What to do when your brand is the victim of plagiarism

For the past few weeks on social media there's been a renewed call for people to stand up against plagiarism in the local artistic community.
Unfortunately, we all experience theft and copycats as makers and business owners at least once on our journeys. It’s upsetting and heartbreaking to see other people use your hard work to make cheap copies and a quick dollar.

Remember the lemonade stand craze of 2015? One brand decided they were passionate about lemonade. They created a stand and were blessed to be featured on a local news program.
Then in the span of a few months, there were competitors everywhere. Even Wal-Mart started a stand. Guess what? Because of the rush of copycat businesses the market imploded. Now you can’t find a lemonade stand anywhere.
So what can we do, as creative people and business owners to stand up and fight against these kinds of things?

Find what makes you unique.

The brands that are the hardest to knock down are the brands that find their unique star power and stand behind it. Unfortunately, there will always be copycats. BUT a brand with a strong star element at its core will stand tall long after the copy cats have failed.

Cultivate community with your fellow artists.

A strong community will have a much easier time fighting back against plagiarism vs. if we’re each on our own. Are you part of a community? Do you meet up with makers to chat, share ideas concepts etc on a regular schedule?

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Don’t buy knock offs or copies.

Have you encountered someone selling knock off work from a brand or artist? Don’t shop there, don’t buy anything, don’t promote their work or support them. Changing the copycat culture starts with us. This includes knock offs of big brands like Sony, Disney, Marvel etc. Don’t do what you don’t want people doing to you!
Familiarize yourself with copyright law as it pertains to your product.
Not everything is legally defensible. It’s very dangerous to make unsubstantiated legal claims or threats against people. Familiarize yourself with the law and your rights on how to protect your work from theft. Things like copyright take down notices can be helpful. You have a legal right to protect your work and your images but it must be by the law.

Call them out.

This tactic will cause drama, but in the case of big brands stealing from small artists, that's exactly what you want. Sometimes the only thing you can do is call their theft out on social media. Use the power of the online community to help you fight the big guys. Post proof of the theft and ask people on social media to support your brand. Here are some examples of artists that have used this tactic and have actually seen results.

Teach your audience.

Unlike you and I, the average person doesn’t understand or isn’t aware of the harm that buying copies does. Every now and then, do your part to educate your followers. Let them know what it means to support an artist and what it means when people copy and steal your work. Educating people helps them to be better and do better in the future.

 Do you have any other tips for makers on what to do if their work is ever copied? Share them in the comments! Enjoyed this post? Use the share buttons below to share it with friends!

Vanessa Jiménez is a virtual assistant that helps creative women across the U.S build and run handmade businesses on solid foundations. She lives and works in Puerto Rico. 

To learn how more about how Vanessa can help your business, click here

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