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Tim Rentsch & The Abscissa Book
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Date: -- (:)
From: Jason Hickey <jyh@c...>
Subject: Tim Rentsch & The Abscissa Book
Dear friends,

I have recently reviewed a book titled "The Objective Caml Programming
Language," published under the name Tim Rentsch by Abscissa Press,
ISBN 978-0-9815992-0-5.  The majority of the text printed in this book
was written by me, and it is published without my permission.  To be
specific, Mr. Rentsch wrote chapters 14, 15, 17, and the Appendix
(totaling 1/3 of the text of this book); the rest is my writing.

The copy is near verbatim.  To validate, simply place the texts
side-by-side.  For clarity, one can compare against a very early draft
of my book.  I have placed a few examples online using the 2002 draft
for illustration.

Even with editing and revisions since then, much of the 2002 text
appears in the Abscissa book verbatim.  This is not isolated; the
copying is broad and sweeping.  For the chapters where I made
significant revisions after 2002, the logs are online and available
for scrutiny.

There is no copyright in ideas.  Copyright infringement consists of
the actual copying by one author of the words written by another.  The
infringement here is precise and simple.

   - The book contains substantial text that I wrote.
   - It is published under the sole authorship of Tim Rentsch.
   - It is published without my permission.

- History

I began this book in 2000 as a reference for a compiler class I was
teaching at Caltech.  Mr. Rentsch worked with me as a reviewer and
editor from 2004-2006.  In addition, he wrote two chapters and an
appendix during this time, and I offered him co-authorship on this
basis.  We had a dispute in Jan 2007 where I felt Mr. Rentsch's claims
on the entire work were excessive.  After several months discussion, I
terminated the arrangement, rolled back the text to 2003, and started

Since then, I have revised and rewritten the text, including several
new chapters, and I submitted a new manuscript for publication to
Cambridge University Press in Jan 2008.  This is still pending a
formal review by Mr. Rentsch to determine "the extent to which any
such manuscript might constitute a derivative work of our previous
collaboration" (his words, his request).  [Yes, despite repeated
querying, we realize that this review might not come to pass.]

To my knowledge there are no lawsuits pending at this time.

I was not aware until recently of the Abscissa publication -- and in
fact I hadn't even heard of Abscissa Press.  The home page is blank,
but a quick investigation shows that the domain name is served by, for which the contact is listed as Tim Rentsch.

- What do we do as a community?

It is my very strong wish that this event not have any lasting effect
on the community.  I wish my role in the community to be as an
advocate and a teacher, I have no wish to be involved in a public
controversy.  I believe the best course of action would simply be to
be productive, move on, and continue with our lives.  Leave the
decision of what to do with the Mr. Rentsch to me and my publisher.

If you are a reviewer, consider carefully whether/how you want to be
associated with Rentsch's publication.

If you bought a copy of the book, consider filing it in the section
that covers "academic integrity."

Finally, if you are willing and have time, consider writing a letter
to my editor Heather Bergman (hbergman at encouraging
CUP to publish my work.  You may view it online at the usual sites.

Jason Hickey