Social Media Copyright – Do The Right Thing: Part 1

Jun 3

This blog post has been a long time coming. Like very long. It’s a topic that has affected me deeply — on a business level, but truly on a personal level. And it’s something we should be talking about, respecting and…honestly, just making the choice to do the right thing. I have been writing this blog post in my head for so long that I’m going to break it up into 2 posts. Yes, there’s that much to share. A final and 3rd post may come later with the help from my attorney, who specializes in work with creative entrepreneurs and the topic of copyright infringement. (In case you were looking for an attorney like her, you can find her site here!)

Basically, this series is going to be really good and get pretty deep / honest. I’m sharing tough examples of infringement and how / why they affected me, my business and relationships with colleagues.

Over my 8 years of writing this blog (wow – 8 years!), the topic of copyright has affected me and my fellow blogging community. I know bloggers will relate intimately to this series of posts because if you create online, you’ve been affected. Having an business online is incredible because you have freedom, flexibility and are the boss of your schedule, but it’s hard fricking work (yes, it’s actual hours upon hours of work). Ask any blogger how much time, love and tears they put into ONE blog post. The conceptualization, photography, editing, writing, re-writing, SEO researching, posting and then finally (as if all of the above wasn’t enough) the hours spent promoting that ONE post. And setting it up for re-promotion so it doesn’t get lost amongst the hundreds of posts on your blog.

So to then sadly have those images / content stolen, repurposed, copied, taken {insert whatever word you wish here} without written permission or consent? It’s painful. Very painful. And even more emotions I could go on about (such as anger) but you get it.

Not pointing a finger directly at Pinterest because other platforms make this easy as well, but the Pinterest platform does make it easy to re-pin without proper credit or re-direction to the correct website where the image / content was originated.

It’s difficult to police this sort of thing because the online world moves quickly. And the internet is growing in width and depth by the micro-minute. It’s simply too hard to keep up.

I’ve done what I can with my website. The historical content and anything written or shared here moving forward is copywritten material and it’s all registered with the US Copyright office. I paid a fair amount for my attorney to handle that and feel a little more secure that has been solidified. But over the last couple years, copyright issues have begun popping up on social media and the various platforms where this brand and its images can be found.

Franky, it’s been a battlefield at times. When it shouldn’t have to be.

As a thought-leader and go-to expert in the professional organizing industry, one of my goals (of which there are many!) is to help educate other professionals who may not be aware that what they are doing is illegal, wrong and …. most importantly – it sorta burns bridges. And who wants to do that? No one, right?! Copyright is a serious offense. But moreso, it affects relationships. And in this small, yet growing, niche that is the last thing you want to do.

People who dream of becoming a professional organizer e-mail and DM me every single day. Literally – daily. I would love nothing more than to mentor each and every one of them individually, but right now I can’t due to the heads-down type of work I’m dedicated to at this stage in my career. When I respond to the e-mails and messages I joke that I need a mentor for myself, but it’s true. (I also need a bookkeeper.) But in the meantime, I do have the ability and online reach to write blog posts about topics that help to educate / inform…and I have a professional organizer subscriber list that I occasionally send e-mails to. (Am hoping to ramp that up quite a bit more in the coming months so be sure to join here!).

I hope anyone reading this series will read it with an eye / ear into Sam’s world and keep my messaging in perspective. And to also keep in mind Sam’s personality – which is low-key, fun, inclusive and as the woman who brings people together – not one who creates a divide. I’m not over here on my high horse lecturing or attacking anyone – YES, someone accused me of “attacking” them when I asked for an image to be removed from their Instagram feed. Seriously, I am the furthest from “attacker” than anyone on Earth. (I’ll share more about that story coming up).

Point is, this series is truly meant to bring this topic to light and educate….AND most importantly, bring us together as a community to help stop it from happening in the first place. I’m a collaborator at heart and always will be. So this is a positive, constructive conversation I am happy to start and continue.

Social media copyright infringement has affected my business. relationships with professional organizers, and it’s caused occasional full-time monitoring of social media feeds. This is expensive because it takes me away from the work I love doing and the costs of legal fees. Yea, it’s super fun! #notreally But truly, any time it happens it just hurts my feelings. Bottom line. Especially when the person knows what they have done and doesn’t step up to the plate to make it right the first time we kindly ask.

I believe we can stop this from happening by following a few basic rules of respect and common sense. It’s truly that simple, as far as I see it.

Before I share these bullet points, I wanted to mention that while I’m speaking to the professional organizing community – this message crosses all professions. From writers to photographers to artists and more. I’m certain they would all agree to the same feelings of frustration and with any tips I am sharing here.

DON’T SHARE AN IMAGE OR CONTENT UNTIL YOU KNOW THE ORIGINATOR

A safe bet across the board is simply NOT to share anything until you find out who the creator is. Again, this is copywritten material. Someone snapped that photo. That is the contents of someone’s home. You weren’t the organizer working intimately with that person or family. As with everything in life, and this is a lesson we learned in kindergarten, if you wouldn’t like it happening to you – don’t do it.

ONCE YOU KNOW WHO THE OWNER IS, ASK PERMISSION TO SHARE

If you found an inspiring image, quote, paragraph from a blog post or social media caption and you know who the creator is – reach out and ask for permission to share. Let them know how you plan on sharing it and how you plan on crediting or linking to them as the originator. Make it very very clear in your contact with them. Then don’t share it until you get a response. Don’t share it and then send them a link alerting them you have shared it.

I’ve had organizers e-mail me a link to a blog post they wrote where my clients images / spaces have been shared…and they are offering me the opportunity to repost it on my blog with a credit back to them. #saywhat That one always confuses me. I need to ask permission now from you to share a blog post you wrote using my images?? *scratches head*

Please don’t do this. Just ask permission and wait to hear a response before sharing.

IF THE OWNER REQUESTS THAT YOU DON’T SHARE, PLEASE DON’T

Sure, someone else may have already shared the image / content without asking them…but don’t be the offender who continues doing that. Reach out and ask first. If they say no, please don’t share it. There are often a lot of reasons behind that “no” response.

In my case, it would be because my client signed a contract for ME to share images on my platforms. Not for YOU to share it on yours. It’s their personal space and they are allowing me to use some images for my portfolio. I share with a broader community in order to help people who I can’t reach in person. I share to inspire and motivate them that organization happens one step / stage at a time and that they can do it.

IF THE OWNER SAYS IT’S FINE TO SHARE, ABIDE BY THEIR SHARE AGREEMENTS

If the creator of the image / content says it’s fine to share, they will likely send along some specifics on how to do that. Please abide by their wishes. It goes a long way to ask and get that permission…but then to follow their requests for sharing makes everything all the more rosier!

In my case, I would request that you tag me in the image, but to also to tag me / make it very clear from the beginning it’s MY image from MY clients space and that you were inspired to share it.

I would also request that if I had a Like To Know It link (or any other affiliate link) embedded in that post, that you share that as well. My IG, Facebook and blog posts occasionally have embedded affiliate links. Again, the online World is a part of my business structure. My blog generates a revenue stream in order to keep it up and running. My business spans well beyond working in-person with clients. If you share an image without my links, the blog or platform is losing money. This is the same for a lot of online creators so it’s good to confirm that before sharing.

Most of the images I share come with a story. Because nearly 95% of those images come from someone else’s home…and from MY time working with them. If the image has a story, I like that story to be attached as well. Adding your own commentary to my content is offensive to me but mainly to my client and their privacy.

The above is just a few details that can set off the originator, but there is more. So again to be safe, just ask and then follow their requests if they are agreeable to the share.

TAG THE IMAGE OR CONTENT WITH THE CREATOR IMMEDIATELY

I said this above, but it required its own bullet point.

I’m going to be direct here because I’ve seen this time and time again….I don’t like it when an organizer goes on and on with their own caption about how the space in the image was organized…and then at the VERRRRRRRY bottom there’s a small camera emoji with my handle next to it.

That is shady and I don’t like it.

Call out the originator immediately – make it clear to your audience that isn’t a space you organized.

DO NOT TAG THE IMAGE WITH YOUR LOCATION

This one really burns me. Again, just being honest and frank because it’s important. You WILL burn bridges if you behave this way.

On countless occasions, organizers have not only taken my images / captions and not tagged me as the source…but they tag the location as their city. That is truly NOT ok. You are definitely making it appear as if that space was organized by you and in your town where you operate a business. Every time I come across content like this, I am firm about my lawyer reaching out if it isn’t taken down within 24 hours. When someone does that, it speaks volumes to me and I don’t waste time thinking a simple e-mail communication with remedy it. I think it’s one thing to share an image…and another to make it appear as yours. But when you go to the lengths of adding YOUR location? That is way over the line, in my opinion. It definitely gives the illusion you organized that space.

That’s not ok.

That’s not the way to build a relationship with colleagues in this niche of work.

I’ll remind everyone, while this pro organizing community is growing – it’s still small enough for word to get back to organizers. I don’t seek out these images or copycats – it is ALWAYS brought to my attention. As you build your line of work and grow a following of your own, people in the industry get to you and your personality and your sense of style in a space. At this point in my career – 8 years in – my images, spaces and designs have a very defined aesthetic. One that is clear to the SO brand. I’m not saying this because I’m up on that high horse….it’s true. For example, any professional organizer out there reading this is likely familiar with Neat Method or The Home Edit. Both of those organization companies have a defined look / style. It’s up to you to find your own and that will come in time, with experience and you’ll find yourself along the way. But when you have that defined, organizers can tell who it belongs to. And they will let you know when they see something shady.

I realize this is a juicy topic and I hate to leave you hanging, but this post is well over 2,000 words and I have more to come. Stay tunes for part 2! Looking forward to some great, positive communication about this topic so feel free to join me in the comments section for POSITIVE chatter!

xx,

Sam

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  1. Sarah says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. I am a new blogger and I think i’ve been naive to the “dark sides” of the blogging world. I am so sorry that this has happened to you and I hope that this type of behavior stops. I am absolutely going to follow all of these suggestions you shared and look forward to reading the next post in the series. Thanks!

  2. Kallie says:

    I am very interested in reading the continuation of this blog post! Although I am not a professional organizer, I did find your post today to be quite informative and a good reminder for everyone. Unfortunately, in this digital age it is so easy to snag a picture off of Google Images, Pinterest, or another such platform, share it and move on your merry way. I have shared your posts a time or two with friends on fb, and am hopeful I did it properly by directly linking your blog post. In instances such as this, is it necessary to ask for permission to share, or more along the lines of sharing photos, snippets of posts, etc.?

  3. Josie Hernandez says:

    I didn’t realize putting some of your pics & info on my pinterest is not cool. You have great ideas & I just post some of your info on there. I am not a blogger or organizer but just look for ways to organize myself. You wrote on a interesting topic! Didn’t realize there was so much to be aware of as a blogger. Good luck to getting the word out to all people who are doing this kind of uncool stuff. BTW, I love all the ideas you post – especially since I’m moving into a new house in August and can’t wait to utilize your pantry organization methods. Good luck to you and I can’t wait to read part 2.

  4. Lorraine Lethco Bazzi says:

    Good job, Samantha! Looking forward to the continuation!

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