Joshua Blankenship on Copying

November 19, 2009 by

If you’re not familiar with Joshua Blankenship, he’s the web guru behind the scenes at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C.

A couple times recently, he’s tackled the difficult question of churches, copying and the problems that come along for the ride. We have wrestled with this question a few times recently. But it’s always worth another visit.

He answers the question, why does it hurt you to “borrow” from other churches’ web sites?

Because you’re borrowing a voice and thought process that isn’t you … if you homogenize the end-product without understanding the process that led to the original, your website will reflect who you actually are less and less. You’ll keep being you in person, because you can’t help it. But your website will be someone else. And that dissonance is eventually perceivable.

Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that a web site is about looking snazzy or having the newest technology. And what’s important is for your church’s web site to fit with your visual style. But in reality, it’s so much more than that. Your web site likely has two simple goals:

  • Communicate the character and personality of your church.
  • Inform people how they can connect more deeply at your church.

When you copy someone else’s web site, you try to communicate your information their way. You’re a turtle who found a good-looking hermit crab shell, and you’re trying to fit inside. The idea is that it’s a big hurt, pain and drain on the church who is getting ripped off, but Joshua has a different perspective on this, too:

Ultimately, copying doesn’t affect the person being ripped nearly as much as the one doing the copying. After all, rarely is the faux as compelling as the original. But when you copy, you do yourself a disservice. You cease to do work. You cease to be inspired. You stop trying.

When you copy, you never learn how to learn.

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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7 Responses to “Joshua Blankenship on Copying”

  • Josh
    November 19, 2009

    I don’t advocate anyone breaking copyright law. I don’t think any church should use anyone else’s intellectual property without permission (and possibly a license fee too).
    I do want to advocate that churches that create good work should let go of it when they no longer need it.
    There are some churches that devote significant creative resources into work they use for a single event or emphasis. They know, after the event is over, that they will never use that particular art again.
    I believe, as members of one community, one body, that when a church has no further use for their creative work, they should convert the copyright license to allow use and modification by other churches.
    Not all churches have the creative resources to produce great art for all of their events, promotions, etc. What a ministry it would be to see some churches, who have art they will not use again, to release that work for others.

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  • Steve
    November 19, 2009

    Great post. I posted something similar here
    Personally, I think that if a church somewhere has created something that suits another churches context and culture and enables them to reach people then we should have a creative commons type system where the resources and love can be shared around.
    It’s not necessarily about being lazy, but sometimes wise with available talent, time and resources too.

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  • JamesBrett
    November 19, 2009

    A bit off the subject, but how do we feel about churches copying successful ad campaigns in the secular world? I wonder if that’s not a bigger problem? The leadership of a believing community seeing something that is successful in corporate America or on television, and emulating it.
    I’m honestly not exactly sure how I feel about it (though I’m leaning one way), but what’s really sad is that, it seems to me, churches generally don’t even do a good job of reproducing whatever it is they were trying to cash in on. Some idea “borrowed” from popular culture for lack of creativity (?), and then awkwardly duplicated so that it comes across as substandard and inferior…
    Youth group t-shirts and retreat titles come to mind.

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  • Tracie
    November 20, 2009

    We recently paid someone to help us create a logo and website, but it is not coming together the way that we had hoped. Any feedback would be appreciated.

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  • The problem is, nothing succeeds like success. Although the web is new, the sentiment is old.
    Years ago, I sat in a “creative” meeting with a graphic artist who was being paid to rip off Amy Grant’s Age to Age album cover for another musician. And we’ve all seen Christian books that have copied the “Left Behind” series covers.
    So if ABC Church has a cool 15-second flash intro on their site surrounded by a dark blue shimmering border, you can bet XYZ Church is going to want one also.
    Imitation is the sincerest form of lack of originality.

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  • Ted
    November 22, 2009

    If churches knew just how easily the FBI could fine a church out of existence for software piracy, copyright infringement and the like, they’d innovate ALOT more.
    One phone call is all it would take. ONE.

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  • Rob Alfonso
    November 24, 2009

    Regarding your want for feedback on the site. I recognized instantly your problem and confirmed when I saw who did the site. People always think “I need a website, so I will go to an IT guy” which appears what you did, so they know how to build a website but don’t know branding, marketing, graphics or any combination thereof. Honestly if you haven’t finished the project, close it out, (tell them you want to go a diff direction) and then work towards having someone who will do more than throw some code together for you. It may not be cheap but it will be worth it. It looks like youre a bit of a hip trendy church so your site really is going to need to lineup with that as your target members will identify strongly with a good site.
    I wish you the best of luck.

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