how to prevent people from copying you

What would you do if, hypothetically, you once drew an original cartoon character, a smirking onion with sunglasses and the hypothetical name of “Onionhead,” and showed your entire fifth grade class the little copyright sign next to it, yet within ten minutes it was all over everyone’s papers and, to this day, the injustice gnaws at the very fabric of your soul?

Or if someone, hypothetically, read just about every post on your blog—your hypothetical blog—and hypothetically copied various parts of your writing, in regards to style and formatting and phrases?

What would you do? All this being absolutely hypothetical, of course.

Turns out if you ask anyone for advice, 99% of the time, they will respond with something along the lines of “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Or, if the person you ask is the cranky brunette sales associate at Costco, “who are you? Stop bothering me.”

But the 1% isn’t much help either. Below are their tips.

Tip #0: Stop caring. I’ve numbered this tip “0” because it is an idiotic tip, but feel free to try it anyway. Although, you might as well wish for a pony while you’re at it.

Tip #0.1: Be successful. Given that you can hardly control success, this tip is almost as idiotic a tip as #0. I assume the intent of this tip is to highlight how “no one can be a better you than you,” so if you just work hard at being yourself, you will succeed and leave your shadow in the dust. Only, what if that person is a better you than you? What if that person, by a stroke of luck, becomes more famous for being you? What then?

The gist: you’re supposed to be the bigger person, accept plagiarism as a compliment, and let it slide. In other words, you have to change for someone else’s transgression. That’s fine. But if you happen to be an actual human being and not a saint, these tips may be more helpful.

Tip #1: Suck. You can’t control your success, but you can certainly control how much you suck, or at least how much more you suck than usual. There is some merit to this tip, as no one will think to steal a terrible idea.

… Then again, my blog has been described as “literally about nothing,” and someone still copied it. So I suppose if someone steals your terrible idea anyway, you can content yourself with the knowledge that this copycat is not too discerning and therefore vulnerable to sabotage.

Tip #2: Fix it yourself.  You could just let him know that you’ve noticed his plagiarism and ask him nicely to stop. But you could also take matters into your own hands. Someone copying your website? Hack into his computer and delete his account. Someone copying your character? Track down all the imitations and light them on fire. Someone copying your wardrobe? Break into his house and replace his closet with Crocs and 80’s workout clothing.

Tip #3: Lex Talionis. Do to him what he did to you. Start copying the copycat. Follow him around for a while to familiarize yourself with his routine. Then, out of the blue, go wherever he goes, dressed and talking exactly like him. Hopefully this will confuse him for long enough so you can stuff him in a cardboard box and ship him to Peru.

Tip #4: Adjust your content slightly. One simple solution is to invent an indecipherable code to write everything in and only send the key to those you trust. That way, it’d be more work for someone to steal your idea than it would be to just come up with his own. Or, even better, to prevent the code key from leaking, make only one copy and force your friends to only read your website in your presence. They’ll understand.

Tip #5: Encourage your copycat to go all the way. This has proven to be the riskiest but most effective method of all. Instead of pushing your copycat away, embrace him. Talk enthusiastically about the topics you like, confide all your concerns to him, give him all of your homework, register him for your chores. After all, if he wants to be you so badly, he should be fine with shouldering all of your problems, too.

It might be some time before the desired change takes effect, though, so while you’re working on these tips, you could also peruse this admittedly less exciting solution, which works from the opposite direction.

Advice to Copycats

  1. If you absolutely must copy, try to imitate famous or already successful people, as it probably won’t have as much an effect on them.
  2. Ask. Chances are the person will say yes if he doesn’t want to seem rude.
  3. Credit those you copy.

Plagiarism is only so rampant because of the “everyone’s doing it, so it must be okay” mentality. You may not have the resources to deter plagiarism by singlehandedly ruining the lives of all your imitators as suggested above, but if you abide by these rules yourself and spread the word to others, it’s at least a step in the right direction.

18 thoughts on “how to prevent people from copying you

    1. 80’s fashion is horrific yet admittedly fascinating.
      You know, I agree with that. Sometimes I consider switching them up, but then I realize that doing so will make the alternative title the actual title, which will then become the new alternative title that is so much better than the actual title, and get so confused I stop thinking about it completely.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fot some reason, I knew you’d say that.
    Alternatively, you can switch the alternate title, and use the actual one, but switch them again so the alternate actual title is the alternate tirtle while the actual alternate title becomes the actual titles. Or you can switch the alternate actual and actual alternate everyday, confusing everyone and losing all your followers over claims of illuminati possessing you.
    (Sorry, couldn’t help.) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As if this comment wasn’t confusing enough, you felt the need to begin it with “alternatively”??
      The first word I saw in that monster paragraph was “tirtle” in the fourth line. Thus, my mind was flooded with thoughts of alternative turtles–would that be more like a hippie turtle or an understudy turtle in the school play?–and that is the only reason why I have no adequate response to this. Sorry.


      1. You may have just created a meme through an innocent typo (I was about to type Nicole, but then I realised that I’d look (be read?) cooler saying:Do you like Sundaes, Nicole?)


  2. Nice post. 🙂 And thanks for liking a post on my blog!

    You may be interested in knowing that (the following is not to be contrued as legal advice) if you live in a country that abides by the Berne convention, with a law similar to “once a work is in tangible form, copyright protection enters into effect,” then you have automatic copyright protection the moment your idea goes from your mind to paper, computer, tablet, or another tangible means. This is the case with the United States, and copyright registration does not grant you copyright. You already have it. It just gives benefits in court. However, you still control all rights and may enforce them without registration.

    (Ҥ 102 . Subject matter of copyright: In general28

    (a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

    See also:

    Enforcing your copyright…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU for this very informative response!
      So “copyright protection” is essentially automatic? That… seems almost too easy.
      Is it a long process to force other people to take down copied material, then? Because I’ve seen a lot of people copying popular blogs and artwork, yet they never seem to be taken down. Or maybe is it because there are just too many copycats to deal with?
      I also looked at this website: but I think it only served to confuse me even more.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Disclaimer: the following is not legal advice. If you require legal counsel, seek a qualified attorney (I include this statement so people don’t take what I say, act on it, and then sue me if it doesn’t work out. Plus, I’m not giving advice, just information)

        It is automatic. All the rights are granted to you upon you writing a story or poem, taking a photograph and it being stored on the camera, typing up a document, posting to your blog… it’s all automatic ( Bear in mind, this means the vast majority of Google images are copyrighted in accordance with these conventions, even while their owners may not realize it. Your rights as a copyright holder include the right to distribution (say someone took a photograph from my blog and shared it on Pinterest. I could issue a takedown notice and be within my rights. But if I’m being credited, and not associated with something bad, then I probably wouldn’t). And no, that example of Pinterest likely wouldn’t fly as fair use. Fair use is determined by a court, but generally applies to reviewers, journalists, and parodies. Not someone sharing things on a social network, blog (unless said content is being reviewed), etc.

        Companies hire individuals whose job is to track down copyrighted content and take it down. But for an individual copyright holder, yes, it can be a chore. As my law professor would say, many Americans don’t know their rights. So many people don’t realize they are copyright holders, nor do they recognize others on social media, an image websearch, etc. as such.

        Issuing takedowns doesn’t have to be a long process. It varies.

        I love the SFWA’s articles on copyright and DMCA:

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry that I copied all of your work and published it as my own. I have no life, no creativity, no skills, and no drive, so to satisfy my desperate need for attention and validation, and because you seemed way more together than me, I stole all your stuff. It seemed like a lot easier path than doing all the hard work it requires to get a web presence – you know, getting a domain name and building a website and finding ideas and writing a bunch of things worth reading, and convincing people to read it and cultivating followers…that just sounds too much like work. I mean I have a job. “Would you like fries with that?” is one of my favorite sayings. This was just way easier.

    But in hindsight, and after all the shaming I have suffered, it probably would have been easier to just get a dog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a sincere and heartfelt apology for something you didn’t do! If only actual plagiarists apologized like that.
      I can’t fathom why people would want to copy my work, as I’d imagine it’d take considerable effort to copy/paste and then edit my posts into actually funny ones.
      Although, I hear dogs are pretty difficult sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s