September 20: Post updated with new posts being added to NickMom with improperly used images, and the Nickelodeon response.

September 15: Post updated with response from NickMom below, as well as issues with parent bloggers’ pictures of their children being discovered used without permission.

be original

I don’t even know where to start, so I think the beginning is best. In February 2006, I was put on bed rest while I was pregnant with my twins. I couldn’t work my day job anymore (it was just writing/reporting/database building as a special projects reporter at a newspaper, so that was weird). I had this vision of a site for moms. Not one of the cute sites with pastel colors where people with PhDs and no children would teach us how to change a diaper. No, a real site for real moms. A site for moms who have brains, who have an identity beyond the butt wiping. A site for moms who have this crazy notion that we can have it all, that we should have it all. That we would determine our fate, what hours we worked, whether we could attend our child’s school recital in the middle of the day.

I agonized over the name. I Googled. I Thesaurus’d. I scribbled into a notebook. And then it struck me.

Type-A Mom.

The over-achiever. The driven, brilliant, earth-mover. The early adopter. The change maker. The geek. The mom who would never accept being forced to choose: mom or person.

This was in the sidebar of the site in one of its earliest incarnations (both the text and the image):

Type-A MomHi Mom! You work hard, you play hard. You juggle life and love and kids, and you do it all with style. You wipe butts and kick butt. You’re a Type-A Mom! Type-A Mom is a site designed to be created and maintained by the real know-it-alls in parenting, the moms.

Join first to connect with our community of moms. Don’t just read articles, but write them (and earn money for doing it!). This site has no investors. This isn’t a “mom” site run by men in suits. This site is run by a mom , and all the moms here get a cut in its success. It’s time to get real, moms!

In my mind since yesterday, I have been going over and over what to say. How to characterize the years, YEARS, of butt-busting, toiling, working to grow with nothing but sweat because who has a marketing budget? To become now a site where hundreds, maybe thousands, of people have contributed. People have blogged here and gone on to be major A-list social media influencers. Type-A is now a conference going on its fifth year. It is now more inclusive for both moms and dads, with Type-A Parent.

And then this happened. Nickelodeon’s NickMoms trampled all over my brand name. They blatantly ripped off How to Be a Dad. Then they refused to acknowledge it. Then they removed the How to Be a Dad rip-off, but refused to remove the image they posted on sites like Pinterest. They refused to remove the post referencing Type-A Mom, or even answer me in any way. Then they kind of sort of didn’t apologize but said something on the record that was approved by a team of Viacom lawyers, but to How to Be a Dad and not me.

Then they admitted that it wasn’t an honest mistake. Oh, no. They have known about me and the Type-A Mom brand for years.

I have written, spoken and talked about social media and how best to handle things like this. They want to target PARENTS. They clearly want to target bloggers and online/digital parents.

Why not simply remove it, apologize, even reply in social networks, and be done with it? So many brands have turned episodes like this into a positive. They are not.

I have tweeted them. I have tagged their Facebook page. Yesterday, they gave Amy Lupold Bair an email address (because it is so distasteful having people question their ethics publicly), so I emailed them. I haven’t heard back.

But I am Type-A Mom. When I started, no one was using this phrase. I searched it. I kept Google Alerts. It was only in the last 2-3 years that it has become used commonly.

I spent years explaining to people that it isn’t “type-uh-mom.” Probably one of the most frequent questions I get during interviews is how I came up with the name and what it means.

I think the worst thing in all of this is that some bloggers are saying my brand name isn’t distinctive. Wow. I can’t imagine ever telling someone their brand name isn’t distinctive.

Type-A Mom and Type-A Parent are original. Sure, type-A personality was around. It is the PAIRING of the two that is distinctive. Many, many distinctive businesses and brands incorporate common terms. For example:

  • 5 minutes is surely common, but there is no doubt who you mean in this space when you say 5 Minutes for Mom.
  • Resourceful is a pretty well-known word, but Resourceful Mommy will always be Amy’s business.
  • Blissful and domestic are both extremely common words, but who in social media would question what you mean when you say Blissfully Domestic?
  • Apple. Enough said?
  • Amazon. How many of you were even thinking river?

I constantly tell people to protect their business, and now I am going to do the same. There is even a blogger using Type-A Mom in her name. It would be wonderful if I didn’t have to ask people to do the right thing, if they would just respect that I created, built and grew Type-A Mom and Type-A Parent into what it is today and come up with their own unique brand or content.

Beyond all of this, in business I think it is best to be original.

I always strive to do this. Some of the best business people I know do this. Some of the business people who made history did this.

Innovate, originate. Don’t copy. 

Yes, I understand at this point in our society many things have been done. But just look at some of the innovations we still see. In a choice, do something new (or certainly something old done in such a fresh, new way as to reinvent it) versus regurgitating someone else’s concepts.

Be you.

Be uniquely, deliciously, splendidly, wonderfully you.

Update on September 15

Three days after Amy’s post and after several of us tweeted to the NickMom account about these concerns, I received this email this morning:

Dear Kelby,
I’m Bronwen O’Keefe, the Senior Vice President of Nickmom.  I am responsible for the website and forthcoming TV block.  I wanted to personally let you know that I am very sorry for what happened.  It was never our intention to offend you or appear disrespectful of your work.  I also regret that we didn’t reach out to you sooner.

I hope that you will accept my apology, and as further evidence that I mean what I say, we have taken down the graphic.

Sincerely,
Bronwen O’Keefe

I am pleased they finally removed the post. I am thrilled they apologized (as I wasn’t sure that would happen). This is a great response, respectful and worded nicely. This should have come three days ago. I am not pleased that it took this long, that they were initially dismissive and then ignored the matter, and that they reached out to several other people before contacting the How to Be a Dad bloggers and I.

Since this blew up, however, other bloggers have discovered their own images (many times images they posted of their own children!) have been stolen and used without their being contacted for permission. In one instance, the blogger’s watermark on a picture of her with her children on the first day of school was covered by NickMom with big block letters. I would highly recommend that you conduct a search in Google with the following: site:nickmom.com yourblogname. You can do a few variations (like blogname.com, blogname). They have via and site name in many instances. See Amy’s post for instructions on how to request its removal.

Further Update if You Find Your Image on NickMom Site

In a reply email when I inquired about this issue, Bronwen O’Keefe said to contact them to alert if you have an image used without your permission at copyright@mtvn.com. She said that “all emails will be acted upon.”

And it continues…. September 20 Update

I get that it takes time for a major corporation to correct errors like this. In fact, the bulk of the NickMom site seems to be improperly used images… images used without permission, and many times which credit a social bookmarking site where the original image was shared instead of the original creator.

Let me make this very clear: a social sharing or indexing site, such as Reddit or Google Images or Tumblr, is NOT an image’s source.

So last night, when it was brought to my attention that NEW content is being created that continues to improperly use images, I contacted them again. Amy Lupold Bair did as well with her own questions. I mean, as I said, I understand it could take time to vet prior posts. It should NOT be an issue to prevent new ones from being posted.

Here is what I sent:

I wanted to check on any progress to address the issue of stolen images/photos used without permission on the NickMom site. I am extremely concerned to see that past posts with images used without permission not only remain, but that new posts have since been added since this all came to light that are clearly not properly sourced (Reddit is never a source, any more than Google image search would be, for example, but regardless Reddit via links don’t even take one directly to a share there)… but I have to presume if the new posts are not properly sourced, they are again being used without proper permission.

Are there any plans to remove all stolen content? Or is Nickelodeon taking the approach of only removing stolen images when notified? I have many bloggers asking if there has been an update, so I would really like to explain precisely what action is being taken currently (and if there is an ETA on any changes being seen on the site).

Here was my reply:

Interestingly enough, Amy at Resourceful Mommy checked with a similar request for an update, so I will share with you what I shared with her.

We have actually been working hard on a full process review, and while that takes time to fully complete, I can tell you we are taking positive steps forward.
We have the copyright@mtvn.com email, which is our company’s mailbox for individual copyright owners with copyright concerns. I would encourage you to feel free to make that address available to anyone coming to you so we can talk to them directly about any issues they may have.

I have had some conversations already, and they have been very productive and positive for everyone. We are also making improvements to the training program for stable of bloggers and contributors, which will strengthen the baseline understanding of our expectations.

I want you to know that we unequivocally take our work and reputation seriously, and I am confident we are headed in the right direction. The conversations we have been having, internally , and with partners, and with a growing number of bloggers in the community, are facilitating that.

In addition, we look forward to any recommendations you may have for funny bloggers who may want to contribute.

Let me be also be clear about something else. They did what I asked. I technically have no beef with them personally. BUT I remain very concerned about a major corporation stealing creations of bloggers, including images parent bloggers have posted of their own children. What a violation! The fact that the higher-ups have been alerted (and it has been a week-plus) and nothing has happened with the old content is bad enough. The fact that there is still new content being created is disturbing and alarming.

At this point, I am not sure what more we can do. Tell Nickmom on Twitter (@nickmom) how you feel about this. Check for any of your own stolen images and report them. But I would expect a corporation to use due diligence and be sure they are not improperly using images without permission and with improper credit on their website. If you know anyone in the media or online news, entertainment or social media sites, let them know about this story.

And? Look at what this blogger did to stand up for bloggers and their content. 

Photo of apples, © Pixelbliss – Fotolia.com
Photo of woman, © Audrey Johnson via SXC