FWD: So called writers and intellectual property

Subject: FWD: So called writers and intellectual property
From: Anonymous <anonfwd -at- raycomm -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 10:00:11 -0700 (MST)

Forwarded anonymously on request. Please reply to the
list if you want the original poster to see your message. EJR


On my current contract I am following one of those truly fraudulent,
so-called writers, and I am appalled. Among other projects, I am writing
a series of process documents. Some of the source documents were created
by the previous "technical writer." All are bad. (This is not just my
professional opinion, as if that weren't enough! The client was also
unhappy, but for some reason no one said anything.)

On researching the current process, I realized that the starting
document I had been handed was almost an exact duplicate of a user guide
provided by the software vendor. With the exception of 6 customized
topics/procedures (out of ~200) and a couple of chapters from the
vendor's document that had been omitted from my customer's copy, the
document was identical, only it had been plugged into the customer's
template. Not only that, I found a separate document detailing the
writer's procedure for copying text from the vendor's PDF document into
Word, doing a variety of cleanups, and then copying into Frame.

There is no attribution in the customer's version to indicate that
almost all the content comes from the vendor, no indication at all that
this is not original content generated by the producer of the document.

I spoke to my employer first to let her know what I found. Then I talked
to the customer. She knew this had happened, and knew it probably wasn't
kosher, but she ignored it because it was easier. When I told her quite
firmly that it could not continue, she said, "oh, okay." I told her I
would include the customizations in the separate process document and
that it would refer to the vendor's document for instructions on using
the software. I explained that all current versions of the document
would be destroyed. She was fine with this.

Now, this was no dilemma for me. I pointed out the blatant theft of
intellectual property, proposed a workaround, and that was that. But I
am *furious* with this other writer, who either encouraged the customer
in this approach or at least did not discourage it. I realize that
vendor's of customizable software frequently provide their customers
with rights to modify their documentation. But this is an off-the-shelf
product. And there was no attribution. Plus, this writer spent (based on
the time stamps of the PDF-to-Frame doc and the final output) over a
week laboriously copying and pasting text, then cleaning it up.

The final straw is that I will continue to run into this person on
social occasions (this is completely outside of my control and I will
not forgo the occasions). Should work discussions arise despite my
attempts to avoid them, how do I deal with this person, who engages in
self-promotion as a "senior technical writer"??!!??? Perhaps this is
more a question for Ms. Manners, but how does one deal with this?

I am also curious to know whether others on this list have confronted
similar situations and how they handle them. I have never had any
problem being the intellectual property police on my projects, but being
confronted with and having to fix the results of someone else's lack of
integrity is a new one on me.


Now's a great time to buy RoboHelp! You'll get SnagIt screen capture
software and a $200 onsite training voucher FREE when you buy RoboHelp
Office or RoboHelp Enterprise. Hurry, this offer expires February 28, 2002. www.ehelp.com/techwr

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