Weekend Rant: Using Others’ Work Without Permission/Attribution (Again)

First, let me say thank you to all of you who call and email me about using my work as a part of your presentation or handouts, whether from FHO or other areas of my professional existence. There are a lot of you who do this and it’s not just the right and legal thing to do, but it’s also deeply gratifying to receive those requests because it makes me feel like the entire profession hasn’t lost its collective mind when it comes to being ethical and professional. That being said, I am seriously tired of finding my work (and the work of my colleagues) online, embedded in other people’s slide decks and presentation handouts without attribution and without asking permission. I have said this before–don’t do it. And yet, once again, this weekend I have found my work in someone else’s presentation, including photographs.

It makes me wonder what the right response is, beyond contacting people directly, which is ideally step #1. The problem is you can’t always tell who the person is behind the plagiarism, because not everything has a person’s name attached, and I don’t feel like I should have to use valuable time obtaining that intel. Which leads me back to the question of the right way to handle this. Do I start calling people out on this sight with links to the offending materials? You know I am anti-shaming if you have heard me lecture or you have read this site for any length of time. Would that be shaming?  Clearly I am frustrated by this, and clearly I am unsure of how to proceed. I would love people’s thoughts on the matter. In the meantime, let me just direct folks to this chapter (PDF), available in its entirety online, that can provide guidelines for ethical public speaking. While it doesn’t specifically site use of others’ images, they would be included in the information on plagiarism.

Here’s something I know to be 100% true: giving credit to other people for their work in your presentation does not make you look less smart. It makes you look more smart and provides a layer of additional credibility besides, as it makes it clear to your audience that there are others in the profession who support your particular position or point, and that your presentation is well-researched.

[Add: the above chapter is: “Ethics in Public Speaking” in S. Lucas The Art of Public Speaking, 11th Ed. McGraw-Hill, 2012]

5 replies on “Weekend Rant: Using Others’ Work Without Permission/Attribution (Again)”


I tried to pull up the pdf you referenced and the site was broken. Could you send in an email.



Recently a person took an entire PP that I had done and gave it as her own. It was a huge disaster becaue she was not familiar enough with the topic to even explain the slides! I don’t mind sharring information, and actually enjoy helping others, however I do understand this problem, albiet I am not sure how to handle it.

Thank you for speaking up about this frustrating topic. I have had the same experience. I am always happy to share my work, with attribution, but I don’t appreciate finding it nested in someone else’s presentation without credit. I have emailed the presenter if that information is available (after I have cooled off a bit), with the assumption of good intentions gone awry. Generally the response has been positive. I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts. Thanks for the resource – I’m going to suggest we discuss it in our staff meeting.

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