Here’s What Industry Insiders Say About Copycats

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How do you handle copycats? Is protecting your intellectual property important?

I recently interviewed Marie Forleo and this is one question I had to ask her since I know that she's dealt with this issue a lot. The full transcript is below.

If you're a long-time reader of my blog, you know that I don't tolerate content theft. I report to Google for a DCMA takedown notice immediately.

How you can protect your blog content

  1. Create a reposting or permission policy on your blog. I used this as a guideline:
    • You agree to publish a quote or excerpt of, at maximum, 100 words from the original article.
    • You agree to republish the partial post exactly as it appears on this website with the proper formatting and all links intact.
  2. Check your linkbacks to your blog to make sure your content isn’t being taken without your permission.
  3. You can try a website like Copyscape to check for plagiarism.

What to do if your content is taken? Of course, you can ignore as some writers do but why? That’s your intellectual property. Contact the website owner via Twitter, email, phone or whatever method you can find. One person ignored all my communications but received a phone call from me. Yes, he was surprised and yes, he removed my copy when I insisted. His excuse was “that it takes a long time to write on a blog so he just likes to take content from other sites and give them a link.” Seriously? No.

I hope you won’t need it but if you need to file a takedown notice with Google. You can file a DMCA takedown notice with Google but if the stolen content is on WordPress, file one here: Automattic DMCA Notice. Also, please note that I am NOT an attorney and this isn’t legal advice. Read the whole legal agreement before completing it and signing it.

Read more How to Protect Your Blog Content

How to handle copycats transcript

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    Let's talk about copycats, because you teach people how to do things, I teach people, and sometimes, people mistakenly, instead of coming up with their own thing, they cut and paste Marie's thing, add to their WordPress site. So, how do you deal with that kind of copycat stuff and your … Because it's your intellectual property, and as creators, that's all we have. That's it.

Marie Forleo:                        Yes. The copycat thing happens in, I think, almost every domain. With jewelry designers, an independent jewelry designer will come out with something, and then [inaudible 00:00:38] another company. Again, I don't want to rag on Urban Outfitters. I just read one article about that, but in terms of me, here's what we do. First of all, I do my best to communicate, and you know this, because you've been through B-School. I always say, “Look, I'm showing you examples. You have you and you. You need to do you. Don't do me. I'm showing you a framework, but you've got to do your own thing. That's the only way it's going to work.”

And as you said, not a lot of people, for whatever reason, they feel scared, they feel insecure, they want to try and save time. There are a myriad of reasons why people do it. It kind of makes me … I'm like, “Are you serious? Do you not know that we all see it?”

So, I try and vocalize, and lead, in that respect, but honestly, we also have a legal team, and we will send folks … We try to be really kind, and we try and be really compassionate, most of the time. There are sometimes when some people are so blatant, like I've had our entire site, in Europe, like word-for-word, with all of my … Like, me.

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    Your pictures?

Marie Forleo:                        Yes. I'm just like, “Oh my goodness,” and you're just like, “What are these people thinking?”

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    Right.

Marie Forleo:                        So, we will have our legal team contact folks, and say, “Yo, that ain't cool. You got to take that down,” but you know, it's actually a large investment in terms of resources and time, because it's pretty constant these days, and I think that, as a business owner, you have to not get yourself off track. You have to create some kind of system for you and your team to handle it when it happens. You have to look inside, and think about your values, and think about the kind of language that you want to use when you reach out to someone.

And that isn't really a cut-and-paste, cookie-cutter kind of thing, because sometimes something, like I said, is blatant, the example in Europe, where it's my face, it's my words, it's everything. And then there's other times where you can tell that someone is heavily, heavily influenced, and almost skates on this line where you're like, “Why'd you go and do that?” But, there isn't really a case to tell them to take it down, and in those instances, you might want to reach out with more of an olive branch, and say, “Hey, we've gotten some emails about this. It's pretty clear that you were inspired by us, but of course, you changed it to this degree, and here would be our recommendations. You're going to do way better if you really make it your own,” and appeal to someone's better nature.

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    Yeah. It's tough. I have dealt with it quite a bit. People cut and paste my articles. It's like … And, I used to try to contact people, but believe it or not, those are the jerkiest people I've ever dealt with. Like, they get all mad because I won't let them cut and paste, and I'm like, “Okay.” So I usually just file the DCMA notice myself, but I haven't had the whole website scam with my pictures. I'm glad you … That would be crazy. I mean, that's where you're really like, “Really, people?” And wow.

I did have somebody in Australia do something similar. They don't have as strict laws in other countries as we do, but Google kind of dominates the whole web, so it is possible to get those things fixed, if it's a total cut and paste.

Marie Forleo:                        Yeah. I would say it depends on the frequency in which it's happening, so for you, Peg, if it starts happening a lot more, if you haven't done this already, to like create a little bit of a system, and have someone on your team or an assistant, that you can always kind of filter those things off to. At least for me, in the past, they would become energy sucks. Like, you know, it would become like-

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    It's like five minutes. It's like five minutes for me.

Marie Forleo:                        Good for you.

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    I do the notice and it's done. Like, it takes two seconds.

Marie Forleo:                        Good for you.

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    So, yeah. I figure if they have … Yeah, whatever. I just deal with it too, and move on. Some people say it's a big compliment, but it's really not when it's your intellectual property, so-

Marie Forleo:                        No, it's not. Yeah, every time I hear that, I'm like, “No it ain't. It's a pain in the ass.” I'm like, “And it's stealing. It's not.”

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    Yeah. No, it's totally not. I mean, even on YouTube, people download people's videos and upload them to their channel.

Marie Forleo:                        Can I just tell you something. I was just on our YouTube channel because someone on my team said, “Oh, look at this beautiful comment on this video,” and I went over there, and this is hilarious, Peg. Next to my own video, I see a video of my set, with me and Tony Robbins, and that ain't my video.

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    Right.

Marie Forleo:                        It's like, “Okay,” but that's the world that we live in.

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    It's technology.

Marie Forleo:                        Yeah.

Peg Fitzpatrick:                    Don't use it for evil, people. Use it only for good.

Marie Forleo:                        Use it for good.

I hope you liked this short piece about how to handle copycats. Have you had this problem before? How did you handle it? Let's discuss in the comments.

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One Comment

  1. I know! What is with people who say “it takes a long time to create content” and that means they can steal someone else’s?! Drives me crazy. I have a post coming out this week specifically about Pinterest theft. Though beyond branding my own content, I’m not fighting back at this time. If Pinterest doesn’t make a big fix, it’s doomed. There’s literally too much theft going on for a solopreneur to fight.
    Anyway, thanks for helping spread the word that content theft is WRONG.

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