Dealing with Copy Cats.

by Lauryn on January 29, 2014 in Business

*I am by no means an expert on this subject as I could count the times it has happened to me with just my 10 fingers, but it did happen quite recently and I wanted to share some thoughts on the subject.*

What is the best way to deal with someone who has copied your work?

I received an email from a super sweet blog reader who had discovered someone who was ripping off my website.  My first reaction was laughter.  I literally was laughing alone in my office while I clicked through the basically IDENTICAL website.  Maybe I am naive, but I never really think that people do this sort of thing.  Honestly, why would you?  But, the truth is that people do do this and it happens often.  So, there I am sitting at my desk laughing… my next thought was: do I respond?  I quickly wrote the reader back and thanked her for sharing with me, and then I emailed Jen, my web designer.  Truthfully, I think that this particular incident is more about ripping off Jen and her designs than me.  Sure, it’s my website, but its something that Jen created out of nothing so I really feel like it was her place to be offended and concerned.

Next, I threw out a question on Twitter asking for opinions and advice on how creatives deal with such things.  I got a few responses.  My main question was, do I even need to respond at all or should I just let it be? After talking with a few different people about it, mainly with Jen, we decided that we would email them and ask them to take down the site.  If they refused to do so, we would address that next.  Thankfully within 48 hours the site was changed.

Things to think through when deciding how to respond:

-What is driving my response?  Am I reacting out of anger?  I think balanced approaches filled with grace are always the better way to go.  If you need to drive a hard line later, you definitely still can, but in the beginning I find that graceful reactions tend to work out better.

-Am I being selfish? Initially I ok’ed Jared to post something to his personal Instagram about it.  However, after about 15 minutes we realized this is not how we wanted to respond and we took it down.  Calling someone out publicly without having given them a chance to respond is selfish.  We were doing it to show who was “better.”   We wanted to embarrass them.  Once we identified those emotions we knew we had made a mistake and moved quickly to fix it.

-What if YOU are the one who actually copied, even by accident?  I NEVER ever thought this even for a second, but it was brought up to us as we were talking with people about it.  What if somehow we had actually copied them?  What if Jen wasn’t the amazing person and designer that she is and ripped off someone else’s work and sold it to me? Here I am blasting off about how they are out of line, but it could have been the other way around without my knowing it.

I also have found this post to be supremely helpful, Design Sponge’s How To Deal With Copy Cats.  It’s from a Designer/Creator perspective which is definitely different than that of a photographers, but is still very applicable to my situation.

You may decide that publicly calling someone out is a better way to deal with Copy Cats, or you may decide that just not saying anything is the best way to go.  Either way, thinking through the WHY of your response is crucial.  You don’t want to regret your actions, that could potentially hurt your business, a few weeks or months down the road.

Has this ever happened to you?  How did you decide to respond?  Did you make a mistake like we did, and quickly try to fix it?

*All images in this post are from MY site, not the copiers.  

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen January 29, 2014 at 1:16 pm

High five. Great thoughts – and one thing that I would add is that it’s often SO difficult to discern between creative inspiration and creative… uh… thievery.

I’ve seen “versions” of my designs before that were clearly just products of someone going, “Oh, I like that, and I want to do a version that’s ‘me.’”

In that case, the intent isn’t really to rip off; it’s to jump off. And generally, I’ve learned to take that as flattering imitation instead of intentional copy-catting. Heck, much of my best design work has come from seeing something I loved and using it as a starting point to redesign and create around!

The difficulty arises when there is no differentiation and the intent is obviously only to recreate, not to create anew. That’s why I think our response here was entirely appropriate. Glad it was resolved!

2 Lauryn January 29, 2014 at 1:18 pm

@Jen Thanks for chiming in! Great thoughts, totally agree!!

3 Auntie P January 29, 2014 at 1:20 pm

If its the original work of you and/or your designer you should not be afraid to ask someone to cease and desist with the consequence of legal action if they don’t comply with your request within a timely manner.

4 R Wells January 29, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I agree with Aunt P. I do appreciate how you looked out for Jen and took the high road at the same time. Gives you a good name in your profession and hopefully the other person learned a lesson.

5 Rebekah Hoyt January 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I love this, Lauryn, especially how you encourage everyone to think through the “why” before they do anything. Once something is online, it’s always there, in one way or another. It’s so easy to react instead of respond, and I think considering the circumstances you handled it with wisdom and grace!

6 Rhema Peterson January 29, 2014 at 3:21 pm

This is a great post! Your perspective is so gracious which I love! Thanks for sharing!

7 Michele N January 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Great post. It is always best to extend grace, but as humans, with sin-nature, it is not what we always react with at first. I’ve seen lots of this same issue on some etsy artists that I follow and the ones who blog about it with grace are the ones that I would feel good about purchasing from in the future.

8 Christa Suppe January 29, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Well said! I think you truly nailed it.

From a designer perspective, there will always be “inspiration” driven designs. Things we see and like and some how want to implicate into our own work! BUT, with that said, there is a difference between “inspiration” / Liking what someone else did here and there and Flat out coping someone.

Sorry you had to deal with that friend.
Basically it means you are killing it :)

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