One thing that concerns me about the 2A community, especially when it comes to small firearms businesses, is the lack of respect for original content and intellectual property. Certainly, there's nothing proprietary about basic marksmanship and many of the topics within our arena. Yet, I've seen so many abused by this assumption that everything posted by a firearms instructor is fair game. Quite simply, that's not right!
So, yes, here comes the vent! This particular post is a cry, a public service announcement, on behalf of all business owners, but particularly those within the firearms training community.
Unfortunately, over the last 18 to 24 months, I have been a victim of blatant plagiarism multiple times, almost always via some social media platform. I'm not referring only to a "borrowed" quote or idea. I'm referring to complete works where language, visual, and audio are copied and republished or shared as someone else's creations. How frustrating!
Let me share just a little bit of my personal history. Years before social media was a thing, I ran a small business as a desktop publisher. In those days, it was imperative to understand the rules of trademarks, copyrights, usage licenses, and the necessary citations dictated by such. It seemed to be understood that simply taking someone else's work and publishing it as one's own was theft. It was not tolerated.
Since that time, I've been blessed to have successfully run a few other side businesses, in addition to founding a church and several non-profit organizations. I'm also a published author and have worked my way through the corporate landscape to now serve as an executive leader within the Clinical Research space. All of that has taught me the value of intellectual property! It can make or break any business, large or small. This is no small factor. We must respect one another's thoughts and ideas, and the manifestation of them!
Most small business owners are just like me. We work full-time jobs, sometimes part-time jobs as well. After a full day or evening of work, we come home to pray for ideas, engage in research, or slave on a keyboard for hours simply putting together content and resources that will attract, instruct, and build our clientele. Imagine the hurt, frustration, and disdain we feel when after all of that, someone else simply copies and publishes our material as their own. It can be heartbreaking and infuriating all at the same time!
No one in their right mind would do this to a larger corporation such as Nike or Microsoft, yet it happens to small business owners every day. While those who steal material may not realize it, this can be devastating on many levels, to both the creator and the offender. It's wrong, and it's unnecessary.
Business owners, such as myself, invest both time and money into their businesses and corresponding materials, media, and marketing. I, like many others, try to run a business of integrity. This means we pay generously for image and audio licenses. We invest in pricey software and often hire consultants or creators to support our efforts. Even when producing works via AI, effort, time, and money are invested. Hours of research support the words that are orchestrated and years of passion fuel the spirit of every post.
I'm not ignorant, so I'll address the proverbial elephant in the room. I understand that almost everyone borrows these days. I also know that within the firearms training industry, there is very little proprietary or groundbreaking information. We are within a culture that truly believes "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery". Well, imitation and plagiarism are not quite the same thing.
In our repost culture, re-sharing content is not wrong. It is certainly a compliment in most cases. The only requirement is that we give credit where credit is due. Simply cite the source. Don't lie or deceive others into believing you have created something that was manufactured by someone else, period. Reshare posts with the original watermarks and content in place. Or mention the originator when the content is shared. This is just general respect. It's the right thing to do!
Let's do better, especially as small business owners. Let's respect and support one another.
Remember, if we all say the same things, if we all look alike, no one stands out! And if you are one of those who likes to steal, consider this. If you are wasting time copying someone else, you'll never do anything innovative, because you have nothing within yourself to move until after someone else does. This means you are perpetually behind. The world would be so much better impacted if you would just be you, as no one else can do that better than you!