Respectful Disagreement

As I am taking part in the Commenting Boot camp at the moment, and today’s challenge is to respectfully disagree with someone’s point of view, I though I would post on a topic that perhaps will encourage some debate.
A lot of the people involved said they were struggling to find posts to disagree about and didn’t want to hurt the authors feelings so I am going to suggest a situation I know will come with some resistance, and state an opinion that will differ from many, and I am fully open to being disagreed with, even argued with an insulted, although resorting to that will reflect badly on you rather than me.

The situation is hypothetical so I won’t be offended by any answers! 

So the situation is: You are a freelance writer and a member of a university approaches you about writing some tutorials for him, you accept and spend three weeks doing the work. Upon completion but before you send the work or receive the pay, he reveals he is not, in fact, a lecturer or teacher and is completing a dissertation on learning. You strongly suspect that the work you have completed will be plagiarized and passed off as the students own for his project.

What would you do in this situation? 

 

In my opinion, as a freelance writer, your contract with the client is more important than any foul play the student may commit with the work once it has left your hands, and although there is a moral dilemma, the breach of employee-employer trust is more important. So I would take the money and hand over the report.

 

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17 thoughts on “Respectful Disagreement

  1. This is a really great post to exercise respectful disagreement.
    Thank you for putting this up and linking it into the Commons!

    I would say that it is extremely important for freelance artists and writers to protect their intellectual properties.
    I also think that the terms of the contract with the customer can be considered as void or at least changed due to the fact that the person hiring the writer lied about the reason for needing the work.

    Depending on my relationship with the customer, I would try to arrange different terms or just not deliver the tutorials (this second solution being the harshest one that I’d avoid unless necessary).

    By the way, I love the image you picked as your logo. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for the possibility to disagree 🙂

    If the customer misrepresented himself, the contract is null and void.
    If the freelance author assumed the customer was someone other then he in reality is (i.e. obvously did not ask questions and basically failed to do his homework), then the freelance author must honor the contract, and can only take actions once plagiarism is proven.

    That was my two cents 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But does the writer have other options? Could he go to the university and mention that he thinks a student may plagiarize his work? Then it is up to the student to choose to either plagiarize or not, and if he does and is caught it is his own fault? But this would perhaps go against client confidentiality and also would be a bit underhanded if you still took the money.

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  3. Let’s say for clarity that the writer did not ask the right/any questions but the student also did not state their role at the university initially. So the writer assumed that as the student was asking for tutorials that they were a member of staff rather than a student.

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  4. What a fantastic ethical dilemma to debate. And if you take it further it raises all sorts of questions about what rights authors have over their work once it has been paid for by a third party.

    I disagree with the stance you have taken here, as it avoids the issue. I would hate to have to do it but I would have a conversation with the client to explain my concerns and request an agreement in writing that shows under what terms you are releasing the work to them. Then if there is any comeback for plagiarism you are covered and not complicit.

    Of course you’ll lose that client – and possibly others too. Sad fact of freelance life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you touched upon, one issue with preventing the student from using the work for what he intends to use it for is the fact that he could give bad feedback about the writer, which is turn will cause a loss of reputation and possible loss of custom dependent on where the student discovered and hired the freelance writer from.

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  5. I am sharing my response before reading the other comments, so as to avoid getting influenced.
    I would take the money and hand over the report. It is unethical of him to do that, but once the money has exchanged hands , the rights remain with him so it is his choice how he uses the content.
    I recently had someone offer me a writing gig (two separate occasions) and we were fortunately in the earlier stages of discussions, when it came to my understanding that both gig were for ghost writing. I told them I wouldn’t be interested in ghost writing and they understood. No hard feelings. and no deal was signed. Both parties went separate ways. But had the deal been done, then I would have honoured it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An interesting dilemma, to say the least. Although I would certainly try to go along with the original (verbal) agreement between client and me, I would find it hard to go along with the client’s use of the materials, even after I was paid. I’m afraid I’d have to pull completely out of the deal, keep my own hard work as mine, and be more careful in the future. (Easier said then done, I suppose!):-)

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  7. Thank you for this post. I too am in “boot camp” and find it hard to find post I disagree with. I follow people I like to read. If I didn’t agree with them I don’t read them. You pose an interesting question. What to do with a deceitful “employer” who will take credit for your work. I would imagine there would be something in writing when you took the job to lay out who would be credited for the work. However in the case of this situation it really becomes about if your morals can be bought.

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  8. I think I would disagree with your stance here 🙂 ..I would request a change in agreement with the client thats covers the terms under which you release your work ..depending on my relationship with the client I will deal with him accordingly for the agreement ..not just give away my work as it is important for a writer to protect his intellectual property…am going to follow your blog 🙂

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  9. You have done the work, completed your part of the contract, so take the money and give him the product. We are not responsible for the actions of others and you do not even know what use he will make of this. If his dissertation is eventually published and you recognize your work being passed off as his, then you have a choice to make.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think that I would complete the contract and add a caveat as I handed over the product stating that in the change of circumstances I reserve the right to publish the works myself and then do that on a blog or similar (perhaps with some of the back story attached). Then the client knows that you are taking steps to protect your reputation and also making them take the decision to plagiarize anyway knowing the the work has already been published.

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  11. Another point to consider is the sunk cost fallacy. This states that past events shouldn’t affect future decisions. In this case the three weeks work Is the sunk cost. If you were offered a sum of money for assisting someone to cheat would you take it? Probably not. So why does three weeks work in the past change your decision now? You have done the work regardless of whether you take the money or not, so it would be illogical to let it affect your decision.

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  12. This is a good scenario with a dilemma.
    I would hand over the work and receive my pay. I will warn the student if he didn’t cite where he got the work from I will go to the PhD committee and tell them that his dissertation was plagiarized. I will follow up to see if he did the right thing….

    Liked by 1 person

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