Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cashing in on a Name ...

I recently came across this fascinating item on a chat line:

Came across this online article ... Which referenced this website: ... claiming to sell maps ‘Firmly based upon Peter Slingsby’s maps of the 1980s’, including for the Drakensberg ... 
However seems they are cashing in on the Slingsby name ...

That’s a first for me – being accused of cashing in on my own name. I confess, I confess, m’lud! Guilty as charged. I guess I’ve been cashing in on it since the day I was born, which means ... well, quite a lot of years now.

Only problem is, ripping oneself off is kinda unsatisfying. It’s hard to build up any steam over it. Being ripped off by someone else is a different story. Then you can really climb in, get up a good head of the hot stuff, throw toys outa cots, all that stuff. My Drakensberg correspondent above is obliquely referring to an outfit called Geomaps, for which I couldn’t find a distinctive Google trace. There’s an outfit with the name that seems to be in Kenya, though why they would make maps of the Drakensberg I dunno. The point is, though, is that after my maps of the Berg went out-of-print someone contracted the said Geomaps to make some new ones. All legit, of course, but to my amusement they copied most of the symbolization I developed, especially the path-junctions, distances, etc etc.
A bit of Geomap ... note those path-junction numbers [G61, G48], little red triangles, 
distances to next junction, etc etc. I wonder whose idea that was?
Back in the 1980s we walked over 2000 km to gather all that data – and of course that need not be redone if you can merely copy someone else’s work. But what no one told Geomaps is that it’s widely regarded as merely polite to acknowledge your sources. If you don’t, it’s called plagiarism
A similar bit from my map drawn about 30 years earlier ... sorry, 
the purple lines were management boundaries on this special edition
So there you are. Geomaps never acknowledged their use of my information in any way at all, which makes them plagiarists, and there it is. Cashing in on the Slingsby research, work and creativity, but not the name ... thank goodness!

Geomaps aren’t the only guys to do this. In 1977 we produced a map of the Boland Hiking Trail [Hottentotsholland Section] for the National Hiking Way; it was revised and reissued twice, last in 1983. By 1994 CapeNature had taken over the trail from the Dept of Forestry. Needing new maps, they didn’t contact me; they simply hired a guy called Derek Odendaal of Bergmaps to copy all my data and reissue my map, without any acknowledgment at all. Neither Bergmaps or Derek could be positively identified from Google, so I have to conclude that like Geomaps they’ve long since cut and run ...
A bit of my 1983 map of the Boland Trail ... note those flora notes, 
and those C, D, E, F etc habitat numbers ...
Mind you, I have to admit that CapeNature did acknowledge that I did the line drawings for the map. They reproduced them quite badly and took my initials off them, but they did put in the words in a corner: ‘Illustrations: Peter Slingsby’. Not a word about the map and its origins.
Derek Odendaal’s 1994 copy of my map and published by CapeNature
 – note those flora notes, etc etc
So thanks, CapeNature and your friend Derek, for a pretty hectic bit of plagiarism ... I notice that you copied but didn’t think to acknowledge the flora notes that I wrote myself, either ...

Much more recently – in 2003 – a gentleman named Robin Frandsen produced some maps of the Cape Peninsula. Frandsen’s maps looked an awful lot like my own 2003 map of the Peninsula ... they even used some symbols for which I had done the original artwork [and can prove it!], eg for Curios, Historical Sites, Whale watching, etc., and, remarkably, included all the wrecks I had marked on my map, even a couple I had put in the wrong place by mistake. Errors in some of my footpath info [corrected in my later editions] were faithfully reproduced, as well as as several names I had gleaned off old, long-gone maps. Amusingly, Frandsen’s maps also dutifully repro’d some errors on the official Trig Survey maps.

I wrote to Mr Frandsen, suggesting that he had copied me and infringed my intellectual property rights. He wrote quite an abrupt letter back, informing me that I would never win a case against him, and pointing out that Jacana Publications had lost a case against him in which they alleged that he’d copied their Kruger Park map. The expensive lawyers, he said, would be the only beneficiaries.

I decided that the matter wasn’t worth thousands of bucks getting excited about, as my maps were selling like hot cakes and Frandsen’s maps hadn’t affected that, but I did some research. Of course, if you just copy my map there is not much I can do about it. A map is a picture, after all, of reality; two maps of the same quality are gonna be pretty similar. So how do mapmakers protect themselves? Well, there’s the rub. On every map we produce [and I always do this now!] there is a small, deliberate error, one I have carefully recorded. Even Ordnance Survey in the UK use this form of protection! If you copy all the true stuff on my map I can’t touch you. But if you reproduce my deliberate error – well, how did you do that if you didn’t copy me? Gotcha!

I hope Mr Frandsen can spot my deliberate error on this bit of my Hout Bay map ... can you? Clue: it’s exactly where Frandsen placed something incorrectly on his map, just as I had done by mistake on my original Cape Peninsula map.
Prize: a free copy!

Have a lekker Freedom Day, y’all.
Kaartman 15 April 2012