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beth_reed
Community Member

Unethical "client"

Hello!

I received an opportunity to edit some trial documents, then the client would decide if they wanted to keep me on or not. I signed an NDA/Work Agreement that states: "The Editor agrees to produce the Work, which includes writing, editing and proofreading articles and publishing and sharing the Work at the request of the Client by an agreed upon deadline. Editor agrees that he/she will be the sole creator of the Work, which will be original work by the Editor, free of plagiarism."

I was sent four previously written articles to edit. I edited all of them and sent them back to the client. I was then asked to upload one of the edited articles to their website. When I did, I noticed that it gave me the attribution for the article. I did not write the article. I told the client I was not comfortable with that because the author should be attributed to the article and that it was unethical for me to post someone else's article as my own. I was then told to create a pseudonym and upload the article. I informed the client that doing that didn't change anything. I was then given someone else's login and password and told to upload the article using that. I repeated to the client that my posting someone else's work under my name (or anyone else's)  is unethical and I won't do it and to please take my name off their list of potential editors. I then got an email that says they have ghostwriters, they own the copyrights for the articles, and to publish the rest of the articles immediately. The whole interaction stinks of shady and unethical behavior, and I feel like I'm now being bullied into publishing the articles on their website. I have subsequently withdrawn my proposal.

I never received any compensation for any of the work I did. I have the whole email conversation if someone needs it.

How do I let Upwork know about this client? Am I wrong and this is normal behavior?

Thank you!

16 REPLIES 16
petra_r
Community Member

On Upwork, once a client has paid for an article (!) they own it and can publish it under their own name or under a pseudonym. It is theirs to do with as they please, the writer has given them all rights (unless they have made other arrangements in advance.)

 

That said, you should not have done any free editing. Asking for free work as part of the recruitment process is a violation of Upwork's terms of service. You can report the client by using the "flag as inappropriate" button on the job post.

 

But the client publishing articles they paid for on Upwork under whatever name they please (not yours without your permission, obviously) is their right.

 

Hi Petra,

 

That makes sense. Then I guess my question becomes how do I know the writer gave them rights and/or that the client does actually own the articles? I have no idea where these articles came from or who wrote them. It took the client a LONG time to say they have ghostwriters when he should have just started with that, which contributed to the whole thing seeming shady and unethical. Was it unreasonable for me to think that things weren't quite legitimate?

 

The $5 payment would be paid out after all four articles are published. The Work Agreement states "(The Client), will make payment for the services rendered by The Editor for the aforementioned Work after the project is completed. Should the Editor fail to complete the Work or fail to adhere to reasonable deadlines, the Editor will not be paid." Honestly, I'm fine with not getting paid; the whole thing still seems a bit shady to me and I'm not comfortable with it.


Elizabeth R wrote:

 

That makes sense. Then I guess my question becomes how do I know the writer gave them rights and/or that the client does actually own the articles? I have no idea where these articles came from or who wrote them.


To be honest, that really isn't your problem.

 


Elizabeth R wrote:

 

It took the client a LONG time to say they have ghostwriters when he should have just started with that,


Why? When you take a coat to be altered, do you expect an interrogation of whether you own the coat and have the right to have the waist taken in? No? There you go.

If you are asked to edit a text, you edit a text. Who wrote it is nothing to do with you.

 


Elizabeth R wrote:

 

The $5 payment would be paid out after all four articles are published.


Don't do work without a contract (an **UPWORK** contract, not some random nonsense "work agreement") - without an Upwork contract the client could not pay you even if they wanted to. Not via Upwork anyway.

 


Petra R wrote:

Elizabeth R wrote:

 

That makes sense. Then I guess my question becomes how do I know the writer gave them rights and/or that the client does actually own the articles? I have no idea where these articles came from or who wrote them.


To be honest, that really isn't your problem.

 


Well, it certainly would have been her problem had the article been published under her name, which the client originally tried to do. It does sound like they're just stealing articles from who knows where, editing them slightly, and publishing them as original content. I wouldn't want to participate in anything like that if I were her. 

 

To the OP - this client was shady from the start, even before you noticed the attribution. They asked you to work for free, they wanted you to work outside of Upwork, and they only wanted to pay you $1.25 per article. Don't work for clients like that.


Christine A wrote:


 It does sound like they're just stealing articles from who knows where, editing them slightly, and publishing them as original content.


I doubt it. They are not having stuff re-written or spun, editing does not "un-plagiarize" an article and their "work contract" is designed for writers and just had the word "editor" swapped in for "writer"

 


Christine A wrote:


To be honest, that really isn't your problem.


Well, it certainly would have been her problem had the article been published under her name, which the client originally tried to do.

Sure, I did point that out. But it is normal practice for clients to publish the articles they pay for under their names or some made up name. Much to most of the stuff on the web isn't written by the person whose name is attached to it...

 

I totally agree that the client is a deadbeat, but I don't want the OP to start questioning every new client she gets about the legality of the texts she is given to edit.

 


Petra R wrote:

Christine A wrote:


 It does sound like they're just stealing articles from who knows where, editing them slightly, and publishing them as original content.


I doubt it. They are not having stuff re-written or spun, editing does not "un-plagiarize" an article and their "work contract" is designed for writers and just had the word "editor" swapped in for "writer"

 


Well, I'm not sure about that - a lot of clients on Upwork do seem to think that if you take somebody else's design or article or website and change it slightly, that does "unplagiarize" it. You know more about these things than I do, but why would the client want to attribute the article to the editor and not to its original author, if everything was above-board?

 


Christine A wrote:

 


Well, I'm not sure about that - a lot of clients on Upwork do seem to think that if you take somebody else's design or article or website and change it slightly, that does "unplagiarize" it. You know more about these things than I do, but why would the client want to attribute the article to the editor and not to its original author, if everything was above-board?

 


He didn't. He asked her to upload it in WordPress, so he made her an account and told her to upload it. She was being a pain, so he just gave her another username so that she would just do it. The only reason her name was going to be on it is because he gave her an account to use with her name on it. It's a totally normal thing to do. The client got stuck with a noob and I am surprised he was patient and didn't just fire her and do it himself.


Jennifer M wrote:


He didn't. He asked her to upload it in WordPress, so he made her an account and told her to upload it. She was being a pain, so he just gave her another username so that she would just do it. The only reason her name was going to be on it is because he gave her an account to use with her name on it. It's a totally normal thing to do. The client got stuck with a noob and I am surprised he was patient and didn't just fire her and do it himself.


1. Your statement that "He asked her to upload it in WordPress, so he made her an account and told her to upload it" is absolutely incorrect. Not a single thing you said in that is true.

2. Every job I've ever had is adamant about never sharing logins and passwords.

3. Yes, I am new to this freelance thing. Everyone was a noob at the beginning of whatever they do, even you, and it's all a learning process. A little empathy, understanding, and CONSTRUCTIVE criticism go a long way.

4. There is no Upwork contract. This was a trial for him to evaluate my editing skills (which he's perfectly happy with, by the way). So since I was never actually hired (or paid), I can't be fired.

5. After hearing what a couple of people here said, and also chatting with a friend that's in the industry this job is in, I'm standing by my original position that things don't seem above board. It's been drilled into me that publishing someone else's work under your own name is unethical. I'd much rather err on the side of caution and not get blindsided with a plagiarism lawsuit.


Elizabeth R wrote:

Jennifer M wrote:


He didn't. He asked her to upload it in WordPress, so he made her an account and told her to upload it. She was being a pain, so he just gave her another username so that she would just do it. The only reason her name was going to be on it is because he gave her an account to use with her name on it. It's a totally normal thing to do. The client got stuck with a noob and I am surprised he was patient and didn't just fire her and do it himself.


1. Your statement that "He asked her to upload it in WordPress, so he made her an account and told her to upload it" is absolutely incorrect. Not a single thing you said in that is true.

2. Every job I've ever had is adamant about never sharing logins and passwords.

3. Yes, I am new to this freelance thing. Everyone was a noob at the beginning of whatever they do, even you, and it's all a learning process. A little empathy, understanding, and CONSTRUCTIVE criticism go a long way.

4. There is no Upwork contract. This was a trial for him to evaluate my editing skills (which he's perfectly happy with, by the way). So since I was never actually hired (or paid), I can't be fired.

5. After hearing what a couple of people here said, and also chatting with a friend that's in the industry this job is in, I'm standing by my original position that things don't seem above board. It's been drilled into me that publishing someone else's work under your own name is unethical. I'd much rather err on the side of caution and not get blindsided with a plagiarism lawsuit.


This was not the focus of your original question but I'm chiming in because you're new to UW and may not be aware of this as a problem. Did the client ask you to do an unpaid trial? If so, that was a violation of the ToS. In such an instance, it's fine to give the client the benefit of the doubt and tell them it's not allowed, and offer to provide sample work under a small paid contract. If they refuse that and insist on a free sample, you should report them. Or you can just report them anyway.

 

If you offered to do sample work for free, that's not forbidden but it's not good practice because it trains clients to expect they can get work done without paying for it, taking advantage of FLs who are desperate to win contracts. (An exception would be when you're pitching a large, juicy contract with a client who's definitely legit, and it's worth your while to invest time/energy on spec.)


Phyllis G wrote:


This was not the focus of your original question but I'm chiming in because you're new to UW and may not be aware of this as a problem. Did the client ask you to do an unpaid trial? If so, that was a violation of the ToS. In such an instance, it's fine to give the client the benefit of the doubt and tell them it's not allowed, and offer to provide sample work under a small paid contract. If they refuse that and insist on a free sample, you should report them. Or you can just report them anyway.

 

It was not an unpaid trial. I would edit 4 articles and get paid $5 once they were complete. It was a trial in the sense that future work was dependent on how I did with those 4 articles. And theoretically, the future articles would pay more than $1.25 each. 


Elizabeth R wrote:

Phyllis G wrote:


 

It was not an unpaid trial. I would edit 4 articles and get paid $5 once they were complete. It was a trial in the sense that future work was dependent on how I did with those 4 articles. And theoretically, the future articles would pay more than $1.25 each. 


If the client did not hire you, it was an unpaid trial, no matter which way you spin it.

 


Elizabeth R wrote:


 

4. There is no Upwork contract. This was a trial for him to evaluate my editing skills (which he's perfectly happy with, by the way). So since I was never actually hired (or paid), I can't be fired.

 


lolol this was the best of all your points! "I'm NOT GETTING PAID YOU IDIOT HAHAHA U R WRONG HE CAN'T FIRE ME I HAVE NO CONTRACT HAHAHAHA"

 

lolol I got a good chuckle.


Christine A wrote:


Well, I'm not sure about that - a lot of clients on Upwork do seem to think that if you take somebody else's design or article or website and change it slightly, that does "unplagiarize" it.

 


No, it does not, and nobody who bothers hiring an editor would pay to have stolen articles destroy their ranking. Edited stolen stuff does not pass copyscape.

 


Christine A wrote:

why would the client want to attribute the article to the editor and not to its original author, if everything was above-board?

 

The client likely uses cheap third world writers and has no idea which one wrote what, and I am sure Jennifer hits it on the head.

 

 

Thank you Petra and Christine.

 

The way the client explained it to me was that they only use Upwork to hold the escrow for payment. Good to know that's not how things are supposed to be done.

 

Last question: I've made it clear to the client that I don't want to do that work for them and they're getting really pushy about it. How do I make it MORE clear that I want out and obviously do not expect to get paid?

 

Yay learning experiences! ๐Ÿ™‚


Elizabeth R wrote:

 

Last question: I've made it clear to the client that I don't want to do that work for them and they're getting really pushy about it. How do I make it MORE clear that I want out and obviously do not expect to get paid?


Were you hired or not?

If you weren't hired, just stop responding and block him

 

roverup
Community Member

Contact Upwork support directly if youโ€™re having issues? They are pretty responsive.
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