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The world will be set free by women who are free. Sisterhood is the key.

To the woman who stole from me

Last week, I was visiting my family in Canada.  I decided to sneak in a few hours of work at the beginning of my trip, to complete a few things I’d left undone.  I needed a blog post I’d written for reference, so I popped over to Google and typed in a line I remembered from the post.

The search results revealed my post…and hers.

I clicked over to her website to see what was up, and felt my stomach turn as I read my carefully crafted post, being passed off as hers.  I went to her blog to see what else I could find, and in the course of an hour, I found a total of 22 plagiarized posts of mine.  My words, signed off with an “xoxo, tami”.  Assuming that none of her content was original, I then started searching passages from her other posts (spanning 3 years), and discovered that every single one of her over-80 posts were ripped-off content that was written by someone else.  While most of the posts were copied word-for-word, this one was the most tragic-comic because she actually spun my hospital and divorce stories into her own:

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 12.51.26 AM

Over the course of that day and the following – when I was supposed to be enjoying time with my family – I spent a total of about 8 hours searching posts, emailing all the people whose work she’d stolen,  emailing with my lawyer and Business Manager, and gathering evidence of all of my other content she’d spread across the internet (on social media and syndicated sites).

I was livid, and I was hurt.

I’ve shared this experience on Facebook and several close people in my life, and everyone has been amazingly supportive.  I’ve noticed, though, that we also tend to want to believe a few things (myself included), and I want to address them here:

1.  ” Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”
Actually, this isn’t imitation, it’s plagiarism.  And no, I’m not flattered.  Listen, I know that people don’t rip-off stuff they think stinks, but theft isn’t a compliment.  While I understand that we pull inspiration from the world, it’s critical that we check ourselves – out of respect for others and ourselves – and choose inspiration over imitation. {tweet it} You’ll never be the best [Your Idol’s Name here] – she’s got that claim to fame – so be the brightest you.

2. “This comes with the territory”
Perhaps that may be true right now (I’m shocked at how many people share a similar story to mine), but that doesn’t make it okay.  There’s a difference between awareness and apathy.  I want to support a change, and the fact that I want a change doesn’t mean I can’t forgive her (I have) and move forward (I am)…I can cultivate peace in my heart and give attention to creating change around this cause.  Let’s begin truly honoring the work of others and ourselves, so we can step out of competition and into collaboration and celebration.

3. “Nothing is original”
Yes, it’s safe to assume that none of my ideas are unique to me.  Even with the most innovative concepts, there’s probably someone, somewhere, who’s imagining something similar.  But when I create, what I produce has my imprint on it – it’s infused with me – and I am an original.  It’s natural to be inspired by the things we read, the beauty we see in the world, and the creations we love.  So take that raw inspiration and use it to express in your unique way, creating art and solutions that the world needs.  There’s room for everyone here, and we need more creativity.  Please, please be self-expressed.

Finally, to the woman who stole my work:

Dear Sister,

My anger and hurt have eased since I found my – and so many other sisters’ – posts on your blog last week.  You’ve been stealing from us for 3 years, and I don’t know that I can express what it felt like to discover that.  It cut deep.  I felt betrayed, dishonored, and pissed.  I was angry that you stole the work I spent days of my life producing with care, throughout years of honing my craft as a writer and coach.  I was angry that you were using other people’s work to get clients for yourself.  I was angry that it caused me so many more hours to dig to the surface, account for, and deal with.  I was angry that you cost me time with my family and the drained energy of emotional upset.  I was angry that you cost many of our other sisters these same things.

I was hurt that, as a sister, you’d steal our work and call it your own.

And I felt compassion for you.  I imagined how misaligned it must feel to be doing this while calling yourself a “Creative Business Coach” – stealing from others is neither creative nor good business.  I imagined the possibility that you’re really overwhelmed, or stressed, or perhaps something else that I can’t even imagine.  I imagined the possibility that you may have somehow justified this to yourself as acceptable, and how difficult it may feel to have lawyers and Google tell you otherwise.   I imagined that you are, still and after all, my sister…  I can forgive you.

What I want for you is what I want for all of us: that we cultivate the courage to create something original, and the tenacity to put it out into the world over and over again, until we get better and better.  I want for us all to feel proud of our creations, even if only because we put one foot in front of the other and did it.  I want for all of us to celebrate what we admire in others, while honoring that what we each bring to the table is unique and beautiful.

Sister, I want you to be free.  Please look inside and ask yourself the important questions, then rise and shine.

With love,
Nisha

24 Comments

  1. Wow… I’m fairly new to the blog world, but I’m a former fashion designer so I’m not at all new to creativity or the ripping off of it. I love the points you made, so true. And you’re note to the woman who stole from you could not be more well said. Kudos girl.

  2. That must have been a challenging experience and you handled it with so much grace Nisha! So glad to hear that you found greater healing, clarity and ability to love through it (that’s what I read in between the lines).

  3. Nisha, I love how you communicate your feelings in this post AND turn it into a constructive learning experience for others. Well done! I would be pissed too.

  4. Totally agree. We all need to embrace our unique greatness. I say we stop looking on the outside what’s already inside of us.

  5. Know what I love most about this?
    That you really ARE; Fierce, Fabulous and Free, Nisha Moodley!
    Thank you for sharing this, making it real, and taking a stand for all of us. You, my sister, are answering your calling.
    XO Love you!!
    Holli

  6. Nisha, I so feel you on this. I had a similar (but not so bad!) thing so recently, posted on my fan page about it and got very similar (well meaning) responses, especially the line about ‘nothing is original’. Your response captured it so well and LOVE your forgiveness + feminine power throughout.
    (Fave line: “Take your “raw inspiration and use it to express in your unique way”. Bang, got it in one).

  7. Great post. Thank you.
    But what happens to all that content? Are the lawyers requesting she remove the stolen content or pay a fine? What are the penalties for this?
    I’ve worked in the design industry and I see how large companies rip off each other all the time. Some notorious copiers even have a yearly budget put aside just to pay of lawsuits (as they know it’s coming at some point)! Awful. But I am curious what happens in the case of a soloprenuer, I’ve never seen this.

  8. Blimey! Marianne, I know you & I were talking about this the other day, and I may have seemed a bit flippant about it.

    Now – no way! It’s one thing to take the odd word (I’ve seen some of my creative swearing being used elsewhere) or to feel inspired by the writing of others, but ENTIRE GLOBS OF COPY? No.

    But to forgive is cool .. and I hope this lady has learned a valuable lesson which will, in the long term, help her.

  9. OMG! I actually had to call out a fellow colleague not too long ago for copying and pasting another coach’s sales copy. I was incredulous. We ALL run in the same circles and we’re ALL checking out each other’s websites. WHAT was she thinking!

    But, as usually, you, Nisha, have handled this with all the grace and fearlessness of a woman fierce and free.

  10. This is super interesting timing. I followed someone on Instagram, a young man from Vancouver, who is a health + fitness trainer, who talks alot about mindfulness and meditation too.

    The other day, he posted a photo, of a cartoon of himself meditating, in a blue background, with the words “I release the need for comparison, I accept we’re all in this together.”

    Now, if you follow Gabby Bernstein, which I know many of you do, you’ll know this is totally her thing! It looked exactly the same as the mantras she releases off of her Spirit Junkie app. She’s even used that exact phrase on her images, although I believe it was ‘competition’, instead of ‘comparison’. Ironic, now?

    All I commented below was: @gabbybernstein ?

    Only a few hours later, he had blocked me from his account without so much as a word.

    I was shocked.

    I went to his facebook page to tell him how I felt about the whole thing, without actually revealing what he did to his audience, I wanted him to come clean. I asked him to reply to my post instead of delete it.

    He deleted it.

    It was shocking that someone claiming to be an inspirational guru and mentor could so blatantly steal from someone, and then ignore + block others when they point it out.

    So interesting to get this email this week, then, because I’ve never really been exposed to a situation like this.

    I’m all for getting inspired by other people’s work, and using elements of it in your designs , but to blatantly steal every aspect of it, and call it your own is something totally different.

    Crazy.
    xo Beth

  11. Wow – Nisha, thanks for a powerful and beautifully articulated response to this issue (after you posted about it on Facebook, I’ve actually been thinking about it ever since). I had no idea how large the problem was in this instance – and it’s particularly bizarre (& awful) to have your own life events / stories about your life passed off as someone else’s. As a writer, I know how much effort it takes to create original, vulnerable and authentic content – so I really appreciate your clear-headed response to this individual’s “creative” approach to building a brand. Big hugs!

  12. This is floors me. I love what you said Nisha “choose inspiration over imitation”. This has happened to me and it was a very difficult conversation to have with the perpetrator.
    I think every thing you do is original, because you have a unique voice. Coaching is a very small field and we all know a lot of people and are inspired by ideas. Many times I feel I stifle my voice or an idea because I know it has been covered before somewhere. I know my voice is unique but it still crosses my mind because I never want to be in the position where someone feels I stole their work.
    I think you handled this brilliantly, much better than I would have. Best to you Nisha, this has been a lesson for all of us.

  13. Nisha, this just goes to show how incredible classy you are.

  14. Great post and well said Nisha. It’s so sad when this happens and reminds us to be extra mindful online when putting our trust in others and who we are buying in to.

    I noticed someone I knew doing this in her emails and not referencing the well known source at all, they read as her own, and I was so very disappointed and I am ashamed to say, I didn’t call her on it. I should have. It IS plagiarism and its very much cowardly.

    Good on you for speaking out! 🙂

  15. Ugh. UGH.

    That’s my first reaction and feeling.

    Second is sadness at the knowing that she somehow doesn’t know, believe or trust in the wisdom that is inherent in her own life experience. How I would love to get my hand on her and dive deep with her into her own wisdom and ideas. I know that they exist for her, if she would allow herself to see the value of her own life and life experience.

  16. She wasn’t hard to find – and all the content has “mysteriously” disappeared from her blog. Beautifully handled 🙂

  17. Nisha, wow. This was an amazing post. So beautifully worded. Thank you for writing this.

    I have been dealing with business biters myself in the last two years and it’s hard to remain compassionate when it seems to be a constant problem. I’ve had my header copied, blog posts copied, tagline lifted, and web copy swiped right down to the structure and offerings (but with lower prices to lowball me). I’ve spent a lot of time being super angry about this because it feels like identity theft to me.

    But I’ve come to realize that those who resort to business stalking and stealing are sad, desperate people. If you are busy creating and being you, you have zero time to obsess over someone else’s success.

    Again, thanks for this.

  18. I’ve had others in my industry plagiarised like this and every so often, I have to go and look up / search my own blog posts, just to be sure I’ve not had the same done to me.

    My site is WordPress and there are a few plugins that have helped me keep my work from being copied easily. If they want it, I want them to jump through hoops before they get a word. 🙂

    Happy to tell you these plugins, not sure if they work on WordPress.org / .com or only on self hosted sites. Guess there’s one way to find out, huh? 🙂

  19. Nisha, this shows us (I’m starting and still working on being able, free, and fearless to show up vulnerable) , how we grow in the process and what a wonderful, authentic and compassionate woman you are. You are so inspiring and I’d admire how gracefully you danced in this situation. Xoxo

  20. Oh my! I’ve been copied before – but never to the extent you are talking about… surely that’s criminal? Of course, I instantly googled her and I notice that all of this coach’s blog posts and FB page have been deleted, so good for you for taking swift & appropriate legal action against her.

    I’ve successfully dealt with IP infringement as a marketing manager in the corporate world but it feels SO much more personal when it’s your own business – in fact it makes me feel violently ill.

    In the coaching industry it’s natural for similar ideas to come to market at the same time or for ideas to cross-pollinate… but direct copying is totally not cool, no matter how lovely the person doing it is.

    Thanks for sharing your story and for being so brave in business!!

  21. Well said, Nisha!

    Several years ago, employees of a large commercial printing company had a feeding frenzy with a newly printed, very limited edition of my art. The company initially refused to be accountable; that is, until their employees admitted to the theft, shrugging as they confessed. At that point, I sent out press releases and all hades broke loose, causing the printing company to loose around 30% of their clientele. Then I filed a law suit in federal court, which ended up creating a precedent in the art world.

    Like you, I was flummoxed to realize how the public, including some of my fellow artists, regarded the theft of creative ideas and works. One of my closest friends even stated that she certainly wouldn’t handle the issue in the manner that I did.

    That one had me shaking my head in bafflement; did she expect me to put her opinion of me before my own welfare?

    I also received “hate mail” from artists who gave every indication of being jealous of my success and were not-so-secretly happy that I was having to deal with corporate crime.

    The incident taught me a lot and was pivotal in triggering me to finally give myself permission to always protect what is mine, no matter what. In the process of wading through the low end of human morality, it also became apparent that anyone who counseled me otherwise had ulterior motives.

    Thank you, Nisha, for sharing this experience with all of us; it’s not easy to step out into the world and admit you’ve been “taken” in any way. Yet, isn’t it an amazing gift when allowing yourself to be totally vulnerable becomes some kind of awesome personal strength you didn’t previously know you possessed?

    Brava!

  22. I’m seriously floored by the people who believe “it comes with the territory” and “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. To me, that’s further proof that the general population still seems to believe that online content isn’t REAL content, you know, like what’s in a published book or a newspaper. It infuriates me.

    I’m sorry you had to go through this. I’ve been through it myself; I’m a pet lifestyle blogger and I’ve repeatedly had my 2 most popular posts stolen – copied word for word, including photos – and it’s exhausting trying to get that stuff removed from a person’s website. And like you mentioned, it’s so hurtful. There’s nothing flattering about someone who steals your hard work and claims it as their own.

    • Thank you for your support Christina and I am sorry to hear you went through this too xo Love to you sister

  23. Many people are empty out there … So, they don’t have anything developed by themselves. Thus, they copy other people by wearing the same clothes, by reading the same books, by appreciating the same brand. It’s not a stone through away from using the same phrases, headlines, themes and issues. I know what I am talking about because similar things happen to me too. But you know what … In the moment, you get copied, you can be absolutely sure: You are good. You are very, very, very good in what you are doing. So, do not worry. Nobody can copy you because your work is unique.

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