Is copyright an outdated concept?

Richard Charpentier Photography, Web Design 1 Comment

Recently I wrote about Stop Stealing Photos dot Com.  It’s an interesting website to say the least.  The folks who run it find photographers who have taken the work of other photographers and used it as their own.  They do so in order to pad their own work, and trick potential clients into believing they’re a better photographer than they really are.

Honestly, it’s a shame.  It’s a total disservice to potential customers, and some would say it’s simply fraud.  I’m one of the folks in that category….it is fraud.

Others would argue that things are different in the digital age, and that copyright no longer has a place.  A good friend of mine, and photographer to boot, is now in that camp.  He thinks that because it’s so hard to regulate, copyright may be a thing of the past.

For those who generate “Intellectual Property,” it cuts right into their livelihood.  And copyright violation takes money out of their pockets.  As folks begin to feel more and more that it’s okay to violate copyright there will be a backlash.  And that backlash won’t be in the form of protests, legal action, or requests for legislation.  It will instead be in the form of a silent strike.  Creators of intellectual content will simply stop creating or sharing their works.  If you’re not going to get paid for your work, why do it?

When we think copyright, we immediately think of the whole music sharing thing on the net.  So many people think it’s perfectly fine to download music for free, as the musicians make enough money anyhow.  But for those trying to break into the business, the new talent out there, if they do not have a right to make an income off of their work, what is the incentive to create that work?  Not much incentive.

The whole argument makes me think of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” and directive 10-289.  Patents & Copyrights are declared to be null and void.  So where’s the incentive for a single inventive or unique idea?  There is no incentive.

A potential client went right out the window

This week while working in Massachusetts we’ve been talking with another business about a web overhaul.  One partner is in total favor of working with us.  The other partner thinks their current developer (and college buddy) is doing fine.  Of course, he’s working for free to build his portfolio.  So, a no cost website does sound appealing.  Unfortunately the site doesn’t present their business in a positive light.  And the site is already extremely out of date for the business.

I don’t mind losing a client to someone else.  And I honestly can’t compete with free.  I’m not even going to try.  But I will say, I’m a little bothered with what I researched this morning.

The developer in question is new to the net, and new to running a business.  Looking through his site I found that all of his copy (written information on the site) is from other web development companies.  Let me be clear, there isn’t a single paragraph of content written by this developer or his marketing company.  He has taken (word for word) content from other web developers.

Website design is one of the most crucial elements in your marketing mix. Make sure that your advertising dollars are turning into revenue by having a great website that easily converts your visitors. Our team will work with you to deliver a website that is modern, user friendly and leads to more sales.

Doing a Google search on this paragraph you will actually find several web companies with these exact words.  I have to ask, if you can’t even come up with an original pitch for yourself, what are you possibly going to do for a client?  Not much I suppose.  But maybe you could just steal copy off of your client’s competitors websites!  There’s an idea!  Hopefully the competitor hired someone better, and therefore the content will really work for you!

Some might say that imitation is a compliment.  And yes, it is.  Somebody admires your work enough that they want to present it as their own.  The problem is that it was your effort and labor that developed the idea, and someone profiting off of your work does not inspire you to create more work.

The developer in question didn’t confine the plagiarism to one single page.  All of his company’s information is someone else’s copy.  For potential clients I’d say things look pretty grim.  No original ideas whatsoever means that the work you’ll receive probably isn’t original either.

In the end it’s just frustrating to see.  Personally I love the Internet and find it to be extremely useful.  But with everything moving to digital there will be growth pains.  And original ideas may become a thing of the past.  I just don’t know.  What I do know is that I will continue to produce original work, original images, and custom content for clients.  And if someone copies it they will hear from me and receive a bill for my work.  As for the potential client?  If the level of work they want to represent their business involves stealing ideas from other websites then I wish them luck, and I wouldn’t want them as a client.

Well, I’m off.  There are a few books I’ve wanted to read, so I’m heading the the library to Xerox them…..  😛


Comments 1

  1. While I don’t make much money online and none directly from original work, I can understand your pain. Years ago, when I was doing quite a bit of genealogy research, I did a huge amount of research on copyright. In fact, I put together a fairly comprehensive copyright website — . I actually started challenging people at work who were using copyrighted material in their presentations — not that it did much good, though I did have some people from the training office at corporate come talk to me about copyright issues, asking my opinion.

    I don’t think copyright is an outdated concept. I think it’s more important now when everyone has the ability to steal copyrighted works. Artists and authors who don’t believe works should be copyrighted can always assign their works to the public domain or license them via creative commons. Whenever I use images that are not my own, I look for public domain or creative commons works. On rare occasions, I have asked permission to use something not licensed by creative commons.

    Best of luck at finding clients that value your original work.

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