Are you afraid of being copied?

Damn it, Paul Jarvis (who is one of my favorite bloggers) pushes minimalism to an annoying level. First he removed himself from Medium (there is not much traffic diversion in Medium anyway, unless u are already famous or write for the fun of it). If u wanna read his rare stuff, there is no choice but subscribe to his mailing list/ podcast. I have ignored his articles for a while, until today.

His new article is called “Copy me”, very interesting 🙂


Copy me
I’m not afraid of being copied.

I’m afraid of reaching a point where I’m no longer copied.

When I was mostly doing web design, I’d find a site or two a week that had ripped off my designs or code. With my writing, every week or so I find (or am told about) an article that’s basically just a copy/paste of something I’ve written. I’ve even found courses that are basically a duplicate of something I already teach.

I know from experience and the number of emails I get about this that creative folks worry about their ideas being copied or stolen and want to know what measures to take to prevent it.

Sorry: you can’t prevent others from copying or stealing your ideas.

Well, you can, but that means never sharing those ideas with anyone else, never publishing anything and never putting any work whatsoever out into the world.

The act of sharing your work, your ideas, your thoughts, your expertise, inherently opens you up to being copied. If even one other person reads or watches or consumes what you’ve made, there’s a possibility that your work will be ripped off.

What do I do about being copied?

Nothing. Nada. Not a damn thing. Ever. I honestly don’t give even one single fuck about my work being copied. First, because that’d require a lot of energy on my part to hunt it down and deal with it, when I’d rather be focused on making things. Second, in the nearly two decades I’ve spent putting work and ideas out onto the internet, exactly zero copycats or ripoffs have ever accomplished anything. What I mean by that is this:

If your work is copied, that person is not only stealing from you, they’re stealing from themselves too. Their “shortcut” ignores their audience, their expertise, their research, and their creativity. That’s why it’ll never amount to what you’ve created.

Another important thing to note is that by putting yourself and your work out there, you’re showing the world your work. If it gets copied, what will most likely happen is that all those people who saw your work first will a) let you know your work has been copied and b) tell the offender they’re a thief. In that case, you don’t have to do or say anything.

Being copied is typically more of a threat to your mental state than your revenue stream. Sure, it hurts when you see that someone ripped off your hard work. And, sure, you might want to get revenge or sue or publicly shame that person. But, more than likely, what was copied won’t suffer—it’ll still sell, it’ll still be the real deal, it’ll still be your work.

I’m not suggesting rolling over and playing dead either. You can trademark and copyright what’s yours or even pursue legal action against theft of your intellectual property. But you have to consider if it’s worth it – financially (those things can cost a lot of money) and more importantly if it’s mentally worth it when you could be spending your time making new things.

The copycat will never see any real benefit from passing off your work as their own. So you might as well not waste your time dwelling on it or them.

You know what can’t be copied easily or quickly? Your skills, your integrity, your commitment to your work and your connection to the audience you serve.

PS: after proofreading this a few times, I realized I copied myself, since I wrote about this same topic years ago. Luckily, I still feel the exact same way.


What to learn from this article?

Well, this rings a bell with a chapter written by Jason Fried in his book called “Rework” which explains the principle behind it. Paul Jarvis wrote 3 sentences on it, let’s see what Jason got to say.


So both of them come to the conclusion that we don’t need to be afraid of copying because

  1. We are wasting our energy
  2. The copycats take the shortcuts and therefore will never be as good as the original.
  3. It is passive learning (if it can  be called learning at all)

However, on the other hand, are we aware how much we copy from each other everyday? What is the line between “copying” and “getting influence”? Or everything is a remix? 😉


P/S: After a year I found out that working on resonance is very important. Evernote app and writing are two ways to get stronger mental connection and resonance. Things stick easier and can be recalled faster, following the 80/20 rule. There are now even more reasons to stick to writing. Here are some of my sharings on benefits of writing and how to write better on some specific categories.

Keep writing everyone !

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