My content was stolen last weekend. An Instagram post I’d shared on February 6, 2021, was almost verbatim copied… by another midlife health coach, who after using my post as if it were her own in which I shared a client conversation she took and used as if it were her client, and then also used the copy below the graphic almost word-for-word.
But it gets better. Just after using the copy she plagiarized, she pitched her program declaring that her goal was to help someone reach their full potential… by coaching with honesty.
I don’t quite know what to think about it still.
I wanted to believe it was an honest mistake. But how could word-for-word be an honest mistake. Someone would have to be so naïve to think that stealing someone else’s words is ethical.
I found it hard to believe a midlife woman, who wants to be coaching midlife women, doesn’t know the foundational core values of no lying, stealing, or cheating.
Side by side, mine from Feb 6, 2021 left and on the right posted on May 23, 2021.
Here’s What Makes This Potentially Very Risky
In using my client testimonial as her own, and the copy I wrote, she was promoting her own program. Profiting from this type of behavior makes it a worse offense.
So, when you have content that others admire, or think works, or wish they’d said, you too will have this happen to you.
It will happen. In this episode is what to do.
My choices were to…
- Ignore it
- Message her privately
- Post about it publicly
- Let the platform (s) where she’s used my content know that she is spamming me.
I chose 2 and 3. I have yet to do #4, and I don’t have time to focus on being a watchdog. That kind of negative energy doesn’t serve you. But sometimes you have to choose to make an example. This is one of those times.
The Message: My Content Was Stolen
I messaged her in Instagram. I posted on my Facebook page and shared it to my personal page. I used it to both gather feedback and to share with my community that this likely happens all the time. To someone, not to me. There are a lot of copycats out there.
By the way it’s a new teaching for our mastermind masterclass about how to create copy without being a copycat. It is perfectly okay to curate – that is share, repost, and credit – but it is not okay to copy and steal. If you know your customer better than anyone you should never need to or want to copy. Fitness pros and health coaches, do your homework, it’s easy, enjoyable and fun to really connect to your clients.
To her credit she responded to my message.
She accepted responsibility. And asked me to remove the post I’d made about her stealing the content. At the same time, she didn’t offer to remove the one she’d posted using my content. I have a proposal for her so we can discuss it, use it as a way to identify ethical practices, honest mistakes, and truly unethical ways of “collecting” marketing copy. Other posts of this copycat have begun to be “suspiciously similar” to other experts. She doesn’t herself seem to have a voice.
If your website or other content was stolen you have some options. First, though for many of us will be in this spot I was initially. And that is, a desire to understand it and how it could happen.
Will We Ever Know Why?
The thieving coaches and trainers (if they are, and aren’t bots) either:
- Don’t know any better
- Don’t have their own content or client testimonials
- Know full well it’s not right but do it anyway
And last unfortunately, know enough to know your copy is good and that they need good copy.
So, it will happen, friend. If you’re here, I think it will happen to you.
I’d like to make this one thing clear before I point out what other options there are if you’re content was stolen, or you find that true in the future.
There is Room for Every Authentic Voice
I created a Flipping 50 Fitness Specialist course and host a mastermind and masterclasses in order to help trainers and health coaches’ market themselves better. I want my students to be successful. And I can do that because there’s no way that one of us can serve all the people who need help. I teach you how to use your own voice, tell stories, and elevate your audience members with marketing.
It’s what I try to do every day. It is one of the reasons after 37 years of experience, I still am very closely tied to every message I share. I’ve created it. Written it. Gathered messages from my clients and students.
That real, authentic, truthful content I share is mine. Not borrowed, or stolen, or made up.
So does the world have too many health coaches? Fitness trainers? If the health statistics tell us anything, and I believe they tell us everything, there is room for you. As long as you use your voice, your unique personality, skills and talents to connect with your clients.
You Can Only Authentically Market You. Start.
No one will copy a copycat. But they’ll follow and use your content. That’s not to say that like-minded people serving the same or similar audiences, don’t come up with similar ideas or read the same research they’ll share. But never verbatim.
Our personalities, our way of teaching and communicating are unique. It’s that uniqueness that makes you marry who you marry, not your best friend’s spouse. It makes you choose the outfit you put on and send the other things back in the dressing room. And it makes you appeal to customers you will love working with and supporting their transformation. Attracting them based on someone else’s words and stories is not only wrong but it’s going to backfire on you.
So, what you and I need to do is know what course of action you take if you ever have to say, my content was stolen what do I do?
Copyright is real.
What is copyright? Not ironically, we are diving into that in June with two lawyers expert in copyright, Trademarks, domain, and legal aspects of your website in the Flipping 50 Fitness Specialist Masterclass.
Too few fitness pros start with the legal business parts and instead dive into service and delivery.
Copyright begins when you use something. You say it in public speaking, write it, use it in product titles. Your use of it first and repeatedly makes it yours.
Back in 1998 a US law intended to update copyright law for electronic commerce and electronic content providers. It criminalizes the circumvention of electronic and digital copyright protection systems.
That’s known as the Digital Millennium Content Act.
It’s unethical. Is it illegal?
If you used someone else’s copyrighted material and commercially profited from that use, you may have to pay him monetary damages, and court may prohibit you from further using his material without his consent. A federal judge may also impound your material and order you to immediately destroy it.
Your Content Was Stolen?
The DMCA, or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, protects creative works on the internet and contains the legal foundation for rights management in digital works. It covers things such as articles, videos, and photographs.
The DMCA protects both copyright owners and internet service providers (ISP), otherwise known as online service providers (OSP). To warn would-be content thieves away, you can use a DMCA Protection Badge on your website. (this content from: https://www.upcounsel.com/dmca-protection also mentioned in resources below).
DMCA is all about getting your stolen content taken down.
It’s a little like copyrighted music. If you’re found using copyrighted music without a license to do so, once upon a time in gyms that came with a hefty fine. What DMCA will do is help get that content taken down.
If your content lands on a scammy website, you risk association with it.
The same can happen with emails. Say you’re unknowingly emailing bots or spammers who’ve signed up for your email list. (Yes, this is a thing). If you fall into a spam trap set up by these bots, then Google reviews that as you sent spam and you risk far-reduced delivery rates, something none of us wants.
If you haven’t yet grasped that your email list is gold, and you have to scrape it regularly it’s time. If you already have poor delivery or open rates, Google knows at the least; you don’t clean your list. You’re sending people something they do not want.
How Do You Avoid Committing This Error Yourself?
If you love a post, don’t “copy” it and make it yours. Repost it. Quote the individual who said it. Interview the person. Engage and interact with them. Ask permission to share the post (and tell them specifically how you’re going to do it).
Add your own interpretation and you both win. If you have followers, they’re there because they like what you’re doing, how you think, how you teach. Your voice resonates with them. If you don’t have a following, that’s a red flag that potentially you need to do more you!
I’d love your questions or comments on this. Has it happened to you? What did you do? Have you witnessed it? Do you think, OMG, you might have made this mistake in the past and now know better?