Have you seen the movie Working Girl with Melanie Griffith? Melanie Griffith plays Tess McGill a secretary, with very 80’s big hair, who works for a finance company and Sigourny Weaver is her boss. Tess comes up with a great idea for an acquisition and her boss steals the idea telling everyone that she came up with it. It all comes to a head in a scene where the big boss asks where the idea came from. Tess has a big story about how she saw a story in the New York Post and started thinking of her idea. Sigourney Weaver is left sputtering because she can’t say where she came up with the idea that she stole from her secretary.
You may wonder where I am going with this pondering, well, I will tell you. Since I have been blogging I have come up with ideas from a wide variety of places: conversations with friends and things I read much like everyone else. And what I have seen over and over again is people taking my ideas and claiming them as their own: sections from my blog posts, things I have tweeted, ideas that I came up with much like Tess McGill. And like Tess McGill, I am calling you on your BS. When you are very new, you can’t say anything without the fear social ramifications but I have been talking this over with my friends for some time and I just feel like something needs to be said about it.
Why do we, as the person who has been wronged, feel bad calling out someone who stole from us? That is messed up. Good people feel bad calling out the bad behavior of those who have taken advantage of them.
Recently a friend of mine, Becky Gaylord, wrote a fabulous 12 Most Powerful Words in Business. Someone “liked” it so much they tweeted it and then tweeted every single one of Becky’s twelve points in the post and added one of her own at the end. Becky and I both tweeted her and I sent her an email but she didn’t respond. I hope that she realizes now what she did was wrong.
The reason that I am so frustrated about this now is I was reading a post by a “colleague” who also syndicates his blog on Business2Community. I have great respect for Business2Community and love to go through and see what others have posted. Last week, I published Can You Please Share This? which was syndicated on B2C. The topic is why people share and I found an amazing study done by the New York Times in July of 2011. Not exactly recent but relevant to my piece, so I used it and credited my source. This post has received 421 hits on my blogs and 2,104 views on StumbleUpon, 57 shares on LinkedIn and tweeted 233 times from my site as well as being syndicated on B2C so it is safe to say that this post has been circulating quite a bit since I published it on April 2nd. This morning while reading B2C’s post I found this post Confessions of an Internet Marketer. While the author took a different twist on the same data, obviously they read and were inspired by my post. This person had an article published on the same day on B2C as my Can You Please Share This post. They cited the NYT study but no reference to my post.
I have two words for you to think about: intellectual property.
From Plagiarism.org: “Simply put, plagiarism is the use of another’s original words or ideas as though they were your own. Any time you borrow from an original source and do not give proper credit, you have committed plagiarism and violated U.S. copyright laws.”
From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Intellectual property is generally characterized as non-physical property that is the product of original thought.” If you get an idea from someone else’s idea give them a hat tip for it! I first saw the term hat tip used by Guy Kawasaki in his books but it is also cited here as “A hat tip is an acknowledgement to someone (or a website) for bringing something to the blogger’s attention.” I took a twist on that myself and use tiara tip when I give credit for things. I remember coming up with the idea for a tiara tip on a phone conversation with Jessica Northey. Now I see others using it, and from now on when I tweet Tiara Tip it is TiaraTip.™
So the lesson here is, cite your sources for hard facts and inspiration. It not only makes your work stronger but it is legal. When in doubt, cite your source, add a link in the text or a credit at the bottom. Don’t be “that guy or girl.” People will see that you are stealing others information, trust me. Why open your work up towards criticism and ruin your reputation?
Where did you come up with your last idea? Did you cite your source? What do you do when you see that someone stole your intellectual property? What advice do you have for those who have had it happen to them?