The internet is an insanely powerful tool; it can do so much good, but it can cause great harm, too. Something that runs rampant on the internet is copyright infringement. As anyone who has ever published any type of copyable content on the web knows, it happens, it’s inevitable, and you could spend your whole day attempting to police it.
There is the day-to-day problem of individuals republishing your content on their blogs, social networks, and the like. It’s annoying, but it’s probably not severely damaging and less likely done with real harm intended. It’s not good. Copy and paste is your friend, but don’t forget to copy and paste the source of your content, too (and make sure you’re allowed to take such content and republish it). This is why I do appreciate things like Pinterest’s bookmarklet that automatically grabs the source so you can share easily but still attribute the work to the original author.
But there are more serious violations, and it happens when brands and corporations, who should know better, do so. About two years ago, e.l.f. cosmetics sent out a newsletter to their subscribers. I had several readers forward me the newsletter, because there was an unauthorized photo of my eye used in it (you can actually still view here. It sucks to have it copied without permission, but it sucks even more beceause the photo didn’t use any e.l.f. products and therefore I felt it was very misleading. e.l.f. also has at least two instances of using my images on their website (under Beauty Tips here for “Island Glow” and “Has your beautician messed up your eyebrows?”).
It took around six weeks to get a response out of e.l.f. regarding the newsletter image usage, and they apologized and said it was a mistake. Except, you know, that it was done twice more on their website, and those instances were never, ever addressed by the brand and despite the steps I’ve taken, they remain there. (It is, for the record, probably likely that whoever is in charge of sourcing the images did a Google Images source and copied and pasted willy-nilly.) These are the reasons why I do not feature e.l.f. on Temptalia; e.l.f. as a company needs to accept responsibility for the actions of their employees or design teams and remedy them, not ignore or perpetuate those activities.
Swatch & Learn and The Swatchaholic have recently experienced something similar: Sinful Colors (nail polish brand available at mass) used their images without permission and published them in promotional pamphlets (and neither of them used Sinful Colors in their images!). Parent company Revlon recently addressed this matter this morning seemingly only a day or so behind when the incident was discovered–which is pretty quick for a major corporation like Revlon. What resolution Revlon works out with the individual bloggers is their matter, and ultimately what makes each blogger feel whole again is also their matter. (I just became aware of this incident this AM when reader Athena asked me about it and was starting to write something when Revlon posted on their Facebook.)
In all likelihood, somebody working on the pamphlet is at fault, and that person is hopefully found out and learns their lesson. I can’t imagine the CEO of Revlon sitting at their desk going over something as minute as promotional imagery used in a subsidiary brand, can you? But it does speak to the larger issue of how easy it is to use someone else’s work and pretend like it’s yours or that you have the rights to it.
Education of what you can and cannot do with other people’s images/content is what’s going to prevent future incidents like these. This is not legal advice (speak with your legal team/lawyer if you want to understand what is and isn’t copyright infringement). When it comes to the etiquette of republishing content, the bare minimum is to provide a link to the original source and some indicating that they’re the actual source. If it’s somebody’s 100% original content, say a blog post and photos, it is unlikely that it’s okay for you to take the whole thing and put it on your blog. You might consider sharing an image or an excerpt from the post and then linking to it, so that people read and visit the original author’s site. You wouldn’t take someone else’s image and put your own watermark on it.
Brands need to make their teams aware that taking images without permissions is not allowed and it’s a bad practice (which could potentially cost them money, least of all customer loyalty). I plead with brands to take five minutes to ask permission and work out those details, because getting caught is so much worse. Instead of using Google Images and taking whatever you see of there (which is NOT your stock photo library!), cough up a few bucks for stock photography or use Compfight and look for images with the right permissions.
Update @ 7/26: I received this yesterday afternoon, but I just received permission to republish it this morning. e.l.f. reached out to be with this email:
Christine, My name is Joey Shamah and I am the CEO of e.l.f. cosmetics. I am writing in response to your blog “Copycat, Copycat when will it end” – We are in agreement that intellectual property is sacred and should not be reused and misrepresented by companies or individuals. We also concur that as companies grow and workload gets divided, it is not expected of all executives to review all creatives that the company puts out.
That being said, I can only apologize if an outsourced creative designer unethically took your images and misrepresented them as our own. I can assure you this that actions like these are not condoned by the company and we have built our business with fair and just business practices.
Regarding your decision on not featuring elf, I would ask that you reconsider – although I understand if you dont. I would hate for your readers and followers to miss out on a great brand because of the action of one individual. Thank you for your time
P.S. – all images have been taken down from our site – the email link you sent is being taken down momentarily. we are contacting our ESP provider to make sure it is removed asap.
Emily Dalton, one of the co-founders of Jack Black emailed me this afternoon. I told her I’d be happy to share Jack Black’s response with readers, and her response is below. It is very much appreciated to get an official response from the brand, and I hope it helps create a fuller picture.
First, we are very sorry for not previously having the ingredient information easier to access. All of our products, except the lip balm, have always listed the full ingredients. And, in response to what we have heard today from your readers about how important it is to have this
information online, we will be posting complete ingredient information on our website as soon as possible.
We had previously not provided all of the information on the lip balm package because of the extremely small size of the tube. However, with the new sunscreen monograph ruling, which became effective last year, we realized we needed to do more to provide our customers with more detailed labeling and the ingredient list on the package. When we became aware of the new guidelines, we immediately moved to provide the complete list of ingredients on the lip balm package and we increased the size of the lip balm tube to accommodate this. All of our current inventory has the updated labeling.
We are truly sorry and did not mean to mislead anyone. That was definitely not our intention. We’re a small, closely held company. Each of the founders are very involved in the day to day operations of the company, and we take total responsibility for this issue. We have grown over the past 12 years thanks to the loyalty of our customers and their satisfaction with our carefully crafted products. It’s very disheartening to see how this oversight has caused so many concerns and issues for our customers. This is extremely upsetting for us, as each person at our company cares deeply about the integrity of our products and doing the right thing for our customers.
I hope you will share this with your readers and let them know that we would greatly appreciate the opportunity to personally apologize to anyone who is unhappy with our company. Please let them know, they can email their contact information to email@example.com and we would be happy to talk with them directly.
In summary: Jack Black will be adding full ingredient lists for all of their products on their website (full ingredient lists for their lip balms are already added and viewable). The only product that did not have a full ingredient list printed on the packaging was their Lip Balm. They have increased the size of the tube in order to print the full list of ingredients and that all current inventory reflects these changing.
Reader Lolaris asked me whether I had heard about an incident with Jack Black, concerning one of my most beloved products, their Lip Balm, in today’s Temptalia Asks You. I hadn’t, but I was extremely disappointed with what I learned. Jack Black Lip Balm was sold in tubes with shrink wrap packaging but no box. On the back of each tube, there are ingredients, both active and “other” ingredients (I suppose that since it didn’t say “Inactive” I should have known it was incomplete…). The list on the tube matches the list found on retailers like Sephora, SkinStore, etc. that have a breakdown of ingredients under “Ingredients.”
There are times where brands do not give out ingredient lists online about a product, and they may call attention to the most beneficial ingredients, but this is almost always done as a marketing method and as part of the description. Jack Black, on the other hand, has a list of good-for-you ingredients that looks very much like the ingredient list. After reading through some of the comments made by Jack Black on their Facebook page (not users’ comments, the brand’s comments addressing this incident), it is a disheartening event.
Jack Black indicated that they recently changed the packaging to comply with FDA regulations and apologized for causing confusion. Here is their comment:
“The lip balm formula has not changed, what did change is the package labeling. We made a packaging labeling change recently, as required by FDA regulations, and that may have led to the confusion about some of the ingredients. We apologize for the confusion that was created when we made this change and are sending you a private message with more details.”
Not only is it extremely “confusing” to have ingredient lists on your product that look and feel like real ingredient lists (not “and includes good for ya things like shea butter and avocado oil!”) when it’s incomplete, but worsened when the retailers that carry your product are listing that same incomplete list as the seen on the tube. How can you apologize for creating confusion when the real ingredient list is nowhere to be found–until it starts getting printed on the box? (I imagine it has something to do with the recent FDA regulations regarding SPF labeling.) There is no reference on the tube that for full ingredient list, contact the company, go online, etc. (And their website does not provide any ingredient list for the lip balm.)
Sephora lists it being free of a laundry list of ingredients/types of ingredients, and SkinStore listed it as fragrance-free (but there is “Parfum” in it) — so I don’t know if both retailers are going off of the ingredients’ list that they have posted for all the world to see in order to make these determinations. The description of the product on Jack Black’s retail website does not make the claims re: ingredients that Sephora/SkinStore do. But even though the lip balm is now packaged with the full list of ingredients, I’d like to see retailers have updated ingredient lists listed online, too.
Ingredient Lists Found on Retailers’ Websites & Back of the Tube
Lemon & Chamomile Flavor
Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.5%, Avobenzone 3.0%.
Other Ingredients: Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Fruit, Persea Gratissima Avocado Oil, Prunus Amgdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Oil, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E).
Lemon & Chamomile Flavor
Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.5%, Avobenzone 3.0%.
Inactive Ingredients: Petrolatum, Laolin Oil, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Ehylhexl Methoxycinnamate, Cera Alba, Ozokerite, Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax, Butyl Methoxydibenzoyl-methane, Parfum, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, C18-38 Alkyl Hydroxystearoyl Stearate, Perse Gratissima (Avocado Oil), Tocopheryl Acetate, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Microcrystallina Cera, Cyclopentasiloxane, Camellia Sinesis Leaf Extract, Cyclohexasiloxane, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Benzoate, Citral, Citronellol, Coumarin, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalol
[This is another ingredient list that is printed on the back of the tubes.]
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Lanolin (13.5%), Octinoxate (7.5%), Petrolatum (40.2%).
Inactive Ingredients: Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Beeswax, Ozokerite, Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Persia Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, C18-38 Alkyl Hydroxystearoyl Stearate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Cyclopentasiloxane, Microcrystallina Wax, Camellia Sinesis Leaf Extract, Cyclohexasiloxane
Update: Reader Emi took photos of her tube (you can check out the photos below), but noteworthy is that lanolin (13%) and petrolatum (40.2%) are listed as active ingredients.
As a customer/consumer, I didn’t buy the lip balm for the ingredients, but I am not a consumer who does more than a casual skim over of ingredient lists as I’m not particularly sensitive to ingredients and there is only one ingredient that I look to minimize (silicone). However, there are many people who do read ingredient lists thoroughly for a variety reasons that range from being informed, curious, to more serious ones – like a lifestyle choice that might involve not using certain ingredients for philosophical or health purposes. This is why having access to an ingredient list is important and necessary.
I could go on a real rant tangent right now about the general unavailability of ingredient lists online for products on a whole, which is something that I can’t believe isn’t required by law (it’s already on the packaging — why can’t you make it accessible on your website). I will try to hold that back. Consumers aren’t stupid, so don’t treat us that way. Sorry for confusion? When your ingredient list is really double the length of what you have printed and published on the product people buy and in the places that people buy said product in, I think that amounts to more than confusion.
I would have bought and loved the lip balm if I had known the real ingredient list, because I don’t have a problem with what is in it. But now I’m extremely disappointed because I’ve been recommending this particular product over and over again to readers who may be more concerned with the actual ingredient list. I’m not ready to boycott, but it is a strike against them; something I will remember and keep an eye on, and I’ll be certainly be far more active about finding the next-best-lip-balm.
At the very least, it was serious and meaningful enough to me for the very fact that I’ve listed it as a holy grail beauty item for sometime, and I wanted to make sure that anybody that I may have recommended this to who also tried and enjoyed it, is aware of what exactly is in it, so they can determine if it’s still the right product for them.
P.S. — I think all consumers want is a little truth in advertising, more realistic claims, and an apology if a brand has done something wrong–a little acknowledgement and promise to do better would go a long way. Most aren’t going to hold a lifetime grudge, but the more you treat your customer like they’re stupid, the more likely they will.
Making Money and How to Get Press Samples
These aren’t exactly my favorite topics to talk about, because I think that focusing on them can undermine the genuine passion and effort that a lot of beauty bloggers put into their blogs, but they are certainly important pieces of a larger puzzle. If it’s something you want to do full-time, it has to be a viable full-time job, which means you do need to earn money. There are also expenses like products, equipment, hosting, and technical expertise.
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Setting Up, What You Need, How to Get Readers
If you promise not to share it with anyone else, I’ll give you the magic secret to having a successful beauty blog! Are you ready? Remember, don’t tell anyone — I could get into big trouble for spilling all. Okay, the secret is high quality content and hard work pay off. Usually. Sometimes you need something called opportunity. For me, opportunity was coming in like gangbusters during a time when beauty blogging was just gaining its feet; not so early on that brands had no clue what blogs were, but early enough where there were fewer beauty blogs. Opportunity is often seeing what is needed and meeting that need before anyone else does.
It’s a tough nut to crack now. Sometimes, I just want to tell someone not to get into beauty blogging and find another niche that you’re equally passionate about. It’s completely saturated (and some argue over-saturated), which means that becoming successful takes longer and requires more work than it used to. It is not impossible, but it’s unlikely you’ll be an overnight sensation, or even an over-year sensation. If it’s a hobby, just a place for you to periodically share your thoughts, go for it; but if you’re really looking to make something out of it, just be prepared for an uphill battle. If you stick with it, the outcome is totally worth it! Beauty blogging is rather addictive
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Introduction: How I Started
The most frequent question I get (seriously!) is, “How do I start my own blog?” followed by a few questions in the same vein. I’m not always able to answer everyone in detail, so I thought putting together a series of posts would be helpful for those interested, and then I can point future inquiries to a really in-depth answer! I thought the best way to start would be to tell you where and how I started, to give you a better idea of who I am, what level of knowledge I have, and how things have changed.
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