The lines between originality and imitation have become increasingly blurred in the ever-evolving landscape of content creation. Once perceived as a boundless frontier, the Internet has fostered a culture where taking and claiming ownership of someone else's work seems too commonplace. However, there are fundamental principles that demand our respect and adherence.
The Unexpected Discovery
Since 2019, I have been promoting artists and designers daily on my LinkedIn page, dedicating my time to curating and discovering inspiring talents. Unexpectedly, a few weeks ago, someone contacted me saying they had copied my LinkedIn posts onto a Discord server to support their project without asking for permission or giving me credit. So many of my posts were replicated on the server. I was shocked.
As a creator, I understand the significance of crediting and promoting other content authors and creators in everything I produce, reproduce, or share. It's a gesture of respect and a means to foster a positive reputation.
Using my platform to share creativity and art that resonates with me brings immense satisfaction—this act of sharing benefits many artists, designers and even agents, who gain valuable exposure. Many of them have expressed appreciation for the visibility gained through my curation. Numerous creatives working in agencies, brands and studios seeking to hire talent have also recognized and valued my efforts. And I am happy to connect talents with potential opportunities.
Drawing from my background in art direction and visual design, curating art, designers, and creators keeps me creatively sharp and inspires me to learn continually. However, discovering that someone had copied my content verbatim without my consent on a Discord server has given me pause for thought.
In an age of content abundance, automated content generation, generative large language models, automated tools and countless websites brimming with inspiring references, I was shocked by the audacity and the lack of imagination of someone reproducing my daily posts word for word.
Intellectual Property and Content Creation
In the context of content creation and copycats, one aspect often overlooked is the issue of intellectual property rights held by content creators. In the early days of social media's explosion, the question of ownership over the content we shared on various platforms received little attention. However, as social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram gained popularity, concerns regarding the use and ownership of users' photos and other content began to surface.
Regarding content creation on social media platforms, creators must understand their rights and the extent of control they have over their creations. While platforms may have different licensing and usage policies, users generally maintain intellectual property rights over the content they create and share on these platforms.
As a content creator, you have legal ownership and control over your original works, including text, photos, videos, and other creative content you produce. These rights allow you to determine how your content is used, shared, and attributed.
However, it's important to note that the platform's terms of service and privacy policies can shape the extent of your control and rights. When you post on social media, you typically give the platform a license to use your content. This license is usually non-exclusive, meaning you can still use your content elsewhere. However, the social media platform can use your content for its purposes, such as displaying it on its website or using it in advertising. Below you may take a look at a simplified version of some social media platforms' terms and services:
Below you may take a look at a simplified version of some social media platforms' terms and services:
- LinkedIn Users own their content but give LinkedIn permission to use their posts. LinkedIn won't use the content for ads without consent. If a user deletes their account or content, LinkedIn loses these rights. There's a process to report misuse of intellectual property.
- Facebook Users own their content, but they allow Facebook to use it broadly. Facebook can also use a user's name, profile picture, and ad interactions without payment.
- Instagram Users own their content but grant Instagram broad permission to use their posts worldwide without paying for it. Instagram can sub-license your content to a third party without permission and use your profile information for business activities. Users can face issues if they post material they don't own.
- WhatsApp Users own their content but give WhatsApp broad permission to use, distribute, and create derivative works of their information. Still, WhatsApp doesn't share the content with Facebook or other apps for other users to see. WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption to keep messages private, allegedly.
- TikTok Users own their content but grant TikTok an unlimited license to use their posts, even their user name, image, voice, and likeness. This means TikTok can use content freely, in any way it wants, and even use users' images and likenesses for commercial purposes. Users need to consider how their content may be used.
Important: Reviewing the platform's terms of service for an accurate overview of users' copyrights is essential. The summary above is not legal advice – inform yourself about your rights if you find yourself in a similar situation.
While it's true that there are instances where the use of your content by others can be beneficial, it's crucial to be mindful of the context and your intentions as a content creator. The primary goal of content creation is often to communicate with a broad audience, and in some cases, having your content repurposed by others can help achieve that. It may not be feasible to receive credit for some instances of content reuse. However, in the case of the Discord channel copying my content, it becomes essential to consider the context, as it supported a third-party project and utilized the content that I curated and created without my consent.
Protecting Creative Work
Although not always feasible, the best way to address the problem is to contact the person responsible directly and try to find common ground. Going ballistic and trying to damage the other person's reputation publicly may not necessarily produce a positive outcome. In my case, because my content, initially posted on Linkedin, was used on Discord, making things a bit more complicated, an agreement should be the first option.
Alternatively, the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Notice and Takedown process is established by US law to help copyright owners protect their work online. The DMCA offers a mechanism for protecting copyright and related rights on the Internet whereby the copyright holder can request the removal of content or restrict access to it if there is a suspicion of violation of legal rights.
While Europe doesn't have a direct equivalent to the US DMCA, it has copyright laws and regulations. The European Union has implemented directives and regulations to harmonize copyright laws across member states, including the Copyright Directive and the Digital Single Market Directive. These laws aim to protect copyright holders and address online copyright infringement.
From a creator's perspective, you should consider a DMCA takedown when you find someone using your content without your permission. It could be things like copying your blog post, sharing your music, or using your artwork without giving you credit or getting your approval. Suppose you want to protect your content and stop others from using it unlawfully. In such cases, issuing a DMCA takedown notice is an effective means to take action and have the unauthorized material removed from a platform. As a creator, it's a way to stand up for your rights and ensure people respect your work.
Here's how it works in simple terms:
- A copyright owner finds their work being used online without their permission.
- They send a DMCA Takedown Notice to the online service provider (like a website host or a social media platform) hosting the content.
- The notice tells the provider they're hosting copyrighted material without permission.
- The service provider typically removes the content to comply with the law to avoid legal liability.
Embracing Originality in a Content-Saturated World
In today's digital era, where infinite content is produced and often powered by artificial intelligence, it can often feel daunting to stand out. It's tough for our voices to be heard above the noise. However, it is crucial to keep one's unique perspective, think creatively, and offer fresh viewpoints that resonate with others.
Amidst the flood of repetitive and derivative content, we have the power to stand out by offering quality opinions, thought-provoking insights, and captivating narratives. While AI can generate content at lightning speed, it cannot replicate the human touch of authenticity and depth. As creators, we become positive critics and curators, searching for and promoting work based on our individual experiences in the world that showcases originality and pushes creative boundaries.
By embracing our unique perspectives and nurturing our creative thinking skills, we can cut through the noise and captivate audiences with our work. It's about appreciating the subtle nuances, challenging conventional norms, and pushing the limits of creative expression. In the race to produce more content, which often lacks life experiences and authenticity, we must prioritize quality, authenticity, and thoughtful storytelling to make a lasting impact.
Despite the saturation of digital content, we can prove the value of our contributions by staying true to ourselves, telling truthful stories, and adding value to cultural conversation. By embracing new perspectives and taking creative risks, we contribute to a vibrant and diverse creative ecosystem, inspiring others.
As a Creative Director working in the advertising industry, a deep appreciation for unconventional ideas and originality is a fundamental part of my work. My teams are perpetually looking for innovative thinking and fresh viewpoints, and my audience comprises creatives and visual designers who value intelligence, creativity, and cutting-edge concepts. In this constantly evolving industry, creating an environment that recognizes the importance of safeguarding creativity while encouraging originality is essential. We must embrace unique visions while fostering bold and daring ideas; only then can we transform the creative landscape in significant ways.