Whether or not you’re currently a business owner, imagine, if you can, working hard to create a product that provides a unique service to your customers. 

Next, imagine that someone who spent literally zero of those man/woman-hours to create that product comes along and — without your permission — represents themselves as “working with” your company in order to be able to get your customer to spend money with them as they blatantly copy that work. They even go so far as to put your company’s logo on the product — again, without so much as asking the ownership of your company “Is it OK if we do this?” 

That’s the predicament local publications like ours face every single day from companies like “In The News” (which no longer exists) and “That’s Great News” (which bought out “In The News”). This company tells our customers to lie to us and say that they need “a clean electronic copy” of a story about their business that appeared in our pages, supposedly “for our social media.” 

Then, you walk into their place of business a few weeks later and see that story on a plaque for which we received no compensation and the only credit we received is that our logo appears at the top of the plaque. 

I have been dealing with this B.S. for probably close to a decade, as electronic versions of our stories began being posted on our website. 

These “News” companies would simply grab screenshots of every Business Feature story off our website and send a proof of that story on a not-yet-created plaque to our advertisers (see left photo above), telling them they were “working with the Neighborhood News” and get a large number of those businesses to purchase their plaques for anywhere from $200-$400 — depending upon the size of the plaque(s) and the length of each story. I saw no fewer than six of these stories in our advertisers’ places of businesses in one month — and it did not make me happy. 

And, the kicker was that literally every time I would ask them who made the plaque for them, the business owner would tell me, “I thought you did,” which made me even less happy. 

Then, about three years ago, I realized that if I offered my advertisers plaques of their stories that we actually did create for them that they would probably prefer our plaques to the ones created by these outside companies. 

The problem was that I didn’t have someone on my staff who could get in contact with our advertisers to tell them about our plaques — and warn them that “That’s Great News” is most definitely NOT “working with us,” but that they are, in fact, using our work to make money for their company. But now, I have my wife Jannah following up with each business on our behalf. 

Consider this: Either I or one of my writers spends up to an hour or more researching each of these stories, up to another hour interviewing these business owners, and then multiple additional hours writing each story. I then take an hour or more of my time to edit each one, and then edit each story again once it has been laid into the paper. In most cases, I also pay our photographer Charmaine George to take the pictures that accompany each story, and then pay to print and distribute each copy of each edition of the paper. Why should anyone else make even one dollar off of all of those efforts? 

Those companies will tell you that they’re “allowed” to do what they do because of “second use” laws that permit it but, from what I — and an attorney customer of mine — have seen, they still need our permission to do so. 

That’s why I created the ad below to say we do not give anyone permission to use our work and that this is fair warning that the next step in this battle could be a legal one. To be continued… 

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