When You’ve Been Using a Plagiarized Work

 

In the morning of January 18, we at M2.0 Communications were embarrassed to the core of our being.
A Facebook post on the M2Social Page by artist Ronna Encarnacion pointed out that one of the outsourced articles on our website used images that were copied from her work. Her post featured a side-by-side comparison that proved without a doubt that it did.

 

The Artist’s Side

It was mortifying. While we might use pegs or be inspired by certain works, we do not intentionally copy or use art without permission. Our condemnation of plagiarism doesn’t stem from fear of reprisal, but because we are artists too.

Artists have been treated horribly. It’s too easy to use or copy other people’s work without repercussions. We too have faced companies that use work without permission or clients that commission original work in return for a handful of pesos or the promise of ‘exposure’. These practices devalue our work and our art.

As brands, it’s our responsibility to treat creative work like priceless arts-not meant to be copied. After all, they wouldn’t be called artists just because. These people worked hard, practiced hard and toiled to perfect their craft.

Left: M2Communications Blog Post, Right: Original Work from Ronna Encarnacion

Left: M2Communications Blog Post, Right: Original Work from Ronna Encarnacion

Doing What’s Right

As soon as we realized the lapse, we apologized profusely to Rona and took down the offending article.

We also investigated the incident. M2.0 Communications has always been careful to use artwork that it has permission to use it, to avoid embarrassment for our clients and partners. The copied work appeared in a Santacruzan article uploaded by an outsourced company who assists us with SEO. The investigation established that shortcuts were made on their part and they promised to be more vigilant and careful.

While the plagiarism wasn’t directly the fault of M2.0 Communications, we are still responsible for everything that is uploaded to our websites. We continue to offer our heartfelt apology to Rona, who graciously removed her social media post. We wrote this article as part of our atonement too and being one in the advocacy of not allowing artists steal other artists work. Furthermore, this is an assurance to our clients that this would never happen to them and we are continuously improving our processes and suppliers to spot copied work better.

 

What to Do When Called Out

But this issue isn’t unique to us. There are many companies that discover they have been using plagiarized artworks in their marketing materials. Here’s what they can do:

 

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Act Fast

When a brand is caught plagiarizing, it can’t take its time. Plagiarism implies that your brand is too lazy or too uncreative to make something new original while exposing the company to copyright claims.

Investigate the Incident

It’s crucial to understand the details of the plagiarism. It will help to determine how much the company is responsible for the mistake. It may even be the rare case of great minds thinking alike. In which case, it’s okay to defend yourself.

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Make a Plan

Depending on your investigation, formulate a plan that will protect the brand. Rely on the truth. Owning up to a mistake is far better than vehemently denying that the brand did anything wrong.  Aologize, profusely if needed. Humility reflects on the leadership.

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Contact the Artist

When a brand does something wrong, it’s on the company to make things right. In this case, the brand needs to contact the artist and offer an explanation. He or she has a right to know your side and the steps that you will take.

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Take Down the Plagiarized Work

Unless the brand receives the artist’s permission, removing the plagiarized work is the only right thing to do.

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Learn

One case of plagiarism isn’t a death knell for a company. But continually being involved in plagiarism will sink the brand. Learn from the mistake and create processes that prevent this from happening again.

Plagiarism hurts the artist and the brand. Be careful in creative works and, if it appears, resolve the issue as fast as possible. At the end of the day the most important lesson we learned is never copying anyone’s work.