People Have Been Copying from My Website and This Is Not Okay

Sophie Playle

Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a handful of websites cropping up that have clearly taken inspiration from my own website. Actually, it’s more than a handful. And sometimes it’s more than inspiration.

I’ve seen other freelance editors use almost identical brand colours and fonts, similar website layouts and styles (even though my website doesn’t use a pre-built template – I designed it myself from scratch), logos that look remarkably like my own, and multiple lines of text that read as though they’ve been copy-and-pasted from my website before a few cursory changes have been made. Some people have even taken text from my website and not bothered to change it at all.

I found an instance of one of these websites last week. How did I find it? Because someone replied to one of my newsletters and I checked out the link to their website in their email signature.

These people should know better.

Professional editors should be well-versed in copyright law. Stealing someone else’s work is an infringement of copyright – even if you tweak the work a little.

I’ve debated long and hard with myself what to do about these copycats when I find them. In the end, I’ve decided to try to put it out of my mind. After all, resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Confronting people over it would take time and effort, and the idea fills me with anxiety too – and then I get even more angry that someone’s actions have put me in such a position.

I built my website and my brand over many years. I’ve poured hours and hours of effort and emotional labour into creating it. I’ve even created an online course to teach other editors how to create a unique brand and build a website that reflects that. And so when someone comes along and copies bits of my website, that hurts. That person is stealing those hours of labour from me, and a little bit of me with it.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? My brand comes from me. It represents me. When someone tries to imitate it, they’re not creating something that comes authentically from them.

A brand is more than a website, more than a colour palette and more than a logo. It’s how someone conducts themselves, and how they make other people feel.

When it really comes down to it, you can’t steal someone’s brand because the very act of stealing from another business brands your business as inauthentic and unethical.

Even so, I still get mad when I see people basing their website copy on my own. Seriously, people, you work with words! Do better!

Luckily, these kinds of editors are in the minority. There are so many more who are genuinely good people trying to run genuinely good businesses. These editors I consider my friends and colleagues. I celebrate when these editors improve their websites and brands. I refer work to these editors when I’m offered projects I can’t take on. It’s these editors who deserve my time and attention.

And if you’re an author, it’s worth getting a sample edit or having a bit of back-and-forth with an editor before hiring them so you can get a better sense of who they really are. Don’t always take people at face value, as that face can sometimes be a mask.

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more: liminalpages.com

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