'But everyone else does it!' -- that's no excuse!

14 replies
Gene Pimentel's post about Apple seizing domain names reminded me of something I've been meaning to post. Not about domain names specifically, but about business/marketing in general...

Just because everyone else does it is not a reason why you should do it too. And just because they're "getting away with it" doesn't make the activity any less wrong, nor does it decrease the chances that you'll get caught, banned, lose commissions, fined, sued, etc.

BTW, if you're doing something that could land you in court, saying "but everyone else does it" to the judge will go over like a lead balloon.


Now, "it" could refer to anything. On this forum, "it" often means...




1. Illegally using someone else's trademark in your domain names, product names, marketing etc. *

Just because you know someone who's never been caught illegally using a trademark doesn't make it all right for you to do it too. And just because a company may not actively chase down trademark infringements today doesn't mean they won't do so in the future.

BTW -- I've actually seen some people advocating using trademark names, because "if the company wants it, they'll send a cease and desist. Then you can just stop doing using it, no biggy."

Not always. They don't have to. Yes, many companies do just send the cease and desist because it's a quicker, cheaper way to deal with it. But they can skip the cease and desist and sue instead, if they want.

*Wondering what constitutes "illegal" use of someone's trademark? Ask your lawyer.

Otherwise, don't come crying to us if and when you lose your domain or get into legal hot water.





2. Trying to circumvent some of the WF's rules.

Example: Just because you see someone post affiliate links in their sig doesn't mean the rules have suddenly changed and that it's now all right for you to do the same. It just means no one has noticed that person yet. Well, you noticed them -- so do your job as a member mod and hit the "report" button.





3. Trying to circumvent the TOS of other sites.

This includes PayPal, Google, the social media sites, other forums, blogs... and any and all sites you use. Just because "everyone else" gets away with breaking their TOS doesn't make it all right for you to do it too.

Don't come crying to us if and when you lose your account or you get banned.





4. Infringing on someone else's copyright, plagiarizing, etc.*

You see someone stripping names off articles and posting them on their blog as their own. Or altering someone else's video for their own gain. Since "everyone does it," should you do it too?

Uhhh, no.

BTW -- I feel like Captain Obvious saying "no," but some folks don't have a firm grasp of the obvious.

*And once again, if you have questions about what constitutes "infringement," ask your lawyer.

Which reminds me...




5. Taking legal advice from forum members and random strangers.

People post legal questions here from time to time, such as "can I get sued if I do this?" Or, "I'm getting sued - what should I do next?"

Since "everyone" posts on forums seeking legal advice, should you too?

Heavens no. And for Pete's sake, don't actually follow any of the advice! The only legal advice you should follow on a forum is this: "Talk to an attorney."

A real one. With a bar number (where applicable) and a diploma. You'll get much better advice from a lawyer than you'll get from "skateboardguy2948" and "grrrlsrule17."





6. Making outrageous claims.

Ah, so you just received an email from your favorite marketer. And he used some pretty big and unsubstantiated claims in the email. You know for a fact that this person's marketing activities -- like your own -- fall under a regulatory body like the FTC. And you're pretty sure this marketer's email crossed the line so far that he can't even see the line any more.

So, if Joe Guru makes wild claims and can get away with it, then surely you can too since you're not even as visible in the market... right?

Buzz, wrong, thanks for playing.

Forget about what Joe Guru is doing because he's not above the law. Whether he gets caught or not has no bearing on whether you'll get caught or not if you make claims that go against the FTC regulations.

As usual, talk to your lawyer.

And if you don't talk to an attorney and persist in knowingly skirting TOS, your local laws and your local regulations, don't come back here to complain that you got caught and no one else did.

Cheers,
Becky
#excuse
  • Profile picture of the author mello
    R Hagel

    Stating the bleeding obvious isn't it, but sadly necessary. Integrity in internet marketing ... is that an anachronism now? Great post.
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  • Profile picture of the author R Hagel
    mello -- as I mentioned in the OP, I do feel like Captain Obvious. And yet I see people doing things like using or even flipping domain names with obvious trademark infringement. When confronted, the excuse is, "everyone does it" or "I've never seen the company take anyone's domain away."

    I think most recently I saw that excuse in regards to Twitter. These folks said that there are a LOT of other marketers using "Twitter" in their domain names, etc so it must be ok and that Twitter must not mind.

    It's true that a lot of folks do it. But there's nothing stopping Twitter from deciding that they'll pull together a legal team tomorrow for the sole purpose of tracking down these sort of trademark violations.

    As the saying goes, common sense isn't all that common.

    Cheers,
    Becky
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  • Profile picture of the author Gene Pimentel
    Very well said Becky. Thanks for spelling it all out in detail... I will keep this URL and refer people to it whenever I run into these questions that seem to pop in to so many discussions on the forum. Good stuff.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeff Williams
    Great post. I think we've all seen a more pervasive attitude of entitlement these days. And taking personal responsibility for one's actions is quickly becoming more of a rarity, especially online.

    Frankly, I admire people that believe in the credo, "The buck stops here". Not only do they take 100% responsibility for their own actions, but also for the actions of their subordinates. That includes coaches, managers, politicians, CEOs and so on.

    Should one of their players, employees, etc. make a mistake, they quickly step up to the plate to take the blame. You just don't see that very much these days. Sometimes, it seems that today's SOP is to "cover your butt" and point fingers elsewhere.

    That said, I'd be willing to bet most marketers "infringing" are small 1-2 man operations. And I wonder how "loose" they would run their businesses if they had say 50 in-house employees who depend on them for their livelihood ... or if their company's tactics were suddenly cast into the media spotlight.

    Makes me wonder.

    ~Jeff

    P.S. - Nice sig file, Becky
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    • Profile picture of the author R Hagel
      Originally Posted by Jeff Williams View Post

      And taking personal responsibility for one's actions is quickly becoming more of a rarity, especially online.
      For sure.

      It's like when someone goes blasting through a 45 MPH zone at 60 MPH. Then when the cop pulls them over, they say, "How come I got pulled over and no one else did? Others were going MUCH faster than me -- in fact, I was just trying to keep up! Dang cops have unsolved murders in this city -- and yet they have enough time to trap speeders!"

      I see that when people get banned or whatever -- "but he did it too! Why didn't he get banned? He's been doing it longer!"

      People need to realize, again, that just because one person doesn't get banned, fined, sued, etc has no bearing on whether you'll get banned, fined, sued, etc.



      Nice sig file, Becky
      I almost changed it to "Jeff Williams Sucks" just to make people think you're nuts for saying that. LOL j/k


      cheers,
      Becky
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  • Profile picture of the author jacktackett
    I miss the buy a beer button oh so much right now. If I'm dreaming I might dream about a vote as a stickie button too.....

    Nice Post Becky - it should be required reading for all newbies- and maybe a refresher for folks too.

    Cheers!
    --Jack
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    • Profile picture of the author Kitty Kiki
      Originally Posted by jacktackett View Post

      I miss the buy a beer button oh so much right now. If I'm dreaming I might dream about a vote as a stickie button too.....

      Nice Post Becky - it should be required reading for all newbies- and maybe a refresher for folks too.

      Cheers!
      --Jack

      Yeah..it is definitely a good post.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ruth P
    This is a very good post, something I also think about quite a lot. Especially the point about plagiarism - it's become so widespread online that some people don't even hesitate to do it anymore. And I even usually keep quiet about it because people are never happy to hear it brought up.

    So good on you for bringing up the topics that people don't seem to want to hear.
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  • Profile picture of the author Hamish Jones
    It's amazing how many people seem to think that these rules don't apply to them isn't it.

    I especially like the legal advice one. I mean, how exactly do you know who is on the other end of the post? It could be anybody with no legal qualifications whatsoever.

    Great post.

    Cheers,

    Hamish
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    • Profile picture of the author R Hagel
      Thanks to everyone who posted in this thread with your thoughts!

      Let me quickly address a few specific posts:

      Originally Posted by Hamish Jones View Post

      I especially like the legal advice one. I mean, how exactly do you know who is on the other end of the post? It could be anybody with no legal qualifications whatsoever.
      That reminds me -- we did have someone come on this forum pretending to be a lawyer. Not only did she post "legal advice" here on the forum, I think she also took on clients. So, anyone taking legal advice -- from anyone -- better be sure the lawyer's credentials are in order.


      @Bev -- dang, it is getting to be three years old. Remind me again in another year.


      @John -- good examples of large companies skirting the law. In big companies, I think greed and a sense of invincibility comes into play. In small one-(wo)man operations there might be a touch of desperation at work.

      For example, someone is struggling to get his business going. Meanwhile, he hears all these stories of people pulling in big bucks doing something on the black hat side of things. He rationalizes that "everyone does it" so it can't be that bad. He rationalizes how it doesn't hurt anyone, and how his actions might actually help someone (like the forum profile spammers who suggest that forum owners should thank them for boosting their "traffic" and "membership"). And they start breaking the TOS of other sites.

      Some are genuinely surprised when they get caught, deleted and banned, because they rationalized their actions so much that they started to believe the garbage. Most get angry -- angry because their income source dried up (maybe even commissions were taken away), angry because they got caught, angry because no one else got caught.

      Most times, they're angry at everyone else except the one person who's truly to blame.

      Cheers,
      Becky
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  • Profile picture of the author Bev Clement
    Well said Becky, agreed nice signature

    When's the ideas report coming out my 2007 is out of date (don't tell anyone it's still useful)
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  • Profile picture of the author Bev Clement
    What cracked me us, was a person asking for tax advice for the UK. As I was a tax accountant in the UK I read the thread, some of the information the OP gave was amazing, and wrong. It turned out he was an accountant in the UK, but didn't know enough so he asked the question.

    An idiot is born everyday
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  • Profile picture of the author ocon9316
    Originally Posted by R Hagel View Post

    BTW, if you're doing something that could land you in court, saying "but everyone else does it" to the judge will go over like a lead balloon.
    God I would love to see an episode of Judge Judy where some dolt uses this as an excuse. Or even see someone in traffic court telling the judge "but EVERYONE ELSE SPEEDS!" The judge would probably be more than likely to levy a moron surcharge onto your fine.
    Signature

    Something funny, clever and original.

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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Originally Posted by Jeff Williams View Post

      That said, I'd be willing to bet most marketers "infringing" are small 1-2 man operations. And I wonder how "loose" they would run their businesses if they had say 50 in-house employees who depend on them for their livelihood ... or if their company's tactics were suddenly cast into the media spotlight.

      Makes me wonder.

      ~Jeff

      P.S. - Nice sig file, Becky
      Jeff, I got two words for you...

      Enron

      Worldcom

      I agree with the sig, by the way.
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