I was contacted last week by the owner of a well-regarded training program for Virtual Assistants. The owner is not a Virtual Assistant themselves, but rather is an expert with an extensive background and expertise in the thing they are teaching (exactly as it should be). It had come to this program owner’s attention via a Google Alert that a new Virtual Assistant training/certification organization was offering a course with the exact same curriculum. What was particularly disturbing to the owner of this well-respected, well-known training program is that:
- The listed instructor for the course at the new training organization is a current student of this program owner.
- This student/instructor is taking material from this program owner’s course and converting it to hers.
- This new training organization is charging $150 per class, so the four class series is priced at $600, almost exactly what the original program owner charges, which would lead people to believe they are getting something of value taught by an expert.
The student-all-of-a-sudden-turned-instructor in question is a new Virtual Assistant with no background or experience in the course she is now teaching. What is also interesting is that the owner of the new training organization has posted in online forums that she would never pay anyone to learn this thing her own training organization is how offering and charging for; she would instead do her own research and teach herself… the underlying sentiment seeming to be that she begrudges anyone charging for training and she presumably thinks they should be doing it for free. Funny how her thinking has miraculously changed now that it is her own pockets the money goes into.
The program owner who contacted me about this is not only disturbed that this Virtual Assistant would take material in this way, but also concerned that unfortunate students won’t realize they are learning from someone who is not an expert, but has only taken a course–in fact, hasn’t even finished it at this point. It appears the owner of the new training program didn’t bother to do any due diligence in hiring this instructor to ensure that students were being provided something of value. One can’t help but wonder what other instructors were indiscriminately hired without any regard to background, qualification or expertise, and whether might they be using another person’s intellectual property as well.
Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident. I know of several instances where this exact same thing has happened. Besides the dishonesty and stealing, what also bothers me is seeing new VAs who haven’t achieved any level of success or experience and expertise in their own businesses turning around and selling crap to their colleagues. Why is it, I wonder, they can’t just concentrate on their own businesses? My guess is because it’s not easy growing a business and God forbid they should have to <gasp> actually work hard at anything.
So anyway, this got me to thinking about how much people understand about intellectual property. Even outside of that, are there any basic principles of right and wrong that folks easily identify here? What do you think?