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Copyright – Social Media SAVES your IP from plagiarists


I get asked all the time “if you blog, tweet, slideshare, podcast, can’t someone just TAKE your intellectual property?” My response – you are SAFER if you are open with your content than locking it down.

A few years ago,I called for an “unIndustry” association to protect user generated content (the little guy) from being ripped off by agencies and big content providers. I think we are crowdsourcing this unIndustry association in an adhoc movement of anti-marketing anti-PR communities.

My Plagiarism story

I presented at WebDirections. It was either 2005 or 2006.  I did a LOT of research and narrowed down from thousands of potential videos, just three, and built a story arc around those three. I did some background research, which was time consuming and indepth then presented the vidoes and research and my original analysis of what I thought was happening. A few months later, I was sitting at a conference (in the audience) and the creative director of a well known Sydney agency presented my presentation. The same 3 or 4 videos, the same outcomes, the same mistakes even. Someone had taken good notes at the conference.

I was going to ignore it – he clearly didn’t believe or understand what he was talking about – then decided I was curious to see what he would say. My email started with:

Loved your presentation a few days ago – particularly as I gave it a couple of months ago…

His response? Waffle about “this is the way this industry works” and “who are YOU anyway” (I think he knows now :P) –  only a minor acknowledgment that the whole thing was holus bolus mine and definitely no apology.

In a way he was right. I was pretty unread back then, not much of a profile. It kinda made me determined to be a voice amongst the big boys. I’m not an agency – I come from the community perspective, not the agency point of view – and it’s pretty hard for a sole player, a user generated content maker, to be heard.

Things change.

BeamDotMy vs Problogger

Yesterday, Twitterers noted that Darren Rowse, otherwise known as Australia’s most popular media and marketing blogger Problogger, had had his logo ripped off by BeamDotMy

When I checked on Buzz, there were hundreds of comments – followers had even taken beamdotmy logo, flipped it in photoshop and were able to prove without a shadow of a doubt that it was ripped from Problogger.

So a little plagiarist went up against a big blogger and lost.

PaperChase vs HiddenEloise

Paperchase ripped off artist HiddenEloise. When she complained about it, they ignored her and continued to sell on Amazon and elsewhere. So she took it to Twitter.

Realising that contacting the lawyers would result in astronomically high legal fees that she simply couldn’t afford ($40,000 for court expenses), HiddenEloise instead took to her blog, accusing Paperchase of plagiarism, and asking readers to contact the stationery firm directly.

This blog post was subsequently tweeted by the English science fiction author, Neil Gaiman. With his approximately 1.5 million followers, it’s unsurprising that the story was quickly gathered momentum on Twitter and was subsequently retweeted thousands of of times. It is now one of Twitter’s top 10 trending topics, which spells trouble for Paperchase.

You can read the whole tacky story at eConsultancy.

Paperchase (now on Twitter, now responding on a blog):

Gather No Moss, the Agency we bought the artwork from, have asked us to post the following statement:

“We are the small design company that represents the independent artist who created the Paperchase design. We have contacted Hidden Eloise by email and are hoping to talk with her soon. We carry the work of designers who like Hidden Eloise are all trying hard to make a living through their art. We would never knowingly sell a design that infringes the copyright of a fellow artist. We have worked with Paperchase for many years and found them a great supporter of independent artists.”

Paperchase’s position regarding the allegations of ‘copying’ made against the Company today is as follows:

Above all, we would like to apologise to any customers upset or angered by this allegation against us. Paperchase takes all

reasonable precautions to check that designs we source or buy from individual designers or agencies are from reputable sources. In this case, we would like to confirm that Paperchase bought the artwork in question, in good faith, in October 2008, from a well-known central London Design Studio along with a number of other designs. The illustrator who is making the allegation made us aware of her concerns in November 2009 and we duly responded to her in early December, since when we had heard nothing….until today. Back in November 2009, we spoke at length to the Design Studio in question and they categorically denied any plagiarism.

It is worrying that such an allegation can create such reaction and again, Paperchase apologises for any ill-feeling caused.

If you would like to contact us please click here

They can take our stuff, use it for presentations, for inspiration, for furthering their arguments, their business, their cause. But don’t just rip it off, claiming it as their own. They must as a minimum attribute and abide by creative commons copyright. Or they will be named and shamed. Have YOU got a social media copyright story?

Nothing will stop lazy plagiarists from ripping my content – the best thing for me is to have it public, in the cloud, dated and signed. Someone invariably leaves a note on the plagiarists site or during a presentation “that looks a lot like the work done by SilkCharm a year ago…?”

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

22 thoughts on “Copyright – Social Media SAVES your IP from plagiarists

  1. Thanks so much for this wonderful enlightening post and for spreading some digital sunshine. It’s a great example of the power of Social Media and how people do step up at times to be counted.

  2. How timely! I just found a new scraper tonight. Douche-bag immediately scraped, stole, posted and tweeted my own article right after I published it – didn’t even hit the RSS feed yet like most lazy scraper rely on. Dumb enough to leave all my internal links in so it’s obvious it’s mine. But I’m pissed because their Alexa’s under 100K PR3, etc. so he just beats me out; Google will likely rank him higher. Sent note, tweeted, but no reply. Will have to go through DMCA, host, etc. Total douche.
    Shame @macroaxis for blatantly ripping off 20-30 bloggers without permission.

  3. The apology that isn’t actually an apology from Paperchase:

    ‘It is worrying that such an allegation can create such reaction and again, Paperchase apologises for any ill-feeling caused.’

    1. yeah I picked that up as well. It goes along with the typical corporate response of “all detractors are nutjobs”. They don’t understand that the community checks the qualifications of HiddenEloise first, then back her. We don’t go on the warpath for drama queens. Well, not often. 😛

  4. I got an unpleasant x-mas present – on 24.12.09 I found out that two online news companies used my cropped photo and had their names on it.
    I sent several emails, posted about the case on my blog and I got support from my readers. Finally they removed my picture.
    Maybe they thought I could never find out…but google and my intuition helped…
    For me it wasn’t a money or my talent issue/quality of my photo – as a matter of principle was more important. All online news know the rules…

  5. Great post Laurel 🙂

    One concern though, is that in naming and shaming we’re committing defamation, and if someone’s nasty enough to rip you off they might just soccer punch you with a lawsuit. Defamation has nothing to do with whether you told the truth or lied, but whether what you said damages their reputation (which the above does). There are one or two people I would love to name and shame but not with the potential of being sued for it.

    I really like your idea of an “unIndustry” association to protect the little guys – especially as we see the rise of more and more crowdsourcing. When done from a non-profit/community/art perspective, fantastic, but there are also a lot of instances where it amounts to pure exploitation.

  6. Vigilance is constantly required whether creating new work or standing guard over existing creations.

    Here’s the details of a copyright scrape we got into when using supplied pictures of the client’s dog and friends.

    http://teddytowncrier.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/a-narrow-escape-from-a-copyright-infringement-allegation/

  7. I enjoyed reading this post, especially the examples. It is interesting how social media is now giving voice to the little person. Up until now, the little person was being silenced by the big corporations because they were considered nobodies. Now everyone is someone again.

  8. hough I’m not sure how I just now saw this, I am glad I did.

    While I largely agree with you that social media can be a great tool for resolving plagiarism issues, I also have to caution against it. There are two very good reasons.

    First, by naming and shaming, you expose yourself to libel issues. Without knowing the full story about something, you risk saying something that is seen as libelous and you may find yourself on the wrong end of the suit.

    Second, crowds have a tendency to go too far. I’ve seen plagiarism cases where death threats were hurled and people were harassed online and off. Many take these issues seriously and go overboard with them. That can lead to significantly worse legal issues than infringement.

    The other problem is that, with DMCA takedowns and other levers to remove infringing material without the aid of lawyers, there isn’t much reason to do it. If all else fails, it may be worth the risks but not until all other options are exhausted.

    Just my take but it is a system that has served me well, over 700 times.

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