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…?”