As word comes in that consultants in the US are now using the Oxebridge Totally Free QMS Documentation Template Kit in their practices, it falls on me to start publishing articles stating the really, really obvious. No, they can’t do this.
The problem has infected both tiny consulting firms and large ones. It began with consultants in India and Pakistan stealing the kit outright and reselling it as their own, then slowly slipped into Europe and the UK, and now we find US consultants ignoring the license agreement and using it for their own clients. It’s so bad, even what is likely the largest and most famous US consulting firm — Whittington and Associates — recently copped to doing this. Owner and ASQ darling Larry Whittington feigned ignorance of the license and thought it was fine.
Newcomer consultant Chris Wells, a self-proclaimed “QMS Guru” (sigh) thought he could do it, too, but then send me a $50 Amazon gift card as compensation. His defense? He’s a great guy because he could have taken my stuff without telling me, and I should be happy that he admitted it, however belatedly. He’s since canceled the gift card, making me desperate to know how I’m going to afford my next box of Keurig coffee pods.
Apparently, “business management experts” who sell consulting services that include how to craft purchasing terms and conditions suddenly can’t understand the big ALL CAPS license restrictions which appear on the cover of the “READ ME FIRST” document included in the kit.
The common consultant script runs like this:
- They land a paid consulting contract.
- Their deliverables include QMS documents, so they run to the Oxebridge site and download the free kit, rather than do what they are being paid for, and create the documents themselves.
- They ignore the licensing agreement and READ ME FIRST restrictions.
- They then satisfy their deliverables by using the kit materials, without permission and in violation of the license restriction.
- They claim, without any proof, that they “gave Oxebridge credit” while doing so, thinking this makes it ok.
- They claim, without any proof, that they didn’t charge the client “extra” for the kit documents, thinking this makes it ok.
- They pretend not to understand that a deliverable submitted under a paid contract is still a thing they sold, whether they charged extra or not.
- They say they did this to save their clients money, as if I care about that.
- They act shocked when they are confronted with the fact that this violated the license agreement and may very well(*) be illegal.
- They eventually re-frame the entire thing to imply or outright state I am a dick for being upset that they used my stuff without permission, because it’s easier to make me the bad guy than learn how to make their own QMS procedures.
The fact is that I have been very clear about the kit’s origins: it was created specifically because I hated shyster consultants who were charging a fee for template kits. So any consultant now using my free documents during a paid consulting gig is engaging in the exact problem the kit was intended to fight. The kit was designed to allow clients who couldn’t afford a consultant to have access to ISO 9001; it was never intended to help other consultants build their practices or compete against Oxebridge. And, yes, it was done to help build Oxebridge’s brand, not Larry Whittington’s rogues’ gallery (which includes this guy and this guy.)
Now I have to educate these so-called “experts” on these blindingly obvious realities. Remember: these guys are insisting they are management gurus, even as they think it’s OK to use someone else’s stuff without permission. Then they can’t do simple math: they think that because they didn’t charge extra for the stuff they took, that makes it OK. It’s like the guy who’s building your house saying he saved you money because he found some windows that “fell off of a truck,” and that makes it OK for the guy who lost his windows.
It’s also ironic that ASQ members and lauded speakers think my materials are good enough to take without permission, while ASQ bans me at every turn and won’t allow me to speak or publish anything. Which is it?
So, no, consultants: you can’t use the kit. Period. Not at all. If you want to sue me and get a court ruling to grant you rights, we can do that, too, but I’ll just pull the kit down entirely and then no one will have it. Because it’s my property and I can do that. In the meantime, if you’re caught using the kit, it means I am already talking to lawyers about my rights.
In the coming months, I’ll be launching a list of consultants found to have used the Oxebridge template kits in their paid practices. You’re going to want to keep your names off that list.
(* – The actual legality or illegality of the acts is still under investigation, as Creative Commons 4.0 licensing agreement is difficult to parse, and has to be examined in a case-by-case basis. So while it certainly feels illegal to me, I still need a lawyer or court to confirm it. I don’t want to throw the word “illegal” out there without careful consideration. I think we can all agree it’s really, really shady, though.)
CORRECTION: This article was updated on 3/11/2019 to remove a link to a consultant who was alleged to have worked for Whittington & Associates; that consultant had the same name, but is not the same person, and the link was removed.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.