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.

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  1. 11.19.2010 / 7:54 am

    Perfect timing. I recently found a blog that ripped off a few of my posts and some of my ideas. On one hand I feel flattered that what I'm doing is good enough to get ripped off but I was mostly angry. I really take the time to contact businesses or respond to e-mails sent to me in order to not only establish but maintain relationships with my local (New Orleans) and regional (southern) fashion community. The whole reason I feature local designers is so that others can find them but it is frustrating when someone takes your idea, grabs a few images off their site and basically cuts and pastes said businesses "about me" page after I've taken the time to ask them questions and create my own contact.
    Sorry if this comes across as a rant but I'm so glad someone else is addressing these issues!

    • 11.19.2010 / 2:55 pm

      So glad to see this strikes a chord with at least one other person! It's a
      pain in the butt issue, and while most of the time I wish I could ignore it,

      the fact is when I have discovered someone copying my content, style, or

      blog name (which is usually the most frequent infraction) I get so incensed

      that I can't let it go until it is resolved!

  2. 11.19.2010 / 3:15 pm

    Excellent, excellent responses, Kristina. I'm so glad you've joined the group…there are a LOT of bloggers doing this that can learn so much from you!
    ♥ V http://www.gritandglamour.com
    twitter: @gritandglamour

  3. 11.19.2010 / 3:21 pm

    "I always respect bloggers a little bit more when I see credit links."Totally agree.
    It's awesome to have you in the FBFF group! I've been such a big fan of your blog forever (and such a lurker!). It's sad that we have to fight to protect ourselves and our blogs, but sadly, we do. And it's nice to see other bloggers feel the same way and agree that we should link back and give credit where it's due!!

  4. Veshoevius
    11.19.2010 / 5:56 pm

    Interesting point on Q2. If I see an outfit in Vogue magazine and wear the exact same outfit nobody will bat an eyelid if I don't stamp "inspired by Vogue" on my forehead, ditto if I see someone in an outfit I like on the street and reproduce it the next day – but if I see it on a blogger and do the same and do an outfit post it is copying. Do fashion bloggers really have more rights over the combinations of X+Y+Z in their outfits than say a stylist at a magazine, or a fashionable individual in the street?

  5. 11.19.2010 / 7:42 pm

    Very well written!! I love how you addressed issues to clear up the murky grey areas when it comes to blogging and whatnot.

    • 11.19.2010 / 8:15 pm

      Thanks so much Sara! That means a lot!

  6. Guest
    11.19.2010 / 8:32 pm

    Thank you so much for the mention and I'm so glad to inspire. That's why I do what I do really. I totally agree though …there is a fine line between "inspiring" and "copying" …but I think as long as someone mentions their "inspiration" and links back, then that is perfectly acceptable. I've had people use an outfit photo for a contest …and were winning with MY photo and have had to contact the establishment claiming fraud. I've also seen my DIYs on Ebay being sold as a new/handmade item. Luckily I have really great readers who email me when they see this kind of activity to let me know what's going on.
    It's funny that one of the other bloggers you mention as your inspiration has totally ripped me off more than once and not ever has mentioned her source of inspiration. I rarely go to her blog anymore {because of it} but the few times I have since I've found that she has ripped other people off as well ….also without mention. It's sad too because her blog has become HUGE and to know that the ideas and creativity are from other minds is a bit, I dunno, disheartening maybe.

    Maegan http://www.lovemaegan.com/

    • Lee
      11.19.2010 / 9:55 pm

      Blog Drama!
      Great post. Also, I like the acronym FBFF. It made me think about best friends with new twist, and I was excited to read your opinion. But then I realized that was incorrect.


    • 11.20.2010 / 12:37 am

      Of course I'm so glad to have you as inspiration! And, I do tend to
      think, well, if it's already been done, why bother doing it for my

      blog, if I don't think I could do it better or improve up on it in any

      way? So, I just refer to your tutorials (especially the hair ones!!

      you have fantastic hair by the way). Wow, I didn't know one of the

      blogs I listed was ripping you off so blatantly! I'm uber-curious now.

      I think I'll send you a private email to continue this discussion.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post – and keep up the gorgeous

      posts girlie!

  7. 11.20.2010 / 1:03 am

    oh my gosh! i can't believe you've had posts copied word for word! eek! i should see if anyone has done that with mine. i'm glad you've joined FBFF, i'm friends with Katy of Modly Chic and she rocks!

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