One of the beautiful things about the internet is the immediate gratification factor. You can find and create things quickly. No more waiting – bada bing – you’ve got your whatchamacallit on the way!
It’s also fairly easy to set yourself up with an online business. With free website builders, clipart, and social media tools, in a click of a mouse, you’re set up and ready to go!
Except…it’s not quite that easy to get your online business popping. Even with the advent of free and uncomplicated tools, you still need compelling web copy, legal protection, and images that pop!
You may find yourself searching the web for just the right image, web copy, or logo. And when you find something you like, you might be tempted to just copy ‘n paste it onto your site. WRONGO.
Not only is this unethical, it’s illegal. And yes, you can get into big-time trouble. If you do not have permission, you should not – and cannot use it. PERIOD.
Even if you think that you can put it up and no one will be the wiser, mark my words, at some point, you’ll get busted. And when that happens, you’re going to get slapped with a DMCA Takedown Notice or a lawsuit. Plus, you’re going to have that icky vibe hanging over your head. Do you want to conduct your business worrying that someone might expose your thievery (yes, it’s theft)? I doubt it.
No matter how instant and “free” things may seem on the web, unless it says that you can use it freely, don’t.
Let’s look at a few examples:
Webcopy – sure, your colleague has a fabulous sales page and she’s running a killer business. But hear this: her webcopy is NOT your personal swipe file. Even if you shift a few words around, you’re not being authentically you. You’re being a weak imitation of someone else. When she (or her copywriter) wrote that webcopy, she put her personality and vibration into every word. You should be doing the same. Use your own words or hire a good copywriter to polish ‘em up. Best part: you’ll sound like you. (PS that’s good enough!)
Images – before you grab an image, reach out and ask the photographer or artist for permission. If they say yes, they may ask you to give them credit. If they say no, there are tons of free image sites (ex: Flickr commons) as well as inexpensive stock photo sites (Bigstockphoto.com) to choose from. Learn more: I love this excellent post from attorney Sara Hawkins: 12 Most Picture Perfect Ways to Ensure You’re Legally Using Online Photos.
Blog posts – often times, people have the same idea. That’s perfectly fine. For example, there may be a million blog posts about meditation, but each author will have their own unique spin on the subject. You can write about the same subject. But if you copy someone’s blog post verbatim? Not cool. Keep in mind that some authors do give permission for their work to be reposted as long as there is credit and a link back to their site. If they don’t give that, don’t take it. Write your own damn post.
Legal disclaimers, etc. – while privacy policies and disclaimers often look alike, you shouldn’t just copy and paste someone else’s onto your site. Why? It’s because laws vary from state to state and country to country. A better bet is to have your attorney draft your terms and conditions, disclaimers, and privacy polices. Keep in mind that there are free templates available online but you’re still going to need to check with your attorney to make sure they are right for your business.
Free terms and conditions generator: https://termsfeed.com/terms-conditions/generator/
Free disclaimer generator: http://www.easyriver.com/free_disclaimer.htm
Products and classes – the same advice for blog posts goes for products and classes. You may have the same idea – no biggie. But to buy someone’s product or take a class, then copy their materials and try to pass off as your own? No dice. Unless you get specific permission to use their material, you need to create your own work. Have integrity and do the right thing. (Check out Rebecca Tracey’s blistering takedown of a copycat who copied her programs: http://www.theuncagedlife.com/reese-ben-yaacov/ )
While writing your own content and creating your own images (or paying someone else to do that) may feel like it’s the hard way, it’s the right way, both legally and morally. A business built on integrity is a business that feels good and operates cleanly. Keep your eyes off your peer’s sites and on your own good work.
“I’ve been imitated so well I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.” ~ Jimi Hendrix
© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2015
Has someone lifted your work? Read my post on dealing with business biters:
Handling Online Plagiarism Without Losing Your Cool…or Spirit by Theresa Reed