Dealing with Design Theft
November 2, 2004 at 8:25 PM
Simon Collison is in A quandary about web plagiarism. His story reminds me a lot of an experience I had not too long ago. I haven even written about this very issue back in 1999 when it started becoming a problem. Thankfully Simon's post reminded me to check that 148th attempt at design theft... and it turns out they finally did redesign their site. While the design still echoes Digital Web Magazine a little, it's not enough for it to matter anymore. Which brings me to the point of this post... I am by no means a copyright lawyer, however I do have a few techniques that can get someone to pull down a stolen design quite quickly... or at least elicit a reply and action from the offending party. If your design has been stole, let me know and I'll give you some artillery.
So where is the line between "inspiration" and "plagiarism"? Not knowing the extent of Collylogic's accused "plagiarism", It's hard to know where the line is. I suppose it's like porn, you just know it when you see it. I've viewed lots of CSS/HTML - I do it often when I see something interesting or unique, and sometimes it even makes it into a web application or site I build. But suppose I like the background color and font selection in your body tag and use it on my site, do I get a C&D letter from an Attorney? How about if I size my floating main content section the same as yours, or the proportion of content to navigation? Does that cross the line? Seems to me that design theft is in the eye of the beholder, or Judge if it sadly goes that far.
How exactly should an individual protect a design? Is it enough just to write "copyright"?
Mark, I take your point, but in this case it's as follows: Imagine you make a beautiful painting. You sort out the subject, the composition, the palette, the works. Then, another painter comes along and essentially copies two thirds of it. I mean copies. The site's code and main/sidebars are like a Xerox. That's not "liking the background color and font selection" - it's blanket cheating.
Mark, I have to agree with Colly's comments here. I don't care if you take my font selection or color scheme, but man, if you are going to take my whole damn site at least take my logo off of it, or remove my name from the meta tags. Maybe changing a color or the shape of the tabs would be good. Seriously.