Martina Bex is really mad — and with good reason!

Martina Bex, author and owner of the website “The Comprehensible Classroom”, published a “rant” today. She expresses the frustration of (nearly) everyone who has published materials or provided free materials for others to use: seeing her materials published by others without attribution or recompense (for purchased materials). Read her article here –

As Martina points out, this is infringement of copyright. Not only is it illegal, it is unethical.

The problem is, I believe, exacerbated by the digital age. Computers have made it exceedingly simple to copy and paste from one document to another. There is no cost incurred. At least with hard copies there is the issue of cost of materials and time: time spent re-writing a text, cost of paper, glue, photocopying, etc. Both photocopying and digital copying are infringements of the author’s copyright (copy right –> right to copy).

But, someone might object, how is my purchasing a digital text and giving it to a friend different from buying a book and giving it to a friend? It is precisely this: When I buy a book and give it to my friend, I no longer have access to the book. It is a single book, and when I sell it or give it away, it no longer resides in my possession. But (most) people don’t do this with a digital copy. They may do a “digital transfer”, but what they are really doing is making a copy, something they don’t have the right to do. (Don’t forget, it is copy right — right to copy.) They do not lose their access to the text; they cheat the author.

It is even worse when you then present the author’s work as your own, and you compound the problem if you make money or increase your own reputation by doing it. Now, you have not only stolen the material, but you have lied to others about the source, and you have fraudulently misled others about your qualification.

Every one of us needs to act ethically and model ethical behavior to our students. I wonder how many people who present at conferences using other people’s materials without permission or attribution would fail their students for plagiarism? Wow, now we have added a double standard to our list of unethical behaviors.

I take the moral strictures of the Bible quite seriously, but by any set or moral and ethical standards, this is utterly unacceptable. The “Silver Rule”, often attributed to Confucius, admonishes us: “Do not do to others what you don’t want done to you.” The “Golden Rule”, articulated by Jesus of Nazareth, directs us “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Emmanuel Kant gives us the Categorial Imperative: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” Michael Josephson’s Six Pillars of Character remind us of the same thing.

I’m sure Martina and all published authors agree: When tempted to copy or publish someone else’s materials without permission,


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