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Recently I gave a presentation to a team, and on the first slide I used my colleague's ppt template for my introduction. Now she is accusing me of piracy.

Is it wrong to use a general template design from your peer?
I told her that I liked the template and decided to make one like hers. She seemed upset. Is it naïve or a valid point to argue on?
She also has some personal beef with me.

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  • She's complaining about one page in a PPT presentation? How elaborate is that intro page?
    – Barmar
    Aug 10, 2023 at 14:52
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    What does "Now she is accusing me of piracy" mean? Did she just privately confront you to tell you she was upset that you used her work without acknowledging it? Or is she publicly accusing you in front of your colleagues? In any case, an apology, along with a promise to acknowledge her next time, might just be enough to deescalate this situation.
    – Stef
    Aug 10, 2023 at 17:10
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    Also what does "She also have some personal beef with me" mean?
    – Stef
    Aug 10, 2023 at 17:10
  • Based on your comments on answers, I think the question doesn't include significant details. Maybe you could edit this adding some context, specifically from your comment on Rohit's answer that says: "When she accused me I asked her, was it copyrighted? And I also asked her on her take on peer learning, we are graduate engineers and interns in this company, the best we are doing is to learn the best from each other and if I like how she presented it and thought of doing the same, how am I wrong, plus it wasn’t an intense ppt."
    – vspmis
    Aug 11, 2023 at 7:47
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    "She also have some personal beef with me." <- Seems to be the actual problem. => X-Y Question.
    – Fildor
    Aug 11, 2023 at 11:55

4 Answers 4

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If you are in college, and you do this without permission then it is plagiarism or in your words "piracy".

Doing the same kind of thing, at work, is called teamwork and smart.

Whenever you create a document for work, your best be is to start with a particularly well received document that has similar content to the one you are to provide. Use that as a baseline and add your specific content. Just like you did...

In this situation I would send out an email to everyone who was in the meeting that goes something like this:

Hi team

You may have noticed the wonderful power point template I used for our meeting the other day. Shame on me, but I did not give credit to "Joann" who created this template. I was so taken back by how wonderful it looked my eagerness forgot to give her credit.

Her creativity and artistic flair is unmatched and I thank her for allowing me to use it. Great job "Joann" you are a real asset to our team!

Sending such an email should eliminate all hard feelings.

Btw if she created the template on work time, using the work PowerPoint license, or a work computer, then the template is owned by the company not her. So you are well within your rights to use it. Being nice helps smooth over any hard feelings.

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    I agree with you but, for what it's worth, that letter would really not work for me. I would read that email as a direct attack. I assume you mean it to be taken at face value, but it is so over the top ("so taken aback by how wonderful it looked." and "Her creativity and artistic flair is unmatched"), that I would read it as sarcasm. Plus, the OP did not ask for or receive permission to use it (although I agree this shouldn't be needed), so the thanks would be doubly insulting. This comes across as passive aggressive (and not very passive) fake thanks and an attack.
    – terdon
    Aug 10, 2023 at 14:52
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    @terdon Yeah, it does have a smack of sarcasm. Probably best to keep this issue just between you, the colleague, and your immediate supervisors. It's unlikely anyone else gives a shit about a PPT template.
    – Barmar
    Aug 10, 2023 at 14:57
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    in my eagerness I forgot” Aug 10, 2023 at 17:24
  • I have to agree with @terdon , even though I otherwise completely agree with the sentiment of the answer. Maybe 1)personally thanking "Joann" and 2)asking if you could mention the template is by her in the next meeting when you use it again and 3)mentioning and thanking "Joann" publicly, if she agreed, when you use the template could be an alternative option?
    – vspmis
    Aug 11, 2023 at 7:35
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    "I thank her for allowing me to use it." She didn't allow you to use it. Send this letter out and you'll add the "crime" of spreading lies about her. This is a horrible, horrible answer that merely indulges all sorts of passive-aggressive fantasies.
    – JonathanZ
    Aug 11, 2023 at 14:34
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Is it wrong to use general template design from your peer?

If it's a corporate template created by the Marketing department (or marketing person, or your boss) then it's normally published somewhere that's available for all employees to use. A colleague might even create a template for your team, and deliberately publish it somewhere for everyone to use. Using these templates is normally fair game, and is often preferred because it gives a consistent brand identity across all presentations by the team / company, especially when presenting to external customers.

However, from your description it sounds like your colleague spent time and effort creating a unique design for her own use that she felt helped her deliver presentations to her internal colleagues with more impact, and you simply co-opted it into your own presentations without even asking for permission.

That's pretty inconsiderate because now her presentations look like yours and in the worst case without any attribution people might even think she copied your presentation.

You might argue that in a workplace, everything created by staff is owned by the company, but colleagues still have feelings, so normal social rules still apply - if you take something that's not yours without permission people are going to get upset with you.

The best thing you can do is try to heal your working relationship by apologising for not asking first, and tell her it won't happen again. Hopefully she'll see that you're the sort of person who tries to put things right when you make a mistake and will give you another chance...

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My first thought is that the template is generally secondary to the information held within.

E.g. It's not plagiarism so long as you are changing the content.

However, A particularly well-made Template that took a lot of time and effort to make and not giving any attribution to the Author would be considered rude.

Especially if you didn't ask if you could use it first.

I'm assuming during the presentation you didn't acknowledge who authored the template.

In which case, I think it's fair to say that an Apology is owed - next time you want to use one of their templates - ask first and then ask how they would like to be acknowledged 'And in this presentation, I will be using the wonderful template prepared by my Co-Worker' (yes, it's a little cringe to say - but you can work out the fine details yourself).

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If you are working for the same company, then whatever you produce (certainly in company time) probably belongs to the company.

That is, the template design is not hers anyway. Even it was, she would have to copyright it and you would have to copy it from her. I dont see you you could copyright the layout of a ppt presentation anyway.

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    Just because something "probably belongs to the company" doesn't make it impossible to acknowledge someone else's work when you use it. That's basic decency. We're human beings, not just cogs in a legal machine.
    – Stef
    Aug 10, 2023 at 15:29
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    @Stef it does not make it impossible to acknowledge, but it makes it way out of line for the creator of the work to "accuse OP of piracy". Work ar a company should be collaborative.
    – wimi
    Aug 10, 2023 at 15:35
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    When she accused me I asked her, was it copyrighted? And I also asked her on her take on peer learning, we are graduate engineers and interns in this company, the best we are doing is to learn the best from each other and if I like how she presented it and thought of doing the same, how am I wrong, plus it wasn’t an intense ppt.
    – Sara
    Aug 10, 2023 at 16:17
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    @Sara What is wrong is not using her work, it's using her work and not acknowledging it. I don't know what you mean when you say she "accused" you. Does it mean she confronted you privately and told you that she was upset? If so, then the polite thing to do would be to apologise for not having acknowledged her work, and in the future when you use her work again, acknowledge it. This does not have to be a conflict.
    – Stef
    Aug 10, 2023 at 16:50
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    @sara - it sounds like you've escalated a small social faux pas into a battle of egos that is going to cause conflict in your team. You need to consider how your boss will perceive this - will they think "you know what, sara is right and I'm really pleased she's completely bypassing social norms and just doing what she wants regardless of the fallout" or will it be "I wish the graduates would stop squabbling"? Their opinion of you will potentially shape the first few years of your career and it would be wise to reflect on that even if you still think you're in the right...
    – mclayton
    Aug 10, 2023 at 17:56

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