There is a very troubling, disturbing trend that has been brewing and building in Internet-land. Clients are trying to engage people in our industry in an activity that is unethical and unlawful. What is this activity? It’s plagiarism, otherwise known as copyright infringement.
Here’s what’s going on… there are clients (and these do seem to be most often from the Internet marketing sector) who are taking the works of others (books, articles and other writings) and then asking colleagues to reword them (“so as not to plagiarize”) into new articles or reports or whathaveyou which they then intend to put their name on as the author.
Um… HELLOOOO?! That IS plagiarism. Said another way, it’s also making unlawful derivative use from the copyrighted works of others, which is called copyright infringement. It’s theft of intellectual property.
A member recently had a client wanting them to participate in this activity and she wasn’t sure how to handle it. (By the way, I absolutely adore our members–we have some of the most ethical, honorable, reputable people in the industry, and they refuse to sell their soul and their reputation just to earn a buck). She asked the client if she had permission from the people whose work was going to be used and the client assured her she did.
But she still didn’t feel right about it. Something about the whole thing still niggled at her. And she was absolutely right not to feel good about it.
Look folks, plagiarism is plagiarism is plagiarism no matter how you dress it up. It’s unethical and it can get you into hot water as well.
If you ever feel funny about engaging in something, don’t second-guess your gut instincts. That is your conscience and intuition telling you that something is not right.
Plagiarism IS wrong and any client who wants to engage YOUR business in activity that may not be lawful or that holds possible liability or ethical repercussions had better be prepared to show you the written permissions before you proceed any further. You have your own back, your own reputation, and your own business to look out for.
And really, folks, don’t let clients get away with that crap, or at least refuse to engage in that activity. Ignorance or not, set them straight. It’s absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong, unless they have clear, specific permission from those authors they are making derivative works from.
There are more and more clients out doing this and I think it’s a very sad commentary on society. I’ve even had my “How to Choose an Administrative Consultant” article plagiarized by some well-known people in our industry as well as several internet marketers.
It takes everyone through their own personal actions and choices to ensure that society doesn’t lose its moral compass. It all starts with what we allow people to get away with and whether we act as complicit partners in those wrong activities by not speaking up and saying “no.” If we don’t stand up and say, “Hey, that is wrong and I’m not going to participate,” we are just as guilty.
So hold those clients to task, for your own business protection if nothing else. Ask for those written permissions so you can inspect them and know exactly, firsthand, what licenses are being granted and what isn’t. It’s your right and your obligation as a business.