Had your content stolen? Get over it.

is anything original

By Alisa Meredith, {grow} Community Member

When I was child, my younger brother would from time to time surprise our parents with a new bit of knowledge or a skill and they’d ask, “Where did you learn that?” Every. Single. Time. He would answer, “I didn’t learn it – I just know.” Well, as adults, we know better – pretty much everything we know, we learned from someone else.

It’s OK to admit that. In fact, it’s more than OK.

Which is why it’s frustrating to me when marketers think they have cornered the market on some brand new idea. As Peg Fitzpatrick said to me the other day, “Marketers are all just basically regurgitating the ideas from Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’”

Yup, that’s right. None of us is as original as we’d like to think.

That doesn’t mean we should all give up writing (or speaking, or teaching). There’s a reason thousands of books are published every year. We crave information, and we don’t mind a bit if we’ve read the same basic facts and principles as long as it’s presented with a unique point of view or in a new context. THAT is where we are all capable of originality.

And then there are the Cheaters

Building on ideas is different from stealing, however.

If someone is actually stealing content, they’ll either be exposed, or their laziness will extend to the point where they stop even bothering to steal, or their terrible ethics will destroy their business anyway.

Laura Hogan, a writer and Inbound Marketer, is more upset by the root of the problem than the actual lifting of content. She says, “The problem in my mind is not that people are stealing other people’s ideas it’s that they’re becoming too lazy to come up with their own. There are tools popping up left and right  offering a ‘Blog Title Generator’ and more than the travesty of their existence is the fact that people are actually using them.”

Honestly I couldn’t care less if someone steals words I wrote in a blog post, images I create, or whatever it is that they feel like they need to steal. I get the satisfaction of knowing I wrote or did something worth stealing and they get repurposed and unoriginal content.”

Peg Fitzpatrick has had her work blatantly copied: “As marketers, writers, or creatives, we share our ideas with the world,” she said. “This may generate many different responses from love to hate. If you’re ideas are solid, people will talk about them. Some will share that they love it and some may disagree entirely.

Ideas on the free market

Once you put your ideas out there in the world, they really are not entirely your own any longer. You’ve shared them with your readers and they bloom and grow into something new which may or may not be aligned with your original intent. In some ways the reader defines your ideas.

Putting yourself out there is a risk that has many rewards. Learn from the constructive critics, ignore the jerks, and don’t let the flattery go to your head.

There Aren’t as Many Cheaters as You Think

I suspect that often what is happening is people have similar ideas completely independent of each other. Haven’t you ever heard someone say, “Hey, I had that idea back in 1983?” when they see some amazing new gadget? Well, maybe they did have the idea before anyone else in the world (though honestly, what are the chances?), but that doesn’t mean that the person who actually made it happen stole the idea.

It’s incredibly difficult to claim exclusive ownership of a concept or idea. So in marketing, the person who ends up benefiting is the one who does something with it. Either they promote it like crazy, or they have an audience who does it for them.

I confess I purposefully did not read any articles along the same lines of this post so that it would not change my views and so that what I wrote wouldn’t be tainted with someone else’s ideas.

Is it still possible I’m echoing someone else’s thoughts?

Sure, but if so, it’s purely coincidence, OR it’s from something I saw in passing a year ago and internalized. And that’s the price of publishing – our ideas take on a life of their own. But isn’t that really kind of the best thing about it?

It’s time to get over it

So, if I came up with a novel use for say, a Pinterest feature and published a blog post on the subject – could I really be upset if someone with 100 times my star power wrote about the same thing and got 100 times the recognition for it? I don’t think so. It wouldn’t even enter my mind to protest – besides, it’s not rocket science – it’s possible he or she figured it out the same way I did. Today, more than half the game is promotion and to the popular goes the spoil.

Is it fair? Not always. But who said life was fair? Can we just get over it?

I have a feeling I’m in for a little backlash here. If you’ve had your work stolen and suffered financially as a result, you might have a completely different view, and I’d like to hear it. I’m not saying I have it completely figured out. Tell me what you think. Just be original about it!

alisa meredithAlisa Meredith is Co-owner at Scalable Social Media, Consultant at OverGo Studio, and subject to the whims of her two poodle mixes as well as a new-found addiction to running. Lately, she’s surprised her introverted self by developing a penchant for podcast and Hangout appearances. 

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