Today was one of the busiest days for my blog since I started it more than a year ago. Part of that is because PRDaily picked up a post of mine that initially ran on this blog last month. (I am going to start contributing to that awesome site regularly with original posts. Thanks, Michael Sebastian!)
But part of the reason for traffic and clicks, I’m sure, is because I got ripped off by a PR agency that knows better — or damn well should.
When I saw that this agency posted my work, literally word for word, as its own, I sent a comment to the blog. The “moderator” didn’t approve it. Shocking, I know.
I decided not to blow off this one. We creative types who dream up and send out our content have every right not to have it stolen. Yet so often, that’s exactly what happens. Many bloggers and others have weighed in on this, including my friend Peggy Fitzpatrick in this wonderful post last month on her blog. Still, it seems as if the stealing is only growing. It sure is easier now than ever to do it.
When my feisty #takeitdown Tweet went out, many members of the Twitter community rallied to my defense and also fussed and Tweeted about and to the offender (neither of whose Twitter handle nor pilfered link I am going to include here because, while I want the burglars outed, I don’t want to give them exposure of any kind that would likely just boost their analytics.)
That support heartened me. It definitely drove extra traffic to my site. And, in a perverse way, it probably also increased my standing as a blogger and content creator because I was deemed good enough to rip off. After all, those counterfeiters fake only the high-end goods, right?
Set aside the extra attention and support that came from this incident, which totally reaffirmed my belief in the social web’s ability to self police and to form and support their community.
This is what I keep contemplating as a result of today: as content becomes easier to share, how can we find better ways to ensure creators and owners get the credit for their intellectual property and effort? After all, these are the folks who help keep the social web spinning.
I know nothing about programming or coding. But I do create a ton of content for clients, for my own blog, for other blogs like the best list blog on the web 12 Most. Can’t the whip-smart brains in our community make tighter seals of authenticity around the art and content being created and shared?
I see infographics, for instance, without Twitter handles or even names of the brainpower behind them. I try to track down the designer, where possible, and include them when I Tweet the art. I will often send great infographics through a Power Tweet on Twylah because of the turbocharged exposure it gives to Tweets, like this one. I figure if the Tweet I use to share an infographic is going to get a longer half-life, the creator of that content deserves at least as much of that as I do.
It sometimes comes down to leverage.
When I freelanced for major publications in the late 1990s, and electronic platforms were still pretty young, it made me laugh that I had to sign away my rights to the articles I pitched and wrote whether they ran on a long list of existing media channels “or any that hadn’t yet been created.” Those lawyers think of everything. What choice did I have?
If you work for an agency or creative, digital firm, it owns your work. That’s the trade-off for getting the protection and security of full-time employment with benefits. Because of its resources, the firm can also help guard against illegal use of the work.
However, if you run your own shop, as I do, then you get to keep control over the rights. But you also run greater risk of getting scavenged by the scum who swoop in and think that with a simple ‘cut and paste’ your work can be theirs, for free.
I have given up on the idea that stealers will be reformed. Have you seen the statistics on the percentage of college students who cheat on exams (including the gem about cheaters having higher grade point averages? Yuck!) Or the number of folks who cheat on their taxes, including those nominated to Cabinet positions?
So, I get that it’s going to keep happening. And I’m not stuck on this because it’s a morality issue, which it is.
This matters to me and to many tens of thousands of other creative people communicating, marketing, leading, influencing and coaching on the social web. Why? Because of the commercial threat that stolen intellectual property presents to all of us.
Like other content creators, I get business because of the quality of my content and the wheels that turn inside my brain that think up the ideas, strategies and concepts I offer clients. It angers me that vultures take what they want with no regard for their prey — us.
We can put tracking devices on cars. We can put microchips inside pets to help them be safely found, if lost. The beleaguered U.S. Postal Service, struggling to turn a profit, manages still to return letters gone astray, for goodness sakes! Why can’t we do a better job of making content harder to steal? I imagine that kind of technology would have many customers and make its inventor good money.
Yes, I know some tools exist, such as trackbacks and pingbacks. I use Google alerts and Topsy.com as well. But I am picturing something like an alarm that prevents the content from being lifted in the first place. Like one of those ink-filled security tags stores use. When a shoplifter gets a dress home and tries to snip off the device, ink explodes, rendering the garment unwearable.
Getting ripped off, and seeing my friends get ripped off, clearly still has me steamed.
So, thanks for visiting my blog on one of my busiest days and bearing with me as I think of, and strive to create, better solutions. It’s what I do for a living. Oh, and I’m happy for you to share this post. But don’t steal it…otherwise, I’ll shame you with Tweets, and so will some of my Twitter chums. (I picked up about 30 new followers today, too!)