The other day I was on the phone with an entrepreneur who KNEW HER STUFF!
She is an expert at working with her hands and heavy machinery to create all sorts of interesting products.
The extent of my handiwork? Typing 100 words per minute on a keyboard the size of a paper airplane. Needless to say, I was impressed by her talents.
The reason we were talking was because she wanted copywriting help. I asked her about the current copy to get a sense of what she liked, how it was created, and what (if anything) she wanted to keep for her website.
Then she dropped a bomb on me… She told me that she had taken bits and pieces of the copy from some of her competitors.
My heart sank.
It’ll never be okay to steal someone’s words.
This smart, successful entrepreneur didn’t realize that it was a problem. Truth be told, she’s not the first business owner that I’ve come in contact with that has done this. Off the top of my head I can think of three others who have openly admitted without giving it a second thought that they have swiped the verbiage off of a competitor’s website to use for their own.
There are three problems with this:
1. It’s illegal.
“But wait, it’s just words right?” Nope. Not even close.
Business owners pay good money to come up with the sales copy and content that sells. Do they see a return on this investment? Abso-freaking-lutely when it’s done right. Does that give you the right to take the content that’s working so well for them and use it to promote your own business? No.
Copyright.gov has published an FAQ about their Fair Use Guidelines. Read it. Learn it. Absorb how important these guidelines are for you and your business.
Here’s just a small snippet of information about the legality of using someone else’s content:
“Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work.” Source: Copyright.gov
You’re welcome to quote others as long as you’re using it for the sole purpose of commentary, criticism, news reporting, or scholarly reporting. You canNOT quote others with or without giving credit for the purpose of branding your business, attracting new customers, or selling a product/service.
It’s theft. There’s no way around it. Although most business owners won’t go through the painstaking legal process to sue you for this theft, it’s not worth the risk.
2. It makes you look weak.
Ethics and law aside, stealing someone else’s work makes you look bad. Plain and simple.
Remember that obnoxious little turd on the playground who used to squeal, “I can do that too!” Or the other kid who used to think he was SO cool because he repeated every word that came out of your mouth? It wasn’t cute back then and it isn’t cute now.
Stealing someone else’s work to fill in the blank space on your website cheapens your image. You don’t look innovative, you just look like a copycat that couldn’t come up with something better to say. You’re better than that. Your business is better than that.
3. Google hates you for it.
Enough from me and the government – Google thinks it looks bad too!
Duplicate content is a HUGE no-no in the SEO world. Matt Cutts, the top SEO guy at Google, says it better than I can, so here’s a quick 2 minute video with his description of duplicate content and SEO. Watch it and learn.
The Bottom Line: Stealing is Harmful
Stealing is harmful to you, to the people you’re stealing from, and to your customers. You aren’t offering anything new. You aren’t contributing value or answering an unmet need. You’re simply filling space.
You deserve more than that kind of reputation.
Stop being a space filler and start showing the world why you’re THE BEST at what you do.
About the author: Kimberly Crossland
“I’m Kimberly Crossland, owner, writer, and operator of The Savvy Copywriter, LLC. My full time job as a copywriter and content marketer is to save savvy entrepreneurs without a clue (or interest) in the Internet from destroying their business with a terrible or nonexistent website.
Fun Bits About Me
I have an unnatural obsession with the power of words.
You don’t want to talk to me first thing in the morning if I haven’t had a cup of coffee.
I speak two languages: English and Danish.
My other job titles include wife and dog-walker.
It doesn’t take a lot of convincing to get me to want to travel somewhere new and fun.
I follow the paleo diet, but I LOVE chocolate, cookies, and wine.”
Join me on kimberlycrossland.com