Stuff and Nonsense

Malarkey is Andy Clarke, a UK based designer, author and speaker who has a passion for design, CSS and web accessibility.

Andy has been working on the web for almost ten years. He is a visual web designer and author and he founded Stuff and Nonsense in 1998. Andy regularly writes about creating beautiful, accessible web sites and he speaks at events worldwide. Andy is the author of Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design, published by New Riders in 2006.

Copy copy

It seems to be the season for discussion on rips. My issue is not one of design theft, but of copy theft.

It seems to be the season for discussion on rips, with Shaun Inman and Dave Shea both again highlighting design theft and the most professional methods for dealing with such occurrances.

I'm not interested in going over old ground. As web standards methods become more widely requested by clients to designers who themselves may not be fully versed in CSS, there will always be situations where a little digging into XHTML and CSS files to solve the How does that work? questions is required. We all start learning somewhere. Only yesterday I did the very same thing in looking at Tommy Olsson's very excellent fluid/elastic layout. If the situation ever arose where a derivative of this was required, I consider the moral approach would be to ask permission first, then place a nice comment in the CSS file with a credit and a URL.

But there is a difference between an enquiring mind and an intentional theft, designed solely for the purpose of misleading prospective clients into thinking that your skills are somewhat different from in reality.

What a wicked web we weave

My issue is not one of design theft, but of copy theft. Only in the last two days have I come across a local designer who has not ripped off my company web site design, but has ripped off our copy. This is possibly more damaging than a design theft, as the ripped pages are not just seen but potentially indexed by search engines.

I understand fully that there are only so many ways to write a paragraph about We specialise in designing accessible web sites and that similarities will always occur. But compare these two paragraphs,

Mine

The biggest and most important blind visitors to any web site are search engines like Google. Search engine crawlers cannot see design and look for meaningful, structured content. Our accessibility techniques ensure that search engines are easily able to access your content, improving positions and increasing visitor numbers.

His

Search engines such as Google are one of the biggest single blind visitors to any Web site. These �crawlers� do not see design in any shape or form and instead look for both meaningful and structured page content. Our Web accessibility techniques ensure that search engines are easily able to access your website content which results in improving positions and also offers the potential to increase the number of site visitors.

And this.

Mine

In designing this site, we have used technologies that form a common standard. By designing to what are known as 'web standards', the content of this web site is made available to a wider range of people and technologies. You may have noticed that it downloaded quicker too. Perhaps one day, all web sites will be made this way, but until then this site is still quite special.

His

In designing this site, we have used technologies that form a common standard. By designing to what are known as �Web standards�, the content of this Web site is made available to a wider range of people and current technologies. You may have noticed that it downloaded quicker too. Wouldn�t it be nice if all websites were made in this way?

Criminal Intent?

A wholesale lift of entire sections is laziness at best and intentional copyright theft at worst. When we employ professional copywriters and time and effort in copy, we do not appreciate it when companies plagiarise it so blatantly. After all, when a site explicitly states Copyright, that is what it means.

Any thoughts or similar experiences?

Replies

  1. #1 On January 14, 2005 11:18 PM Jeremy Freeman said:

    Hi Andy

    I know how you feel - I've suffered from that in the past.

    Have a great weekend and talk to you very, very soon ;)

  2. #2 On January 15, 2005 12:07 AM Jarrod said:

    I've had a client send me content, and it was a direct rip from their competitor's site. I only noticed because there were 2 instances that they forgot to switch the name!

    You're right though, I think it is worse to rip content, design is bad, but most customers make decisions based on content and the relationship with you over your design.

    That's why there's so many successful web companies with horrible designs :)

  3. #3 On January 15, 2005 12:23 AM Dom Blair said:

    Absolutely outrageous, if you are going to just steal content at least make an effort to change it slightly !!

  4. #4 On January 15, 2005 02:09 AM Jeff Croft said:

    That's just ridiculous. People that do this deserve to be shot. (Or at least publicly ridiculed).

  5. #5 On January 15, 2005 04:25 AM Steve Hubbard said:

    And, in addition to Jeff's abovementioned suggestions: determine how many hours went into your site, the cost of resources used, fees for subcontractors like your professional copywriter, and then factor in a 'damage to goodwill' fee and send the perpetrator a bill.

    If someone's going to profit from your work, then they should pay for your resources. And if they don't like the price you charge, remind them that price is negotiable before your products and/or services are used - not after.

  6. #6 On January 15, 2005 08:20 AM Mathias Bynens said:

    I haven't had the pleasure of my design being pirated yet, but I do have experienced the joy of a friggin fuck copying texts like that.

  7. #7 On January 15, 2005 09:05 AM John Oxton said:

    Wholesale theft of copy like that is pretty stupid when you consider that said plagiarist, who clearly isn't too bright, likely doesn't have the knowledge or skills to back up what you are saying on his behalf.

  8. #8 On January 15, 2005 09:38 AM Malarkey said:

    Hi guys,

    I've unusually taken the step of deleting/editing a couple of comments as one person has got the wrong end of the stick about the copy thief's identity.

    I have purposefully not published the thief's identity, as no matter how cross I am, I feel that this would be unprofessional. Please honour that spirit and refrain from making accusations.

  9. #9 On January 15, 2005 09:42 AM Magnus said:

    I copy (steal?) code and design ideas all the time. I think it is a good way of learning. In the end it usually merges into something unique. But stealing content is just stupid.

    Another intresting question is if you can steal the structure of a site? Especially blogs tend to be structured all in the same way.

    I really like the Live comment btw.

  10. #10 On January 15, 2005 12:49 PM Martin said:

    I don't see a problem with stealing (twoc-ing) XHTML and CSS from a site and then deconstructiing it locally to see how it works. Thats how some of us learn. If your going to put 'experiments' on a live server it might be wise to inform passing visitors of ones innocent intentions. However, to rip a site and then actively alter the copy to suggest that one is the author and to actually attempt to solicit business from said rip - that then becomes plagarism. Steal my site but don't steal my site! Andy is right in that if one really does need to 'imitate' parts of an existing design then one should seek permission and then add a credit in the CSS.

  11. #11 On January 15, 2005 01:58 PM John Serris said:

    Doh! Not you too?! I blogged about my pirating experience. I still chuckle when I think about what I did for revenge ;)

  12. #12 On January 15, 2005 05:58 PM Dom Blair said:

    @ Andy - many apologies for putting you in that situation fella, I thought that there may have been some business involvement.
    Bihg apologies for that, I will make a concerted effort to think before I type in future ;-)

  13. #13 On January 15, 2005 08:11 PM Malarkey said:

    One email and the offender has taken his site down completely, so I'd call that a success. If anyone is interested, here is the (edited) email I sent him.

    Please do not take this email as me being petty, but in browsing your web site at http://www..co.uk/, I noticed that certain of your pages contain content that is identical /virtually identical to ours at http://www.malarkey.co.uk/.

    In general, in reading the tone of your new site, especially the accessibility areas, we can see that your copy is either inspired or often directly lifted from ours.

    Here is the run down, (Ed: followed by details...)

    Once again, I do not want to seem petty, but when we employ professional copywriters and time and effort in copy, we do not appreciate it when companies (and ones so local) plagiarise it so blatantly.

    If you would be so kind as to remove the offending copy (I think a week should allow enough time for that), then I will say no more on the subject.

    If you intend to continue to run the copy on your site, would you please be so kind as to add a link to our site in return for the free copy.

    Please ring me to let me know what you intend to do.

    Kind regards

    Andy Clarke
    Creative Director

  14. #14 On January 15, 2005 08:49 PM Nathan Holman said:

    Hey there,

    First time poster...long time reader.

    anyway, glad to here that your situation was resolved quickly. I definitely agree that stealling copy can wreak havoc in the search engines. Sometimes people aren't so quick to remove stolen content and it can be a long and difficult fight.

    http://www.highrankings.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=6462&hl=copyright

    in the second post of the above thread, it tells you what you can do to protect yourself in the future from such things. Although, the information is USA specific, it still may provide helpful to you or at least your USA readers.

  15. #15 On January 15, 2005 10:13 PM Malarkey said:

    Driving wildly off-topic, I spotted this on my adsense ads for this column today :D

    The combination of the two made me smile. Sorry Mr. Google ;)

  16. #16 On January 16, 2005 12:53 AM WillB said:

    Do a Google search for the entire second paragraph of your stuffandnonsense accessibility statement and you may find another site that has half-inched your copy.

    The designer has left a little statement to say that he has taken the copy from various sources, but can't remember where from specifically. You could drop him a line to remind him.

  17. #17 On January 16, 2005 09:27 AM Malarkey said:

    @ WillB: I didn't publish all the (many) instances of copy theft, just a few examples. The accessibility statement was the least of my concerns, so as the site you mentioned admitted to 'other sources', I'll leave that one be.

    Funny though, that page does show a certain lack of knowledge. Particularly when it says XHTML is the next generation of HTML... Ho hum ;)

  18. #18 On January 16, 2005 04:17 PM Rachel said:

    Copyscape (http://www.copyscape.com/) is a good way to check if people have been pinching your content - I have nabbed a few offenders pinching my articles and business site copy. So far everyone I have caught has removed it once I have emailed them. Someone on a mailing list recently reported that a copy-thief had pinched not only her site content but also used her biography and just stuck their own name on it!

  19. #19 On January 17, 2005 10:37 AM dotjay said:

    @Rachel: What a useful little URL. Thanks for that!

    @Andy: Glad the situation is all sorted now.

  20. #20 On January 17, 2005 01:35 PM Laurence Anderson said:

    Man that really sucks :(

  21. #21 On January 17, 2005 01:54 PM Malarkey said:

    Thanks for all the kind words of support guys. The offender has now replaced the stolen copy and I consider it case closed.

    I don't feel very pleased with myself about having to take such a tough stance. I wondered for a while about just letting it go, but when there has never been a word of apology, just a smug email reply;

    Glad I have your approval - do you have a Malarkey badge I can put on my site to say it passes your requirements? ;)

    C
    Your nearest competition...

    I know I did the right thing. But, let's not dwell... on with some designy talk.

This article was originally published by Andy Clarke on his personal web site And All That Malarkey and is reproduced here for archive purposes. This article is published under a Creative Commons By Attribution License 2.0.

Andy Clarke Stuff and Nonsense Ltd.
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