“Imitation is the biggest form of flattery.”

Unfortunately, this is what some people say when they hear your work has been stolen or imitated online. However, I couldn’t disagree more. When your work is blatantly copied or used without credit, it is one of the biggest forms of disrespect. Here are some ways that we need to all take responsibility in helping prevent infringement online and what to do when your work has been copied.

Know What Is Your Original Idea And What Is A Common Trend

In my Instagram community last year, someone accused another community member of copying one of their photos. No doubt, both of their images were extremely similar. However, the overall concept of the photo was very trendy concept. Sometimes me might think that something is our original idea, but we’ve just been influenced by current trends.


Support Small Businesses

I have heard from countless creatives whose work has been stolen. There are lots of different types of stolen Katie from The Uncommon Place posted on her Instagram about how Marc Jacobs completely stole her pin designs. Small t-shirt companies like Daisy Natives and Luella have had designs stolen from other clothing lines, including stores as big as Forever 21.

Community Over Competition

I’m a firm believer that there is enough room for everyone online. Instead of trying to beat each other, there is a lot of power in helping each other grow. If any of your content is inspired by someone, just credit them for it! A great example of how you do NOT want to have to interact with fellow creatives is what has happened with Jennifer Lake and Rosie Clayton. Jennifer Lake wrote a great blog post about her experience and very valid frustrations from being blatantly copied (keeping the other blogger anonymous) but then some major drama went down, even making it to the Daily Mail.


Tips To Be Inspired (Without Infringing)

  • Credit where your original idea came from. More likely than not, people will love seeing that you have inspired them, plus the credit will benefit them
  • Choose one aspect of someone’s content to use in your own work, replicating multiple of these things can tend to go beyond inspiration.
    • Pose
    • Location
    • Quote (obviously credit the actual quote)
    • Editing Style


Do Your Research

Between Pinterest and reposts of Instagram, it can be easy to lose track of an original creator. Take time to do a reverse image search to find who originally posted the image. I found this photo by Daisy Natives on Pinterest and it was not linking back to their website (and did not credit with their name). After a quick image search I was able to find the source of this photo and the fact that they are the original creator of the Girls Support Girls tees.

Be Aware Of Where You Get Your Inspiration

Unfortunately, sometimes we take ideas from others without even realizing we are (often called ‘Accidental Plagiarism’). Some creatives avoid looking at the work of others within their niche to avoid accidentally copying their work. This past weekend at the Thrive Creative ConferenceJeff Mindell spoke about how he only follows photographers with completely different styles than his own. This gives him inspiration outside of is normal work and also prevents him from accidentally copying those with a similar shooting style.


What To Do When Someone Has Copied You

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing that your work is being copied and you aren’t receiving any credit. Here are some things to do when you find yourself in this situation…

  • Contact the company or individual and ask them to remove the work.
  • If they refuse to take the image down, report and block them.
  • Continue checking their account over time to see if they copy more of your work.
  • If they continue copying your work, you can repost a photo and ask your audience to comment on their work.
  • If it is truly worth it to you and you are able to pursue legal action, this is an option. Many creatives whose work has been stolen by large corporations have chosen to do this.


Have you had your work stolen online? How have you handled it and do you have any advice for others experience the same thing?

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