Yes to copywriting, no to copy writing

woman getting mugged
Daylight robbery: stealing words is as bad as stealing bags

Around 10 years ago I was visiting a client at a trade show in Birmingham. While wandering around the stalls I met up with a company from China who were entering the Christmas cracker market. Having written many groaner puns for a Christmas cracker company I asked if they might be interested in my services. I was taken aback by the response: Oh no! We just take the jokes from the Internet. File under wake-up call.

You walk into a store, casually place an item into a bag and then leave the store without paying. A reasonable definition of this activity is theft. Your university assignment is due in a couple of days and you have not written anything. You find a similar topic online and cut and paste the contents onto a Word document and hand it in as your original work. A reasonable definition of this activity is plagarism.

The above scenarios are all too familiar as dependency on web solutions to solve problems increases. The point to stress here is that there is a big difference between online researching and online cutting and pasting.  I write blogs for a raft of clients and use search engines to educate myself on topics that include products for locksmiths, expensive cameras, graffiti, digital marketing, care homes and franchising. But I am never tempted to lift a chunk of text from a website and paste it as my work. I can, however see how people can be tempted to do so. The Internet is almost impossible to police so the chances of getting caught are remote. Who would ever find out if you lifted text from a blogger with 35 followers on Twitter? The answer to this conundrum is simple – people should not need telling that taking something that they do not own is morally and legally wrong.

Not everyone who writes copy is a copywriter. The Internet is a meritocracy, anyone can join in and some great writers have been discovered while blogging. So there is no need to hire people like me to get your message across. But if your copy actually belongs to someone else, then you might want to consider not trying to pull a literal fast Buck.

Copywriting is creative work which takes many years to perfect into an art. Copying, cutting and pasting someone’s writing is fraud which takes a few minutes. There is a word for people who do such things. It begins with ‘c’ and ends with ‘s’. They are cheats (unless another word springs to mind).

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