THE Creativity Chronicles
It’s been many years since I’ve seen the film Single White Female but from what I remember, it goes a bit like this… woman puts up advert for a housemate, housemate moves in and basically wants to be the original housemate and starts slowly imitating her and taking on her persona until she then tries to take over her entire life and kill her… it’s a good film, if a bit dated. I am always reminded of this film when I come across the equivalent version of this type of person in business.
I attract a certain type of client. She (not always a ‘she’ but most of the time so we’ll stick with that) is creative, fired, free, incredible and a little bit feral – if anything, her energy needs harnessing so that we can really work out her path and her message clearly. Yet this type of person basically has a target on their head for imitation.
It never ceases to surprise me how many of my clients are copied in their creative concepts and sadly for me, their wording. Each client I work for I put time into distilling their essence and getting their wording just right so I really am not impressed when someone arrives on the scene without the talent or the truth to simply be themselves.
It is easy to copy a picture and get a model posing in pretty much the same location then doctor it to look like the photographer that you wish you were – the genius is in the creative vision more than the adept skill at Photoshop and copycat-twattery. And when writing the wording, finding words that truly describe who you are, not simply trying to sound like the person you aspire to be is where it’s at. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… if you aren’t true to yourself then you won’t attract the right clients for you in the first place.
I have clients coming to me unfortunately too regularly asking what they can do about their content being copied. There is sometimes stuff you can do – you can ask the other person to take it down, you can inform their hosting company, you can even contact Google or get legal advice to pursue with a cease and desist letter. As for how to prove you wrote it first, when a copywriter writes it there is a record of it being written and sent to you but if you write your own content, it’s a good idea to print it off and post it to yourself then keep that letter unopened so you have a postal record of when it was done. Image wise, cameras take dated records so this is an easier situation.
If and when you find you have been copied (there are many websites to help with this but one of the best is Copyscape), the first thing you need to do is take a photograph as you may need this proof at a later date. Check out the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) for help in understanding your rights. However, what most people usually don’t realise is that the moment your work is created you are protected by copyright law.
But people like this are smart. Unoriginal but smart. They copy the bare minimum. They mix it up with their usual average work so that it dilutes it down
a little and they use just enough of what you’ve done to ‘single white female’ you but not quite enough to get into trouble (in saying that, I always recommend legal action if this person is directly competing against you – usually however they are not even in the same league).
The sad truth is, for those being imitated, it’s going to happen. In my experience, the more you stand in your light, the more you are unapologetically yourself and truly own your talent, the more likely you’ll be copied as more and more people will either resent you (whole different blog post) or want a slice of what you offer. They will do everything to take a part of you and pretend that it is them, beg, borrowing and stealing to take the clothes off your back. And it will probably continue to occur. Because when you’re on your A game, when you’re smashing it out of the ball park and life is going well, that’s when they come out to play. Being average is what keeps them at bay. That’s the price you pay for being awesome and original.
So what I want to say to my clients going through this (as there’s a real spate of this recently) is sit tight, be you, shine your light, keep evolving, keep showing who you are and looking forwards (there will always be people clinging onto your tail but let them, they can’t be you no matter how hard they try) and secondly, some advice to the copycats, the wannabes, the plagiarists (yes, it’s plagiarism), perhaps you genuinely don’t know that you can’t steal someone else’s ideas, borrow their photo concepts or take a bit of wording from the internet, perhaps you truly are that naïve. If that’s the case then I’m only too happy to put the record straight. Also, the issue with taking someone else’s wording is that often it doesn’t integrate very seamlessly with your own so it can stand out like a sore thumb next to your own natural tone of voice which is why I would advise never to take from a tone that isn’t your own. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who made it first – who wrote that copy, who took that shot or planned that campaign or came up with that concept. The question is, who made it best? You will never become the leader by following the leader. #Fact.
Oh, and if you’re going to copy the wording that I so carefully crafted for a talented creative then at least make sure that your images are a half decent resolution on your website (otherwise you just look amateur) because I don’t represent average brands, I represent courageous ones… and there’s nothing courageous about copying, my friend.