WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Casting a reality check on real-world conundrums
Stop Copying Me!
When it comes to
intellectual property, imitation
is the sincerest form of theft.
There is enough public
domain material available
for any client to use. Clients
should not use a speaker’s
unique material any more
than speakers should walk
into clients’ stores and leave
with one of their products
without paying for it.
—Scott Mc Kain, CSP, CPAE
Imitation is the highest
form of flattery, providing
the original is noted, and
the technique or tag line is
not trademarked. I usually
will discuss this with clients,
emphasize that the style
or technique is mine, and
help them improve their
imitation. This is a great way
to get new business; for
example ‘If you like what I
am doing, you should see
Lauran Star in action.’
What Would You Do? is a regular column
that presents a real-life dilemma faced
by professional speakers. NSA members
are encouraged to submit a dilemma
for possible discussion in this column.
Please submit dilemmas to ethics@nsa-
speaker.org. NSA reserves the right to
edit submissions for length and style. All
dilemmas will be anonymously attributed. Opinions expressed are those of
the individual respondents, not NSA.
“You have a unique presentation style
or technique (e.g., painting fast, drawing
audience members, playing songs a
specific way) and you hear or see a client
use that same style or technique to convey
your message to its internal team.
What would do you do?”
Fortunately, this happened to me only once many years
ago. I did the job because I was promised payment later when
the paperwork was signed. Alas, I was never paid. Now, I have a
cancellation fee. If this happened today, I would offer to barter.
Would the client provide a video opportunity, session photos,
referrals, or product endorsements? “
—Susan Gingras Fitzell
I will admit that someone attempting to copy my style
or gestures for a presentation sounds annoying. On the other
hand, the action could be viewed as complimentary. But some
things just can’t be duplicated.
An Internet guru said,
‘Your privacy is gone, get
over it!’ It’s the same with
stolen material. Much of my
material was borrowed from
my mentors, who borrowed
it from theirs, etc. Wade
Cannon, one of my early
mentors, told me, “The first
time you use my material, say,
‘As Wade Cannon once said …’
The second time, you should
say, ‘As someone once said …’
After that, you can say, ‘As I’ve
always said …
—Ben Gay III
There’s a Facebook group
called ‘Imitation Is NOT The
Most Sincere Form of Flattery
… It’s Just ANNOYING!’ So,
I’d say this situation arises
frequently. I’d like to meet this
person face-to-face and say,
‘I’m glad you thought enough
of my style to emulate it, but it
bothers me that you’d borrow
my signature technique, which
I worked hard to develop. I’d
be happy to brainstorm with
you about how you can create
your own methods.
Cape Cod, Mass.