FBFF*: When is flattery by imitation just downright copying?


Hey folks! So I’ve joined a group meme that poses a few challenging and insightful questions to us bloggers each and every Friday, called Fashion Beauty Friend Friday (or just FBFF). I think it’s a great way for you to get to know my thoughts a little bit better (in ways that can’t always be expressed in an outfit post!). 🙂 I will try to keep up with it if I can, but I’ll probably only participate when I think it is a particularly relevant topic that I actually have an opinion on.

Oh, who am I kidding. I have an opinion about everything.

Without further ado, here are the questions (I sort of answered these in free stream-of-consciousness writing, so….sorry):

1. What are the ‘unwritten rules’ about copying content that we bloggers should all abide by?

Never copy anything word for word and treat it as original. This goes for bloggers & bloggers, bloggers & media websites, and….well, pretty much anything in life. Doing so isn’t just uncool, it’s punishable by lawsuits and other Big Scary Things and it’s called plagiarism or copyright infringement. You may remember a couple of well-known sites getting busted earlier in the year for stealing bloggers’ outfit photos and putting it in their campaign without credit or compensation. That got a lot of us in a tizzy, for sure.

2. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. But when it a post imitation and when is it copying?

I find this a very, very interesting question. On the one hand, fashion blogging is all about inspiration, and inspiring others to “do as you do”, if you will. Perhaps none are as easily inspired as the fellow fashion blogger. So while Non Blogger can copy an outfit and be seen as simply inspired by a fashion blogger, fashion bloggers copying fashion bloggers are seen as unoriginal and downright copycats. I don’t think this very fair at all. I believe style is an amalgam of little pieces of styles you’ve seen and liked and collected in the Your Style section of your brain. For most of us (I’m not talking about you, Patricia Field!) style is not dreamed up out of thin air. It is curated.

Now, on the other hand, I do believe that copying another one’s style directly and piece-for-piece is downright boring. You have to inject your personality into it and make it your own. Own it! Otherwise we’d all be walking around like the pages of Vogue or In Style. Style needs to be observed, interpreted, internalized, and then externalized. Think of it as regurgitation: you take it in, and you put it back out there but in a different form than it was originally. Then you see how it works for you, how it makes you feel.

Sorry for the gross analogy.

3. Taking another blogger’s idea (perhaps for an outfit, or DIY tutorial) is pretty common in the blogging world. Do  you think it is necessary to credit the original source?

First off: photos should always be credited. With a link. Secondly, If I am inspired by someone else, I usually say so. I don’t think this warrants a full formal credit link, but a simple “I was inspired to do this tutorial/X/Y/Z by [insert blog link here] & I hope you’ll enjoy it!” works just fine. Connecting and networking is uber important, and the impression you’ll make when the inspiring blog sees referral hits from your post will be vastly different than when your lookalike post gets tipped off to them and they become incensed and rant about it on IFB or twitter. Make friends, not enemies! Make original content, but when you know you’re not posting something 100% original, it’s a good idea to tip readers off as to where you got the idea. I always respect bloggers a little bit more when I see credit links.

4. How have you improved your blog by comparing it to other bloggers? Have you made changes due to something you have seen others doing?

I’ve been a web designer for many years (well, ex-web designer) so when it comes to programming and design, I go my own way. But as far as inspiring topics, I’ll give you some examples of how my blog has developed into what it is now. The urge to start posting recipes (especially the step by step ones) were inspired by The Pioneer Woman. The desire to post tutorials on my DIY projects were inspired by Cupcakes + Cashmere, Cocorosa, and Love Maegan. The How To series was completely on my own, although it’s most assuredly not a unique concept. I’m still fleshing that series out.

5. Have you ever had one of your posts copied by another blogger or publication? How did you handle the situation?

Oh yes, many times. I’ve had posts copied word for word, copy & paste, directly into their Blogger blog. After contacting them through their available methods to no avail, I usually take it a step further and contact Google. I’ve succesfully had blog posts (and sometimes entire blogs) removed by Google due to blatant copyright infringement. But most of the time a quick note to the blogger settles things quite nicely.

I hope you enjoyed these series of questions! Outfit post coming up next today! 🙂

*The Friend Friday project by Modly Chic is a way for fashion bloggers to share more about themselves and create a friendly connection with other bloggers. Join the conversation by joining the Fashion Beauty Friend Friday Google Group.