Updated: Nov 8, 2021
Content is accessible everywhere nowadays and the line between inspiration and imitation is constantly being tested. Never, more so than today, when our work, ideas and creativity are on full display for everyone, for consumers and competitors alike, has there been such a ripe opportunity for people to blur the lines between inspiration and downright stealing. I have heard lines comes out of people's mouths that are straight out of my newsletter, sections of blogs or Facebook content that has been quoted on Youtube channels and business ideas that have been straight-up stolen. And this is to name just a few examples ranging from the merely inappropriate to the downright illegal.
Nowadays, especially in the personal growth and self-care space, but also any space where unique ideas and individuality are valuable, unfortunately, there are predators who will gobble up your ideas with zero integrity, just because they can. 'No one has heard of you and everyone follows them' is a recipe, and always has been, for larger companies, creatives and celebrities to find new original sources and appropriate them as their own. To be sure, new companies do it too, but it's much less damaging and much less exploitative.
In many cases, if they were to give you a shout-out or a mention, smaller creatives and thought leaders wouldn't mind if they borrowed from us, but many times that would affect their image and damage their ego, so they do it without thinking anyone would notice. But people notice. Especially the person you stole from. No one else may know, but we know, and we always have a record that we were there first and said or wrote those very lines before you did. And this can prove embarrassing if we ever choose to prove it was so.
When this first started happening to me, I got angry, then I got frustrated and then I felt resigned. What is the point of being original if someone is simply going to steal your idea, or worse, give your idea to someone else to steal? As a start-up, new Youtuber, influencer or writer how do you deal with this? Especially, when you are David and they are Goliath, how do you stand up for yourself?
I think that from my experience (and I am not saying that this will never change) making a mental note and, if necessary, calling it out, is usually enough. Keep a mental note, keep watching and observing because, if they stole from you once, they will likely try it again. A competitor who has to hide in the shadows, paraphrasing your content, is running out of material and steam. They would be better served digging deeper for new inspiration with which to revive their content, rather than taking yours, because one thing I have noticed is that a stolen idea or concept never flourishes.
It is not just the negative karma associated with the act of theft (and copycat, just so you know, your conscience knows the difference between theft and a homage), but because it was not theirs to run with in the first place. They don't have the full script, they don't know the Creator's full plan for that idea, they just lifted the top layer and pretty soon will realise their copied content falls flat, seems thin, inauthentic and flimsy.
Because it was not built out of their experiences, their emotions and their own juice, it has no soul or depth, and everyone can see that. Even though the public may not be able to articulate exactly what is missing, they know that it just doesn't hit them in the gut like the authenticity of an original. So what usually ends up happening is the copycat may do a little with it, maybe run a few yards with the ball, but won't really get very far before dropping it. Eventually, the copycat will realise they need to fill up their own well of creativity and start living in their own authenticity and integrity again. And if they pride themselves on being a thought leader and influencer, and find their creative well has become so dry they are ripping people off for new ideas, then they have gone from influencer to being influenced. And voila, just like that, they have lost their edge.
I recently watched an interview by one of my favourite music artists, ASAP Rocky, who said that he likes to be careful about what he watches and what he takes in mentally when it comes to creativity because he wants to be inspired, but not influenced. That is how he ensures he stays so original and unique. And I think for those of us who want to be on the right side of originality, who want to remain inspirational and inspired and not influenced or derivative, it is important to monitor what we are taking in, especially when it comes to other creators in the same field. It's a difficult balancing act between staying informed and current and avoiding being overly influenced, for sure, but it's worthwhile because you will know you are leading the pack, that you are one of a kind.
For people starting out, I feel your pain, and it's a difficult race to win when you are handicapped by bad business and bad actors, but all you can do is keep going, keep creating, keep innovating. One day, maybe the copycat will decide it's better to join, support and uplift you rather than beat you down, steal from you and exploit you.
I know it's frustrating, but it's not the end of the world. When you have experienced it a few times you come to know that when it comes to your original content and ideas, no one is better equipped to present it like you. I have heard people come out with my lines. They just sound awkward. Equally, if I was to use one of theirs, it would seem just as awkward! No one can do it like you, when it's yours.
You may lose a few races to people who have more followers than you and who see a nice juicy morsel they want to steal from you, but this has always been a creative's battle and we must continue to keep pushing forward regardless. Eventually, the world will catch up, but only if you keep going!. And know that, when it comes to talent and creativity, as long as you keep going and sign your name to it to keep a record it was yours, the cream always rises to the top.
Have you ever experienced copycats in life or business? Share below!
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