Wednesday, February 1, 2012

APG Code of Ethics - Part 4

4. Advertise services and credentials honestly, avoiding the use of misleading or exaggerated representations; explain without concealment or misrepresentation all fees, charges, and payment structures; abide by agreements regarding project scope, number of hours, and deadlines and reporting schedules; keep adequate, accessible records of financial and project-specific contacts with the consumer; and refrain from knowingly violating or encouraging others to violate laws and regulations concerning copyright, right to privacy, business finances, or other pertinent subjects.

Number four is the longest of the eight items on the Code of Ethics. I think it is also the easiest to address, particularly because the information provided is already so complete.
Where do you promote your service(s)? On the Internet? In magazines or other publications? Make sure your information is up to date and that you review (and rewrite?) your biographies in the various places where they appear (your press release; the APG and SCCAPG website; your own website, Facebook® page, etc.). Schedule a day to review these things (first day of every month, or whatever is appropriate, depending on your circumstances).
As for the fees and scheduling of projects, it seems obvious to me how this can be handled: have a detailed contract and abide by it. If something changes (e.g., the length of time for the project – and this includes presentations) revise the contract and forward it to the booking agent or client, requesting an initialing of the change. Stay in contact with the person or group that has hired you to provide a service (or product); touch base with any changes you encounter and request that the people hiring you do the same (obviously, you can’t control that). Be specific about what are chargeable items (do you charge for phone conversation time with the client? mileage to and from the speaking venue? etc.). If you offer something for no charge (use of your own projector, a disc of the project findings, etc.), make sure that is also clear so that there are no surprises or unmet expectations.
Regarding the last section, the legal issues, it seems simple. But consider the subtleties: how often have you been asked, in a Q/A after a presentation, about how to accomplish something that you know is against regulations? How do you respond? For example, it is easy to pass it off as a non-issue, if asked if a quote from an old source can be used in a personal genealogy when the author of the original is not accessible. We have a responsibility to educate the people who hire us, who may not be aware of copyright laws and unethical practices in that area, to follow the regulations as mentioned in the last words of item four above. If we don’t inform those who enlist our services, we are guilty of the sin of omission if the hiring entity violates the rules. And, of course, we must be informed about these elements of our profession, including the importance of not lifting the work of other genealogists and claiming it as our own. Get written permissions. Cite sources. But you already know that. Probably the people who need this information are not reading this. Sigh.

Jean Wilcox Hibben, PhD, MA, CG

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