Why Won’t You Break The Law For Me??

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in Copywriting | 4 comments

Why Won’t You Break The Law For Me??

Sometimes, potential clients ask me to break the law. I always decline these orders. If you’re a handmade seller, artisan, or craftsperson then you know how difficult it can be to dream up a design, fine tune the conceptualization, source the materials, understand and execute the techniques, and then bring it to fruition. Next comes photography, SEO research, copywriting, and marketing. If you are lucky enough to develop a crowd-winning design, then the possibility of copycats may arise.

How many times have you been in a small business forum and seen someone complaining about a stolen design?

A ripped off concept?

A reproduced product that was most definitely not the property of the person who did the reproducing?

We often commiserate with these fellow sellers. We agree that it is wrong to steal or copy another artists design. Why, then, is it OK for small business owners to steal concepts from well established artists and companies?

Disney comes to mind.

As does Starbucks.

Paw Patrol.

Hello Kitty.

So much Disney.

The reason I am writing this post is to share a call to action with my fellow small business owners: Stop putting your business at risk by engaging in questionable business practices.

I’ve shared quite a few articles on the limitations of the First Sale Doctrine (no, that does not provide you immediate immunity) and why it’s dangerous to use brand name tags in your products if you don’t have a licensing agreement. I’ve written extremely comprehensive policies for my company, The Write Assistant, that state I will not work on any copyrighted or trademarked content UNLESS an active and valid commercial licensing agreement is provided. Why do I do this?

To protect my business and yours.

I recently had a new customer purchase a description that contained a popular beverage logo. When I confirmed her order and asked for a copy of her current licensing agreement, she became defensive and referenced the First Sale Doctrine. She told me “to refund her order if I couldn’t handle it.” She also wrote, “I thought I was paying for a description, nothing more.”

These statements, even after fourteen some-odd years in the business, still hurt me just a little bit. It’s not that I can’t handle writing copy for your products (I wouldn’t be in business for this long if I struggled with any portion of copywriting) and it’s not that you are just buying a description. You are asking another company to engage in an illegal practice. Copywriting, photography, marketing, and SEO service providers are all meant to help you position your product so that it sells. If we help you position a product you do not own, you are asking us to break the law.

I anticipate this blog post will get mixed responses. I imagine some might applaud my commitment to remain ethical and adherent to the law while others might argue that those “bigger companies” have more money so they should share or that they are small potatoes so a little bit here and there doesn’t matter. I’m going to leave you with two questions to ponder:

1. How do YOU feel when another artist steals, and then profits, off a design YOU made?

2. What is a business boundary you personally will not cross?

I am hoping that this blog post will serve as a lightning rod for cooperative discussion and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


  1. 1-12-2018

    I absolutely agree with this! I have also lost customers because I would not break the law for them. If I am successful I want it to be because of my own original ideas and designs and not because I have stolen from somebody else.

  2. 1-12-2018

    Great post. Totally agree with your policy. It amazes me how many people don’t have a clue that it’s against the law to copy licensed items.

  3. 1-12-2018

    I completely agree with where you stand on this. And good on you for standing up against plagiarism even in writing copy. I think that you asking for the licensing agreement is great.

    ALL businesses started out as tiny companies (including Disney which actually started as a home based business. Walt filmed his first movie in his living room) and with a lot of hard work and tears some built themselves into something huge and well known.

    It irks me when small businesses reproduce copyrighted characters/logos. While they think what they are doing is harmless, it in fact is not. They are either stealing from one artist, or in the case of Disney, 100+ artists who work on any one production, not just stealing from a huge faceless corporation.

    Unfortunately those small businesses that do plagiarize for commercial purposes are unknowingly making it public that they are a company with questionable ethics.

  4. 1-12-2018

    Thank you for sticking to your guns on this topic. I am a member of a local handmade sellers group, and I see SOOOOO many products listed and asked for that contain Disney, Nick Jr, etc. Whenever someone asks who can make party decor, I always comment that I can make most non-licensed themes. It’s not often that I get the job, but it’s not worth it to me to be sued later, and have the guilt that I am stealing someone else’s work, no matter what the size of their business.

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