People steal ideas from original thinkers. Here's some protection advice.

I spend most of my time writing content for other people.  I do the best job I can, but I’m not precious about it. It belongs to the client not me. As soon as they’ve paid me, the content is theirs to do what they want with. I have absolutely no emotional attachment to it.

"If you’ve ever created an original concept or piece of writing, music, video or picture, then you’ll understand just how it feels when you discover that someone has stolen it and passed it off as their own work."

However, when it’s my own personal writing, or one of my products, or my ebook or my lovingly crafted training material, I am emotionally attached to it. It’s mine. If you’ve ever created an original concept or piece of writing, music, video or photograph, then you’ll understand just how it feels when you discover that someone has stolen it and passed it off as their own work. It’s a mix of anger, a sense of betrayal, bitter disappointment and frustration. The real frustration of course is knowing that the person who has to steal the work of other people will never in a million years understand what all the fuss is about.

"...if you’ve nicked a picture from google, or have copied someone’s text from their website it could come back and bite you on the bum."

One of the main problems about the internet is how easy it is to find and tons of great stuff created by other people. A simple copy and paste, and it’s all yours. But it also means if you’ve nicked a picture from Google, or have copied someone’s text from their website it could come back and bite you on the bum. There’s all kinds of tools you can use keep track of these things. More on that later.

"Will it ever get to court? No. But it’s made me look long and hard at my disclaimers, and trademarks and copyright symbol usage."

In my case, another trainer took some of my original material, and passed it off as her own work, and accepted a fee from a client: who presumably believed that everything in her training course was hers to use. She got found out because she made the slides available on the internet, and I found them. She’s changed a few words here and there, but it’s fully evident to anyone comparing my version with hers that it’s been copied. Will it ever get to court? No. But it’s made me look long and hard at my disclaimers, and trademarks and copyright symbol usage.

If you create any kind of original material, you might want to take a shufty at the following information sources.

  1. General information on copyright in the UK - it covers writing, pictures, music, film, artwork etc. Check out The Copyright Hub. It explains the basics on how to protect your content, and how to use copyright symbols.
  2. Google images- in my training courses on social media content, I meet a lot of people who freely admit that they just steal images from Google and use them in their blog posts and on their websites. Well here’s the thing…Getty images are having a worldwide clampdown on people using images without permission and letters are going out demanding up to $1000 for each image infringement. Is it extortion or just bluster? Well maybe a bit, but in the end if you took an image without permission, you are liable. Here’s some more info on that: Getty Lawsuits and How to Respond.
  3. Getting the right info on permissions - if you’re not sure what you can or can’t use, and how to make sure things are attributed correctly, Copyright Hub have a good section on how to make sure you don’t get yourself into hot water and have the experience of one of those horrible letters from Getty Images. Get Permission.
  4. Tracking software. The good news for ‘original thinkers’ (but bad news for content thieves) is that there are some nifty little tools you can embed into your website that give you some metrics on what content has been copied and pasted from your site, and what images too. I use one called CopyPaste from tynt.com There’s also a great tool called Copyscape which allows you to check for plagiarism. I use the premium version of  copywriting tool called Grammarly, which you can check to make sure that what you have written isn’t infringing any copyrights - it’s comforting sometimes to see that when I use Grammarly to check say, a proposal document I’ve written, that phrases from my own website pop up.
  5. Google Alerts - put Google Alerts on your name, brand and other key words and phrases, so if it pings up anywhere on the internet, Google will let you know.
  6. A document on Intellectual Property - you can download this at the end of the article by clicking the button. It’s a good document from the Intellectual Property Office in the UK. It gives a good solid overview on copyright, how it works and what to do about it.

That’s all I’ve got for you for now. If I see anything else useful out there, I’ll post it. Meanwhile, consider these wise words from an illustrator pal of mine, Robin Grenville Evans, who posted on my Facebook page:

“The only thing worse than being stolen from, is knowing that you’re the kind of person that has to steal.”

He’s right of course. If you have ideas, people will try and steal them, so we just need to come up with better ideas. That said, I know I’m taking a long hard look at what I share, and how I share it. And to the person who stole from me, I know I’m the real deal and you’ll never be anything more than a cheap imitation. I know who you are, and I’m watching.


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