How to deal with rival estate agents stealing your content
It’s a thorny issue that’s up there with rock bottom fees, greedy portals, and slow solicitors.
What are we talking about?
Copyright theft. When a rival agent nicks your content, be it property listings, floorplans, blogs, or photos, and passes it off as their own.
It’s plagiarism, and here’s its Oxford Dictionary definition.
Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition.
We are an estate agent content creation company, and over the past couple of years, I’ve handled around 12 incidents where someone has nicked the marketing we’ve created for paying clients and passed it off as their own.
Here’s how we handle it, from identification to the nuclear option.
- CHECK -We’re continuously checking to see if our content is being used illegally. We do this in several ways, including a weekly scan of social media platforms and the net. However, we’re often tipped off by our members.
- DOUBLE CHECK – In the past, we’ve seen our blogs ripped off word for word. But we’ve also experienced agents swiping stuff, lazily changing a couple of lines, and thinking they’ve got away with it. What companies (and their solicitors) look for is big chunks of work copied or images duplicated.
- EVIDENCE – Screenshot or copy the posts or material they have taken. This comes in very useful later.
- PRIVATE MESSAGE – When we find an agency that has copied our content, we ask them on their Facebook page to; ‘Please private message us about a potential copyright issue.’ This gets their attention. In the past, the hot-head in me has called them out online – but we’ve learned the above approach is better.
- COMMUNICATE – Tell them you have identified that they’ve been illegally using your copyright covered material. At this point, 8 out of 10 agents will hold their hands up, especially independent agents, in our experience anyway. AND the mistake may be a genuine one. We’ve seen that a couple of times. These types of incidents are the easiest to resolve.
- TAKEDOWN – Once you’ve established lines of communication, tell them (don’t ask them, they’ve half-inched your work) that to avoid a cease-and-desist letter from your solicitor, the offending material needs to be taken down or destroyed (if it is printed content).
- MAKE GOOD – We ask that a donation is made to a local community/charity of £250 to close the matter. This gives you the PR high ground, especially if the incident becomes public.
- HARDBALL – Send the cease-and-desist letter if they refuse to take down the content and/or donate. We are arranging a special deal for our members to have a template of this letter written by an experienced copyright lawyer.
- THE NUCLEAR OPTION – This is the best deterrent. Rather than get into a back and forth if they are being d!c£s about it, calmly let them know what your next step is. I suggest something like this: “Ok, so despite clear evidence (those screenshots), you’ve taken our stuff and passed it off as your agency’s. We’ve asked you to remove the offending items, but you’re saying no (or have refused to donate). So, we will be issuing a cease-and-desist letter and using evidence of you stealing our work in one of our next marketing campaigns. We’ll highlight what we did originally, how you copied it and letting the homeowners and landlords of AREA know – “That our marketing is so good even our rivals can’t resist using it.”
A cautionary note – try to resolve the issue quickly and with as little emotional expenditure as possible. I’ve taken copyright theft personally in the past, and it does your head in if you allow it to.
Deal with it and move on and be confident that your content and marketing is one step ahead of theirs. #Firstneverfollows.
I hope you’ve found that helpful.