Last year, I worked for an organization that published a weekly blog on its website. The blog was also published as a newspaper column and was included in a weekly e-newsletter.

One day, the owner/director of the organization, who regularly wrote for the blog, asked me to write an article on a topic of my choice. He explained that the majority of the articles written for the blog were by him, and that he was interested in the diversifying the pool of writers. I agreed to write and chose a topic which had to do with my other activities at this organization. On the day before the submission deadline I sent a draft of the article to the boss who was also functioning as the editor for the blog. To be honest my submission was a little short compared to the articles that had been previously published. I was expecting some feedback, but instead, the next day, I found out that the boss has almost completely rewritten the article, with only a couple of paragraphs from the original.

My reaction was to ask him to include himself as a co-author. However, he said that since the article was about me and that it was written in the first person that he did not want to include himself as a coauthor. So the article was published on the blog, as a column in a newspaper, and was sent as part of a newsletter to people on a mailing list, many of whom are acquaintances.

I have since left the organization, but this incident still lingers and does not sit well with me.

My question for the community here is - what would have been the correct course of action? Is it plagiarism if the editor rewrites an article without including himself as a co-author? Should he have indicated some kind of co-authorship?

Many thanks.


There were multiple proper courses of action.

1) Refuse to let him publish it under your name, and retract permission to use the paragraphs you wrote. You did not write it, it was a first person narrative and not your words, publishing it under your name could be considered libel, attributing words and thoughts to you that were not your own.

2) Insist on a rewrite of the article by you using some of his suggestions, but putting it in words you can agree with as your own, as the first person narrator.

3) A weak option, but insist on co-authorship with an explanation; "Based on incidents related to [editor] by [you]"

I would try (2) then resort to (1) if refused (2). You have to have backbone, even if it causes a rift between you and a publisher or editor or agent. A first person article opens you up to charges of libel against others, and may damage your professional reputation, or cost you future jobs.


Your question is pure gold! Based on the information you have provided - you have no recourse. (Especially as you were employed and therefore remunerated).

The beauty of your question is that you have posted it on a site that allows editing of your work by "anybody".

I could edit your original question to say, "Donald Trump ate my Chihuahua - is that legal?"

The question would still have your name attached to it - who knew?

In the 'real world' authors are required to 'sign off' on edits for legal reasons. In this instance, should Trump sue you because it wasn't a Chihuahua - it was a Gerbil and it didn't belong to you, you would have no defence as you approved the final copy.

  • 4
    You do know that people can roll back edits they disagree with, right? So you could do that, but it would just get rolled back again. – F1Krazy Nov 24 '19 at 0:38
  • 1
    @F1Krazy There would also be a clear edit record showing that the words in question were in fact added by someone who was not the OP. – JMac Nov 26 '19 at 18:25

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