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American Association for Public Opinion Research

Protecting against RFP Plagarism

In 2006, several AAPOR members brought a troublesome issue to the attention of the Standards Committee. They submitted a proposal to a client. The client did not fund their proposal, but subsequently took some or all of the study design from the proposal and incorporated it into a new “Request for Proposals” [RFP].

The occurrences of "proposal-to-RFP" plagiarism that have been brought to AAPOR’s attention seem to be done by people who should have known better, but chose to interpret the ambiguity of "who owns the proposal" to their own benefit.

These abuses of intellectual property rights would appear to be covered by existing law. Work that is "fixed" (in this case written and printed on paper or stored in electronic format) and "original" is automatically copyrighted. Although a written copyright notice is no longer required to invoke copyright protection, the AAPOR Standards Committee believes that a written reminder on the cover page of a proposal would help avoid future cases of funding sources using unfunded proposals to revise their RFPs.

The Committee suggests that all AAPOR members submitting funding proposals include something similar to the following language at the bottom of the cover page:

Copyright 2006, Trustees of XYZ University.

The text and ideas contained in this proposal are the original work of the Survey Research Center at XYZ University. Any reproduction, in part or whole, should not be done without permission of the authors.

We feel including a statement of this kind would go a long way toward preventing subsequent,
unauthorized re-use of study designs prepared by AAPOR members.

Thanks to Jim Wolf of IUPUI for preparing this recommendation on behalf of the 2006-07 AAPOR Standards Committee.

Approved for posting by AAPOR Council, January 2007