Someone copied my stuff – online. This is what you can do if someone steals YOUR stuff!
Are you here because someone copied your content, plagiarised your writing or stole your designs?
If so, you may be thinking: “someone copied me what can I do?“
You are now officially an Influencer.
If that un-asked for title doesn’t melt the sick, anxious feeling in your gut, then read on.
If someone copied your stuff, you may feel distress mixed with anger…
Anger at the offender for having the cheek to swipe stuff you’ve sweated hard to create. As well as anger for yourself for being too nice, too open and too trusting.
I’m posting this today after learning that a lovely business owner and friend of mine has been subject to the second case of a competitor
mimicking stealing her brand identity online this year.
I am a creator who strives to be authentic and original. I do not follow trends and styles simply because they sell or are popular (i.e. to gain follows, or raise brand awareness).
I enjoy putting a lot of work into creating various brand incarnations from scratch. They are build upward around me, from a core set of values embodied in me and reflected in each business.
In reality, it takes weeks for my concept to leave my brain, evolve experimentally, until finally culminating in a uniting, cohesive style.
And I like hanging out with other ethical, conscious, highly sensitive business owners. They are my people.
So it comes as a real surprise when, on a few rare occasions, I have had a peer copy my style, blog posts or services.
UGH – someone copied my stuff
Is imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?
I imagine that statement rings true if you are a band, and your fans all dye their hair the same colour as you, after attending your gigs and buying your records.
It’s not the same when someone with no investment in or loyalty to you, walks off with the cream of your creative efforts.
In ‘the olden days’, i.e. pre-internet, it was less easy to copy. Creative things like writing + art were done on paper, in the physical realm. Publishing was only available to industry gatekeepers.
In this digital world, it’s easy to cut + paste, repurpose and click ‘publish’.
It’s a brave new world wide web, a bit like a digital wild west. Accepted behaviour and ethics around content sharing are still in formulation.
Some people think that, because it can be easy to hand your stuff to a designer on Fiverr to re-create, then it must be fair game.
Yet, as an original creator, when someone copies your stuff, whether subtly or brazenly, your magical worldview and faith in humanity comes crashing down.
As well as the pain you feel, which can be felt viscerally often around the heart chakra, you are left with an incredible sense of injustice and powerlessness.
You can also feel angry: at yourself.
Why did I not see this would happen? Why did I not protect myself better?
Fortunately, I’ve only experienced being copied a few times in my self-employed career. It hurt and, in one instance, where trust was monumentally broken, I took months to recover from a lingering depression.
Fortunately, I learnt a lot from these betrayals.
So, I have a few nougats that might help you get back on your feet, if this has happened to you.
Here’s my spiritual healing perspective on what to do when someone ‘copies your stuff’. Enjoy!
Someone copied my stuff: Do I contact the offender?
If someone has copied your stuff (online or otherwise) the knee-jerk reaction can be to throw all the metaphorical dummies out of the pram – and the babies out with the bathwater.
Especially, in cases when someone copies your stuff so blatantly, and it’s just pure laziness on the part of the copier.
Essentially, you have to decide whether or not to bring their attention to the fact that there actions wrong, and how they have had an impact on you, the original creator.
Bear in mind, that some plagiarism is entirely innocent. People don’t think or just don’t realise that they need to credit work or ask first.
They may not actually realise that plagiarism is unethical: many non-creatives don’t. For example, people who copy and share other artists’ or photographers’ work on social media often don’t realise that copyright law exist to protect the originators of their work.
So, you may decide to approach them in a friendly way and ask, kindly, that they make a correction.
In more serious cases, you may need to send them a ‘cease and desist-style letter’.
For more information on the latter, see the blog post by online marketeer Nathalie Lussier.
If you are a highly sensitive empath + introvert, this situation will bring up ALL YOUR FEARS about confrontation.
So, first, you’ll need to ask yourself: do I need a sledgehammer to crack a nut?
The truth is that not all forms of copying are overt. Therefore, challenging someone who has copied your stuff / your style / your content / your brand in a subtle way, can feel like overkill.
With the hammer approach, you risk damaging your reputation if, in fact, that person did so entirely innocently. That kind of confrontation can leave a sour taste in your own mouth, while not actually accomplishing what you want to achieve.
Alternatively, if someone knows exactly what they are doing, but has taken a calculated risk because they doubt you will challenge them, then such a person may not even admit to themselves that what they did was sneaky. If you are too direct with them, they may get defensive or aggressive.
In instances when your options are limited, rather than trying to control what is going in the outside world, the answer to ‘What to do when someone copies your stuff’ is about finding an inner shift that restores your balance, composure and peace of mind.
At this point it might be helpful to define…
Someone copied my stuff, but what is copying?
Some ethical conundrums from pop culture:
- Should Madonna stop J-Lo attending her pop concerts and ‘being influenced’ by her style or musicality?
- Should Marie Forleo feel territorial about her business (i.e. I got there first) as she watches online marketing newbies excel?
- Should Debbie Harry, Boy George or Gwen Stefani have felt excited or angry when their fans copied their signature look?
- Is Nicki Minaj over-reacting when she aggressively ‘defends’ her Queen of Rappers position, by calling out industry copycats?
In order to be a creative success – people have to actually see your ‘stuff’.
Your stuff could be a brand, style, look, values, writing, poetry, photography, design, etc.
Two types of success can be emulated:
1) People see your stuff, love it and suddenly you are influencial. Many artists and musicians with great kudos have this definition of success;
2) People see your stuff, love it, invest in it and you are influencial. The second is when there is some monetary exchange, such as art / book / music / event sales, and mutual respect.
The latter is fair because the artist / creator is rewarded. Then if fans ‘copy’ the creator, at least the creator’s basic financial needs are met and their original work is recognised + accredited.
Monetary exchange is the premise for copyright and intellectual property law.
So, if you want to stand out in a crowded + noisy online world, before creating content, you must ask yourself…
Are you an original or a copier?
As an original creator, you draw on a well-spring of creativity every time you make something new, from nothing.
It’s an alchemical process.
You contact the source of creativity (life force, prana, chi) within you.
Your unique creativity is a spark from the same creative force that runs through that whole of humanity… and the universe.
When you channel that natural creative force, you feel alive, motivated, positive, inspired and excited.
At the same time, your personal experiences, likes, dislikes and tastes filter, diffuse and alter that creative light. You put your own unique stamp on whatever you co-create with spirit.
This process has peaks and troughs, valleys and mountains, euphoria and doubt (and even hopelessness).
As Steven Pressfield says in his book The War of Art, you have to break through the blocks to win your inner creative battles.
Out of that process comes something very carefully crafted, which captures the essence of you + what you want to say to the world.
Ideally, this ‘style’, ‘thing’ or ‘final product’ (i.e. a piece of clothing, artwork, blog post, website, logo, book or photograph) will also be appealing to others.
When you create something that is personally satisfying and also serves the greater good, it can be said that you have found your purpose.
This kind of creative output is extremely gratifying because you have completely earned every ounce of pleasure attained from gazing at, using and sharing your finished piece.
Any praise, acknowledgement or gratitude is simply icing on the very delicious (gluten-free vegan) cake.
It should not matter when you discover that someone, doing very similar work to you, has liked your creation so much they’ve taken parts of it for themselves.
But, it does.
Somehow, it can really hurt.
Example: A shop owner takes great pride in the shop’s creative window displays. A new shop, selling similar products, opens a few doors down and imitates the first shop’s window display. Should the first shop owner feel upset?
I feel the difference comes down to whether or not your success has given someone permission to express something deep within themselves.
Or whether the copier has merely felt a twang of envy, or even jealousy, and copied your stuff in a calculated way because they want what you have.
Someone copied my stuff: Don’t blame the internet
Love it or hate it, the internet has changed the business and creative landscapes forever. A quick trawl of the interwebs is all that’s needed to see what other people are doing design-wise.
Rapid regurgitation of ideas and people’s hunger to jump onto the next big thing; searching for the magic bullet for success; the latest shiny object and wanting to stand out from the crowd, can mean that ethical considerations go out the window.
Users ‘steal, borrow or share’ other people’s content without even thinking of attribution.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest encourage this.
Though devious people may take advantage by cropping out watermarks and claiming content as their own, you can’t live your life in a creative cave because you’re afraid of someone pilfering your best ideas.
You just can’t.
A talented artist friend of mine won’t promote her work at all because she’s too afraid people will copy her aesthetic.
When I challenged her about these crippling fears, she replied: “You don’t know what it feels like to have your work copied! It’s awful!”
Sadly, her fears about being copied have stopped her finding her people; those who appreciate her creations and are willing to pay for them.
Her beautiful paintings pile up inside her house, never to be seen by the outside world.
Yet, I can think of a time when I was just starting out that I appropriated a designer’s work by borrowing the colours (yellow and black) and using a similar typeface to The Ragged School in London for my first website.
I saw the theme in a graphic design book I owned. I just liked it – ironically because it was different!
Would the original designer have been upset that I used a similar yellow / black colour scheme and typeface?
I don’t know.
I think that if I was a similar business trying to muscle in on The Ragged School’s market, location or if I was another service positioning myself within the same industry, then YES.
As a moonlighting palm-reader with absolutely nothing in common with The Ragged School’s business, perhaps it was not such an ethical issue. But I recognise now that I took this action because I didn’t have my own style back then.
I didn’t have the creative know-how to make something polished from scratch either. Not a great excuse though, is it?
Creators reference other creator’s work all the time, but there is a fine line between referencing respectfully, and ripping off.
CopyCat Cure: Be the best plum
If you are ‘inspired’ by someone online and thinking of using their ‘look’ for yourself, I suggest pausing for a moment. Think it through.
Absorbing too much other people’s lifestyle choices, colour schemes, adventures and filters can erode your own originality and voice.
When you are going into your own creative planning process, I recommend you limit your use of the internet, especially social media. This is so you can develop your own style.
It’s great to browse magazines, books, film and online for occasional inspiration, but I believe that continually being exposed to what others are up to business- or creative-wise is counterproductive.
The temptation is to absorb the superficial display of, for example, someone’s feed, and contrast their offerings with your own.
It takes the focus away from ‘how can I be the best version of me’ and replaces it with comparison. This is never good, because comparison erodes your self-esteem and integrity.
I have stumbled across websites that look wonderful; where the creative output, social engagement and humble brags have left me questioning: Am I doing it right? Am I doing enough? Am I any good?
Science is beginning to prove that too much time using social media correlates negatively with wellbeing and happiness. (Just saying.)
Ultimately, being plugged into others in this way is unhelpful creatively too.
CopyCat Cure: Comparison is the thief of joy
[Quote copied from Theodore Roosevelt]
The grass is always greener on the other side: stay in lane and cultivate your own garden.
If you are already gazing at other people’s work until you’ve lost all sense of your inner compass, stop. You need to get perspective.
Have a complete break for a few days and go and climb a mountain or walk in the woods. You’ll soon regain your balance, fresh ideas and composure.
CopyCat Cure: Shift your mindset
When someone copies your stuff, you can’t just blame them + the internet.
If you’ve laid awake at night, or ever had ‘the fear’ or felt crushed to the core due to someone else counterfeiting something you poured blood, sweat and creative tears into, you have to look inwards at exactly why being copied impacts you so deeply.
The cause of any pain may be an earlier issue that needs to be resolved.
A wound that must be brought into the light of awareness to be healed.
This might be something that happened when you were a child. For example, boundaries being overstepped, not standing up for yourself, or not being given attention or recognition within the family unit.
As the copier or copied, you may need to check yourself for scarcity thinking. Examine your beliefs / blocks around abundance and universal supply.
If you feel that you need to ‘be more like someone else‘ in order to succeed, that’s scarcity thinking.
Equally, if you feel your success will be taken away, because a competitor is has started producing similar output.
Potential responses depend on personal choice:
- What story do you tell yourself?
- What beliefs do you allow yourself to think?
- What fears do you allow to dominate your mood?
- How much progress have you made in your own self-worth, empowerment and self-belief?
You could choose to see ‘someone copying your stuff’ as a test.
It is challenge to make yourself even stronger, so that you really believe in yourself + what you have to offer.
Recently, I noticed how differently I felt in relation to this issue, compared to how I’d felt a few years ago.
I am now doing work that is truer than ever before to who I am as a person.
It’s coming from my centre and that has given me confidence.
I decided to rise to the challenge of being copied. I noticed that I felt compelled to improve my offerings, skills and presence.
It was time for an upgrade, make-over and re-build so that my online offerings reflected an internal change already undergone.
Like shedding a skin.
So, being ‘copied’ can be a motivator: can you do better with what you are producing and expressing in the world?
How can you evolve further?
Your ‘copier’ has thrown a gauntlet down – it’s time to up your game, keep calm and carry on.
You may find that the pain and fear caused by slavish imitation declines, if you follow your true north without compromise or trade-off.
Finally, remember this:
When you are being your authentic self, know that there is only one of you in the whole universe.
It is therefore impossible for anyone to be an energetic match to you, your work or your creations.
Your people want YOU. And only you.
In conclusion, my message to you is this:
Don’t fall down a Twitter-, Insta-, FB- or comparison-hole.
You are enough.
BE YOU… so your tribe can find you.
…And don’t be an arseh*le either.
CopyCat Cure: Recovery Checklist
Steps you can take to recover + heal after someone copies your stuff.
First, acknowledge that your internal bases are affected and you are not over-reacting.
Practice self-compassion – for some time to come you will be processing stormy emotions, so be kind and gentle with yourself.
Adopt extreme self-care so you can bounce back from depression, anxiety, disempowerment, frustration or victimisation.
Tell your story: speak to supportive friends and colleagues who will help you feel less alone.
Restore your inner equilibrium and balance by spending more time than usual amongst the people who love and respect you.
Don’t blame yourself – or your open-hearted nature. Seriously, it’s really not you: it’s them.
Get support: If you decide stand up for your rights by going down the legal route, check out Suzanne Dibble’s SBLA membership (Black Friday deal every November) if in the UK or Rocket Legal in the US, for example.
See what’s happened as a spiritual flashlight. A chance to up-level your offerings, be even more dynamic and stay one step ahead.
Try my Heart Healing Meditation (It’s designed to soothe a heart that is reeling from disappointment or betrayal): Heart Healing Meditation.
You may be feeling creatively stung and in need of TLC, but after you bounce back you will be ready for your next big trajectory!
This is not the end.
You are destined to climb further and higher.
Stay strong, safe and protected.
CopyCat Cure: Protect your stuff!
Amy Garner’s Copyright Notice + Disclaimer.
Amy Garner’s Terms of Website Use.
* Don’t copy these documents as they have been purchased from + are copyrighted to the Small Business Legal Academy!
Search for copied content: https://www.copyscape.com/
Detect plagiarism: https://www.plagtracker.com/
Copy and paste a paragraph into Google with “quotation marks” either side of it. Google will search the internet for an exact match.
You can set up Google Alerts to search for new instances of your work daily and be notified when copies of their material, both legal and illegal ones, are posted online.
You can report a website for stealing content. Find out which internet provider is hosting a copier’s website at whoishostingthis and contact them. If there is a flagrant breach, sometimes the service provider will remove the offending website.
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