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5 Simple Suggestions To Protect Your Creative Ideas From Being Stolen By The Competition

If you are just starting out as a creative freelancer, this may seem far-fetched. However, if you cannot take any chances and do not want anyone to poach your work, it is the only way to go.

“A good artist copies, a great artist steals!” ~Pablo Picasso

Ethics is a complicated concept, especially when work-related. In this fiercely competitive world, honesty is a rare virtue. Many people build careers and even thrive by flat-out stealing from others.

A month ago, I shared a writing pitch with a peer at a publishing company. After three weeks of receiving no response, I checked back only to be told that they hadn’t discussed it with their team. I didn’t think much of it at the time and moved on.

Two days later, I was flabbergasted to find that the same person had used the exact idea of my post to create her very own article for the same company. The timing of the post, even some of the phrases in the content made it too difficult to believe that it was merely coincidental! No, it was theft!

Having been in the industry for so long, I am not new to the idea of plagiarism and copyright infringement. Copying another person’s concept and ideas is not uncommon in the creative industry. Many artists, designers, and writers in my circle have shared similar experiences.

Unfortunately, it is difficult for freelancers to establish that their idea was actually stolen because the recipient can claim that they were working on it already.

This incident hit hard because I trusted the person with my work. The experience shattered my trust. But it also opened my eyes to the fact that I was foolish to trust anyone blindly!  I had been very careless.

As creators who invest effort and thought into anything we write, design, or make, we should be concerned about protecting our original work and asserting ownership over them.

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So, after discussing the state of affairs with experienced people in the field, I compiled this list of things that will help you prevent someone from ripping off your ideas and using your work.

Do not reveal the specifics until you have the gig

If you are just starting out as a creative freelancer, this may seem far-fetched. However, if you cannot take any chances and do not want anyone to poach your work, it is the only way to go.

Share only the outline of the post. Do not reveal the details until you have the job or a contract. This reduces the chances of having your content stolen.

Attach a confidentiality agreement

Copyright laws protect published work, not ideas. Nonetheless, do not hesitate to attach a confidentiality agreement to your work.

It would warn someone to think twice about stealing the content. It also gives you grounds to demand an explanation or report the misdeed if things go south.

Track and record all communication

Save all the documentation related to the pitch you share. These records will prove useful if you have to present evidence for your claim.

You can also copy an associate or colleague in all your communication. If you decide to pursue a copyright claim, you will have a credible witness.

Don’t let it slide

If the person who used your content refuses to give due credit, contact their supervisor with supporting proof. If this does not help, take it to social media.

Disclose the name of the person who used your work. Attach snapshots of the mail thread and snippets of your work to corroborate your claims. They will hesitate to repeat this action in the future.

Steer clear of the publication

Remember the saying, “Once bitten, twice shy!”

Never ever venture to make the same mistake again. Steer clear of the company or associate who used your ideas. Warn those in your network about your experience and do your part in preventing another naive person from making the same mistake.

Image source: a still from the film Tumhari Sulu

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About the Author

Sapna Jayaram

Always on the lookout for new things to learn, I am a voracious reader, globetrotter, ambitious cook and mom to two precious little men. While I'm not experimenting in the kitchen or resolving sibling read more...

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