from the flattery-or-theft? dept
I remember many years ago, soon after Derek Powazek launched Fray, there was a big argument in the design community concerning some sites that had copied his (at the time, at least) very innovative HTML-based design elements. He had done a very cool thing using frames to create “doors” that would open up to a story. Those frame-based doors suddenly started showing up on other sites, and were obviously taken from the original Fray article. I was so intrigued by the whole argument that I checked out the code myself and played around with it to learn how he did it. The big question at the time was whether or not this was theft, or simply letting people build on top of the creativity of others. It seems that debate hasn’t gone away. It’s apparently becoming more common for website designers to steal the designs of other sites (whether taking the whole site, or just parts of it) and pass them off as their own work. The article linked to here points out that this is a copyright violation and illegal. I do agree that a wholesale copying of the site can be a copyright violation, but using the basic structure as a starting point, and then doing your own design on top of that seems completely reasonable to me. In some cases, design elements become common enough that you almost expect them to be in a certain type of site. People sometimes build similar looking sites simply because the original worked so well. The article also mentions the site Pirated Sites which tracks a number of these copycat sites, and is quite interesting to run through.