Windmills Tilted: 'Motorcyclist Mag is Plagiarist Mag'

John P Burns
by John P Burns
Far be it from us ever to dish the dirt. At the same time, the older I getthe more I sense that one of the main things wrong with the world is thatweasels are allowed to get away with weasel behavior, and nobody calls themon it. Lawyers have a Bar Association, doctors have a Medical ReviewBoard--for the rest of us, what is there? Well, there is MO. An interestingcolumn by our good friend Petey, Editor of Motorcycle Street & Strip,recently flew in over the transom.


From the June, 2003 Issue of Motorcycle Street & Strip (Volume 4, Issue 5), reprinted with permission.

Motorcyclist Mag is Plagiarist Mag

By Peter Jones

Murder, assault, and plagiarism. In that order, those are the threeworst crimes a human can commit against another. All three are crimesof thievery; the first stealing one's life, the second stealing one'sdecency, privacy, freedom, and trust, and the third stealing the verysoul of who someone is. Plagiarism is to steal someone's ideas,thoughts, hard work, and their personal contribution to the humanexperience.

Motorcyclist magazine recently stole my ideas and they didn't do it byaccident, they did it with intent. And they didn't just use my wordsand ideas without my permission, they went so far as to make it lookas though they were their words and ideas. And one of them evenlaughed at me for them having done so.

Coming from a roadracing background and now being involved indragracing, I realized that even an experienced and talentedprofessional roadracer could benefit from dragracing training. Justwatch the start of any professional roadrace on TV. It's pure humorfor dragracers. Basically, the racer who gets to turn one first is theone who inadvertently screws up the least.

So, I pitched a story idea to Yamaha for Anthony Gobert to be trainedby a professional dragracer. I chose Gobert because, while he is oneof the top five roadracing talents in the entire world, he visibly hada starting technique that put him at a disadvantage; coming originallyfrom motocross, he had the habit of blipping the throttle on and offwhile waiting for the green light.

Yamaha agreed to supply bikes and Gobert for the event, and I arrangedto have dragracer Larry Laye do the training. I agreed to allow theevent be filmed for use on Speed TV's Bike Week, and Yamaha agreed topress for mention of MS&S on the show, respecting that the concept andstory was my idea. Bike Week is a generic motorcycle show so airingthe story on it was reasonable and good for all involved.

As our regular readers know, the feature appeared as the cover storyin MS&S's May/June 2002, Volume 3, Issue 3. Gobert was not only theperfect participant because of what he learned from the experience,but because of how gracious he was. One might think such a talentwould never believe some dragracer and I could do anything for him.Most roadracers at his level would have felt the need to act above theexperience. But, then again, most racers aren't at Anthony's level.

At the first AMA Superbike race after this event, which was atCalifornia Speedway, Gobert got the holeshot in all of his races. So,the Gobert dragracing story is one I'm exceptionally proud ofconceiving and executing. Best of all, that the event also actuallycontributed to Gobert's performance made it much, much more than justa story. It was unbelievable and embarrassing that he thanked me forthe experience.

For reasons I'll never know, the piece was never shown on Bike Week.But while I was at the Long Beach motorcycle show in December, I raninto Mark Cook of Motorcyclist magazine, who told me he had justfinished working with the video editor for Motorcyclist TV, and thatthey were going to use my story on their next show. He said that I hadbeen cut from the piece and then laughed. I, of course, had neveragreed to the piece being shown on Motorcyclist TV and never wouldhave since Motorcyclist is a competing print publication. And I hadnever been asked.

Cook was only half right. Not only did they steal my story, they usedmy voice for some of the narration, and one shot even briefly showsme. Anyone seeing the raw footage or completed show would know that Iwas an essential component of the story. They used my story, they usedmy words, they used my voice, and they used me. And laughed. And theyacted as though the story was their own idea. That's plagiarism. Andit's not only unethical, it's cause for civil litigation.

I shouldn't have been surprised. The publishers of Motorcyclist have ahistory of stealing, which is why I quit Sport Rider--one ofMotorcyclist's sister publications--a number of years ago.

The June, 1998, Volume 6, Number 3 issue of Sport Rider was on therack at newsstands in a polybag because it included a special,separately-bound supplement paid for by Kawasaki. The polybag clearlyindicated that the supplement was free, by use of the word "Free"printed on it. I still have an unopened polybag with the magazine andsupplement in it. But if you compare that issue to the one before itand the one following it, you will notice that the supplement wasn'tfree. Those issues have cover prices of $3.50, while the one with the"free" supplement has a cover price of $3.95. Defrauding the consumeris not only unethical, it's illegal.

Within minutes of that Sport Rider cover art being shipped to theprinter, I pointed out to its Editor, Editorial Director, andPublisher the fraud and that I would not be a party to it and that theprice needed to be corrected. I also pointed out that they were notonly ripping off the reader, they were also ripping off Kawasaki whohad paid for the supplement and that that could endanger future adsfrom them. I was ignored. I resigned by the end of the followingmonth.

I'm thin-skinned about ever sounding like a disgruntled ex-employee,so I figured as long as that publishing company left me alone, I'dkeep quiet about their dirty secrets. But since theft is their way ofbusiness, they couldn't leave me alone. I bet next they'll steal myidea for an urban-performance type magazine.

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