This Simple Mistake Can Ruin Your Business


We’ve all made mistakes in the first few months of business. But you know what breaks a business more than celebrating before your milestones, or relying on it financially when you don’t have any back-up, it’s using other people’s property.

But somehow, it’s an easy mistake to make. When you first start, you get so carried away with the logistics and the dream, you forget that even just taking inspiration heavily from somewhere can get you in trouble.

This is something that even Kylie Jenner is learning. Earlier this month, Jenner announced the launch of her holiday makeup collection and with the release of her latest accompanying promotional images, Jenner and Kylie Cosmetics have received some major negative attention.

Following the release of Jenner’s campaign photography, makeup artist Vlada Haggerty and her photographer Julia Kuzmenko McKim have surfaced to point out the stark similarities between their work and the latest photos published by Kylie Cosmetics. Subsequently, Haggerty is reportedly threatening to file a lawsuit against Jenner, according to TMZ.

The thing is, it might not actually be illegal.

You need to know the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement!

Plagiarism involves using someone’s words or ideas without credit, in the case of the Kylie photo it seems she took inspiration from an idea, which is tricky. It can involve copyright infringement also –  it’s quite a thin line. Copying a minor proportion of a work is considered fair use.

It means you can use small portions of copyrighted material without permission for purposes such as criticism, parody, comment, reporting and teaching. You can also use a portion of work in a transformative piece (did you know that?) so, for example, using a photo in part of a larger collage. As long as it transforms the piece. It’s murky waters, though. 

For example, Melania Trump’s speech that was similar to Michelle Obama’s. That counts as plagiarism. She changed the words, but it was still very close. Kathleen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says the speech would qualify as plagiarism. “There’s a certain amount of content in political speeches that’s the same.” Culver said on “But in this case there are particular turns of phrase that just make it too close.”

There have been tons of famous instances of plagiarism/copyright infringement from music where melodies are far too similar to books and poems that are essentially the same.

What if you do it without realizing? 

This is any small business owner’s biggest fear, I’m sure. To take an idea and find out it’s already been done. There is something called cryptomnesia. The definition of cryptomnesia is a forgotten memory that returns without being recognized as such by the subject, who believes it’s something new and original. Meaning a great plot line, poem, song, story, essay, article, can be something you’d read before.

So will Kylie be sued?

A photo posted by Vlada Haggerty (@vladamua) on


Well, the idea or concept of the photo cannot be protected by copyright laws. So she can copy the idea but she cannot use the photo as her own.

TMZ reports that Haggerty probably doesn’t have any legal backing.  Images are protected by copyright laws, rather than ideas. Still, nobody wants to be accused of being unoriginal!


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Sameeha Shaikh

Graduate of English, avid writer and long-time lover of postcolonial literature, James Baldwin and iced caramel macchiato.

  • MihaBalan

    I can understand Vlada Haggerty being not happy about someone else copying her ideas and work. I would be too but aside from that Kylie also has another and probably better way of promoting her make up than Vlada Haggerty. Which is also a big part of having a successful business, I would say. :D

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