First, no. I haven’t contacted this person. Fuck that. She’ll get the pingback and can learn about it on the Internets, just like I did this morning. If you’re going to rip me off — so blatantly and sans creativity — you’ve forfeited any consideration from me and you’re going down.
So, the issue is that someone sure to be a super rockin’ big fan of my Buy Me Coffee service. So much of a fan that they just decided to rip off the entire thing, virtually verbatim.
First, some facts:
My new website went live on Monday, February 4 of this year (2013). On that date, my Buy Me Coffee Service launched with the rebranding.
Today, I woke up to an email from someone in my community pointing me to a site ripping my page, service, and web copy off. The similarities between the two are too awesome to not share. I’ve even built a side-by-side comparison so you can see for yourself. It’s also a great way to cache this page of hers for posterity, since dollars to donuts, it’s going to go through some revisions or deletions sometime very soon.
Now, let’s talk about some up-front information we all need to have in hand before I hand someone’s ass to them for ripping me off:
- My rebranded site was published on February 4, 2013.
- I will document that I contend that her page was published sometime in April based on image upload dates in WordPress. Ah, WordPress — you’re super awesome about time stamping media files by their upload date. Thank you, pumpkin. I might have also found another nifty tool to back up my assumptions. Wait for it…
- And, well — I’ll just leave the rest up to you.
And for anyone who wants to take the stance that I’m a bully — this is copyright infringement. I will defend my intellectual property every day of the week. You can call that bullying. I call it calling my attorney and filing a DMCA Takedown Notice.
Soooooo…let’s get to it. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two pages — mine, and the one from SavvySexySocial. You can also find her on Twitter here and here. Maybe she’s on Facebook, too. If that link doesn’t work, it’s because she got the pingback on this post, shit her pants, and has taken the page down.
Click here to view a full-sized version of the image (you can also click the image itself).
Now, in the bottom left corner, you’ll see see some red text about copy that was originally on this page when it first launched in February. It’s the “What You’ll Get” part of the session. I send this information out to participants in a detailed email once they’ve booked. Oh — and I use Uberconference for all of these sessions. For $10/month, I can record calls and send participants an MP3 of their call so they have it as a reference. BAM. Looks like she didn’t rip off Uberconference, but they rock and I wanted to tell you about them (they also have a free version but you can’t record calls). I digress.
Here’s the page revision history from my Buy Me Coffee page in WordPress from February 4, the date I launched the page:
Now, here’s the source code from this gal’s WordPress site showing the time stamps of her image uploads on that page.
All of those images on the page were uploaded in 4/2103. Also, I did a little more Googling this morning and I discovered Google’s Advanced Search Tool. Here, you can do things like search for webpages containing something very specific…like maybe someone who wanted to rip off your content…and Google will then show you the first index date of the page. Isn’t that neat?
So — here’s the thing:
There are enough words out there in the world that you don’t have to rip off someone’s intellectual property in order to get done what you need getting done. When you do that, it’s called copyright infringement and it’s against the law. See, I’m not just a gal with a big mouth. I’ve got some skills to back it up what comes out of it. I might have also co-presented a session on Fair Use and Copyright for Bloggers in conjunction with Cooley LLP (one of the leading IP law firms in the nation) at Blog World New York 2011. Just sayin’.
More importantly, though, I have an incredible community filled with people who have my back. They’re the reason I get to do what I love every day and when they’re out on the Internets and see shit like this, they let me know about it.
SavvySexySocial: You’ve been slapped. Get my motherfucking intellectual property off your website immediately. Hire a copywriter like every other business owner with half a brain and find some words of your own. You fucked with the wrong redhead this week, because there’s nothing I hate more than laziness. Aside from theft. And you’re both lazy and a thief. The saddest part is that you’re a member of the RedheadWriting community and you turned around and did this to me. While pithy quotes would have us to believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this isn’t flattering at all. It’s shitty. And illegal.
I recently had a web designer grab COMPLETE PAGES of my website and add them to their clients site verbatim! Needless to say I was a tad bit annoyed. Thankfully Google indexed my site so I did get the credit for the initial content, but the shocking part was the arrogance of the guy who stole my content. I called him and told him I had identified the content as plagiarized. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt since many people use offshore workers to create content these days and it may have been something to that effect. The guy ask me how I found out the content was plagiarized (I do regular plagiarism checks on my pages). I told him the point was it was my intellectual content and I needed the content removed from his site. His response was that if I was not going to cooperate with him then he was not going to cooperate with me. OH REALLY?! I had his ISP and host shut him down. The stats were clear.
It is amazing to me how some people operate.
I love your humor and out right bitch slap here! Kudos!
No one that doesn't live under a rock can claim that they don't understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. My 17 year-old son has been beaten over the head with this message from the time he was in sixth grade. Every single English teacher checks their students work using online plagiarism checkers. If a student is caught stealing content it's an automatic FAIL. You can even check online to see who's stealing your photos (I've had my photos used w/o permission more than once). This type of theft needs to be called out continually. Only then will we weed out the posers from the real deal. Of course, the posers will weed themselves out fairly quickly . . .
Holy crap. I'm going to show this to my students, and I think you should do everything in the legal universe to get this scumbag's plagiarism deleted once and for all. Your friend Scott Vann called this to my attention when he commented on my most recent blog post, http://theviewfromlittled.blogspot.com/2013/05/why-im-changing-my-academic-integrity.html.
First up - IMHO calling a one hour phone consult something other than "1 hour phone consult" is not what I think Erika takes issue with (though she can and will correct me if I'm wrong). Who knows if Erika was the first person ever in the existence of the world to call it "Buy me coffee" - but, if she wasn't, she didn't find someone else's page doing so and do a "technical rewrite" of the content and call it her own.
Second - this girl claims to be a social media and marketing
pro - enough of an expert that you should pay $200 for an hour of her
time. Had she been a plumber or a home decorator then she might have
been able to chalk this up to not knowing better. But if you're claiming
to be a marketing expert then you can't claim ignorance in this
I've been online for over a decade now and I have my
content stolen all the time. The content for my consulting firm has
actually been stolen twice in the last four weeks alone (along with my
site design). It's bullshit and after a while, you get sick of telling
yourself "flattery is the best form of imitation". No - YOU STOLE MY
SHIT. And not in a "your shitty scraper is republishing my posts" kind
of way, but in a "you're an actual human being who copied and pasted my
shit and changed a few words around" kind of way.
I did a post a few years ago along the lines of the post above when a consulting firm stole my content verbatim (when we found it the company name hadn't even been changed - they were in the process of editing it). They blamed a copywriter (natch). Sometimes, you've just had enough. Not only does it piss you off to have your content stolen (especially when it's by people who offer services to make other brands increase their voice on the web), but then you have to waste your time running around sending emails and filing DMCA's. I've got better shit to do with my time.
This all could have been easily avoided...
I just bought a 'buy me coffee' date. I love your concept for this
service. I'd like to discuss on the call how I can implement something
like this for my own brand, without flat out duplicating yours." (She
doesn't mind this, I know, because I did this.)
Don't have the money to do that? (I'll pretend you should still be charging people to hear your thoughts about improving their business on the web.) Then see her concept, CLOSE her page, and write your own words, and add your own voice.
But for people stealing content, I'll tell you the same thing I tell my daughter. If you have the balls to (hit a boy) steal someone's content, then you have balls enough to (get hit back) take the shitstorm.My two cents.
Ok solutions 1. Cry 2. Buy her coffee (hehehe). 3. Move on! You know darn well that she is a looser who doesn't have much to offer to her clients and will probably fail miserably. Erika, you know darn well that people who buy you coffee do so because you are you! Seeing the way you evolve and the kind of leader you are, prepare yourself, it is likely to happen again! My husband is creator of www.wonderword.com. We've been imitated a few times. At first it angers you but then you realize, that clients are not stupid. The original is the original. Love ya girl!!!
I haven't yet had to deal with this issue myself, mainly because I don't think my stuff is worth stealing. On the flip side, I know that I've probably inadvertently copied other people's work, and if I like something someone else has written, and I use it, I always give them credit for it. I don't make money on what I do, or I wouldn't even do that. Hell, I don't read much any more for fear that I'll rewrite something by accident.
I hope you can get this resolved soon. I love what you do, and I don't like seeing you upset.
Okay, a friend was asking me this question. "How much of these bloggers, and "leaders" in social media are actually rehashing stuff that others have written? I mean, how many of them are actually doing significant work, rather than just pontificating about the work they would/could/should do if they had the clients. That's why they blog, right?"
Talk about the wrong way trying getting a link-back ; ) Good for you Erika for calling this out. This happens WAY too much. The world is desperately in need of original thinkers and this is a perfect example.
I would say that I'm shocked by the reaction you're getting, but unfortunately, the power of uninformed people in a group...it's appalling. You're completely correct in how you've approached this. Plagiarism is wrong, period. I'm a graphic artist and I get so tired of being told "If it's on the internet, it's fair game." Seriously? What the HELL is wrong with people?
I love your blog and I find you refreshingly honest. And fabulous. :)
I'm less shocked by the plagiarism (as a former copyright lawyer I've seen it all) but the weird shit in some of these comments. Are people truly that strange?
I applaud you for outing her. People think it's ok to do this sort of shit (as demonstrated by the comments) because no-one calls them out publicly when it happens - it just gets handled in private - and/or it gets buried in letters between lawyers.
She and all the other crazies can go fuck themselves. Love your work girl :)
Well, I suggested consulting over coffee back in Feb 2012. http://uber.la/2012/02/consulting-offer/ AND Coffee consulting over a Google Hangout in JUNE 2012 http://uber.la/2012/06/tomorrow-morning/. But hey, I think you have a point. I think the SexySavvySocial woman was inspired a little too closely by your success.
An honor to be sure. Actionable? I don't know. What's the status at this point?
I think the real question everyone is wondering ... are your ovaries still screaming? ;-) Regardless of whether you're dealing with incompetence or fraudulent intent, don't let the haters drag your Fuck Yeah Friday into Melancholy Monday. You're an absolute assassin Ms. Napoletano, and even when facing a crisis, assassins remain cold-blooded. I'm admittedly a huge fan of the attitude you bring though.
Also, I'm out of vodka.
Time for a bigass Margarita kiddo.
Remember that when you wrestle with pigs, you both get dirty... but the pig actually enjoys it.
You were exactly right.
You know it.
I know it.
Your fans know it.
Most anyone who is a creator of content knows it.
Drink deep from the well and walk away from the crazys... LOL.
You will survive and thrive, my dear.
You might want to check out http://thelovecoach.com/buy-me-a-chai-latte .
I'd say she gets originality points for changing coffee to tea, but that's about all she changed.
Playing devil's advocate after sharing and being totally 110% behind you message, BUT I'm seeing a lot of emulation plus laziness vs. straight out copying. On close examination I'd actually conclude you'd possibly planned this with Amy to elevate her status - sure your die hard fans have gone over to her side to blast her, but far less than I'd have hoped for.
Awesome sauce for calling her out but the copyright infringements are weak considering she paraphrased. The reason you can't /Don't call a lawyer is because words are words, and she's not lifted your exact wording (nor do you own those words).
Given the crazy shit storm of attention you've thrown on this I am pretty certain that we're not seeing the full picture!
Damn I just had to write a 15 page paper on copyright infringement on the Internet for my ethics and legal class-- this would have been a perfect case study.
There's a reason you're my hero ;)
You go girl. I've had similar problems and it SUCKS! I called the last guy from the number on his webpage to tell him to remove it. He was quite surprised and thought he was helping me "get more exposure for my writing" by stealing it to use on his businesses website selling social media services. (using my social media content)
Sorry this happened and AMEN to telling people to remove it. I do the same thing, I won't ignore it and say it's alright either.
Boo hoo? All talented individuals get ripped. Myself included. In fact so much so that I fail to see the point of this article. Calm down, move on, and continue being successful.
Wow. This is an epic clusterfuck. I recently had a coffee date with Miss Erika and one of the questions I had was how to avoid the "copycat" syndrome. You wanna know what she said? She told me that it's fine to be inspired by others but the one thing that you gotta remember (and thus will set you apart) is to be YOURSELF.
By the looks of things SexySavvySocial tried to used someone else's "voice" instead of her own. Shame really. She just lost her crediblility, a community, and a great connection.
<---- imagines this conversation-
"Hello Sexy, Not so Savvy, Social. This is Michael Port. I'd like my interview back please. That's right. Let's just pretend this never happened. . . ."
Happens to me a lot, to the point where I had to add this to my republishing policy:
" I reserve the right to make as much a nuisance of myself as I have time to become. In past years, this has included (but is not limited to) phoning your place of business to discuss the matter, firing off emails to your management, issuing DMCA takedown requests to your internet service provider to have your offending pages removed, issuing DMCA takedown requests to Google to have your offending pages removed from the search engine, calling you out as a douchebag on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social network where you maintain a presence, and posting screenshots of your theft alongside screen shots of my pages. I also have a lot of lawyers in the family, and I’m not afraid to use them. "
And I've made good on ALL of those.
As I once heard from http://www.emersonspartz.com/ "there are no copyrights any longer" personally I think Pinterest put the nail in the coffin of copyright law. That said my plan would be to wait six months or year to allow her to get some branding going and then spend a few grand with a good Internet lawyer forcing her hand to either pay you off or take her almost established site down. We just got a letter from Getty images saying that a stupid fucking little parakeet on top of one of our bird scales was copyright infringement and they wanted $1100. As we are very careful with copyrighted images and we got this image from the manufacture - we sent the letter to them and they wrote the check, thanked us & immediately sent us all the product pictures sans parakeets. By the way I called Getty with the argument that all parakeets look the same they are identical unlike dogs and cats. They said they can they can identify the picture using pixel by pixel technology- go figure personally I think they were bluffing but I didn't have to write a check. Some tools you may be interested in http://www.copyscape.com/ and http://tynt.com/ and remember much like fake tits - the real ones always feel better
Let me see if I get this straight? This girl, this amateur, who claims to be a professional copywriter, blatantly steals near verbatim content from Erika (who everyone knows is a pretty feisty lady), but she's supposed to remain civil and understanding?
So, we're holding Erika accountable for vehemently standing up for her brand and her content, yet we have little to no disdain for what amounts to common thievery?
Those of you who think Erika handled this poorly; there are a couple things you have to keep in mind. First, its her blog and she'll do whatever she pleases with it. Secondly, as she mentioned in her video post about the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, if you don't agree with Erika, you have every right to vote with your wallets.
Intellectual property theft is one of the biggest concerns my clients have when it comes to putting content on their websites. They fear what you just went through. Thank you for highlighting the tools any business owner can use to monitor their content.
Let's start with the fact that this person is yet another "social media expert", which to me is 21st century code for "I don't want to get a real job" or, "I want to shoot straight to the head of the line without paying my dues first". Add in the fact that she looks to be in her early 20s, which suggests: very little to no significant employment history.
One of the common traits found in so-called "social media experts" is LAZINESS. They do not want to work hard. They want to throw up a couple of web pages and "generate passive income" through inane crap like webinars and e-books, which are, all too often, recycled dog food from other places. Just the very name of her blog "Savvy Sexy Social" tells me that this is someone who thinks stuff should come easy. Shit, just last night, I started writing, yet haven't finished, a blog post titled "Bringing Unsexy Back" which addresses the very issue of only wanting to do the fun stuff in life.
I took at her internet presence, she has: pithy sayings (check), corny videos (check), pouty duckface shot (check), prices for products that end in the number 7 (check). Yes, in my estimation this has all the markings of yet another internet fraud.
I looked at some of the other comments, and saw phrases like "honest intent" and "rookie mistake". LETS NOT BE NAIVE. Stop giving people the benefit of the doubt. I've had it up to here with the benefit of the doubt crowd. She knew full-well what she was doing. She took the time to carefully change phrases, even though the structure and the message was clearly poached whole-cloth.
And I am still peeing in my pants over the fact that she has a video called "Prepare to Be Googled".
I'm glad to see that you made the effort to connect with her and ask about it before publicly defaming her. At a distance of about 1,300 miles, I'm sure this is a detriment to your business. You probably have a copyright on time based consulting and coaching as well. I'm sure.
Kinda seems like you pulled a gun at a pillow fight. Sexy Savvy put her pillow down, held her hands away from her body and slowly backed out of the room. Yikes. Did you agree with what the SparkFun guy said at TED the same night you spoke? Is this different from the point he made about patents, that spending energy protecting IP distracts from being truely competitive through having superior products, services or execution? This seems less blatant than The Oatmeal / Funny Junk dispute, since it wasn't a strict cut and paste job of original artist content.
I am so glad you caught this person and called her on her shit in a professional manner. This kind of thing could destroy her reputation if she did it to a vengeful person.
I too want to jump out there and say while it sucks to be copied, it's just part of doing business to be honest. That's the real bitch slap, I'm afraid. The bitch slap is that you don't own the idea of "Buy Me a Coffee" to the point where no one else can do something similar without checking in with you first.
Another bitch slap -- and something people are woefully naive about -- is that you can't copyright ideas, especially pretty generic ones. I met a gal in January who, for the past couple of years, has been doing something called "Coffee Sessions" or something where she charges people to get together with her and brainstorm. It's basically what you are doing. It is "her" idea, or is it "yours"? Sexy Sassy Social-- yes I think she saw your idea and emulated it, but the copy is completely reworded. That's not illegal -- she's as free to use your idea as I am to make go shoot a movie about an island of reanimated dinosaurs with my iPhone camera. Maybe my dinosaurs wear berets, and have tortured backstories -- just because I use the basic gist of Jurassic Park doesn't make me guilty of "copyright infringement."
What's more, this is a story repeated a billion times every day in business -- and it's one that's only won by being better, faster and more agile. You can't hitch your wagon to an idea, because ideas are free and there will always be someone out there either blatantly copying you or (much more common) working on the same idea simultaneously, as above.
What is protectable and what is yours is your execution of the idea. You differentiate yourself by providing superior service, by providing something no one else can steal.
In business and lazy too? Unforgivable.
Thievery? Unforgivable. Combined with arrogance ... UGH!
The lighter side of the whole thing ... just imagine the size and configuration of the balls she must be carrying around. Does she tape them down, tuck them in, hide them in a dress? I'll leave that discovery to you. :)
Just to play devil's advocate against the pillaging hoard (not the Redhead, because I think you're right with your response)...
When someone ripped off my PSA (Are You Burnt Out?) that went viral on Reddit, they left everything else, just removed my logo. That version was then shared by a page with 50K likes... and shared another 500 times after that. Which then found one of my friends... I was pissed, hurt... and I wanted to give up on writing another PSA, ever.
In your case... I get why you're pissed. I'm on the fence as to SavvySexySocial's intentions, though.
I think honest intent is what's key: she probably thought she was too small fry to show up on your radar or affect your business (which isn't really true for anybody or anything anymore). She probably thought she really doesn't offer the same services. She probably thought she changed it enough that it wouldn't be a problem. She probably thought it was an idea worthy of trying and thought she'd done enough to make it original.
I can't claim to know what she was thinking, but I know the mindset because I've been there, too (15 years ago when I was 12 and knew nothing about copyright and wanted to share my love of Star Trek ships, maybe by borrowing content from StarTrek.com and adding my own twists to it, but I've been there).
It's the mindset of a rookie making a mistake, not a master criminal.
I know a lot of people look up to you, me included. Of course a few of 'em are going to try out your tactics. Hopefully, they'll have enough common sense to change it up more than what happened here. With original layout. Original copy. Original spirit of the idea... not just a revision.
It should go without saying that if Erika Napoletano asks you to take down a page with a bitchslap, you'd better believe someone's gonna haul ass to take it down as a sign of good faith until they can figure out if they screwed up. It'd be more telling if they left it up.
That doesn't mean she *knew* that what she was doing was blatant theft or was intentionally doing something duplicitous; she probably assumed it was unique enough.
Was it a bad assumption? Fuck yeah. Was it blatant, intentionally harmful, "suck it, Redhead"-level theft? Hmm...
And, echoing what Caelan said - when does a revision become an original work? Obviously, SavvySexySocial didn't go far enough yet. If I were to launch a "buy me lunch" program with a similar sound (in my voice, of course), cost, benefit, and structure (because, a virtual one-on-one product and recording it and providing a report are not exactly new ideas) and we're masticating over marketing rather than sipping over being stuck, should I expect a bitchslap, too?
Obviously - I know enough not to directly copy your stuff, structure, etc - and to give credit where credit is due. But like Caelan said - she obviously edited the copy to be in her voice, if not the intent of the idea or the overall layout or structure. At what point do changes in copy become a unique iteration of a common idea?
I'm glad you are strong enough to stand up for your rights, Erika. You serve as an inspiration for us all when you protect your work this way.
But, you also serve as inspiration for us all in how you run your business...how you structure your revenue streams...and how you integrate clever customer friendlies like BookFresh.
So my challenging question is: where is the line between inspiration and infringement?
Your Buy Me Coffee service is a great idea. For your clients, for your business, and for your students.
When we are building our own businesses, and structuring our own offerings, we look to those above us who are successful for guidelines on how to put everything together.
If she hit Copy + Paste, and linked back to your images, I'd be howling too.
But it looks to me like she took the time to rewrite. Restructure. Personalize.
Your work is, undoubtedly, undeniably, the inspiration for her work.
How many revisions, and how far from your original message, would she have to go in order to safely claim the work as her own? How could she have done this better?
As a content marketer, repurposing is part of my business. When I want to write a blog post, an ebook, or a landing page, I often start with reading a whole lot of good examples. I bookmark good examples to refer to when I start a new project, so I'm always cribbing inspiration from my heroes.
I will freely admit, I use the structure and outlines of my inspiring pieces during my first drafts. If I am emulating something really good, after multiple revisions, I end up with a good piece of content, personalized for my audience, with my voice.
Am I guilty of infringement, too, because this is my method?
Where do you draw the line?
Didn't anybody teach that girl to never fuck with a redhead? She'll always remember this lesson..... :-) Please share the response from the wrath of the redhead.
Wow! This stinks. Seriously. I do seriously admire you for just calling her out too.
When will people learn that this is illegal, it's uncool and in doing this they are doing themselves the biggest disservice ever?
Next idiot who copies my work, turns my words into vids etc .. is gonna get a slap
Guess someone's gonna have to change their name to CRAPtatsic this weekend!
(NOTE: I don't advocate use of the "N-word" so just overlook that part at the beginning of the video).
I read this blog post, and was immediately reminded of this scene from the movie Friday:
Well played, Erika, well played.
The idea of sitting down over a cup of coffee isn't new. Shit, it was part of my speil when I had my design firm, Wicked Java, up and running years go. But the way you worded this was and are doing it is was very specific.
This was blatant on her part and it looks like she knows it. She's taken down the post. The page gives a 404 error, which means it has been removed, and there's no mention of it on her twitter/facebook. It's like...it never existed.
I don't get it. I don't even write professionally. I don't get any revenue from writing my blog, and I don't expect that will ever change. I worry about stringing a few words together the way someone else did without knowing about it. I can't imagine going out there and blatantly copying not only an entire page worth of text, but *the idea and concept behind the text* without asking. And then expecting to get paid for it! Granted, it's a phenomenal idea (and I can easily see fans swinging the cost just to have the chance to chat with you one on one), and I can see how people would wish they had thought of it first. But ripping it off? Particularly in such an overt way? That's some bullshit, right there. I'm glad to see you called her out on it, and I'm sorry that you had to wake up to such rude nonsense.
Wow. And amazingly enough, this is someone in my own backyard (literally 45 minutes away) and someone I've conversed with on social media mutiple times. She runs around with a lot of the Columbus social media group I know and consider friends.
It's sad when things like this happen, but for me, the moral of this story is if you build an interested, invested community, they will come to your defense. That's why you work so hard. And the response from your community tells me that you're doing a bang-up job. And yes, her website is no longer working ;) Keep rockin' on Erika- you are a model of inspiration to me- always.
I wonder who's content she ripped off to write the e-book I see being advertised on her site. Oh, & ditto what MJRovner said!