Specific Illegal or Unethical Requests
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Creating quality content takes time and effort. Believe me, I know. :) Some webmasters don’t want to write their own material, nor pay a real writer to create it for them. So they take short-cuts by hiring “article spinners”. These “writers” (to use the term loosely) take existing articles and rearrange the words and sentences just enough so that the result looks unique, even though it contains no original thought whatsoever. The goal is to avoid showing up on plagiarizing-check services like Copyscape, and hopefully get a high search engine ranking.
Whether this is technically copyright violation seems to be controversial. That it is unethical and not anything a real writer should do, is in my opinion, pretty obvious.
Requests for clones of popular websites show up on freelancing sites daily. There’s certainly nothing wrong with borrowing smart ideas, of course, but it is it of dubious ethicality to clone the entire appearance and/or functionality of a successful website. These projects nearly always have laughable budgets as well: there are people who actually think that they can create a duplicate of eBay for $200.
Ironically, one of the most common targets of these clone projects are the freelancing sites themselves. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen “make a copy of Elance.com” listed on Elance.com.
Theft of images is rampant on the Web. As a photographer with his own gallery site for many years, I am often dismayed to find that my images have been taken without permission and duplicated in sometimes dozens of places, without even the courtesy of crediting me. And as bad as this is for artistic images, it is even worse for commercial photography and illustration: companies routinely steal large quantities of product photos and other images to use on their own sites.
One way that companies combat this is through the use of watermarks: small images or lines of text embossed across the images that identify the original source of the work. This gives credit to the actual owner of the image, and discourages theft, especially in a commercial context. Consider that the owner of OurWidgetsRAwesome.com will think twice about using widget photos that have “AwesomeWidgetsRUs.com” emblazoned across them.
Well, if the guy who runs OurWidgetsRAwesome.com is really unwilling to get his own widget shots, he has another option: hire a freelancer to try to edit the watermarks out of the other site’s photos. The end result is usually pretty awful, but people do it anyway.
Companies looking to have this done will of course not openly admit that they are stealing images. There is always a story behind it, such as “we changed ownership” or “it’s our new site name” or “my dog ate the source files”. I’m sure some of these stories are even true, but most are not, and I don’t think it’s worth taking the risk by helping out on such projects.
Another abuse of watermark removal comes from clients trying to get free work out of freelancers. They’ll take a sample that has been watermarked by a freelancer to prevent the work from being stolen, and then hire someone else to remove the watermark. They will always claim that they paid for the work but that they can’t find the source file. Again, you can’t assume they are lying about this, but a large percentage of them are.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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