Imitation the most sincere form of flattery?

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

So that well known proverb might be true, but last week I wasn’t quite so convinced when I discovered a cake decorator who had not only taken photos from our website, but had also copied our class descriptions word for word, and was passing the classes off as her own.

Every so often, I do a quick Google image search and content search, to make sure that nobody has been cheeky enough to use our images without asking, and occasionally I’ll find somebody that has done. Generally it’s just one image and not really a big deal (although there was that one cake decorator in California that was passing Jenni’s Ruffles & Pleats Wedding Cake – from a previous class – off as her own, and not only that but rather amusingly she was also claiming cakes from some of the greats such as Faye Cahill, which is pretty brazen!).

So when I searched recently, I found two of our classes being completely copied and sold by a cake decorator in Birmingham. And a quick look at ‘her’ other classes and a Google, and I found that she’d also taken them from other websites, such as Clare’s Cake Boutique.

After I’d got over my shock I was quite restrained (the inner child in me was having a full on tantrum, and wanted to reply to every single post on her Facebook page from people asking about the classes she’d copied, giving them our website link instead!). I phoned the cake decorator immediately and politely asked her about it, and her response was that she knew nothing about it and her website designer must have done it. Which may have been a reasonable excuse except that (a) the website is clearly self built (it’s on a free self build website package with no web designer credited, which rather gives it away); (b) she had posted several times on her Facebook page about the hassle of creating her own website; and (c) even if it had been designed by a web designer, why on earth would she not provide the content and description for her own classes, and photos of her own cakes?

Check out these classes (click on the photo for a larger size), don’t they look familiar…..?!

She’s also used other people’s photos on her Facebook page, such as these gorgeous Christmas cookies by Vanessa at The Red Cake Tin which she was advertising and selling as if they were her own, so I’m not entirely convinced that she knew nothing about it.

Anyway, regardless of whose fault it was, I asked her to take them down immediately but it seemed she wasn’t keen on that suggestion. Perhaps I should have pointed out just how much work and money goes in to preparing a new cake class so that she had some idea of why I was rather miffed with her using our hard work and claiming it as her own. For each class, I estimate that we (the tutors and I) spend around 20-30 hours in time before it even goes live for bookings – supplies need to be purchased, the cake has got to be decorated, timings done to check it will fit within a class, photographs taken, a class description prepared, costings and budgeting done, a new page added to the website, marketing it, class notes prepared, etc, etc. My tutors are fabulous and gorgeous but unfortunately I’ve not yet convinced them to work for free, so on average each class preparation probably costs me £300-400 as well as an awful lot of hours of my own work.

So if you run a small business (or in fact, any business), it’s worth doing steps 1-2 regularly, and if necessary using the following steps to rectify things as quickly as possible so that your business isn’t harmed.

  1. Do a Google image search for any photos or images on your website. Just copy the URL and put it in the box, and it will show you all instances of that image, and you can also check the ‘visually similar images’ to see if anybody else is using a different size of it. Most businesses are more word orientated so this probably isn’t as relevant for them, but if you’re in a very visual business such as cake decorating, this is definitely worth doing every so often.

  2. Check to see if your content has been used without your permission. One way to keep an eye on any of your content on the web is to simply check your Google Webmaster tools (go to the ‘Search Traffic’ section and then click on ‘Links to Your Site’). On mine, I get lots of lovely people who have linked to us such as Wendy at Naptime Natter, so that’s all good, but sometimes you will get people who have lifted content and copied it without permission too. You can also set up a Google Alert, although that does sometimes give you lots of irrelevant results too. And lots of people recommend using content scrapers such as Copyscape, but I have to confess I’ve never quite worked them out – for instance, if I put our Vintage Cupcake Class URL in to Copyscape’s search tool, it doesn’t give me anything even though it was definitely copied by somebody else!

  3. If you do find somebody has used your images or text, contact them asap and ask them to remove it or credit you for whatever it is. Most people will more than happily do that, it’s usually just an oversight.

  4. If they’re less than amenable to that suggestion, then it’s time to remind them that you own the copyright and to be a bit firmer (if necessary, point out that it’s copyright theft, illegal, and potentially even makes them liable to paying compensation if you were so inclined as to take them to court). Give them a deadline to remove it by, and if that doesn’t work, then the next step (which I had to take after our classes hadn’t been removed from the other cake decorators website) is to find out their hosting provider and file a DMCA (‘Digital Millennium Copyright Act’) claim with them. To find out their hosting provider, go to the WHOIS website, and then contact the hosting company directly, most will have a page on their website for DMCA claims and if it’s an obvious copyright infringement such as this, action is usually very swiftly taken.

The cake decorator that copied our classes and tried to pass them off as her own shall of course remained unnamed. I have no interest in harming her business or reputation, and I’m just hoping that in the future she’ll be brave enough to use her own ideas instead. Hopefully she will have learned that it’s fine to use pictures for inspiration, and share them, but always credit them and don’t claim others cakes or work as your own. Luckily, the vast majority of people in the cakey world are so lovely and supportive, it’s a fab community to be in. Cake decorators often use others cakes for inspiration, but generally always credit them and/or check with them first. So hopefully this won’t happen again…….although I’ll be checking using the above steps just in case!

If you’re a cake maker/decorator, have you ever come across this before?  Let me know in the comments.

Lucy. x

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