Ethical Standard Deep Dive: Standard 9

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Throughout the month of October, members of the AFP Ethics Committee will be addressing each of the standards in our Code of Ethics. Janice Gow Pettey, Ed.D. offers commentary on Standard 9.

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Standard 9: Members shall refrain from knowingly infringing the intellectual property rights of other parties at all times.

Janice: In an age where information is readily available online, it is more important than ever to ensure that we honor and attribute the intellectual property rights of other parties. Intellectual property can take a variety of forms—trademarks, copyrighted works, graphs, research, illustrations, etc.

The ethical challenge occurs when someone claims another party’s intellectual property as their own. This represents infringement of intellectual property regardless of whether the act is intentional or an inadvertent failure to research the creator or owner of intellectual property. In the fundraising world, infringement of intellectual property could include using excerpts from books/written works about the fundraising profession written by someone else and claiming them as your own, replicating another party’s live or online fundraising training session without obtaining prior permission and providing attribution, and/or trying to sell fundraising software or other tools that you claim are your own when they are, in fact, owned (and designed) by someone else.  

At the heart of infringement is the prohibition on taking credit for something that took the intellectual property’s owner immense time, effort, and ingenuity to develop. Therefore, to comply with the AFP Code of Ethics, provide proper attribution and/or obtain appropriate permission prior to using another party’s intellectual property. In the event that an inadvertent infringement occurs, it is imperative to immediately stop using the infringed property and either provide notice of infringement or obtain permission from the owning party.


  • Members shall address and rectify any inadvertent infringement that may occur.
  • Members shall not engage in plagiarism and shall ensure that all materials which they prepare and/or present are original creations, or that the member has appropriate approval of the author/owner to use the material.
  • Members respect all copyrights.
  • Members shall provide appropriate remedy when inadvertent infringement of the intellectual property rights of others occurs, where such IP rights can reasonably be asserted.
  • Members shall adhere to any timelines and/or limitations for usage of intellectual property granted by owner.
  • Members shall not claim ownership of intellectual property when they know that such property is owned by another individual or entity.

Examples of Ethical Behavior

  1. Attributing discussion, analysis, presentations, illustrations, graphs, research, conclusions, and any other intellectual property to the owner(s).
  2. Requiring proof of copyright ownership, or appropriate permission for use, from the authors of written materials used for any purpose.
  3. Upon discovery of inadvertent infringement of intellectual property rights of others, immediately discontinuing use of the infringed property and taking appropriate steps to provide notice of the infringement and/or procure permission from owner for continued use.

Examples of Unethical Behavior

  1. Claiming written or other graphic material to be one’s own when the member knows that is not accurate.
  2. Failing to do the due diligence to learn creator/owner of intellectual property before presenting and/or using and presenting intelligence as own property.
  3. Continued use of intellectual property after agreed-upon timeframe or purpose for usage.
  4. Failure to remove or accurately attribute intellectual property on request of the owner.

Supported by: 
The Claudia A. Looney Fund for Ethics in Fundraising
The Patricia F. Lewis Ethics Endowment Fund

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