Web site design is copyrighted, too

This week I found out that the entire Web site design of one of my subscribers had been copied by another artist. Not just the look and feel, but the code! It looked identical except for the art. Apparently, the artist was innocent and it was her lazy designer's fault. But this is bad mojo. You don't copy someone else's Web site design! It's copyrighted just like your art is.

Lessons to be learned:

–The offending site was discovered because the artist whose site was copied was paying attention to his stats and noticed something fishy that took him to that site.

–Stay on top of your designers. Where are their ideas coming from? And are they charging you for stealing someone else's ideas?!

–React with class. I heard about this only second-hand, but from what I understand, both the artist who was ripped off and the artist who unknowingly ripped him off responded professionally. The offending site was taken down immediately.

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5 thoughts on “Web site design is copyrighted, too”

  1. Thanks for posting this…. I think there are probably lots of artists new to creating a presence on the net through blogging and web sites, and legal protocol in the digital realm is just as important as it is in the brick and mortar world.

  2. This is an interesting twist on improper use of intellectual property. I’m happy to hear it worked out without involving legal action. It shows there is civility and dignity to be found. For those interested in learning how to properly clear legal rights there is a terrific book by Joy Butler, an attorney who is an expert on the subject. It is titled: The Permission Seeker’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle:Clearing Copyrights, Trademarks and Other Rights for Entertainment and Media Productions. I’m going to alert her to this post and hope she will have time to respond.

  3. Barney, thanks for mentioning my book. I’m happy to hear that the website design copying situation had a happy ending. It could have been worse. When your freelancer gives you infringing or otherwise tainted material and you use it, you can be sued even though you are an “innocent party”. I’ll add one more “lesson to be learned” to those already mentioned by Alyson: Enter into a written agreement with your designers and other freelancers. The agreement doesn’t need to be complicated. It should include your designer’s representation that all the material he provides you will be his own original work and will not infringe any intellectual property rights or violate any laws. While freelancers tend to hate indemnification provisions and many indemnification provisions are certainly over-the-top and one-sided, it’s fair to make your freelancer take responsibility for deliberate misdeeds with simple indemnification language such as “Joe Freelancer shall indemnify you for any loss you suffer as a result of Joe Freelancer’s breach of the representations in this agreement”.

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