*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.