I recently opened an email promoting an event that is clearly spending a lot of money on advertising right now in our space – and was shocked to come face to face with a shit load of my own copy, ripped off word-for-word.
So, what SHOULD you do when people rip off your stuff? Do you let it go or do you confront them?
Of course, the problem with confronting people is that when backed into a corner, people lie.
I recently confronted a woman who had ripped off my UVP format and regurgitated it (badly) in an article I also appeared in. When I confronted her about it, she flat out lied – it came from someone else, she said. Uh huh. I know, for a fact, that my UVP format is completely unique in the market – I put it together, alone, in the spare room of my 2 bedroom flat in Footscray at 2am one morning when I had 10 of 15 UVPs (then, USPs) left to write for members in a program I was part of. It didn’t come off the internet, it didn’t come from a book, it came from sitting in front of the computer, actually working through writing the things.
Further, this same woman had signed up and accessed on several occasions the recording where I explain the process (I loves my CRM – it gives me all kinds of useful information).
But what can you do?
I suppose I could sue – but that would cost me a lot of time and money and the outcome would likely not be financial because I’d have to prove that it had cost me clients and money.
So, inevitably when I have this conversation what happens is that someone is all like …
“Waaa – there’s no such thing as an original idea!”
Well, firstly, I COMPLETELY disagree – and I think you should be highly suspicious of anyone who says as much – odds are, with that attitude, they’ll be the next person to rip off your stuff.
But okay, let’s just say for a moment that you’re right (you’re not – but let’s pretend that you are) – here’s some basic IP law for the uninitiated.
You can’t copy protect an “idea”. For instance, I use the concept of having a Unique Value Proposition. I didn’t invent the UVP – that theory has been around for decades. And concepts can’t be copy protected – so I don’t need to reference where I learned it, just like people who learned it from me don’t need to reference that they learned it from me. HOWEVER – if I write an original process and content about the UVP, that content IS protectable and if you’re going to cut and paste it (even if you change a few words) and NOT reference me, then you’ve broken the law.
Basically: concepts okay, content not okay.
Does this mean you should just ignore people ripping off the content you’ve worked your arse off to produce?
I don’t think THAT is the answer either – I understand people who say,
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Typically, they’ve never produced something that’s been ripped off. It’s extremely frustrating to watch people waltz up and take credit for your hard work. And Leela being Leela, I don’t take too kindly to being messed with like that. Besides, if someone walked into your house and took your computer, would you be like,
“Oh, you should be flattered that they want what you have!”
Okay, go for it – want what I have. But that doesn’t give you the right to just take it. That, my friends, is called THEFT – and you are, in my eyes, the same as a car thief or a computer thief if you copy and paste someone else’s content. If you think what you’re doing isn’t hurting anyone, think again. You have a serious entitlement mentality that needs to be rectified if you want to ever actually be successful.
So, what SHOULD you do?
I guess that’s something you need to decide personally on a case by case basis. If you’re annoyed enough, often the best thing to do is to privately send a Cease and Desist letter – and if you feel it’s worth taking further, talk to your lawyer about the next steps. Most people, when they realise you’re watching, will back down. Some won’t. And you’ve got to decide how much of your headspace you’re going to give that – it may actually be worth giving it quite a bit. Or it may not. That’s going to be an intensely personal decision.
What did I do about the guys who are ripping my stuff off right now?
We’re in the middle of our annual Roadshow push – we’ve got 2 and a half months until the event. I’ve already got a frivolous law suit I’m dealing with from a person in the “I don’t understand why I haven’t made any money in my “business” when I’ve done no work and made lots of excuses” mob. While I’m pissed – I simply don’t have the time or the free headspace to deal with these people … I do find it amusing that they’re teaching content creation and I do wonder if they’ll tell everyone just to go online and copy and paste, using a “creative commons” license (I think there’s a few people who need to read what a creative commons license actually is – it DOESN’T give you permission to steal anything you find on Google. Just FYI.).
I hope my copy is very successful for them. And if they ever grow a conscience, I’ll happily accept a royalty cheque.