Theft Alert! What to do When Someone Rips-Off Your Work -
Written by James Patrick

Imagine the realization that someone has copied and ripped off your work, brand, style, creation was actually a good thing. No doubt that is not what you thought would be the lead in to this article but consider the fact that you had created something that someone else felt was worth stealing. Your idea, your brand, your work was that good that another felt compelled to claim it as their own. This should reaffirm and validate that your idea, approach, style, methodology has value in the marketplace.

Thus, first and foremost, congratulations! Okay, but still, what should you do about it? In the rare instance that your actual intellectual property was taken or a copyright or trademark was infringed upon – document everything and seek legal advice on options for next steps. However, for well over 90% of the time consider the following:

1: Take solace in the reality that you’ve been doing it longer

I was recently alerted (a lot) about someone creating a live event that was eerily similar (and very far from coincidentally) to the conference I founded. My response to this is simply “good luck!” I’m going on my 10th year of my event, have served more than 1600 attendees, hundreds of partners and built an entire ecosystem around the brand. The copycat literally has a decade of catching up to do.

2: Know you will do it better

You don’t think having someone attempt to rip off your work will motivate you to make what you have even better thus creating an insurmountable distance between what you do and what others are desperately attempting to copy? Execute better. Deliver better. Be so much better than others cannot even fathom catching up. Also, added bonus that it will delight your clients.

3: Teach it

I could have held onto my photography style, lighting concepts, approach to shooting that I’ve built over my 20-year career and get super mad and frustrated anytime someone’s work appears too similar to my own. That simply sounds like a bummer… or, I could teach what I do and build a monetization strategy as the subject matter expert in my field.

4: Lastly, you could let them know straight up

This is something I would only do in the rare circumstance that I had a pre-existing relationship with the person who I felt was copying my work. I would send them a note saying something to the extent of “I noticed what you created had a lot of similarities to what I’ve done – not sure if that was something you were aware of, but out of respect for our professional relationships, I wanted to bring it to your attention.”

Many times, the incident could be nothing more than an innocent mistake. How could that happen? Because (and this is important so read it twice), we all copy. We emulate. We pay homage. We get inspired, and sometimes we may not remember where our ideas originated or we were so excited to move forward with an inspiration that we didn’t think to differentiate our creation enough to make it unique in the marketplace. Understanding this, when we are the ones being copied, we can waste our energy getting mad, or we can use that energy to continue to raise and set the bar for others within our industry.

James Patrick is an internationally published photographer with more than 700 magazine covers to his credit, a best-selling author, podcast host and marketing strategist. He works with professionals to help them increase their awareness leveraging the power of earned media to ultimately grow their revenue. His work can be seen at or on Instagram
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