When I started out several years ago… I tried really, really hard to not accidentally copy people. But I was consuming information every day. I was reading the shit out of bloggers I loved and respected. And despite my best efforts, their flavor came out of my fingers.
If you looked at my early stuff from four+ years ago, it probably looks like I was copying the crap out of people like Naomi Dunford (pre-public meltdown), Ashley Ambirge, and a few other well-knowns. I was even accused once of stealing from Danielle LaPorte because I called my first service ‘The Burning Question’ [I didn’t even charge for the service]. At the time I had no idea who Danielle LaPorte was. But it looked like I was borrowing nonetheless.
I wasn’t. At least not on-purpose. With most of the people I probably mimicked, I read their stuff. I liked their stuff. They got away with swearing. I wanted to get away with swearing. I bought their stuff. I told them how much I appreciated their work. I even sent Naomi a fancy pen [for which she never even said thank you… still bitter. I mean WHO DOES THAT? It was a REALLY nice pen.].
I was a copycat fan-girl once too. I didn’t mean to be. I didn’t want to be. I just was. By accident.
Fast-forward a few years. A few hundred clients. A few thousand written words…
And now I have been copied. A few times. Once was no biggie. She “borrowed” heavily from posts I had written. She got zero traffic and a new enemy. The next one copy and pasted my services. All of them. That was two years ago. I sent a cease and desist letter that she ignored. Her url now goes to godaddy. Then there have been the more subtle few. A catch phrase here. Word-use there. But they all have one thing in common… they are almost all gone now. The more recent ones will be gone soon.
See, I know this because successful entrepreneurship takes a fuck-lot more than the occasional success [which is all someone gets from copying others 99% of the time].
And copying is UNAVOIDABLE.
Madonna copied Marilyn. Miley copied Madonna. Artists and creatives look at the world as a toolbox to play in. They borrow pieces from all over to make it their own. The cycle continues….
So someone copied your shit.
Who. The. Fuck. Cares.
Are they doing it as well as you? Are they finding success passing off your work as theirs?
Did they REALLY even copy you in the first place? Because using the same couple of words as you is not copying anyway. That’s just English. I don’t whine when someone else says fuck too much, now do I?! Laying out their website or sales page kinda like yours is also NOT copying. I mean how many places can a person put a header?
All great work is mimicry in some way. All great thoughts borrow from others.
If you hire me and I teach you things, and then you go teach other people those things, I am pretty happy about that. Because the GOAL was for my ideas to proliferate in ways that help you. If you’re teaching it to others, that means I DID MY JOB. That means you learned it so well that you feel comfortable teaching it to other people. I look at that as a win. Would it be nice to get credit? Sure. Do I give two shits if I don’t get credit? Nope.
I have an MBA. Am I ‘copying’ the work of others by conveying what I learned in that program? No. I paid for it. The whole point was for me to USE what I learn there. Teach others. Repeat.
And the creative well doesn’t run dry if you are truly a creative thinker. If you are always angry that people are copying you, YOU might be the one who needs to look at their own work.
I listened to an interview recently with current crown prince of comedy, Louie CK. He was talking about the fact that he only uses the same material for a year or so, then tosses it and never looks back. He does what he does in such a way that he challenges other comedians to be better at what they do. And sure, he might get ripped off, but who cares? HIS version made an indelible dent in the world first. And the people that copied him [be it intentionally or unintentionally] will eventually fizzle, because they can’t keep stealing. So while he is in a constant state of reinvention… they have run out of gas and faded into the ether. [Unless they are Dane Cook. That fucker is like a bad penny.]
The point is, do you want to spend your energy whining about how someone stole a word or a design or a vibe from you? Or do you want to reinvent yourself into something brighter, bigger, more interesting?
The simple truth is that when we make our living writing words online and it’s a simple gesture of ctrl+c to be unoriginal, it is BOUND to happen.
You can either spend your creative energy worrying about it, or you can spend it coming up with something new to offer to the world.
You can either passive-aggressively whine about it on Facebook [using up valuable public equity] or you can work on reinventing whatever they copied. Usually, it’s about time to do that anyway.
Never forget that if your highest priority is TRULY to help others and see your work get out to the world, then having someone copy it is actually helping that cause not hurting it.
I want to wrap up with this clear disclaimer: Serious copyright infringement BLOWS. Copy and pasting word-for-word is a giant fucking no-no without permission. And you SHOULD protect yourself and defend your work. But I mean WORK, not syntax. The point of this article is not to encourage you, or anyone else to copy others. The point is that people need to chill the fuck out and worry about their own work more than they worry about other people stealing it.
And finally, I am inviting you and giving you my permission to copy this post. If you need some content for your blog this week, copy this and use it. Link back, don’t link back… I really don’t care. Seriously. Copy and paste every single word and post it on your site, if you want. Pass it off as your own. Take chunks of it. Use it all. Whatever. Credit would be nice, and would make you a good person, but I won’t be mad at you if you don’t give it.
Steal this post. [Tweet]
In the comments, please share your thoughts on this. Am I way off base? Do you agree wholeheartedly? Am I missing something? Do share.