Recently, I became aware that you were using words I’d written on your website. I no longer think of those as precisely “my words,” since a client paid me to write them, and since nobody can really own words (more on that later), but still, you didn’t ask if you could do that.
However, they are, in many senses, my words. Though you have stolen value from my client (who purchased a Work Made For Hire from me), you have also stolen from me.
I use the word “stolen” for its impact. It keeps the issues clear when we remember that you stole from me and my client. I could have said “borrowed,” or “plagiarized,” or “lifted.” This choice of words and the choosing of them goes directly to the heart — and the value — of the service I provide: I help clients choose words that best express the work they do best and help them connect with others who will value, and therefore pay for, that work.
They pay me for my words, of course, but they pay me for so much more. They pay me for the experience I provide: of guidance, of listening, of thinking out loud, of editing, of hand-holding, of withholding judgment and proffering support.
They also pay for much less tangible things: my big heart, the impact of my impressive experience and abilities, my years of education and experiences, my lack of ego-attachment to the outcome.
Do I actually own any of the words I use? No, I don’t, and I don’t even own all the combinations of those words. There is nothing new under the sun. But the expression of thoughts into words that arise from a unique conversation between two individuals with unique intellects, histories, skills, senses of humor — well, I believe I capture and arrange the words that arise from our collaboration in unique patterns that reflect an otherwise un-duplicable series of events.
Unique AND identifiable. That’s how I know you stole my writing from my client. Though there are times you used my sentences as if you were playing Mad Libs, substituting parts of speech as if the sentences had blanks waiting to be filled in, often you simply copied and pasted the phrasing I spent time crafting so thoughtfully in collaboration with my client.
Why am I taking so much of my time spelling this out for you? There are many reasons:
- Perhaps you don’t know what you did and why it’s wrong. This is a little hard to believe, but I’ve taught English composition, and I’m pretty sure that not all cases of plagiarism arise from ill intent.
- Perhaps you did know it was wrong and you don’t care. I know there are assholes out there, so this could very well be true.
- Perhaps you thought of it as justified. I’m making this story up and I can’t figure out any persuasive details, so I think I’ll drop this line of reasoning. It’s not like it’s a political act or statement to steal from someone who is in essentially the same field as you (online entrepreneur).
- Perhaps you didn’t know the worth of what you took. I find this hard to believe, since you did think the words were good enough to represent you to the world. However, they don’t represent you, not at all. The represent the voices of the people who created them.
Ultimately, I’m hopeful and optimistic. I hope that now you see the value of hiring a copywriter — some human beings came up with those words, and they were good words, worth paying to have written down and published — and that you would love to have the same love, care, attention, intelligence, and perceptiveness applied to you. You can see the value of hiring a copywriter to produce language that reflects your ideas and voice, not someone else’s. I know you see the value of my writing because you stole it, and nobody steals something they don’t value, for any reason.
I’d even be willing to work with you. Once you “return” what you’ve stolen by removing it from your site, let’s talk.