What happens when you see your work blatantly ripped off by someone else? They say that imitation is the best form of flattery. But it’s hard to convince yourself of this when you read someone else’s work and it resembles your writing and ideas so much that it’s almost a word-for-word copy. (There are only a few changes – but just enough that you couldn’t pursue it as direct plagiarism in a court of law).
The first stage is disbelief.
How could this happen? How could someone have so little professional pride that they have to blatantly copy your work?
The second stage is anger.
How dare they? You’re angry. You go through their body of work and soon realise how much of your work they have appropriated as their own over the years. You then realise that some of that actually IS a direct word-for-word copy of your writing. Your anger then borders on rage.
The third stage is pity.
It takes a while to get to this stage because the people around you (who care about you) are so enraged at the thief in question that it’s hard to calm down amidst their fury. But the reality is that it’s tiring – and unpleasant – to fuel this rage. And you just want it to go away. So you pity the thief, partly as a coping mechanism, and partly because you really DO pity them. They must be so insecure about their own ideas that they have to steal other people’s.
There is nothing wrong with referencing other people’s ideas. But there is everything wrong with passing them off as your own. At least have the professional pride to bring a new angle or twist to the work. Or have the decency to attribute the original thinker.
The fourth stage is indecision.
Should you confront the thief? Or let it pass and let karma do its thing? Obviously, this depends on the situation. Some people choose to name and shame. Others leave it to the universe to serve up justice. It also depends on how well you know the thief. Are they a fellow blogger, or a major corporation, or a colleague or friend? You also need to weigh up the consequences of confrontation – and whether you can be bothered with the fallout.
For writers, words are their currency. And in a world that is full of noisy content, writers need to come up with original ideas to stand out from the crowd. I’ve recently seen a thief blatantly steal the words and ideas of a group of writers I care about. It’s not right.
The fifth stage is moving on.
That doesn’t mean you sweep it under the carpet. Nor does it mean publicly naming and shaming because starting a public war rarely achieves anything. But it does mean privately warning other people in your professional circle to be aware of what the thief is doing so they can make their own informed decisions about whether to associate with the thief.
Ultimately, you can’t dwell on it. It’s not healthy. Trust karma. And be confident in yourself to know that you will easily come up with many more wonderful words and ideas, while they will FOREVER be scrambling in your wake.