I’m a blogger, so I’m used to my ideas getting taken and used – and I usually encourage it. One of the biggest learning curves I had to deal with when writing my book was that in the publishing world, you need written permission for just about any quote. That’s one of the reasons I far prefer writing in a blog format … because you are usually good as long as you cite the source and give credit properly. I did something a few weeks ago that many people found really interesting and worth recreating. It was a virtual interview project to launch the book where I invited any blogger to ask me 5 questions and I would respond to each. Three days after posting it, I had 55 bloggers agree to participate and answered each of their questions individually.

The idea, it seems, was so good that several others used it for their own purposes. Jonny Goldstein was inspired to create a great contest around puppies. Bruce Reyes-Chow did his own "10 minutes with Bruce" interview idea. I love both these examples because they are exactly the right way to steal my stuff. Grab an idea, make it your own, build on it, and do something that fits your audience. Unfortunately, a few days ago I came across the wrong way to steal my stuff, from an author named Julie Gabriel promoting her new book.

That post originally was a word for word pasting of my interview contest language.  Since then, she has updated the blog post and now changed the idea to be in her own words. Originally I was not too concerned about this and willing to let it go, but after changing her original post she left an angry comment on my original post accusing me and a commenter to my blog of libel, pretending as though the original post never existed.  Here’s her full comment:

While I did love the idea and put it to use to promote my book, no way I have plagiarised the copy, as your visitors has accused me of. This is really shameful – first of them, to come up with accusations, and of you, to appriove the comment. I assume, the idea may not be so brilliant at all, if its author allows such comments without checking himself. Libel? Not yet. But really close.

When I first saw her post, I sent out a Twitter note and at least a dozen people responded upon seeing the original post.  It’s not that easy to just bury old information by reposting on top of it. I have also heard from multiple people that they tried to post comments on her post but those were all moderated and are currently not appearing.

This is definitely not cool. I’m a decent guy and not out to get Julie or create bad press for her, but when she realized the mistake and updated her post, she should have just apologized and let me know and I would happily let this die. Instead, I’m here writing this post. Since I really hate writing negative posts, I also want to answer the question that if Julie’s original post was the wrong way to steal my stuff, what’s the right way?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Give me credit – obviously, that’s just the decent thing to do (and Julie DID do this, however her original post used my idea word for word – which has since been updated)
  2. Put it in your words – don’t use my exact words as your own unless you’re directly quoting
  3. Make it better – any idea you find on this blog has more potential than I’ve likely realized. The best way to steal my stuff is to make it your own and make it better.
  4. Tell me about it – I want to know if you found something useful, and might even do a follow up post about it, so please share.

Am I making too much out of this?  What do you think?  This seems like an ideal case to talk about how we should or shouldn’t use other’s content online – a topic which continues to be more and more important every day.