I was in China over the summer, in the smaller, more rural city of Xi’an and I was completely shocked by the number of bootleg Apple shops that I saw.
The branding and logo were the same (apart from one creative shop that decided to use a pear), but the individual, elderly men tending shops that sold generic Chinese factory phones really made me question whether these Apple outposts were legitimate.
Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
These shops, on the other side of the world, really demonstrate the strength of Apple’s brand. It’s obvious to any casual observer that the shops aren’t real and, if anything, the shops themselves aren’t seriously trying to portray themselves as real.
Smaller businesses and individual creators won’t get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to plagiarism or content theft. We touched on the strength of intangible assets here (and how it is especially important online) but in the internets current Wild West-like state of regulation, things like a brand are increasingly at risk.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s a thin line between free advertising and content theft.
Not on the internet…
Apple can get by with a few bootleg shops, but a single photographer, graphic designer or content creator consistently having their images stolen will feel the impact of content theft in a more dramatic way.
In fact, it’s more comparable to Apple having phones stolen from their shop.
Think about it like this: in the past no one would take a companies TV advert or billboard poster, complete with original branding and message, and then use it to market themselves. Crazy right? But today visual marketing materials can be broken down into smaller pieces.
Companies often take creators work and use it in marketing materials that drive profit, without credit or payment to the content creator.
If you don’t protect your message, you lose control of it.
Whilst it’s frustrating and unfortunate to have your work used and not paid for, it’s even worse if the images are used in a way you would never have dreamed of.
A content creator’s livelihood is inherently connected to the manner in which their work is used. When used badly, they lose control of their message and their brand is damaged.
Apple could even survive a few of stolen phones or a PR nightmare, safe in the knowledge their sales will bounce back but, again, smaller businesses and content creators might feel the damage on future profits.
Content creators are businesses and, today more than ever, a large part of a business’s value lies in its ability to control its message.
You wouldn’t pay to advertise another company, so why pay with either your brand or your content by letting your work be used without your consent?