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March 2009 - By Frank Kurz

Please note that this item expresses some opinions of the author and are not necessarily those of the association.

Would you work for (or with) a company with the knowledge that a version of their newly updated website consisted entirely of material stolen from other companies engaged in the same industry?  Stolen is a harsh word, but borrowed (while much less harsh sounding) also implies that the material was provided through a process involving contact, negotiation and agreement, which is not the case here.

A well respected, locally based marketing agency provided the html markup which, as most individuals now know, is the code which makes a website appear on your screen in a format that strives to be appealing, has visual impact, and is simple to navigate.  I have no issues with either the appearance or the navigation on this particular website (I also won’t provide a link to it directly).  I can honestly state that most web designers don’t have the specific knowledge or skill set to be able to present subjects like real estate, financial management or rocket construction (to name a few examples) in any meaningful manner, but rely instead on the honesty and integrity of the customer that employs them to provide the necessary information.

So how should an independent marketing consultant's role in all this figure?  Should they have ensured that the material they were given to work with was uniquely created and was not the copyright or intellectual property of another?  If your answer is yes, put yourself in their shoes for a minute.  How would you go about confirming such an assertion?  If the agency employs the use of a written contract with specific clauses covering the design and content to be used, then the company (or individual) that supplied the bogus content would be in breach of that agreement.  One would hope that the marketing agency would respond to such a breach with a public press release disavowing any knowledge and making it clear that they are severing all present and future relations.  What about the harm done to their reputation though?

And where does the offender's ISP figure?  Most Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) have a “Terms of Service” agreement (TOS) that specifically precludes the use of copyrighted material unless it is your own or you have clear rights to its use.  I don’t know how this will all play out in the legal arena if this issue even makes it that far (the offending material has been removed as of February 28, 2009 and the website displays an under construction banner), but I do know this:  I wouldn’t work for a company that stooped to this level, nor would I have any dealings with them regardless of what they offered in payment or services.

It is a sad day when the management of a business has to resort to this kind of chicanery to promote a set of corporate values that are not even their own.  In fact, all that they have managed to demonstrate is their distinct lack of corporate citizenship, integrity, and ethics.  Their actions deserve nothing less than the harshest public censure.

UPDATE:  December 15, 2009 - September's Tech-News revealed the name of the company which this article references as Active Fire and Safety Services Ltd., of Surrey, British Columbia.  Their website has been re-launched.




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March, 2009

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