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Legal issues about ghostwriting

The commissioning of a ghostwriter in itself is still harmless. It is only illegal to spend a foreign scientific work as one’s own achievement. That is against the law. Here are some details.

How does a ghostwriting order come about?

Such an agreement is based on the freedom of contract in Germany. Strictly speaking, this contract is a work contract according to §631 BGB, with the resulting rights and obligations. The author undertakes to draw up the contractually agreed service for which he receives the agreed fee in return.

At the same time, the ghostwriter transfers the so-called rights of use of his work to the client. 

Is academic ghostwriting completely harmless?

But is academic ghostwriting harmless? Yes and no. But above all – no.

University stated that a ghostwriter agreement with the content just described was fundamentally not objectionable. It depends on the manifestation in question. In terms of academic ghostwriting, this means that, for example, the preparation of preliminary studies, exposé or masters is legal.

Regardless of these legal subtleties, the University Association has been pleading for years for the introduction of a new criminal offense, namely the so-called “science fraud” (see online time topic).

In the absence of the rule of law according to Article 20 III of the Basic Law, however, a uniform codification of such a criminal offense should not be expected in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the current legal status quo remains intact, according to which the ghostwriting is neither unlawful nor punishable – as long as one respects the limits allowed.

So there are no risks in academic ghostwriting?

So is there no risk in ghostwriting? Oh yes, they exist. Anyone who spends a scholarly work written by a ghostwriter as their own academic achievement and is also witnessed and caught by an affidavit must expect serious consequences.

According to §156 of the Criminal Code, the student would be liable to prosecution and, depending on the examination or university regulations of the university concerned, he would have to expect the exmatriculation and a fine. Of course, one did not succeed in the final thesis.

In addition, the student becomes extortionable by the ghostwriter or the ghostwriting agency. With this possibility, he must then expect lifelong. In addition, it always happens that ghostwriters produce plagiarism. These then fly up in the study of the university. It is just as common for caregivers to recognize that something is wrong.

This can happen, for example, because the style of work is not uniform. Often the performance of the bachelor thesis or master thesis does not correspond to the level that the supervisor knows from the student.

Is ghostwriting worth it – or not?

So summarized again: To be prepared by a ghostwriter preliminary studies, exposés, templates or the like, is in the opinion of the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt legal. This is merely a clarification of the current state of research.

Of course, so-called ancillary services as well as the linguistic optimization, which only helps with the topic of scientific work and does not intervene in the texts, are completely legal.

On the other hand, it is not legal to have entire scientific work created by the ghostwriter and to output it as your own performance. This is illegal.

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