On Plagiarism & Copyright

This is a blog post that I never wanted to write. Even as I sit here at my keyboard, I’m SO frustrated that I have to sit here and defend myself against some pretty nasty accusations. Unfortunately, there is a post that was written about me over a year ago that has been making its rounds within the community and I believe that it’s time to address it.

Let me set the stage for you a little bit…

Back in May of last year, I published one of my monthly Traffic & Income reports. Within the comments, a woman named Natalie and I had a bit of a discussion regarding the ethics of whether or not I should be paying my guest bloggers. Here are some screenshots from that discussion:


Just a few short days later, Natalie decided to write a pretty scathing article about me on her blog. I’m going to post screenshots here as I do not want to drive any traffic back to her site (which is what she wants). If you DO want to read the entire post, you’re welcome to do a google search and I’m sure it will come up.

You can probably imagine my horror when I saw what she had written about me. At the time, I tried to take the high road and not engage with her. After all, writing a post like this, accusing me of plagiarism, with no basis in the truth was a cry for attention, and I really did not want to give that attention and exposure to her.

For over a year, I let her post sit on her blog without a reply. I didn’t want to dignify it with one.

Unfortunately, this post is now spreading like wildfire and the time has come for me to publicly defend myself. Please bear with me while I reply to her accusations one by one…


ACCUSATION #1: COPYING GTD

(The following are screenshots from Natalie’s blog post)

MY RESPONSE:

This post was meant to educate people on the GTD method and to show how I was incorporating the system into my Bullet Journal. Not once did I claim it as my idea, or not give credit to the creator of the system, David Allen.

Natalie was very selective of the screenshots that she took, so I’m going to share what she left out:

(The following are screenshots from my blog post. You can read the full post yourself right here)

As you can see, I extensively linked to my sources at the very beginning of the post.

The ONLY thing that I would change is saying “the guide that I created for myself”. I can see now how that wording could be misleading. Because yes, I copied everything straight from the book. The whole point is that I wanted that reference material in my Bullet Journal. What I should have said instead is “This is where I wrote down a brief GTD guide from the book in my Bullet Journal”.

Natalie goes on to say…

“Benz goes on to copy Allen’s content two more times in this post. She does credit him with developing the flowchart in the print copy of the book but does not cite a page number (page 32 in the 2001 edition).

However, the fact that the flowchart is also available on Allen’s website is never mentioned. If his method is worth writing about, then visibly pointing people at his site should also be worthwhile.”

What she fails to mention (maybe she didn’t read that part?) is the paragraph in between those pictures (shown below) where I expressly state that the 5 steps and workflow were “copied directly from the book into my Bullet Journal for future reference.”

In addition to the links and references that I made to David Allen and Getting Things Done all throughout the post, I also cited him as the source in each one of my journal pages. Yes, even the ones that she screenshotted.

Moving on…


ACCUSATION #2: PLAGIARIZING TRELLO

(The following is a screenshot from Natalie’s blog)

Yes, my template is a Trello template. I never claimed to have invented the system. Again, my intent for this post was to show people how I was using Trello as an editorial calendar.

I’m not going to indulge this one any further for one reason…

Trello loved my post! They even sent me some sweet swag (a t-shirt and stickers)

Oh, and they’ve been sharing my blog post:

Case closed.


LET’S TALK COPYRIGHT

Copyright is one last issue that I’d like to address before finally getting some sleep tonight. The following image is another that has been circulating and I’d like to address it:

First, I want to say that these stickers are no longer available in my shop. They were removed (and I’ve kept them removed) following a copyright claim.

And this one I take full credit for… except it wasn’t malicious and I wasn’t trying to steal someone’s work… it was an honest mistake. For that, I’m terribly sorry!

Back when I first started doodling, I did what SO many of us do… I turned to Pinterest. I wanted to learn how to doodle, so I pinned cute things and I would practice drawing them. I had stacks and stacks of pages FULL of doodles. Some that I had practiced over and over again until they became muscle memory.

My mistake came when I opened my shop, and I thought it would be fun to do a doodle icon page. Instead of sitting down and doodling some fresh icons out of my head, I scanned my pages of doodles into my computer and digitized them.

In hindsight, I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I just figured that I already had them drawn out, I could just skip that step. In any case, it was wrong. I wasn’t thinking about WHO or WHERE I learned those doodles from, I just knew that I had drawn them.

When I saw the copyright claim, I was 100% taken aback. In my mind, I had never straight up copied someone’s design to put in my shop. It wasn’t until I messaged the claimant to inquire what was going on and we had time to chat back and forth that I realized my error.

I decided then and there to always sketch my shop doodles from scratch, from my head, each and every time I create a new product.

EDITING TO ADD…

After sleeping on this, I want to further clarify the latter part of this post.

That is, my unintentional yet still hurtful use of Tiny Stamps, Big Plans and Sweet Stamp Shop designs in my Etsy shop.

It’s never easy to admit one’s mistakes, but I think it’s important for me to be even more clear than I was when I wrote this post last night.

Although it was never my intention to copy or steal designs from ANYONE, I’m willing to own up to the major flaw in my design process for my “Planner Icons” sheets that were available when I first opened my shop.

To quote myself:

“Back when I first started doodling, I did what SO many of us do… I turned to Pinterest. I wanted to learn how to doodle, so I pinned cute things and I would practice drawing them. I had stacks and stacks of pages FULL of doodles. Some that I had practiced over and over again until they became muscle memory.

My mistake came when I opened my shop, and I thought it would be fun to do a doodle icon page. Instead of sitting down and doodling some fresh icons out of my head, I scanned my pages of doodles into my computer and digitized them.

In hindsight, I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I just figured that I already had them drawn out, I could just skip that step. In any case, it was wrong. I wasn’t thinking about WHO or WHERE I learned those doodles from, I just knew that I had drawn them.”

In the photos below, you can see how similar and sometimes almost exactly the same some of these designs ended up being.

Also, you can see one of my first IG posts on my shop account where I was talking about scanning and digitizing… here you can see my doodles and practice pages that I was getting ready to put in my shop.

 

I want to apologize again to Tiny Stamps, Big Plans and Sweet Stamp Shop, and to encourage you all to check out their shops for their lovely designs.

I admire and respect small business owners, being one myself, and I want to be clear that it was NEVER my intention to profit from someone else’s work. It was an innocent mistake, and I intend to do everything in my power to make it right.

I removed these stickers in both physical and digital form from my shop when this was brought to my attention in January.

  • I will now be working on a re-vamped sticker sheet and printable to send to everyone who purchased the originals while they were available.
  • By this Friday, I will email everyone who purchased the printable an updated copy along with an explanation and asking them to destroy the original.
  • Within 30 days, I will be mailing out replacement sheets to those who purchased the physical copy and asking them to destroy the originals if they still have them as well. (longer timeline on this because it’s going to be a LOT of work)

I acknowledge that I should have taken these additional steps months ago, but I hope that taking them now will be of some comfort to these shop owners.

Thank you all for your support, it truly means the world to me!


IN CONCLUSION

I take plagiarism and copyright infringement very seriously. I don’t like being accused of either, but I will defend myself when it’s false, and I will absolutely apologize and try to make it right when it’s true!

I want to say a HUGE thank you to all of you who have been showing your support and love since all of this exploded this afternoon. Your kind words are making this all easier to bear and for that, I’m SO grateful!

I know that there are a lot of discussions happening online right now in a lot of groups that I don’t belong to, so I would REALLY appreciate it if you could share this post in those discussions when you see them. I’d really like for everyone to hear the whole story, not just one side of it.

Thank you!

PS – I apologize in advance for any typos or grammatical errors… it’s past midnight here and although I’m exhausted, I wanted to get this post out as quickly as possible. I’ll do my best to get back in here and edit in the morning if necessary.

Kara Benz

Kara Benz is the artist and author behind Boho Berry, where she inspires her readers to lead a more centered, fulfilled, and inspired life. Kara also runs a successful sticker shop on Etsy – Boho Berry Paperie.

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