Erika Taylor, editor of Pool and Spa News, will return to this space next issue.
Erika Taylor, editor of Pool and Spa News, will return to this space next issue.

In my years of writing and reporting I have always tried to avoid becoming preachy. But when it comes to this subject, I feel the need to make an exception.

I’ve never designed a pool before, but I have written many articles. A lot of work goes into each piece — interviews, organization, fact-checking. There are follow-up interviews when informational gaps surface, additional fact-checking, and then re-reading and more re-reading to make sure the content, particularly when it’s sensitive, is conveyed accurately and objectively.

It’s a privilege to do the work, so that’s not my complaint. My point is this: I know that designing pools, spas and waterfeatures involves a similarly multi-layered process. The true masters incorporate a seemingly endless number of factors into their creations, make several rounds of changes, and perform extensive fine-tuning.

So it astounds me to continually hear about contractors posting photos of others’ masterpieces onto their own Websites. When this happens, a few clicks of the mouse translate into stealing and misrepresenting hours of somebody else’s work, on which they base their reputation and living. In my profession, that is not only a fireable offense — it can land you in court.

This is not a gray area. It is stealing and lying. In an attempt to justify this behavior, some may argue that they’re not claiming to have done the work, but merely showing examples of what they could do. Does that, then, mean I can include somebody else’s Pulitzer prize-winning article in my portfolio as an example of what I could do? Now I’m open to being sued by both the actual author and the employer who hired me based on that writing sample.

Other scenarios are less black and white. Maybe you built the pool, but didn’t design it. In those cases, I strongly believe credit should be shared with the designer, whether it be on your Website or in the media. It doesn’t diminish the impressiveness of your own work to say it was done in collaboration with a design specialist. The same holds true for those who installed one portion of the project, such as the coping or tile. Don’t imply that you built or designed the whole thing.

On the other hand, builders should consider tipping their hats to masons, tilers and other subcontractors whose work proved to be the centerpiece of the installation, particularly if it was their vision. For instance, if a rockwork specialist designed and installed the majestic natural waterfalls that take everyone’s breath away, make it clear that they were a partner.

This economy has made things ugly out there. Though I don’t agree, some may characterize the underbidding and bad-mouthing as necessary evils in this nightmare of an economy. But misrepresenting somebody else’s work as one’s own has no such cover. It is fraudulent — and very unnecessary.