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I’m going to be frank: there are a lot of mixed messages out there about whether or not your work should or can be original.
It can be hard to get the attention you want your brand to have, and it can be doubly as difficult to innovate and produce original work. It’s why we find advice to create concepts based on what already exists and why we’re okay with “stealing ideas.” Regardless of where this advice originates, it can be very misleading.
As your brand develops, you’re working to produce assets, things you own that are useful in generating income. The less you own, the less control you truly have over your income, and the more uncertain the future of your brand becomes.
In today’s episode, we’re discussing the ideas of building original assets to utilize for your brand, when copying is okay, and why you should steer clear of relying upon someone else’s success.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- An asset is something valuable that an entity owns, benefits from, or has use of in generating income.
- Build your assets on your own success and originality.
- The more you copy others, the more other companies in your industry will have a negative perception of your brand.
- If you don’t own an asset, you don’t get to say what happens to it.
- If you own something original that you’ve created, no one can take it away from you, because it’s yours.
- Create whatever you want, but remember that there’s safety in originality.
- If you’re not sure whether what you’re doing is original or not, you’re putting yourself at risk.
- 06:34 Cory: Kyle and I talked about this idea of assets yesterday. We had our own ideas, but we did some research, and we compiled together what we felt was a good definition of an asset. An asset is something valuable that an entity owns, benefits from, or has use of in generating income. That probably could be simpler. There are two key ideas here. Someone owns something and it takes part in generating income. That is an asset.
- 07:19 Kyle: By owning, just to clarify here, if you buy a house with a mortgage, you don’t technically own the house yet. That’s okay, if you’re in that situation, but the point here is that it’s not at asset at that point because you don’t own the building. It’s not an asset, but it’s more of a liability. It’s something that you owe on, something you have to put money into instead of getting money out of it. Hopefully that helps. It can be multiple things, but home ownership is a good analogy to reference.
- 08:05 Cory: Of course, there will always be people that disagree. The idea with an asset is that it is this thing that is generating positive income. An asset is not taking away from your income, it’s generating income. For example, Kyle brought up something yesterday that was brilliant, which was the microphones that we use, or the cameras that we use. I have a couple of cameras that I use for doing vlogging and for producing video content. Those are things that I purchased, but they’re things I can use now toward generating income.
- 08:40 I don’t owe on them. I own them. They belong to me. Now, I can use those things to generate income. My Sony a7ii, my RX100 m4, My NT-USB mic here, my MacBook Pro that we’re doing this podcast on—those are all assets, because I own them and they participate in generating income. It can also mean products. An asset can mean a wide number of things. For a lot of people who have their own brands or run their own companies, an asset may be a product that you’ve created. This is a product you’re putting out for sale. Ultimately, it’s about ownership.
- 09:34 Kyle: The dividing line in my mind is that it’s something that you have purchased and own free and clear. I could be paying on this microphone that I’m using now, not completely own it, but still be using it to generate income. That’s a reality, but you’re not in the green until you’ve surpassed what you owe for that item. It’s paying for itself as it goes, if you’re in that situation. It’s not really a high generating asset until it has surpassed its owed value.
- 10:36 Like Cory mentioned, that could be products, but it could also be things you’re using for marketing purposes. If you’re a designer, for example, and you create work examples, those are assets for your business, because those attract clients to you. If those were removed from the internet or from your ability to show them, you have lost assets that generate income by attracting leads.
- 11:08 Cory: Jasper mentioned in the chat just now, “What about a skill you own?” Technically, you don’t own a skill, but you have skills, and those can absolutely be assets for you. The things that help you generate income are assets. We’re trying to get to a point where we’re talking about originality. Ultimately, you want to own your assets so you have control over them. If it’s taken away, that’s money you’re not making. You could lose money.
- 11:47 David in the chat just said, “Why is a MacBook an asset, but a pencil isn’t? At what point does it stop making sense to call things assets?” I think a pencil is an asset. If you own a pencil and you’re an artist, you draw, and you’re using it to make money, I would call that an asset.
- 12:05 Kyle: I would agree.
- 12:06 Cory: You’re not selling the pencil, but it’s helping you generate income. That’s why we want to talk about originality.
An asset is something you’ve purchased or something you’ve created.
The Value of Originality
- 12:16 Cory: As you grow and find yourself in this crazy world, where there’s so much attention out there, you can start asking questions like, “Is it even possible to be original?” Pedro asked earlier, “Everything has been done already.” I assume he’s referencing the saying, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” He says, “Should we bother trying to be original, and if so, does this mean trying to reinvent the wheel?”
- 12:49 There are these ideas that it’s impossible or nearly impossible to be 100% original. We have to borrow from, copy, or take inspiration from people that have already done these other things. I’m not saying that those things are bad, necessarily, but we’re going to talk about the power and the safety of originality.
- 13:28 Whatever equity you’re building, you can lose, because somebody else owns the asset.
- 13:37 Kyle: We’re not really going to get into any legal talk. We’re trying to avoid that here. Number one, it could be different where you live. Number two, we aren’t legal experts, and we’re not trying to get into that space. The term “being original” has its positives and negatives. We’re talking about not directly associating things with your brand that already have a copyright attached to them, a trademark, or anything that could legally fall back on you at some point.
- 14:23 Things like, for example, the English alphabet, or in my case, some icons that are very generic, may not call for doing something “original” with those forms. The point is, if you’re copying a name or an exact layout of a post, you’re putting yourself up for problems in the future. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to recreate the alphabet. The point is, are you using those in a unique way for your brand? Are you creating things that, as far as you can determine, are completely your own original ideas?
If you don’t own an asset you’re using, someone else owns it—if they take it away from you, you’re the one losing money.
Originality & Brand Perception
- 15:17 Cory: There is so much to this. It’s not even just about the copyright and trademark stuff, the legality of things. Ultimately, we’re talking about how you’re being perceived. How do you want to be perceived? What is the brand perception you want to have when someone goes to your website, your store, or they see what you have to offer? What do you want them to think? What do you want them to feel?
- 15:45 Earlier this week, it might even have been yesterday, Google announced their new phone, Pixel, that’s going to be hitting the market pretty soon. I’m hearing a lot of comments from people who have looked at the videos and watched the keynote for that. A friend of mine, Jaron, texted me right after the keynote. He said, “It looks like an iPhone, but with Google on the inside.” That’s the perception. Whether or not that’s good or bad, that’s part of the perception.
- 16:17 I’m not saying Google copied or whatever. That’s an age old conversation, the argument of who did it first and who did it better. Did Samsung copy Apple? Did Apple copy Samsung? More than that, we’re talking about how you want your brand to be perceived. Do you want to be seen as the brand or person who relies upon the success of someone else?
- 16:59 You are thinking and creating independently. Someone can look at what you’ve made and instantly know that it’s from you. When you aren’t original, when you take a concept, an idea, or intellectual property and you create a spin off of it, a copy, or something similar, whether or not it’s totally possible to have originality, you’re building on the success of somebody else’s originality. That’s just a reality that you have to deal with. The truth is, there’s always going to be some level of association.
- 17:46 Think about cars. You’ve got four wheels, unless you’re that spider thing with three. You put a person in it. There’s a steering mechanism. You put some kind of component inside of it that makes it go. This is Engineering 101 with Invisible Details. There’s going to be association. I look at a Honda, a Toyota, a Tesla, a Maserati, and I think, “car.” There’s a level of association. There are overarching categories. If I were to look at Tesla and a new car company comes out named Edison, and the vehicle looks exactly the same and has almost the exact same internals, I’ll think, “It looks like they copied Tesla.”
- 18:48 Now, perception is being built based on what they did. Even if all of the internals of the car are original but the external is not, or appears not to be, all of that builds into perception. It’s building what your brand is.
- 19:18 Otherwise, if someone else who built their own success with their own originality sees what you’ve done and says, “That’s my asset, my intellectual property that you’re building on,” they may have the right to take that from you. All of a sudden, you don’t own that asset anymore.
Originality means building your own success.
As much as possible, build your assets on your own success and originality.
- 19:49 Kyle: We see this all the time. One of the big issues that can happen with a brand is that you become known as what we would call a “knock-off brand” here in the US. That’s a brand that isn’t original. You’re directly copying someone else to profit from the success that other person has had. I don’t know if you’ve seen this on Netflix, Cory, but the movie The Jungle Book will come out, and all of a sudden, on Netflix or somewhere like that, all these movies will pop up by some studio you’ve never heard of with these weird looking characters, and it will be called something like Jungle Journal.
- 20:44 It’s really close to the name but it’s not the name. All of the characters are really close to the characters, but they’re not the characters. Honestly, maybe the story is original. Maybe it’s not exactly what The Jungle Book was, but they want to feed off of what’s “trending” right now. They get super close to what that thing is in order to profit from it. Instantly, you think, “That’s some lame copy of The Jungle Book. I’m not going to watch that.” Now, your brand is very tarnished. People think, “You’re those people who make those movies that copy everybody else.”
- 21:29 Cory: Or with apps. When a really popular app comes out, it’s not too long before someone comes out with a variation that’s slightly different.
- 21:41 Kyle: Like Immediategram? I’m joking, but I could see that. Instagram, Immediategram.
- 21:53 Cory: We’ve mentioned Flappy Bird before. It was this game that came out a few years ago. One guy created Flappy Bird, and it was an overnight success. It was unbelievable. He took it off the market, and then things were popping up like Flappy Cat or Jump Jump Bird. It was the exact same thing. Look at these ideas and think, “What will the outcome of this idea be, and how am I being perceived?” Here’s an example for you.
A Tarnished Brand Reputation
- 22:34 Cory: A few months ago, I think, Instagram came out with Instagram Stories. Everyone looked at what Instagram Stories was, and it was something where you post a short video clip or photo of yourself, and you can link them together. You can do text on it, draw on it, or whatever. Everyone looked at it and they said, “They copied Snapchat!” Snapchat Stories did exactly that thing. Immediately, everyone said, “Instagram is making a Snapchat clone.” It’s died off now, because the internet loves to make a big deal out of stuff and then forget about it the next week.
- 23:21 The lead designer for Instagram was interviewed, and he said, “The concept that Snapchat created with Stories is the same kind of idea as a newsfeed.” If you go on Twitter or Facebook, there’s this feed. That’s just a concept, an idea. How they executed it, the product they created after that, was just built off of that idea, this generic thing. Whether or not there was any legal or copyright issues, going back to branding, people looked at Instagram in that moment and said, “These guys are copying. Why don’t they have anything original?”
- 24:25 Kyle: This is the kind of thing where not everyone is going to share the exact same views, but know that it’s going to happen with certain people. For me, being very transparent here, my perception of Facebook is that they’re this giant machine that brings in any social platform that’s doing well and turns it into something they can use by taking over, copying, and hobbling it together in this big machine.
- 25:02 I don’t have great things to say about Facebook. Now, Instagram is owned by Facebook, and I believe that’s why they started crossing lines like that. That’s just how the Facebook machine works. I don’t know if you remember Foursquare or this other app called Gowalla where you could share locations. Facebook bought Gowalla, the one I used more, and turned it into this Foursquare competitor. It completely shut out Foursquare.
- 25:38 They did it legally, but come on. You don’t have to have all these things. Then, they started outright copying certain things. I didn’t mean to get into bashing Facebook. I just want to project my perception of them. Maybe they have a really good service. Maybe people really like using all the things that come on the platform. People could say, “That’s the platform I used the most, so I’m really happy that they’ve brought these features.” That’s great.
- 26:24 I understand that their perception, over time, will continue to be tarnished by people. That could even be their peers, other people in the social media industry, seeing them as this organization with whom no one wants to do business.
- 27:00 They kind of know the rules. They’re not as naive as the general public may be, that’s not in your industry and doesn’t see those things. Cory and I talked about this yesterday. When anybody goes to a website, and let’s say that they’re a designer, and you have things that Disney owns, Pokemon, stuff that Nintendo owns, like characters or concepts from that, whether you intend this or not, it looks like you’ve worked for those brands.
- 27:41 It looks like you’re at a level where you’ve worked for larger brands. Sometimes clients and people visiting the site aren’t going to look into that further, or they’re just going to assume that you’re someone really predominant in the industry, when in reality, you may just be copying things that others have created. I can’t think of a great reason to do that other than to benefit your position in being seen. Maybe you’re looking for discoverability. People can find it easier because they’re looking for these things.
- 28:19 Maybe you want to look like you’ve worked for these companies. Whatever it may be, that perception is there. There won’t be an audience following you close enough to know whether you’ve actually worked for these people or not.
Consider what you own as a brand and how it’s going to affect what people think or feel about you.
The more you copy others, the more other companies in your industry will have a negative perception of your brand.
The Safety of Originality
- 28:36 Cory: I think it depends on the level of artistry and skill you have in that particular area. Within all of that, bring it back to the idea of an asset, something that is helping you generate income. The question becomes, if that thing went away, is that damaging? We could talk about fan art and all of this stuff, but here’s the thing—if you don’t own an asset, you don’t get to say what happens to it when the owner asks you to do something different than what you’re doing. This is the conversation Kyle and I had a few months ago on a previous podcast (Related: e037 Dealing With Algorithm Changes on Social Platforms).
- 29:28 We talked about social media. If you don’t own the code and they change an algorithm and it bugs you or it damages your business model, you don’t own the code. You don’t get to tell them, the person who owns the code, that they can’t do that, because they own it. There are all these stories about people spending thousands of dollars to make Star Trek fan films. There was this movie that these guys were working on. They did a Kickstarter for it, they raised all of this money, and they were producing this film, this fan film.
- 30:03 They loved Star Trek. They wanted to give back. It was this whole thing. Who owns Star Trek? Paramount? They issued a cease and dissist. That’s not me saying that’s right or wrong. That’s me saying that it’s their right, legally, to do that. Now, even if it was an homage, even if it was just because they loved it, now they don’t get to do that. They don’t have that. What has that decision done for Star Trek’s brand? That’s not the point. The point is, Star Trek is Paramount’s asset. It brings in their income.
- 30:48 You look at Disney. Disney owns Marvel. Marvel is Ironman, Captain America, Spiderman, and all these other characters. They own those assets. If I were to sit here and make a drawing of Spiderman and I put it on my website, if all it’s doing is showing my skill level, if they ask me to take it down, that’s not doing me any damage. But if I put it on my website and I say, “Here’s a print you can buy of Spiderman,” that’s me generating income off of the success of somebody else. They’ve built up this character, and that’s their asset.
- 31:34 They own Spiderman. I do not get to profit off of somebody else’s asset and then complain if they come to me and say, “You need to take that down.” That’s where the safety of originality comes in.
- 31:57 If it’s generating income, that income doesn’t stop if you continue marketing it. That’s the safety. That’s why it’s important to own your assets. Produce work that is original. Even if the idea or the concept is something you’ve borrowed or there’s a problem that someone has solved and you’re like, “I think I can solve that problem a little bit differently but more effectively,” and you create something, that’s great. The point is, don’t build your assets on the success of somebody else’s originality. Own your assets. That’s where there is safety.
- 32:35 Then, people can look at your work, your products, the stuff that you do, and they know it’s you. They don’t think about the other brand. They think about you. They have a positive perception of who you are and your brand.
If you own something original that you’ve created, no one can take it away from you, because it’s yours.
The Risk of Being Un-Original
- 33:01 Kyle: As much as I would like to say that it is, the point here isn’t to say that you shouldn’t create anything from someone else. That’s a topic for another time. The point is that if you create based on someone else’s originality, you’re putting yourself at risk. If you’re doing that for things that are assets for you, you’re definitely putting yourself at risk. Best case scenario, you go on about your day, it’s fine, and you have Pokemon illustrations on your website to show what kind of work you can make.
- 33:40 It shows what skill level you’re at, since you’re not coming up with the original subject matter, but you’re showing your skill level. If you’re doing that, best case scenario, nobody ever figures that out and you fly under the radar. It’s still a major risk. Then there’s the possibility that they could come along and tell you to take it all down. That’s their right. Is it Nintendo?
- 34:14 Cory: Nintendo owns Pokemon, but if you’re thinking about Pokemon Go, there’s a company called Niantic that licenses Pokemon for their game.
- 34:23 Kyle: I’m thinking of Pokemon in general.
- 34:26 Cory: There’s the Pokemon Company, but they’re owned by Nintendo.
- 34:32 Kyle: Okay, so Nintendo, or whoever owns these characters that are considered Pokemon, could come along and say, “Remove all of these from your site.” If that’s most of what you have, you now have a much smaller portfolio of things. If they’re products, you have less products. You’ve been hurt by lower income by that point.
- 35:15 I feel like I’m edging on legal things here. You’re putting yourself at risk. There are even certain business situations you can be in, and I would highly encourage you to look up the laws surrounding the kind of business that you own. There are different kinds of businesses you can own. In the US, there are LLCs and DBAs, and some of those put you at risk. I’m saying this for awareness. Look it up for yourself and figure out what’s right for you. In some of those cases, if you were to get into a legal battle, you’re putting yourself personally at risk, not just your company.
- 35:58 It’s not just your brand. This is a real thing. A lot of people get away with this, and a lot of people see the people who continue to project these things, who have similar products or things to other people, and they think, “Obviously, it’s okay to do that.” Nobody is saying that you can’t do that, but it is putting you at a major risk to not own the things that you think you own.
- 36:29 Cory: That’s especially true for the things that help you generate income. Hannah brings up a good point in the chat. She said, “There are certain instances where I know a girl that does amazing fan art of a book series and splits 50/50 with the author, who loves her work.” That’s the point. There are certain circumstances where that’s okay. The author is involved there. If that person was doing fan art and was making a profit, and the author came along and said, “Sorry, I don’t like what you’re doing. I don’t like your work and you profiting off of my success. I’m going to sue you…” Again, more legal stuff.
- 37:20 I’m saying that you really have to look at that. Think, “Am I really going to take the risk to lose this asset?” That’s the point. Count the cost. Ask yourself whether copying this thing or creating work based on someone else’s copyrighted, trademarked, or original work, is going to give you a bad time.
Worst case scenario, someone could see you profiting from their content and issue you a lawsuit, which would be very hard to fight.
Repackaging Common Content
- 37:50 Cory: Emily asked, “What is the best way to handle accusations of copying when you are innocent? This is inevitably going to be the overlap of ideas in the marketplace. An example: I had a woman I had never heard of in another country accuse me of copying her content. In reality, I was sharing very basic ideas that are taught in grade school and, frankly, are common sense. Neither she or I own those ideas. It would be like saying that I copyrighted color theory when I published a book on it. I wasn’t stating that I own the ideas either, but nonetheless, she believed it was her original copyrighted content. It all worked out, thankfully, but how do you address it?”
- 38:39 In that particular case, that’s got a lot of legality caught up into it and I’m not a legal expert here. I’ve had this in the past, where someone has contacted me. I had a company contact me when I was running my apparel line, they emailed and they said, “Hey, one of your shirt designs is obviously a rip off of one of ours. We need you to take that down and cease sales immediately.” In their email, they even said, “Our lawyers told us to contact you.” I went and looked at their website, and it was barely anything close. It had shapes on it, and that was the only similarity.
- 39:32 I didn’t respond. First off, I didn’t know what to do. Also, there was nothing legal about that communication. If I had received a cease and desist or something from an actual lawyer, I would have had cause for concern. I didn’t, so I didn’t do anything about it. They emailed a few times and I never responded, so they just stopped emailing. We’ve had some questions about this. How do you deal with creating content that feels like it’s just common sense, ideas that you’re just repackaging?
- 40:11 Virginia in the chat was asking earlier, “Do I have to come up with all of these new ideas for marketing tips, or can I glean all this information, learn from 10 other companies or marketers, take the information I’ve learned, repurpose it into an infographic, and send that out as content to my audience?” You need to be the judge of whether that content is directly copied from those other people. Are you just copy and pasting?
- 41:12 This is especially true if you’re in a creative industry. Ideas, things that are common sense, or concepts—there are so many ways to repackage information for your audience. Kyle and I have learned stuff that we share on this podcast, and I may not attribute the exact person that I learned it from, but because I’ve internalized it and learned so much, I can share that with my own voice and bring it forward. It’s not the idea that is the problem, it’s how the execution comes across.
- 41:58 That’s ultimately where you’re going to run into issues. Go back to how people are going to look at you and your brand. Are they going to think, “Is this somebody I want to keep following? I know that they’re just copying.”
- 42:15 Kyle: I want to point out that if you’re listening to this and some of these things are things that you’ve done, maybe you’ve copied certain characters or products, maybe you were just naive. You saw others doing it in your industry. We’re not trying to make you feel terrible. This podcast isn’t here to rain on your parade. The point is to just be aware of these things. Awareness is huge. In the past, I’ve done things that are technically copyrighted content, and I just wasn’t aware of the legal boundaries of that.
- 43:04 I made stuff for my portfolio that other companies have copyrights to. I never sold anything like that. I realized that these things weren’t sustainable for me. I was getting increased traffic because I made these characters or things that people like, but I can’t ever sell them or use them as a product.
- 43:43 I finally realized that this wasn’t the right thing. I’m putting that out there, because I don’t want anyone to feel like we’re trying to be condescending or make it sound like you’re a terrible person if you’ve done this. I’ve been in that same boat. It’s all about awareness.
If you repurpose ideas in a way that’s helpful without ripping someone off or damaging your brand perception, you have to be creative.
I realized that I was wasting time and energy making something that I couldn’t legally sell.
Don’t Get Caught by Surprise
- 44:06 Cory: The point is, you need to be aware. If you’re selling something, if it is an asset, if it’s generating you income, something that you own, if it’s anything close to possibly being something that might infringe on something else, here’s a practical idea. Save some money, invest some money and hire a copyright lawyer. Get your stuff copyrighted. Figure out what it takes to trademark a name, a logo, or company name. Take a look. I ran into some legal questions when I lived in California pertaining to my little company, and I ended up calling a law firm in San Fransisco to get a quote on legal consultation for this copyright issue I was having.
- 45:20 They were copyright lawyers. On the phone, the guy asked, “What seems to be the issue?” I explained it to him, and we had a conversation. He was very helpful over the phone. Basically, he gave me free consulting. That may be something you can take advantage of, depending on where you live, what country you live in. There are a lot of legal counselors out there who may offer you some free consulting or talk you through that initial stuff. It’s just a phone call.
- 45:55 I wouldn’t stick with everything you read on the internet, because you’ll find 1,000 different things. Call somebody that actually has some rapport. You want to be sure. You want to know what you control. You want to be able to sleep at night knowing that when you wake up tomorrow, you’re still able to generate income. You want to know that you have ideas that are benefiting your brand and not taking away from it.
- 46:27 Kyle: This is huge. I think Cory would agree, but the whole point of this episode is to keep someone from a collapse of their brand. A major asset for a brand, in general, could be your logo. Let’s say that your logo is an exact copy of something else. Maybe you’re not a designer. Maybe you’ve hired a designer, and that designer decided to copy a logo they’ve seen before and you’re not even aware of that.
- 47:09 Kyle: If you’ve built up a brand around this logo or whatever it is, maybe it’s a certain piece of work or a product you have, maybe you had a product designer or a technician come in, maybe it’s a hardware device for technology and they’ve copied something they shouldn’t have, make sure that things are as they should be, because these things could be taken out from under you. For example, your logo could be taken out from under you.
- 47:42 There’s going to be a majority of people that have never seen the logo you accidentally, or perhaps intentionally, copied, and they’ll associate that with your brand, and then you take it away and remove it. Suddenly, the brand changes. We’ve seen these large companies when they have changes. Recently, Instagram changed its branding. Everybody freaked out for the first week or so. They were like, “This is insane, what is this? I don’t get it. They’re changing and nobody is going to like them anymore.”
- 48:19 That’s going to happen when you have to go through those big changes. If you’re a smaller company, you’re putting yourself at risk to lose a big portion of your audience or your income if something you considered an asset gets taken out from under you.
Be aware of what is going on in your brand to make sure you’re covered.
When Others Copy You
- 48:35 Cory: Great question here from Candace. She says, “Opposite of Emily’s question. What are some advisable ways of handling people that copy your work?” Your first question is to ask, “Is it worth my time?” Working with seanwes, there have been a large number of times that we’re stumbled across people using artwork that Sean has made, like lettering pieces he’s done, or something else that’s an obvious, blatant ripoff. We really have to ask that question.
- 49:12 Is it worth our time to send some kind of email or, eventually, to send a cease and desist? Is it worth my time? It could be. It could be just reaching out. It could just be a fan who needs to have a conversation with you, and that conversation could lead to them becoming more original. If it’s somebody who’s taken your work and they’re profiting, and it’s obviously your work, it’s certainly something I would highly advise bringing in legal counsel for.
- 49:53 See what’s up. If it’s not something you’ve copyrighted or trademarked, it might be difficult to have that legally removed. People who copy are always going to be behind you. Anybody who copies what you’re doing is already behind you. You’re so far in front of them that it’s going to take them forever to catch up. You have to count the cost. Is it going to be worth your time to pursue them taking down their copy or their unoriginality?
- 50:34 Kyle: In many cases, this is the reason why a lot of fan art remains out there, things people aren’t being original with, where they’re copying other’s ideas. I believe that’s the reason why a lot of those remain out there and they’re not constantly sending out cease and desist letters. If this copy is really taking away from you and damaging your brand, that’s a big thing.
- 51:15 As weird as that might sound, if someone is copying your ideas, it looks like you are the trendsetter. If you’re well known enough in your industry or with the thing that you create, people will say, “They were the first ones to do it. Obviously, they’re the best. All these other people are copying it, so it must be something really cool.” That can happen. Yes, it’s still a risk. It’s still going to dilute the amount of attention and income you receive from those things, but in some cases, if it’s obviously just a fan that’s trying to copy you, is it really damaging you? Or is it validating that you’re doing stuff that other people want to be doing?
In some cases, someone copying you can highlight the validity of your brand.
It’s All About the Risk
- 52:07 Cory: I think some people might be confused. How far do we take this idea of originality? Let’s say that I’m a WordPress developer, and I make websites for clients. That’s a very general, generic thing. The idea of having a website is a concept. If you took someone else’s website that they designed and tried to pass it off as your own, that’s something you have to wrestle with. It’s almost like I’m not even saying, “Don’t copy.” That’s not necessarily what I’m saying.
- 52:49 It could be what I’m saying. It’s part of it. I’m saying that if there’s something that you own or have that’s directly linked to you making a living that someone else could take away from you because they actually own that asset, that’s what you need to look out for. If someone is going to make a drawing of Master Chief from Halo and sell it, I’m not going to buy it, but I’m also not going to come in with a referee shirt and a whistle and call a foul. I’m too busy. I’m not going to referee that person’s life.
- 53:35 If Microsoft, who owns Halo, comes in, and they say, “You’re generating $1,000 a month selling these posters of Master Chief. We’re going to take that down,” all of a sudden, you don’t have that $1,000 a month. This is the ultimate thing that I’m trying to distill all of this down into.
- 54:08 People are going to say, “Well, can I have this idea? What if I have this thing that’s kind of close?” Create, absolutely. You have to learn from other people, for sure. All of the stuff I learned about marketing and branding, I didn’t just come up with. I read books, listened to podcasts, and I read articles. It’s not that the information is original, but how I present it, execute it, and get it into the hands of other people, that’s what I’m responsible for.
- 54:48 Kyle: There’s a subtle nuance that I’ve noticed. In the chat, Jared asks, “Does this idea of owning your assets translate into services and products you use? How far do you take the idea?” Cory talked about the Master Chief posters, and if that person had gone to Microsoft and said, “Hey, I want to make these and sell them, are you okay with that?” They could get permission from the person who owns the asset, and that’s totally fine. The products and services you use to create the things you do or provide the services you provide typically allow you to use their product or service to do those things.
- 55:34 Really, the unoriginal part comes when you blatantly copy. If you’re on that edge and you don’t have permission from whoever owns the original asset, that’s when you put yourself up for major liabilities. You don’t have permission from the person that owns it, and that’s a lot of our point here. That’s when you’re putting yourself at a lot of risk. You don’t know if the person who originally did the thing will be upset about it or not. You don’t know if they’ll come after you, so you don’t know if you’ll be making that $1,000 next month or not.
Create whatever you want, but there’s safety in originality.
Asking for Permission
- 56:18 Kyle: It’s totally fine to go to people and ask them, “Hey, I made this thing that’s basically a copy of your thing, are you okay with this?” They could say yes or no, and you have to be okay with that answer. You can cover your bases that way. It’s not like nobody ever makes anything that’s a product someone else thought of. There are tons of companies out there. When you see back to school items on shelves, there are backpacks that have Ironman and Captain America on them, these things that Marvel owns, and it may be a different company.
- 56:56 Maybe it’s Jansport backpacks, and they have superheroes on them. They’ve gone to Marvel and said, “We would like to license your characters to help sell our products, boost our awareness and our relevance in this market. This is what kids want right now.” They’ve gone there and made deals with Marvel, so they’re fine. They’re not copying the characters, putting them on backpacks, and selling them. If they were, they’re putting themselves at a really big risk.
- 57:50 For some reason, I had these suggested videos on YouTube. There’s a show in the US called Shark Tank, and it’s these people coming and presenting their ideas, entrepreneurs working on a business that needs more capital or inventors that have a product they want to get out into the world and they need backing for that. It’s this pitch to these people who are wealthy individuals who can back them and help them, who have resources.
- 58:31 One of the people on that show is Mark Cubin, and I love what he said in a quote on this episode. He said, “Be risky with business but be safe with investments.” Take business risks, do things where you might make a profit or you might not. You’ve got to have these moments of jumping off a cliff and trying something new, but be safe with the things you’re investing in.
- 59:15 Assets are really an investment. Maybe sitting down and drawing something or making something and posting it online isn’t a monetary investment, but it’s a time investment. That’s time you could have spent making something different, something original, that’s not putting you at risk. Weigh the cost of those things.
- 59:38 Cory: Again, we’re not talking about the legality. We aren’t even necessarily talking about the ethics. We’re just saying, how does it affect your brand?
- 59:53 Kyle: It’s hard to not reference legal stuff. We’re not giving legal advice. I want to make that clear again. Especially in other countries, things could be totally different. I live in the US. I kind of know how things are, but I’m not a legal expert. We have to mention the fact that there could be legal trouble. You need to make sure of those things. We’re not telling you exactly what’s going to happen or what you can and can’t do.
- 01:00:31 Kyle: Also, be aware. We had a question earlier about what to do if someone is copying you. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they’re not aware. Don’t assume that people are out to get you. We’re not assuming that anyone who’s doing unoriginal work is trying to go after someone else or hurt someone else. That’s not the point. Maybe you’re not aware. Maybe the person copying you just isn’t aware. They’ve seen other people doing this or it just hasn’t crossed their minds that they’re putting themselves at any kind of risk. I wouldn’t assume bad things from someone that isn’t being original.
- 01:01:20 Cory: Hannah said, “Shark Tank, which is a version of Dragon’s Den, which is a version of Tigers of Money.” I’ve never heard of any of those things either, and I’m not here to say whether those things are good or bad or the copyright was broken. I’m just saying that they have to understand how the brand is affected. Hannah looks at Shark Tank and thinks, “That’s not original,” and that affects brand perception. That’s what we’re getting at.
- 01:02:01 Kyle: I think it’s important. We didn’t have this in our outline, but as we’ve been talking here, I really think it’s important to not only think about your brand perception by the public at large and how they might perceive you having these things that aren’t original, but also think about the industry you’re in and the peers you have. Your peers are going to look at what you’re doing even closer than the public at large, and they’re going to call you out on things more often.
- 01:02:35 They’re going to be more hesitant of you, potentially. These are things that could happen to your brand. If your brand is damaged in your industry, that could maybe cause bigger issues, because you’re not supported by your peers. In the long run, that could cause major issues.
If you’re not sure whether what you’re doing is original or not, you’re putting yourself at risk.