The short answer is: Scare. Them.
When you work hard creating components for your brand, you want them protected. A registered copyright could be as little as $45 as long as you’re willing and able to file the necessary forms yourself. Specific circumstances warrant higher costs, and attorney fees are much more expensive. Still, the investment is worthwhile if you’re serious about your business and your brand. That said, life happens. What do you do when you find yourself with a copycat of your unregistered original work?
I have found myself in this position many times. As a graphic designer selling invitations and other party supplies (totaling thousands of available templates/products), registering the copyright for every design is cost and time prohibitive. Every few months or so, I will see a reproduction of my work being sold at a much lower cost. On Etsy, they will not take any action in these cases unless you have a registered copyright. This stance, while inconvenient, is similar to a court of law. You cannot initiate a law suit for the unauthorized use of your original work without a registered copyright. And if you think registering a copyright is time consuming and expensive, just imagine the process of initiating a law suit! So, I bluff.
How to scare a design thief:
- Determine the appropriate recipient (name, address, etc.).
- Draft a formal letter on personal letterhead from someone other than you. (If the stolen design was my husband’s, the letter is from me; if the design was mine, the letter is from my husband.)
- Introduce yourself as an individual writing on behalf of the author of the original work.
- Sound like a lawyer. Take a legalese tone but NEVER claim to be a lawyer.
- Cite the infringing piece and the original work (include links or copies as applicable as well as dates of origin).
- Describe the specific reasons why/how the infringing work is “substantially similar” to the original. (“Substantially similar” is the legal standard used to determine whether the reproduction rights of a copyright have been infringed.)
- Ask the recipient to cease and desist use of the infringing work.
- Give a reasonable deadline (depending upon the time needed to remove the work from circulation) and threaten ambiguous further “legal action” in the case of noncompliance.
- Make a declaration of accuracy of the contents of the letter.
- Sign the letter.
- Mail . . . and cross your fingers!
Below is an example letter available for download.
Recently, I saw a reference to National Blogger’s Day being October 27th. While I have never celebrated such an event (or frankly even heard about that one), I’m always interested in another excuse to have a good time . . . so I decided to look into the matter further.
I understand that we can now find 570 million blogs on the Internet with over 30 million of those in the United States. (See the First Site Guide article Blogging Statistics 2021: Ultimate List with 47 Facts and Stats by Ogi Djuraskovic that was last updated on August 26th, 2021.) Therefore, a National Blogger’s Day certainly seemed somewhat between possible and likely!
According to one of the keepers of such information (i.e., WhatNationalDayIsIt? (whatnationaldayisit.com)), their algorithm did pick up October 27th. However, the most recent reference was almost five years ago, and you’d be more likely to have heard of the event in Indonesia.
So . . . why bother asking the question or writing this article?
With about 7 million blog posts per day (see Blogging Statistics 2021: Ultimate List with 47 Facts and Stats), perhaps the bloggers of the world deserve a little bit of extra attention and should unite in adopting this date themselves to enhance the general recognition and raise the profile of the many bloggers sharing information and providing a valuable public service – often without much (or any) personal financial gain.
What Is a Blog?
According to Merriam-Webster, a blog is defined as:
“1 computers: a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer
also: the contents of such a site
2 a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors”
Blogs may take the shape of successful journalism such as the Huffington Post or range from personal diaries to business columns posted on corporate web sites to:
- Humanize the people and products of a company.
- Communicate a desired message directly to the public.
- Improve the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of a company’s web site.
- Provide customer service tips.
- Further develop and promote a corporate brand!
Regardless of the type of blog, the time, effort, and resources expended to communicate a message to an intended audience are considerable, and such commitment does deserve recognition (even those bloggers who may be motivated by less than completely pure and altruistic intentions).
What Can Be Done to Get October 27th Properly Recognized?
Well . . .
If all the bloggers in the U.S. chose to adopt this holiday as their own, that would be a pretty good start of 30 million people – 570 million upon recruiting fellow bloggers worldwide. If each of these bloggers then communicated their desire to celebrate to their audience, the total acceptance increases exponentially . . . and would demonstrate the power and credibility of blogging today!
(Sound far-fetched? Then read: Finally! Here’s How Cyber Monday Even Became a Thing.)
Clearly, such a process takes time measured in years, not days. That said, a famous Lao Tzu quote says “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” so . . .
- Post a blog article acknowledging October 27th as a day you choose to celebrate.
- Send a press release to your own audience and perhaps the local media.
- Buy a cake.
- Have a drink.
- Toss a little confetti.
- If you’re a company, stage an event.
- Report on the results from the prior year – year after year during your annual celebration.
- Keep providing quality content to your readers.
If enough bloggers were to take such steps, perhaps October 27th might one day become a recognized “thing” like cyber Monday. If not and the suggestion fails to capture the public’s imagination and attention, we’ve at least given ourselves a platform for increasing awareness about the ground swell growth of activity and increasing importance of that discipline called blogging.
Note: In doing some research for this article, I came across the following: What is a Blog? – Definition, Information, Articles, Tools (marketingterms.com), which I have decided to pass along as some interesting extra reading, which can – perhaps – be saved until October 27th to add a little additional insight to your reflections on that day.
Previously, good reviews might help a potential customer decide whether to purchase your product or service . . . once you’ve already done the hard work of getting that individual in the door (real or virtual). Now with web sites and apps dedicated to company reviews, they can actually be a form publicity . . . serving as the driver that leads the potential customer to your doorstep. So . . . how do you get reviews? If you already have an established business and customer base, sure, reviews will just happen. And they will help you get more customers, which will land you more reviews, and so on. However, if you’re at the beginning stage of your journey, getting a large number of good reviews may be a little more challenging. In that case, you can take a few steps to help speed the process along. . . .
1. Get your company listed on review web sites.
If your company isn’t already listed on Yelp (or whatever the review site is for your industry), your happy customer probably isn’t going to go to the trouble to add you . . . so lay the appropriate groundwork in advance. Make sure you know which review web sites your customers go to and add your company along with as much additional information as you can (pictures, address, phone number, etc.).
2. Ask your customers for a review.
I believe the most effective way to convince a happy customer to go the extra mile for your business is to personally take the time to ask for a review. If asking in person isn’t possible and you have other contact information, send an e-mail or a text. Be sincere and straightforward.
3. Ask again.
You don’t want to make yourself a bother, but one follow-up is completely appropriate. Your happy customer could have had every intention of posting a review for you and simply forgot; a simple follow-up could make all the difference. If, on the other hand, your customer never intended to write a review, ignoring two of your attempts probably won’t be too traumatic for them.
4. Display a sign.
A personal request isn’t always feasible. For those occasions, a sign placed in a prominent area (possibly next to your register) that makes the request visually can be a good idea. (See: Creating a Review Request Sign in Microsoft Word)
5. Include a request with your product.
Another option for a less personal request is a physical note included with your product – the more you can make the request stand out, the better your chances of getting your customers’ attention. (See: Clever Customer Service)
6. Reply to existing reviews.
Some review venues enable you, as the owner, to respond to reviews. You can thank the customer for their kind words or you can try to explain or apologize for less-than-stellar feedback. Sometimes, your visible presence will encourage other customers to share their thoughts.
7. Offer an incentive.
You can always sweeten the pot a little by offering a dollar amount or percentage off on a future purchase as a thank you for a review, which could help with repeat sales as well.
8. Offer a product sampling.
If all else fails, you may need to be willing to give away your product or service for free in order to get your initial reviews. You can either utilize a company to supervise the process, you can informally reach out to people you know, or you can post the offer on social media.
9. Be review worthy.
This one is entirely open to interpretation and can be tailored to represent your unique brand . . . whether you ship your product with a free bonus item, offer an appealing gift wrapping for free, or send a thoughtful thank you note after a purchase, try to do something that makes your company and product stand out from the crowd a bit and inspires customers to rave about their experience.
Never underestimate the value of one last careful read.
For many, the process of developing just the right logo is an excruciatingly long, careful, and utterly exhausting process ultimately rewarded by achieving a final product that was done well and communicates the correct sentiment. As a result, you are understandably and justifiably annoyed when you send the design out . . . only to find that some third party has made changes that butchered your hard work.
Sometimes, this result can occur because the available space to display the logo does not match the shape . . . so they “help” by disproportionately stretching, cramming, and squeezing the graphic to fit. A similar circumstance can happen with color.
Even more annoying is the situation in which the image is changed because that party happened to like their version better than yours! Fortunately, that last instance is somewhat rare. Most often, you will find that such changes happen as a result of handling errors because the end-user did not know the correct procedure for resizing an image to avoid problems such as disproportionate stretching or loss of resolution. Similarly, color correction errors seem to frequently occur when a palette gets changed from RGB to CMYK (or vice versa) or when the incorrect palette is used for a specific application.
So, What Can You Do?
Do you just accept the fact that your logo will get mishandled very often but philosophically hope that the good that’s done will outweigh the damage?
Do you just stop giving the logo out so the design can’t get messed up, accepting the fact that exposure will be lost even though the frequency of use ultimately determines the recognizability (and success!!) of your branding efforts.
Actually, the best solution – while far from perfect – is quite simple and involves little cost. You create an official logo download site and send that link to any party requesting artwork for a legitimate purpose.
If you read Carole’s article entitled A “Legal-Approved” Free Collection of Social Media Icons, you know that social media sites recognize the value of getting good exposure by sharing logos and have elected to provide a place to obtain a correct version.
Do other big companies do the same?
You bet! For example, McDonald’s has a “Media Assets” link on their corporate web site that provides various logos and iconography. If you are a business working with franchisees, the ability to share the right images and branding elements in an accurate and efficient way becomes especially important.
What’s Involved in Executing this Task?
In the past, Carole and I have been responsible for creating this function and found that we had the most success when supplying a fairly large number of the most commonly requested variations. For example, our logo download page would typically offer:
- 72 dpi low-res versions for on-screen use in RGB and grayscale palettes. (Typically, we’d provide fairly common dimensions that would require minimal size adjustments.)
- 300 dpi high-res versions for printing and imprinting in RGB, CMYK (the most commonly used in the category), and Grayscale color modes.
- Easily scalable, high-res encapsulated postscript (eps) files and portable document files (pdf) would often be provided to satisfy frequent requests for them by vendors.
Aside from that final category, the file types typically used for downloads were either jpg’s or png’s.
By providing these various versions with a brief explanation of the most common usages of each type, we found that the number of instances of mishandling could be significantly reduced as well as the number of requests that had to be addressed by providing files to specific specifications.
Could we have given one very large, high-res variation and counted upon the end-user to make the adjustments required for a particular situation. While theoretically possible, we had bad experiences when relying upon the skill levels of a surprising large number of vendors, and we arrived at this compromise because we had “been burnt.”
Remember, the technology for such a page need not be very sophisticated. If you can create an html page that provides a link to an image file, you can probably create your own download page. (In a separate article in the near future, we plan to provide a template that can be used by you as a guide.)
If you set up your download page to require some kind of registration, you can give yourself the ability to notify users of any changes to your logo/branding down the road and can provide immediate access to updated replacements. Since logo changes are notoriously challenging to accomplish expeditiously, this ability can reduce the amount of time needed to get your logo modifications out and circulating to the right people. Then, you’ll be less likely to find old versions still in use five years later!
As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.