I Owed My Sibling Money. Must I Give It to the Scamming Widowed Spouse?

And, on your account, the person clearly has behaved badly. It’s hard to excuse indifference to your children’s interests or misleading people about your financial condition in order to extract money from them. You can have sympathy, though, with people who are insecure about their financial situation. The widowed spouse’s economic prospects, however adequate, may well be worse than they would have been if the spouse had survived.

Whether you could get away with concealing the fair value of your sibling’s share of the property, which now belongs to the widowed spouse, it would be wrong to do so. A just God might want to guarantee that the good prosper and the evil suffer and that all debts are paid. But you are not entitled to play God.

My school does not have a written intellectual-property (I.P.) policy. Recently, a student doing an unpaid internship on a website was asked by the internship supervisor to share her literature review with another student. She demurred, stating that it was her intellectual property. I know the student to be more advanced in her approach to research than most of her peers. She has also had prior experience as a research assistant. So she may have good reasons to protect her work.

The supervisor told her that her paper was the site’s intellectual property and asked a school administrator to intervene. The administrator decided that the student’s paper was actually the school’s intellectual property. This would potentially apply to all students going forward. However, having worked within various university systems, I believe it is more common to recognize such a paper as the student’s intellectual property. And as a faculty member, I believe it is our responsibility to teach students good I.P. awareness, as part of their career development.

In the absence of a written I.P. policy, who is correct? Also, as faculty, what is my obligation to our students? Name Withheld

If this student was doing the work as part of her internship, paid or not, one object of the exercise was to produce a usable literature review. Usable to whom? Well, to anyone. The object of scholarship, in the end, is to make a contribution to public knowledge. If you do normal academic research under someone else’s supervision, then it’s reasonable to expect that you will be open to sharing the results with other scholars and students. (Acknowledging the intern’s authorship, to be sure, is required by professional academic ethics.) Your restricting access to your work in order to safeguard your property rights is no more reasonable than the supervisor’s billing you for his or her advice would be. You’re free to do research privately on your own time and keep the results to yourself. But scholarship at a university is, absent special considerations, a contribution to the intellectual commons.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/01/magazine/06mag-ethicist.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

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