Claiming your space in a world of copy and paste
Having your stuff stolen SUCKS. And it’s not all tangible stuff – I’m talking images, texts, blatant carbon copies of ideas. Social media is a great connector – it makes all corners of the world come together in a seemingly effortless way – hashtags, newsletters, likes and shares. And it that big web, little things are found 🤓 Having your work plagiarized is confronting, but did you know you can emerge stronger?
Yesterday I came across the work of a photographer I admired, so had a peek at their website. What I found was a bit disappointing – an infographic I’d created for our blog that detailed our safety policies put in place moving forward during COVID-19. It had been saved from our website, the text copied word for word, colors changed to suit their brand, Adam’s name replaced with their own.
I was livid. And it inspired me to write a blog post, “The Art of Creativity”. Imitation, in my mind, is often not a form of flattery but a signal of unoriginality. But while disappointing, even angering, there is a similar theme that emerges after finding our work, our entire website text, stolen. The theme is frustration that serves as a reminder to harness our MOTIVATION. We feel the pull to do better and be better in our own business. And this fire, quite honestly, is what keeps us pushing ourselves into new creative spaces!
But enough about us – if you’ve felt the need to mold yourself after a certain person, brand, whether it be a photographer, influencer, small business, the works, you need to ask yourself why, and you need to dive deeper, you need to better yourself.
It’s unethical to copy another person’s creative work and claim it as your own. It’s also against the law.
Law and order aside, it’s unoriginal. Being inspired by an idea is far different from cloning it. If you’re inspired, you take that idea someone else has brought to life and you make it your own. This doesn’t mean switching two words in their sentences, it means CREATING something new from something old.
It deflates you
There is nothing more exhausting than trying to copy someone else. Refocus your energy in to making something new, and your creative roots will plant in fertile soil, spreading to new and exciting places. Your growth won’t only be seen as you bloom on the surface, but those roots, now stretching freely in all directions, will lay a foundation for a flourishing business.
Instagram and social media might seem a large and noisy world, but it is, in reality, a tight-knit community. Your work will be discovered, the original creator will find out, and you’ll look really, really unprofessional.
We speak from experience.
I originally didn’t want to share our experiences with plagiarism as I didn’t want to come off as self-centered, bitter, and preoccupied with something that’s “not a big deal”. But it IS a big deal, especially in the creative community, and as a photographer I would like to use my words to bring more light to the situation. Here are the experiences we’ve had over the last several years (that I know of!) Not all are experiences with plagiarism… some are just sneaky.
- Two photographers have copied the text on our website, word for word. Right down to the FAQ, which contained text specific to Maui whereas the photographers lived on the mainland.
- Two different photographers have copied our hash tags straight from our Instagram page, clearly without looking at them because they targeted a very specific area in Australia that we lived in and even included our brand hashtag (thanks!) One used maternity hashtags I’d created for our own business. This isn’t exactly plagiarism as much as it is lazy marketing 😉
- We received an e-mail from a German brand that had hosted an underwater photography business. Suspicious of the winning entry, they took to Google and found it was our image, not theirs.
- We receive inquiries regularly from fake e-mail addresses, photographers asking for pricing. Guys! If you want to know our pricing, just ask, I’ll tell you. It’s not a secret, it’s a formula we use based on the time we take and the expenses we incur, so it won’t do you any good but I’m happy to share. Seriously, I don’t mind telling you! I’d much rather help by letting you in on our packages than think we have a real inquiry. One time a photographer sent it from their business e-mail instead, clearly by mistake, and posed as another person.
- We received an e-mail newsletter signup for three different lists… one for babymoons, one for elopements, one for weddings. Either this person was having an epic Maui trip ahead of them or just wanted to see the guides we provide on signup for these newsletters. It was the latter, I plugged the e-mail in to Google and found the photographer’s website with those same guides on their site. Listen, that’s fine, but at least make a different e-mail address not connected to your business so we don’t know you’re taking the guides I worked so hard on. Blugh.
- A photographer copied our logo to a T, our website text, our wording, select images, even portions of our ABOUT page (what?) How did I find out? Well, a client asked if they were a branch of our business working in a different place. Yes, it was that similar. Some of the images were still named “Maui-Portrait-Photographers-1.jpg”, etc. When I approached them about this claimed they weren’t a threat because we lived in different places. Hands up if you realize that’s not how this works.
The list continues. And, look. It’s not easy to be the owner of a small business, especially during times when businesses around the world are struggling. We understand the temptation to take an idea. But when you do that you’re doing a disservice to your business, to yourself, and to your clients. And let me be clear: just because two ideas seem similar doesn’t mean someone copied another person. Coincidences do exist!
There is an art to creating authentic material.
You have the ability to create.
You’re a creative.
And it’s your responsibility to the community of creatives you are a part of to pursue an avenue that makes you lose sleep over new ideas, to fill your cup with inspiration, to carve your own path. It’s then that you truly shine, it’s then that your business has purpose, it’s then that your words and images and actions will flourish, instead of bouncing back in echo.
Claim your space in a world of copy and paste.