The first time someone copied words I had written, I took it personally and lost days of worry over it.
I had zero resources for what to do when someone plagiarizes you. This is exactly why I’m writing this post, because we entrepreneurs work hard enough, and we all get by with a little help from our friends.
I’m dealing with plagiarism now, and it’s a much larger situation than my first encounter.
But you know what?
I processed it, set up an appointment with my attorney, and am not dwelling on it.
That, my friends, is #personalgrowth.
Sometimes it’s surprising who struggles with words. If someone plagiarizes you, take consolation in the fact that they look up to you! (But need to learn how to channel their own creativity, this is not condoning any sort of plagiarism.)
But how should we deal with someone using our hard won words and vision?
Does the person copying you enter your competition or work in your same circles?
If the answer is no, weigh your energy and decide if you want to spend time reaching out to get them to do the right thing…
Or simply put on blinders and push your brand forward. (It depends obviously on the scope of what they copied, too.)
Why not chase people down at all costs?
Simply put, sometimes your time will have a greater ROI if you focus on pushing your brand forward vs. chasing down an imitator.
There’s a reason they are imitating. They don’t have their own strategy. That doesn’t go far in entrepreneurland, and they will learn their own lesson.
When do you go after a plagiarizer?
If they’re competition or generally in your market, you need to name it and claim it when it comes to your intellectual property.
You can do this in two ways.
Hire an attorney who specializes in intellectual property. If someone uses your name, tagline or slogan, you chat with an attorney who specializes in trademark law. (Make sure you get it all trademarked (or have your application filed) so you HAVE the rights to it!) If someone plagiarizes a snippet, general feel or pages of copy, chat with an attorney who specializes in copyright law. (My attorney does both trademarking and copyright law—she’s also such a soothing, knowledgeable guide.)
I’ve done this myself, it’s nerve wracking. But can have a positive result. This is your framework (and what I used on a peer who plagiarized me!)
Point to similarities as the problem, not the person.
“I noticed _______ on your website is similar/identical to my ______. “
Assume positive intent and offer the benefit of the doubt that it was not intentional. (Even if you feel it was purposeful, acting rude will escalate everything quickly.)
“I know we all consume a ton of websites in our industry, so I get how this could be an accident.”
Present a reason-backed authoritative request.
“Please remove ______ from your site by _______ so it doesn’t cause any brand confusion.”
You can do this in person (I did!) or over the phone, but always follow up in an email so you have a paper trail of when you first made this request, should you need to move into legal action.
Do you want to avoid copying someone else? Don’t look at your competition’s websites for inspiration.
If you feel like a decent writer, but lost with how to write a brilliant, on-brand website, hop on the waitlist for our mastermind. (I’ll help you write your site for a fraction of what it costs to work with us 1:1.)
Ultimately, what to do when someone plagiarizes you is up to you. Leave it, challenge it, or hire an attorney. You know your business and yourself best, choose the decision that helps you sleep well at night.
P.S. If you want to double check who had what on their website first, plug someone’s site into Way Back Machine and look at their site changes over time. (You could pinpoint the date any plagiarized copy was added. Polish that FBI agent stalker badge while you’re at it.)