Jimmy Carter Accused of Map Plagiarism

Maps are taking a curious central position in the controversy over former U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. A former executive director of the Carter Center resigned over the book, charging that it contained inaccuracies and improperly cited materials — notably, that two maps were unusually similar to maps published in Dennis Ross’s book, The Missing Peace. Right-wing bloggers are taking up the case: see here and here (includes scans of the maps in question); their opponents charge that Carter, who’s been accused of everything from Marxism to anti-Semitism to outright treason, is the target of a right-wing campaign that is blowing the issue out of proportion for political ends. (I remember the virulent response from some quarters when Carter won the Nobel prize.) Via About.com Geography.

But the question, from a cartographic perspective, is this: what constitutes plagiarism? Facts cannot be copyrighted, and court cases have ruled copyright traps unenforcable in the U.S. So what part of Dennis Ross’s maps even can be plagiarized? The design? The choice of font? The shading?