Many of you have asked for my thoughts on the very common practice of businesses ‘borrowing’ ideas from one another but not crediting the ideas to their original owners. It’s an issue which is endemic to the industry and an issue which starts endless dramas among ‘friends’ …and it very quickly gets very ugly, doesn’t it?
Here’s my two cents:
Remember my post about how I divorced all my facebook groups? I feel much the same way about chasing down copy cats as I do about facebook groups – basically: my time as a business owner is better spent elsewhere.
The reality of it is, you can spend countless hours chasing people who ‘are inspired by’ your ideas but who fail to be inspired enough to credit back to you. You can do lots of reverse Google image searching, chase them down on facebook, ‘name and shame’ them on your own fb page, email them directly, hire lawyers to send them ‘cease and desist’ letters and basically create an entire job out of hunting these people and demanding the credit you deserve. On the flip side, you can also do things like spend a lot of time emailing the people who may (or may not) be the original designer of something and ask their permission to re-create it. Both are a total waste of time. Why? Because who says the watermarked picture you’re looking at is an original of that maker anyway? Maybe that cake maker copied it from another picture which wasn’t watermarked, or maybe it was watermarked, only the cake maker before them copied it from another one that wasn’t… you get the idea. Last I checked I don’t know a single cake maker who got royalties for something they designed. Nor have I ever seen copyright on cake design actually enforced by any legal organisation. Following the trail of creativity is a very time consuming process and in my opinion, a total waste of time.
Me? I’d much rather be making fabulous products for paying clients. That’s where my time is better spent.
In the digital age of sharing, pinning, posting, tumblr-ing, tweeting, instagramming, hash tagging…is *anything* in the creative, edible realm really able to remain “owned” solely by the person who created the first one? In my opinion – no, or at least not for very long. As speciality bakers,we WANT and NEED to share our work with as wide an audience as possible. Sharing publicly is how we build our reputation, get new clientele, and showcase our ability. We work in a very visual medium, ergo, we need to publish photos of our work. I would even go so far as to say we have no choice but to share freely and widely. Many people do this on their business’s sites but I bet ALL OF YOU also do this on cake forums of one sort or another, thus freely and widely sharing your work with your competition (hello,”Sharing Monday”….). The problem with this of course is that people steal freely and widely too. Or “borrow”, or are “inspired by”, or “put their own twist on,” or whatever words you put around it – the end result is pretty much the same. Suddenly the things we spent hours on are being recreated by others, whose clients now think they are incredibly clever to have thought of this concept in the first place when it’s you who thought of it.
You know what?
It’s not very nice to be stolen from. But…I’d much rather be making fabulous products for paying clients. That’s where my time is better spent.
Let me be very clear about the point I’m making here: when someone uses your ideas and credits you, it’s flattering. When someone uses your ideas, but doesn’t credit you, it’s incredibly irritating but ultimately probably isn’t going to harm your brand in the long run. Don’t waste what little precious time you have available to you on becoming some sort of Internet cake-identifying vigilante. You can’t stop the digital chain growing no matter how hard you try. If your photo has been shared 6000 times that you know of, it’s probably been shared 6000 times that you DON’T know of and for cripes’ sake that’s a lot of gnashing of teeth you’re doing AND a hell of a lot of emailing you are going to need to do. I ask you: who really has time for that?
Let me be real here and give you some guidelines:
To the bakers here who are just starting out: if you choose to recreate then share a cake you copied from someone else, and you can credit it, do so. It’s the right thing to do. Can’t find any identifying info? Either don’t post the cake anywhere, or post it with something like, “the client gave me this unmarked photo to work from, so I’m not sure of it’s design origins. Please let me know if you do know where it’s from,” and then go back and credit it if it ever gets identified. Then go back to making fabulous products for paying clients. That’s where your time is better spent.
To those of you who have been at this for a while: if you see unauthorised “borrowing” of your photos or designs (and they’re claiming that it’s their original concept or picture), send a polite email to that person asking them to credit you. Educate them if you can but be prepared that not everyone is educable and some people are just jerks. For those you cannot chase (and there will be thousands), do yourself a favour and get over it. Accept that by posting anywhere online, you’re also inevitably going to be copied. Consider it a compliment. Then go back to making fabulous products for paying clients. That’s where your time is better spent.
All of you: it’s really pretty simple. Be kind to one another and treat other cake makers and their work with the same level of politeness and respect you expect of them in return. Accept that while not everyone will behave respectfully, YOU certainly can. Give credit where credit is due if you are able to. Yes. It’s really that simple.
And… I don’t bother to watermark my photos. I honestly don’t care if people create those cakes again. I’m never going to get royalties and I don’t have time to chase people down just to feed my ego. Clients bring me watermarked photos ALL THE TIME to work from. Watermarking is by no means a guarantee of any kind. By all means watermark your photos to provide yourself with some protection if you like – just don’t think that watermarking necessarily means you’re protected very much at all. I have yet to meet a client who saw a watermark and then bothered to find the cake maker whose watermark it is (some might. Most won’t.) Watermarking just means you (probably) made that version, not necessarily that it’s your original design…and thank you, Mr. Photoshop, watermarks can be put on photos of cakes you never made in the first place, too. A long time ago I decided that ultimately, I cared a lot more about pleasing my clients than I did having my ego stroked by people crediting me because of a watermark. In other words, I focus on the GIVING more than the GETTING.
So…and you knew this already, didn’t you?… I don’t spend time watermarking because I’d much rather be making fabulous products for paying clients. That’s where my time is better spent.
Ultimately, I’m in business to fulfil my higher purpose and please my clients.
I can’t really see where chasing copycats is meeting either of those goals.