I received email the other day from Owen Xia Yin, or Owen Lee, who sells Ultimate Language Secrets. He protested my earlier commentary, saying that I made it seem as if most of his book was copied from Wikipedia, and he asked me to reconsider my review.
So I reconsidered and took another look at the books I downloaded from Owen’s site, and, in the spirit of accuracy, this is what I found: only SOME of Ultimate Language Secrets was copied from Wikipedia (specifically, the two appendices on memory and mind mapping). I also discovered that the third appendix on grammatical definitions was taken from web sources, and that one of the mini-books that he sells under his copyright was taken from the National Virtual Translation Center website. This material is copyrighted by the NVTC.
In my original post on Ultimate Language Secrets, I noted that Owen Lee has copied from 2 sources, Wikipedia and myself. Now I’ve discovered even more fraud. He’s copied from at least 4 sources: Wikipedia, the NVTC website, a website at Southwestern University (the first hit that turns up the grammatical table he shows), and myself.
So I reiterate my original conclusion: in the form in which I bought it, Ultimate Language Secrets and the accompanying texts are fraudulent.
Let me be clear: I’m not making a claim about the effectiveness of any of his tips about language learning. I am, however, pointing out to consumers that he’s selling, under his name and his copyright, some material that isn’t his to sell or copyright. Maybe you want to trust that the rest of what you’re going to buy from Owen Lee for $40 was actually written by him. That’s up to you.
You may also be curious to know why I’ve taken such an interest in this, responding at length to Owen (in an email which I may still post) and writing another post here. For one thing, I admire Wikipedia and all such efforts to expand and protect the cultural commons, and I’d like to be considered part of the peer policing arm of the peer production community. As a lover of languages, I expected better from another language lover. And as a writer, I find piracy repugnant.
When Owen Lee republishes Ultimate Language Secrets and other texts in a way that 1) doesn’t copy any material at all, whether or not he knows where it came from, 2) doesn’t put his name and copyright on previously copyrighted material, 3) doesn’t sell copied material, and 4) follows Wikipedia use policy, then I’ll consider giving the book’s contents an actual review.