A Beginners Guide To Blogging, Photography, and Influencing: Your Rights to the Content YOU Create

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

All About The Content Creating Today 

Hey friends! I am back with another edition of A Beginners Guide To Blogging, Photography, and Influencing. It has been a hot second since I did one of these posts, but this one I feel like is pretty important in light of some things that have occurred in my life recently. With every bad and uncomfortable experience there is also a learning opportunity and THAT is what I am going to do, because I get that a lot of people, especially those who don’t work in content creation, don’t necessarily know the “Rules” when it comes to social media and owning the rights to the content YOU have created. Hopefully this clears some of that up.

A couple weeks ago, I had a “friend” “borrow” my caption from my birthday post. While she changed some words, the gist was the same and it was like a punch in the gut. While I was annoyed, the true icing on that proverbial birthday cake was when she said she had no idea WHERE she came up with it. Hunny you have been reading my blog and engaging me on social for years! Of course you know where you came up with it. I don’t think it would have bothered me if some accountability had taken place, but it legit has been radio silent since I brought it up which leads me to think she DID know what she was doing, especially after she had mentioned privately I had been inspiring her, but with no credit publicly. I don’t mind when people share my work, I want to inspire people, but not going to lie I want the darn credit to friends. No shame, especially if you have worked hard and created something. I always feel super bougie saying this, but this is not only my job, but MY brand, that I have worked so hard to cultivate and create the last few years. I have put so much blood sweat and tears, and yes even into stupid Instagram captions, that as dramatic as it sounds, when someone borrow’s it, and/or pawns it off as their own, it is stealing a part of who I am and it ultimately is being inauthentic to yourself, if you are trying to copy someone else. BE you friends. You are beautiful as you are!

Thou Shall Not Steal Another’s Work 

As a writer, I know very well the harm of plagiarism and not just plagiarism, but even using phrasing similar to another’s. For many writers, they won’t read the genre they are writing for this very reason, so they don’t accidentally copy them. (it does happen and I am even willing to give the benefit of the doubt, though an apology does help) In high school and college it is drilled into us to NOT “Borrow” (Yes I am being nice) someone else’s work even with paraphrasing. There are even programs you can use to make sure that you haven’t plagiarized anyone’s work, because let’s face it, as much as I love writing there are only so many words and so many ways to phrase them especially if you are trying to sum up the Russian Revolution. In school, and now as a writer, you can get in huge trouble for plagiarism. I know people who were expelled for it. And even if you don’t realize you did it, you can STILL get expelled. It is a crime. And it should be. Blood sweat and tears friends!

Now I know, I know, many of you are like what does this have to do with an Instagram post. It’s an Instagram post. Who cares? First and foremost if it is for a brand, they want original content. If someone is “Borrowing” your caption without credit, that is NOT original content. Affiliate posts (which the one that was “borrowed” was) also have rules applied to them, and I signed a contract with those companies that I would only post content that I created, which means I could lose my job. (and yes I can prove that I posted two days before she did, it still isn’t good optics for ANYONE) Lastly, not only do those statuses take blood, sweat and multiple deletes to come up with, it is also a crime to “steal” them without permission or at the very least give credit. Yes friends everything YOU create and post on social media is STILL your intellectual property. From pictures, to captions, if YOU created it, it is yours. When I sign with a brand, and or do campaigns with them, I am agreeing (and charging) to let them use my content for a set amount of time as well as determining what deliverables (i.e. pictures, captions, videos) they can use in that period. Being totally upfront, companies do try to take advantage of that, and I have had my content used long after our contract expired, which is a breach of contract and yes, you can sue.

KNOW Your Rights 

I am by no means a lawyer, but as this is my job, I have researched it and gone through its multiple times. In the beginning I was incredibly ignorant to what my rights were and had companies (ahem several big box stores I shall not name) try to take advantage. Okay let’s be real, they DID take advantage. I am speaking in generic terms here because obviously it various on a case by case bases and depending on who and what you are dealing with. BUT many people think because they are posting on facebook or instagram it is a free for all. It isn’t. Not exactly. While yes, Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) can use whatever you post (you agreed in the guidelines) they are the exception and others can not go and use your social media for any gain without your permission. It is illegal and as I mentioned above you can sue for copious amounts of moolah for copyright infringement.

I had mentioned before in another one of these posts, about the dos and dont’s with photography (if you did not take the picture, you don’t own it) the same applies to anything you post online. From this blog to my Instagram to Facebook, everything I post is mine. I get it, it can seem like there is a lot of gray with memes and sayings and re-shared posts. It does get hazy. But one, if a big brand, re-shares your post without your permission, you can go after them for infringement of rights. And while I generally don’t quibble about this (because almost everyone is amazing about crediting, thank you!) the same applies to anyone who shares your work. It is yours. Now that being said, there is a hazy aspect. I re-share friends posts, BUT I always give them credit, and I also ask if I can re-share them. Most Content Creators and artists love when people re-share their work, WITH the proper credits. Read that again. GIVE proper credit! I am all about supporting people, especially women, (especially now!) and lifting them and their work and brands up and I am always so touched when others do the same for me. BUT if you are re-sharing and not giving proper credit, you aren’t really lifting them up. 

Be Authentically YOU

Not going to lie, this is but no means the first time I have had someone “Borrow” my work, and unfortunately it won’t be the last. Though it is the first time a close friend has done it. And let’s be real friends, borrowing anyone’s content, including mine, and acting like it is your own is NOT it. It isn’t flattery. And honestly it is hurtful, especially when it is people who are suppose to be close to you and have your back. It also says a lot about that person, that they don’t have faith in creating their own content and ultimately themselves and that is truly sad. I do feel sorry for them. At the same time I will defend and protect MY content because I have worked darn hard on it and it is a piece of who I am. When YOU are true to yourself, your content will reflect that. Because THAT ultimately is what you are trying to display on social media anyway. YOU. Who YOU are. And I know it is easy to get swept into the highlight reel, but when you are YOU, it won’t matter.

I’ll leave you with this, borrowing or copying someone else is ultimately betraying who you are and not being authentically true to yourself. Read that again. And again. You can be inspired by people, but copying them is in no way living authentically to who you ARE. We all should strive to live authentically and be our most authentic selves. Because when we are, that truly is when we shine. And when we shine, that is when we can make an impact and really connect with people. SO much love to you friends! 

Have you dealt with people “Borrowing” your content? What do you do? How do you handle it?

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