lawyer Susan Spillwater. Furthermore, the University’s legal insurance, required by the State of Texas and in fact managed by the State’s own liability insurance company, covers 100% of financial losses stemming from lawsuits related to academic matters. The University therefore will incur no legal costs, and will be entitled to claim $15 million from the insurance company regardless of the outcome of the case.
The insurance company, Southwestern Mutual, will almost certainly sue the University in response, but the University holds an additional Academic Freedom policy (also with Southwestern Mutual) limiting its losses in any lawsuit to no more than $3 million. This means that the company can expect to recover only that much even if its subsequent lawsuit is successful.
Since plagiarism in the Linguistics Department initiated this entire situation, University President Bowers has agreed to use one half of the projected $12 million financial windfall to establish a new “Center for the Study of Linguistics without Plagiarism.”
Speculative Grammarian wishes both the plaintiff and the defendant good luck in the legal hostilities, and hopes that our own legal department is taking note.