It Makes Me Sad

Thursday, January 8, 2004 at 2:08 am | Comments off

I was browsing the web developer forums last night (a usual practice), and decided to check out one of the memeber's website, Link Removed. Much to my surprise, it was nearly identical to that of my own. :(

I contacted him privately, hoping to convince him that he was getting his design career off on the wrong foot by stealing my design and using it as his own (including a copyright message, as © 2004 Company X - in the footer). He responded negatively, and I am forced to resort to other means of trying to get him to remove his (nay, my) site.

He has, since my original letter to him, slightly modified his XHTML and CSS (he had apparently taken both) to change the names of some of the classes and id's, as his old names were very incriminating. He has also slightly modified the CSS file, to remove some of the more blatant likenesses to mine - but lo, I had saved his original files.

Original XHTML:
Original CSS:
Screenshot of original: (276kb)

Note that I did not spider the sites for images. View the screenshot for complete detail.

I had pointed out how close our CSS files were; close enough for me to know that they had been stolen. Classes, IDs, background colors, link colors, document structure - all the same. As I stated above, he has changed some of these names, but once one digs into his XHTML to see what classes and IDs correspond to mine, one can still see they are the same.

I'm sure most of you realize the work that goes into designing a quality site, and can appreciate my frusteration at my work having been stolen. Perhaps some of you will even be so kind as to write Company X and let him know your thoughts on this issue. I will not post his email address here, but you can find it, if you look.


Update: This issue has been resolved, and I was told it was due to a wayward employee. I have chosen to remove all reference to the company in question.


January 8th, 2004
3:24 AM | #

That makes me sick! Here, Ryan has obviously put a lot of work into designing a quality, asthetically-apealing site, and what does he get for his work? He get's some butthead out there deciding he doesn't want to design a site himself. And he did an awful job of disguising it, too. It's pretty bad when you don't even have brains enough to change it from the original background color. And especially if he's willing to go as far as to copy Ryan's images, well thats just pathetic. This person's gone to the Web Developer Forum for answers to questions about how to fix his(I mean, Ryan's) site. And guess who's been answering those questions? Ryan has. The least this guy could do was NOT COPY RYAN'S SOURCE!!!! These kind of people make me sometimes wonder what the point to programming is, if someone is just going to go and copy your entire code. But, as a commited web designer, I will not give in to people like this. I am definitely going to send that guy an email and shell out my 2 cents! Like Ryan says on the Web Developer Forums,

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.

Well, in my opinion, This "Company X" guy is definitely not a programmer, but one more "bigger and better idiot" that programmers must over come. All of my support goes out to Ryan. Good luck!


Edited to remove company name.

January 8th, 2004
7:13 AM | #

The simple fact that they weren't even original enough to change the colors really made my eyes roll.

Robert Wellock
January 8th, 2004
12:51 PM | #

To that extent that would be called copyright infringement in the UK. I

Incidentally I was reading a Legal Practice and Copyright Book a few days back since I wanted to be sure my 'Bek Lyrics' was not breaching and strange rules; since it now has been successfully listed on

The only reason 'Bek Lyrics' is legal is because it falls under some sub-clauses for educational analysis only, and it is delivered in "good faith" for non-profit making plus the fact I transposed 99% of the lyrics by ear since they have never been published to the general public - remember though ignorance of the copyright law does not protect you, if you break it.

Had 'Company X' changed the colours and layout and altered the CSS classes and mark-up to such a degree that it would be deemed that a well-measured amount of craftsmanship had and originality been used to create the site then their actions would have been legally plausible.

Alas, though this was not to be the case even the URI values seemed to be similar clearly there is not enough differentially between both designs thus if you call for "Cease to Desist" is not fruitful it would be within your rights to take legal action.

However, if they had altered the markup and layout a little more there would have been no infringement case.

The worst part about the parody is it is a commercial 'Web Design Company' that was well aware of in the first instance.

Edited to remove company name.

January 9th, 2004
12:03 AM | #

As you can all see, this issue has apparently been resolved. I was told it was due to a wayward employee, and have chosen to remove all references to the company, in an attempt to help save their reputation, if that was indeed that case.

Thank you all for your support.

January 11th, 2004
7:21 PM | #

cant believe that, what was he thinking, i tried but i cant find the email address you were talking about ryan :(

January 11th, 2004
7:28 PM | #

Yes, this issue has been resolved, so I have chosen to remove the links to the company (which also means you will no longer be able to find the email address).

January 12th, 2004
5:10 PM | #

ok sorry thought it was still there, no wonder i couldnt find it, thought i was just being blind

January 13th, 2004
3:27 AM | #

That just sucks. "If its available free, why work for it" seems to be the new design mantra.

From what I understand reading Dave Shea's blog is that there isn't much you can do to prevent this... CSS per se may not be copyrightable. However your layout theme IS, and this looks like pure plagiarism.

January 13th, 2004
5:28 AM | #

I also read Dave Shea's blog entry regarding his (and his readers) thoughts on copyrighting CSS. It is, of course, a touchy subject. As many (or all) of you probably know, I'm not one who feels the need to hide my source. I encourage people to view it, and learn from what I have done, if it will help them. I've even encouraged people to take bits and pieces of the CSS file, if it solves the problem they were struggling with. I don't, however, want anyone downloading my (or anyone else's) entire CSS file and using it.

The real issue and concern here is the copying of the design, rather than the copying of the the CSS or XHTML. There is a category of protected works that includes "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural work," in US copyright laws (the categories are also to be viewed broadly). A design, whether it be a layout for a web site, a brochure, a poster, or anything similar, is definitely a protected work.

If you like someone's site, "steal" the inspiration, not the exact design. I think everyone has a different opinion on how much change would be required in order for the design to be considered a new, original design. Some are going to think that if they change very small things (ie. enough so it is not an exact replica) they have done enough. Most of us will disagree.

Another Ryan
January 24th, 2004
5:44 AM | #

it happens a lot more than you'd like it to....and it is sad. check out it's a comparison of rip-offs and originals. to a certain extent there will be some similarities in the world of design, it's very ecclesiastical ('nothing new under the sun'). its remarkably difficult to have a completely original idea, especially with the open source approach to layout. when you have similar code but different look it's easier to understand but when the code, the look the whole 'DNA' is remarkably similar then you've got serious issues.

Jordon Brill
January 25th, 2004
12:34 AM | #

I really appreciate all the design work that Ryan has put into his stuff. For some idot to come a steal it is about as "low as you can go." And, I agree with the rest of you; MAYBE change the background color <rolling eyes>. Anyway, you are a great designer Ryan.

January 25th, 2004
3:03 AM | #

Easy now, I don't know all the facts, but isn't this sight a re-working of alistapart with fonts from Zeldman? I could be wrong...

January 26th, 2004
1:03 AM | #

Ryan -

I totally agree with you, that most (if not all) designs are not entirely unique. As designers, we borrow from each other, and that is a natural process.

Hasan -

You will see similarities on sites other than just ALA. Think about this for a minute - almost all blogs (in the web developer world) place a menu on the right. The main issue is stealing the entire layout (including the XHTML and CSS files), not similarities; those will always be there.

January 26th, 2004
1:45 AM | #

Ryan, thanks for the sane response. That was my point exactly, not that you shouldn't be incensed at a pirate, but just that everyone is borrowing from everyone and that's the great thing about the web, that the community shares. Now let's junk IE so I can use CSS more easily!

Matthijs Aandewiel
January 26th, 2004
2:13 AM | #

I think copyrights are just plain childish.

Well, not really. I thinkn that any information gathered on the web, should be free to use. I learned HTML, CSS, and PHP (and mirc) by ripping it. Using ideas, molding the basics of an other site, into your own shapes. Recreating a layout someone has made.. Yes I confess.

However, i used all my experience, to create my own website. It was all a learning experience, a journey if I may say so.

Now I do think that copyrights are necessary, for example to prevent a company making money of of your hard work.. that is just wrong. But i hate these, "Dont use your right mouse button" sites, because they disallow people to learn.

Lets face it: You cant own a CSS syntax, nor can you own a HTML statement, or a 3column layout. Why dont we all make a "View Source" button. (Yes, i know i dont have one.. [YET!] but that is because my code is too sloppy :P)

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