Plagiarism, Qualification and Intellectual Property Fraud

Front Page Looking For… Training Service Providers Plagiarism, Qualification and Intellectual Property Fraud

This topic contains 8 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  sylvia hammond 9 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #69448

    sylvia hammond

    When economic times are tough, and jobs are few, there are many temptations to cheat.

    Students will know about plagiarism – when you are writing a paper, an article or a thesis and you use someone else’s words, you need to put the words in brackets and state the original author of the words.
    Qualification and Intellectual Property fraud usually takes place in the workplace and related businesses.

    First qualification fraud. There have been a number of media reports of people getting into employment by using a fake qualification. The sellers of the fake qualification are committing fraud, and the buyer risks being found out – and losing their job. If they are publicly named and shamed, they risk their entire future career. The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) will now be playing a major role in checking qualifications.

    Now Intellectual Property fraud. This is of major interest to the skills-universe community. In order for training and skills development providers to deliver on their contracts, they use material, which has been developed especially for the qualification they are offering. Most often the material has been developed by a developer, and the provider pays to purchase the material.

    Where does intellectual property fraud come in? When the seller of the material has no right to the material, when the seller has just copied material that someone else has developed. The original developer owns the rights to the material they developed – they own the copyright. Nobody else has the right to take over, or use, or sell the material – without the specific permission of the original developer.

    What are the consequences of intellectual property fraud? The seller who has sold material without permission may be sued by the copyright owner – the seller may have to pay penalties and all the legal costs – not only their own, but also all of the legal costs of the person who has been cheated.

    How do you know if the seller has the right to sell the material? That is difficult, but if the material is very much cheaper than other quotes that would be something to be concerned about. Asking questions about the content to see whether the seller really understands the content might indicate that they are not the developer.
    Definitely get a written undertaking that the material has been developed by them, or that they have permission to sell the material – so that if you find out that they have committed intellectual property fraud, that would be part of your evidence presented in court.

    From a skills-universe perspective, if it is brought to our attention that one of our members has committed intellectual property fraud, and is selling the material to our community, we will immediately delete the member and block them from returning.

    So the questions for skills-universe members:
    • Are you aware of anyone selling material that they have no right to,
    • Have you purchased material that you are not sure about, and might be using someone else’s material
    • How do you go about checking whether the seller has the copyright to sell the material?

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  • #69453

    Terrence Coombes

    “From a skills-universe perspective, if it is brought to our attention that one of our members has committed intellectual property fraud, and is selling the material to our community, we will immediately delete the member and block them from returning.”… I absolutely agree on this action, however, I feel we should be acting a little more vigorous.

    As a suggestion; would it not be better for the industry to “name and shame” such organizations/individuals? After all, these materials are not only offered on the Skills Universe platform but on others (OLX, Gumtree etc) too. So when a possible client is searching for materials, all possible actions can be taken to inform people of the quality offering this individual or organization delivers.

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  • #69457

    Tass Schwab

    Ah, Sylvia, a topic close to my heart. We recently had an incident that had one of our Clients and our Development team (that we are Agents for) uncover an entire den of thieves. Our Development team discovered that their QCTO Material was being re-sold by some of the purchasers!

    It takes a lot of money to develop a Qualification and especially the QCTO ones that are recent. So how do you spot a problem?

    1.Ask for Samples, if they are the same from a number of Quotes, ask why.
    2.Always ask for an SLA with the Development Team.
    3. Ask if it has been accredited before and if proof of this can be sent.
    4.Really cheap material may be a red flag (it is a free market but a QCTO Qualification that is super cheap, question this) Just like you shop around for the best car, be careful what you are buying, it could really be voetstoets!
    5. Check to see how long the Agent (such as us) or Developer has been in the business. This is a good indicator that they are not in this for the money but the love!
    6. If they say they are selling Accredited Material, they are lying. The accreditation processes of the SETAs are linked to the individual training providers and the training provider’s Quality Management System, rollout plans, etc. We can therefore only supply you with “Accreditation Ready” material and we undertake to correct the material to meet the requirements of the various SETAs, as the training provider goes through the accreditation process and receives feedback from the SETA verifier.(this is quoted directly from one of the Development companies that act as agents for)
    7. Ask around, ask other people what they think of the Developers that you are purchasing from. There are many ethical practitioners here, seek them out.

    And finally, consider the bigger picture here. You have the livelihood of many people at stake here. They are sitting in your classroom hoping to make a difference to their lives. Care where it has come from, and care about how you are spending your money.

    Thank you for raising this topic Sylvia. I am looking forward to reading other peoples experiences, and advice.

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  • #69475

    sylvia hammond

    Thank you Tass – I think that we should develop your guidance into a file that can be added to the Helpdesk section. We could do it with a policy statement – as suggested below.

    Terrence – thank you for those suggestions.

    I would like to discuss with our Portal Publishing CEO Alan before confirming our policy on your suggestions, and then we should publish a policy statement on how we will react.

    My first thoughts are that I don’t think as Portal Publishing we should be taking those actions. However, in terms of the new SAQA guidelines, I think that we would be obliged to report the names and contact details to the QCTO and to SAQA, and they have the status to take the matter forward with legal or other actions of blacklisting, etc.

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  • #69477

    Hello Sylvia,

    Thank you for this post. I am taking a very hardline on this and I am leaving no stone unturned. I have made formal Police Charges against two providers who are possibly selling other Developers’ Intellectual Property and re-selling it in a very Fraudulent manner as well.

    I’ve went to extreme lengths to find the Source Developers and received written affidavits from them, confirming that the alleged transgressors have had no legal right to “re-sell” the material.

    I have further more also located all the businesses that procured the very same material and they too have been implicated and named within my SAPS declarations. It is my opinion that they too have possibly not followed due diligence in confirming authenticity and ownership of the source learning material, and they are quite a few!

    I will allow the SAPS investigation to run its course and I am pursuing these matters to the full extend of the law. One of the “alleged” guilty parties made an effort to “run”, and I therefor published all his personal details on my own website with a reward of R10 000 to his location and whereabouts. He then very quickly re-appeared with dozens of excuses, and what bothers me the most that he works for one of the SETA’s. He also then implicated his source of the material and I have laid formal charges against them as well.

    The 2nd implicated person/ company was quick to respond with a “Accreditation Letter” from the QCTO,. The QCTO is possibly also indicated in this process and the charges spell out their OVERSIGHT role and accountability in the process of accreditation of providers and learning material.

    It is unacceptable that material”possibly” “passed” QCTO verification without them “possibly” not have verified the ownership of the material nor possibly not having reviewed the currency, and authenticity of the material. The 2nd implicated provider sells the material for 100’s of thousand of rand. This is FRAUD and not only theft of Intellectual Property. I will refrain from posting their details here until the Legal System has run its course.

    I am further taking it to the extreme and starting a Youtube Channel where everyone can join in and report these “corrupt fraudsters”. I will publicly name and shame them and ensure that not one of them will ever find a job nor run a business in this industry again. I am furious and this has happened once too many times now!

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  • #69480

    Tando Qeqe

    Kindred spirits

    The buying of learning material is a scary stuff. I also heard that even SETA staff members sell the applicant material to other people at a fee.

    My take is, SETAs must develop their own learning material for standardisation, as that will save lot of time in accreditation process, instead of to & fro in remedial work. I know that LM Developers will lose business when LM is made available by SETAs. The opportunity for LMD shall be to develop additional content for those who wont comfortable with SETA LM.

    Further, another rumour is Material Developers also have a relationship with SETAs so that their learning material get preference over others also at a fee.

    I fully support Pierre approach of involvement of SAPS to avoid litigation as plagiarism & fraud are legal.

    Now we have 2 wrongs on the table.

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  • #69482

    sylvia hammond

    Thank you Pierre and Tando.

    May I ask you please – if you have names of skills-universe members, who are involved, that you please email me at

    I have received other private email information, and will be discussing with our CEO Alan in the week on our way forward. So any additional information will enable us to make comparison on whether it is the same people involved, or more widespread.

    I have two questions please:

    • With regard to Pierre’s point on the QCTO and SETA need for verification of the source of the material – how exactly does one go about verifiying the originator of the material?
    • Would it be advisable for material developers to become accredited by the QCTO – for example – on the basis that all the SETA QA responsibilities are expected to move back to the QCTO?

    I would welcome everyone’s thoughts on these questions.

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  • #69488

    Simphiwe Mdikane

    Greetings esteemed and respectable colleagues.

    Now we are finally talking! I am an LMD myself and not once have any potential client accepted my quote. At first I thought I was over-pricing, but when I saw the prices that go for a full qualification, I thought to myself there is no way that a full qualification can be worth that little. Now I know why they are so cheap, they are probably stolen.

    1. The first point I would like to bring to the fore is that there is no such a thing as “accredited learning material”. SETAs do not accredit LM but they can approve it if it is US-aligned;
    2. On @sylviahammond question, it very difficult for any SETA or QCTO to verify the source of the LM. The best they can do when purchasing LM from a Provider is to obtain a sworn affidavit that they are sole owners and originators;
    3. @pierrewepener, it is a noble course you have taken on all of our behalf and you should be fully supported on this endeavor. I am thinking though, in the meantime, to protect those of us that buy LM from providers, may you should mention the case numbers with the providers linked to them. That would not be a defamation as I feel that is what you are trying to avoid. A case number will a statement of fact and until such time that the company gets cleared, then we will be able to avoid doing business with these individuals or entities. The fact that you have a case against them will not make them stop. Instead, they will change their names and continue ripping us off. Some of us we put ourselves in these positions by buying cheap ripped-off LM just to save a Rand. Once the case has been concluded and the individual or entity is found guilty, then we can publicize them on the name and shame list.
    4. @tassschwab, I like your guidelines, especially asking about the preview of the content. A content developer will know where a topic is addressed in their LM.
    5. I think I saw an advert right here on the Universe selling “Accredited LMDs” and I wanted to question it, but it skipped my mind. I will bring it to your attention once it appears again or if they send me a mail. They will have to be confronted because they are misinforming the public.

    PS. On a side note, about the IP fraud. What action can one take when they receive LM from a SETA but it is not aligned to what they want to do? Can one modify the LM and just give it a next revision number? Most of the LM coming from the SETAs is beyond awful. There is no way that a professional training establishment can utilize some of those LMs.

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  • #69503

    sylvia hammond

    Hi Simphiwe,
    Thank you for your very interesting posting.

    This issue of material development has been the biggest source of problems since we started with skills-universe. The only other issue that comes up between members is to do with payment for services – but very far behind.

    The recent posting on accredited material I also noticed – QCTO has made it very clear – there is no such thing.

    I like your idea that each document of training material should contain an undertaking of the owners and/or originators, or that they have the rights to sell the material.

    Yes, I also like Tass’ guidelines – I think we should develop into a standard file.

    I cannot speak for the SETA material – I would ask the question of the SETA involved.

    Finally, I am writing to both the SAQA and QCTO CEOs on this matter. I will communicate the response.

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