How to Handle CopyCats

 

Ever have someone copy your idea, your sales page, your emails, or anything else you’ve created in your business?

Yeah, it’s not a good feeling.

Yeah, yeah – I know that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ and that we’re all of ‘one mind’ and all that, but really? There is a line that no one should cross.

I’ve dealt with this on numerous occasions in my own business (frankly dealing with it now with someone who certainly doesn’t need to copy me – who has an extremely successful business already so I know that it’s about something else entirely) and while sometimes it is easier and ok to just let it go, other times it’s not.

So what do you do when you feel compelled to do something about it?

Here are 4 ways of dealing with copycats:

1. Vent

First, get on the line with a business best friend and have a good vent about it. You need to get it out of your system before you can approach the copycat from a place where you’re more likely to have the situation resolved.

2. Call them on it personally

I like to contact people personally first, and give them a chance to make things right. I don’t have my assistant do this – I reach out myself usually via email, with a gracious note that I’ve noticed something they are doing is very similar to mine and I wanted to point that out – that I wouldn’t want their people thinking they’re copying me.

In one case, the person in question immediately responded with a gracious note back, offering that she was ‘modeling’ me and others and told me she would make changes to the page in question and send it to me for approval. She did and I was satisfied with the changes she made and all was well.

If it doesn’t go that way then…

3. Call them on it officially

Get your attorney involved and send them a ‘cease and desist’ letter. That will usually do the trick.

4. Move on

Once you’ve handled it either personally or officially, move on. Don’t hold a grudge against the person, just let it go. It’s not worth any more of your energy or emotion and recognize that the reason behind the copying has nothing to do with you. And then use the situation to be even more creative in your own endeavors going forward.

I’d love to know your thoughts on copycats – share with me below…

9 Comments

  1. Hi Alicia – Hope all is good down in New Hampshire.

    In terms of copying I see 4 scenarios here:

    1)Sales letters
    When people attend courses sometimes they leave with templates for sales letter so there is a risk of the same structure being used by a lot of different people. If, in a different context, someone models someone else’s sales letter – I think that’s fine so long as they model the structure and not the exact words. If they ‘model’ (copy) your eaxact words that is plagiarism.In universities students have rules they must respect regarding plagiarirm (often totally ignored it has to be said) – perhaps we need to shout louder about this on the internet. In such a case I would send a letter pointing out they have pagiarised and that it is a criminal offence.

    2) Information Products / Programs
    There aren’t a million ways to strangle the cat in most niches and so someone might genuinely come up with the same idea for a product or program but if they get to market first and you decide to go ahead with your own offering there is an inherent risk of it looking like copying. I’ve canned a couple of my products because they were very similar to those of someone in my circle and I didn’t want to be falsely accused of copying them. The lesson here was to not ever ever talk about what products you’re planning as I do wonder whether, in one case, they thought I had a great idea and so they got to work on it. Can’t prove it of course.

    Another challenge is sharing a product with someone you want to JV with. Obviously they can’t decide if they want to offer it their list without looking at it but then they could copy it especially if they have a Mastermind club that you’re not a member of. Maybe here one should get them to sign a letter confirming that they will not make use of it but then how to police it ?

    3) Product names
    As you know my busines is The Business Launchpad – but having named it and bought the domain name I later discovered that other people from a business plan competition in South Africa to Exeter University in the UK were using it for their programs. Since I found this out a lot later I just carried on and in fact have contacted some of them to see if they want to collaborate in some way.

    4) Blog post /Articles
    A lot of people state in their newsletters that their article can be reproduced in its entirety provied a specific paragraph is included at the end. BUt what if the person paraphrases what you’ve written and changes the order ? What if your blog post gives them an idea and they write something very similar but in their own words. What if they takes notes from an interview or teleseminar and reproduce as a supposedly original blog post or article – it’s naughty but is it a crime per se ?

    And finally – if you do need to pursue someone – What law applies ?
    If the person who has been copied is in the US and the person copying is in Australia for example – the law of which country applies ?

    Just a ‘few’ thoughts !

    Gill

    Reply
  2. Hi Alicia

    While I think Copy Cats are in some form complimentary (modelling someone they think has done something well), I find them also to be demonstrating a lack of uniqueness and authenticity and a propensity towards laziness.

    It’s easy to simply copy someone else Sales Page or Website copy but what thought, effort or individualism has gone into it. These people instead ride on the back of another.

    I haven’t had this happen to me yet (and I hope never to) so at this point I wonder if these people operate from a space of insecurity rather than purposeful malice.

    It seems that they simply don’t believe in their own resources to create something new and unique to them. Modelling those who do well is fine but if you believed in yourself, you would know you could do just as well, if not differently.

    I guess you’ve just set the bar to a standard others see value in emulating. I stil have no doubt it is frustrating though and I hope you are able to easily and quickly resolve these CopyCat situations.

    Reply
  3. Hey Alicia,

    Sadly, I think this happens to many of us. I’ve written two articles on this topic and have to admit, every time it happens, I feel violated.

    Rather than list out all my thoughts on this subject (and there are several), here are links to the blog posts I wrote: http://www.sandramartini.com/a-rose-by-any-other-name/ and http://www.sandramartini.com/the-fine-line-between-inspiration-and-imitation/

    I long for the day when this topic ceases to be. Everyone has their own unique gifts, I wish people would spend more time tapping into those than pilfering from others.

    Sandy 🙂

    Reply
  4. Thanks for the matter-of-fact approach to this ongoing and timely issue. After being in the tips booklet business for over 20 years, while some have attempted to “flatter” me with their imitation, a recent event boiled my blood beyond the simmering point. Someone absorbed a recently developed new tag line I created as their own.

    What’s more, the same person made a much larger error in using a trademarked book imprint from a major book publisher without any license or permission. One of the titles in the hijacked imprint series related to my well-established area of expertise.

    While the offender has yet to remove my tag line from their promotional copy, I have, in fact, alerted the major book publisher to the matter and their substantial legal resources will be brought to bear! The offender lives in another part of the world than North America, so it’s even better that the publisher will be able to go after them.

    As you and my friend/colleague Sandy Martini of http://www.sandramartini.com mention, I have taken the stance of doing what I can do and then moving on.

    Thank you for addressing this in the way that you have.

    Paulette Ensign

    Reply
  5. Another issue I’ve run across is course materials – I provide training on quality and environmental auditing, and my course material is clearly marked with (c) on it; however, I found out that someone who attended my class later taught the same material to someone else.

    I didn’t bother to call them on it, but did mention to the group that received my pirated training that a royalty and permission was required and not obtained…

    Reply
  6. In Mexico and Latin America, it happens all the time! And when you call them they get MAD and they make so much fuzz that it seems you are the one who is wrong.
    I had my original website copied by another Certified Workshop Leader
    in the Philosophy of Louise Hay (as I am). She even copied the name of my workshops. Go figure! Long story to tell you. No need to get into the negative mode. I finally decided to change MY website, although my courses remain the same. That is why it is so important to register your own stuff but it is so expensive! oh! 🙁

    Reply
  7. I think the entire “modeling” concept is a big part of the problem. People copy because they can’t come up with something better but they justify it because coaches have taught them modeling is ok. And how many times have I heard lately…well their aren’t any more new ideas…yeah right! We need less copycats and more originals.

    In fact I remember attending a conference last year where someone said to me “oh you’re stuff reminds me of ABC.” They said it to flatter me because it was someone they admired. But I didn’t find it flattering at all. I’m not a knock-off brand! So I took a close look at everything I had with a fresh perspective and made adjustments so my unique selling points are even more clear.

    Reply
  8. I am a Child & Family Psycholgist and I pretty much had my practice and niche in my field taken out from under me by an old old client who signed an agreement not to use the materials from the program I did with them and a copyrighted book I sold to them and then they gave it to someone else in their family and got a publisher and basically became the top of any search result. Used my exact words from my copyrighted booklet and didn’t even try to change the title very much from mine. I tried to approach and sue and the publishing company threatened me so I backed off. It ended up in ruin and I had to re-invent my practice. After a lot of heart break and financial struggle, recently, I have started up a different business because the old one is just not doing well. You cannot compete when someone is using your exact words and specialties that were your niche.

    Reply
  9. Thank you Alicia…..
    Excellent article and I have shared. I am an artist and designer, specializing in needlepoint design. This issue has been a problem for years in my field……Your steps are the exact ones I use.

    This is what I wrote on the top when I posted your article.
    “~ Good article ……..These are actually the steps I use when designers have crossed the line. I copyrighted the shape and topknot on the ball ornament, heart and egg and inside contents.
    I’m sure you have seen other designers take the liberty and copy it. I respect their work and talents and do not infringe on their work. Thank you my friends for stitching “the original” and supporting my work.
    ~ Jody Williamson-Valentine | In the Studio

    Reply

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