Let people steal your ideas.
That was one of the thoughts I perpetrated (just a little bit) in my first business book, Six Pixels of Separation. The intent of that statement meant to say that if someone does steal your ideas, the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc...) will be the best defence possible (that is if you had already Blogged, Tweeted or published your thoughts for all to see). Someone can try to cop the "Six Pixels of Separation" thing, but a quick search online will easily demonstrate where (and when) that idea originated. Sure, it's not a court of law and no, there is probably little (to no) legal footing with this argument, but the other side is that if your story (or idea) does spreads, people will talk about it, research it and find it (the truth along with it). So, even if someone does rip off your Blog post, anyone worth their salt should be able to quickly see who the creator of that thought, story and/or idea is.
...But stuff happens.
Like it did this past week to my good friend, Bryan Eisenberg (co-author of many great business titles, including Waiting For Your Cat To Bark, Call To Action and Always Be Testing). He recounts the story in his latest ClickZ column, 6 Marketing Secrets Not Worth Sharing: "I have shared presentations in the past, but since I am now focused on being a professional marketing speaker, these slides are a good part of my livelihood, and my paying clients don't want them shared all over the Internet. So when I reviewed this person's newest Webinar presentation, it was a shock to find that 'his' slide titles and content, including many of the images, were essentially the same as mine."
The article tells the story of someone who "adapted" one of Bryan's latest presentations without asking or assigning attribution. In the ClickZ column, Bryan focuses on issues of copyright, the power of online content, how easily "influence" happens online, Internet (and real world) etiquette with our peers, and more. In this instance, I feel Bryan's pain but I'm also reminded of one of Mike Lipkin's lines in his motivational presentations: "my version of copyright is that you have the right to copy." Something tells me Mike would still take issue if someone started promoting themselves as a motivational speaker and used all of his content, but the point is well taken that in this day and age, it is increasingly difficult to protect ideas.
This is changing Marketing and Communications in a very profound way.
Not long ago, the head of strategy, creative, etc... in the Marketing agency was locked in a corner. They were the "secret sauce" of the agency. The black box. The idea generator. The person who brought out their best work for the client only as other agencies and brands watched on and wondered where all of these big ideas were coming from. Now, these artists formerly known as "secret weapons" are openly Blogging, presenting, being interviewed publicly and even tweeting their every creative thought.
Ideas are a dime a dozen these days...
And anyone can grab them, adapt them and tweak them. This must make the value of all of this creativity circle down to zero? Absolutely not. In fact, in this day and age, because of the sheer blunt trauma of content publishing, it's the really great ideas (and the people who present them) that rise to the top. So, in the end, someone tried to copy Bryan's slides and make themselves seem uber-smart. The truth is, that all of the slides and visuals won't save them - just like playing Jeff Beck's guitar and his songs won't make you Jeff Beck. Original ideas come from original people. Original people can't be duplicated. They can be ripped off, but it always comes off as nothing more than a poor, misguided tribute (at best).
What do you think about this? Is locking down your content and ideas a better strategy?