When I first started my website and business, I worked with a branding company and labored over every word and every choice. I wanted my site to be a reflection of me, my experience and personality.
Imagine my surprise when my About Page description showed up on someone else’s site. Sure, they changed it to their name and replaced a couple of other words to include their experience and not mine. Overall, they didn’t change much. They just ripped me off.
A lawyer was out of the question – I didn’t have the money for that. On top of it, I knew the person. Instead of saying something, I changed my About Page and got angry. Today I stumbled across their site again and marveled at my words jumping off the screen. I even found my original page and text to make sure my memory wasn’t faulty. Nope.
Kind of the age-old question about the tree falling in the forest but no one is around to hear it. Does it make a sound?
I took down my original page and content while they kept up the stuff they stole from me for years now.
Does that suddenly make it original?
Um. No. The tone, words, rhythm, and ideas are still mine.
Is it still plagiarism if the proof is gone?
My emphatic answer is yes.
Did getting angry and frustrated help?
Yeah, I get that it was just my About Page but it’s just one example of many. Yes, I could have said something but a confrontation seemed out of the question at the time. Looking back, despite my hurt and anger, I should have found the words.
Ethics and Integrity Matter. Plagiarism Matters.
If you’re going to engage a coach or consultant, you’re not going to run through a site to assess if they words they use are unique – so few are these days. However, think about it. Do the words match the person? Is it a reflection of who they are or does something in your gut tell you something’s off? Do the words they use sound shockingly familiar? Like something you’ve read somewhere else? Integrity and ethics are paramount in building trust which is the cornerstone of every relationship.
I see it all the time on social media too: Beautiful images with famous quotes with no attribution. Tweets with one word changed, and we’re supposed to forget that we know the original source. People are taking credit for other people’s work. Some of the people who are the worst offenders are wildly successful too.
Do you want to work with someone because they’re popular? If that’s your primary driver, you should stop reading now. If it’s one of many reasons, then you’re considering a bigger picture. When you notice false ownership, let that tell you something about who they are and make a choice not to engage them.
In today’s online world, we can all be anyone, say anything and claim what we want. Thing is, when we’re buyers, we need to consider who they are, experience, the value they bring, and not just their image. As individuals and business owners we need to show the world who we are through our words, thoughts, and actions.
As a future customer:
Do your due diligence.
Don’t reward plagiarism.
Before you engage based on popularity or wit and wisdom, have a conversation.
As a business owner or individual:
Remember, permission and attribution still apply even in the Internet Age.
What do you think?
Have you noticed that attribution is often omitted based on the tiniest of changes in the wording?
Do you think it’s plagiarism and stealing or am I overstating the issue?
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