Designer Still Pursuing Bogus Takedown Of Periodic Table Of HTML Elements; Has No Idea How Copyright Works

from the Australia:-land-of-IP-thieves,-pop.-2 dept

Very recently, we covered designer Alara Mills’ wholly misguided takedown efforts against Mike Riethmuller, a coder who crafted a periodic table of HTML 5 elements that she claimed looked like hers. Here’s Riethmuller’s:

Which was inspired by Josh Duck’s earlier effort:

Neither of which look like the HTML 5 table Alara Mills sells:

But she claims Duck’s (and consequently, Riethmuller’s) infringes on this earlier version, which was the subject of a lawsuit she brought against Duck.

The suit was dismissed. Duck settled rather than fight Mills’ baseless claims, which included the unsupported accusation that somehow Duck had intercepted her original version — which she had emailed to someone else entirely — and used that to craft his version. From the cease-and-desist order, in which her lawyers don’t sound too sure about the theory their client is pushing:

Ms. Mills submitted an earlier version of her chart within a book prospectus to a publisher in July 29, 2010, a copy of which is enclosed. This is the version that was possibly leaked to you in creation of your Periodic Table.

Using this “win” (she voluntarily dismissed the suit with prejudice), she’s now pursuing Riethmuller over his Duck-inspired version — not because it looks like her current version, but because it looks like the unreleased version Duck supposedly infringed on.

When I wrapped up the last post, I noted that Mills had apologized to Riethmuller and withdrawn her legal threats. Apparently, that move was just PR-related. Mills had no intention of dropping her baseless claims against Riethmuller. The same night that post went live (with the final “good news” added to it), she reversed course. Mills has filed a followup complaint to Github in hopes of expediting the removal of Riethmuller’s HTML 5 table.

Here’s her original takedown request, which spends as much time on claims of “owning” common elements like Mendeleev’s periodic table design and coding constants as it does espousing conspiracy theories and mangling IP terminology. [Interrupted periodically for commentary.]

I, Alara Mills, have read and understand GitHub’s Guide to Filing a DMCA Notice.

1.     Identify the copyrighted work you believe has been infringed.
The copyrighted work I believe is infringed is my copyright in the 2-D artwork titled “The HTML Table of Elements.” The copyright is registered with the United States Copyright Office with an effective date of registration of January 27, 2010 and registration number VAu 1-014-116. “The HTML Table of Elements” is my original, United States copyrighted artwork. It is an original work inspired by the Periodic Table of Elements from chemistry that I first sketched out on paper December 25, 2009. The HTML Elements within my chart are placed in my own unique categories. It is this unique ordering that took it out of fair use and thereby made it eligible for copyright. (Author’s unique ordering of HTML5 Elements within their literary books is also what makes them unique for copyright.)

[You can’t take something “out” of fair use. Fair use is a defense. She may have meant “public domain,” but even if so, she’s still completely wrong. You can make use of public domain elements, but what you can’t do is “remove” them so that no one else can do the same. But that’s what she’s claiming.]

2. Identify the material that you allege is infringing the copyrighted work listed in item #1, above.
The material I am alleging is infringing the copyrighted work is hosted at the following URL:

My HTML Elements and Attributes Infographic has evolved into a proprietary graphic with various derivative works. The one in question is an earlier derivative work which was submitted within a book prospectus submitted to publishers as early as May 2010. This version was leaked to Joshua Duck, who then made an unauthorized derivative work of my original work and hosted it at

[Word salad. First, this still assumes that these are “derivative” from her works, when there’s very little evidence to support that. And, remember, the only control Mills has is on derivative works of the parts of the original that was actually protectable by copyright. And there’s almost nothing in the original that is protectable — and what little there is does not appear to be carried over into Duck’s or Riethmuller’s design. And, of course, this argument rests on the still-unsubstantiated claim that Duck had access to her earlier versions and used that as the basis for his table.]

I filed a lawsuit against Joshua Duck March 2014 and the matter was settled out of court with Joshua Duck agreeing to removing the infringing content and not to use it again (Settlement agreement is attached). However, I have discovered that Michael Riethmuller has recreated another unauthorized derivative work which is an exact recreation of Josh Duck’s work, which is also an unauthorized derivative work which infringed on my copyrighted work.

[It’s not an “exact” recreation. It’s significantly different and it’s inspired by Duck’s version, rather than being a ripoff of a ripoff of Mills’ questionable “original.”]

3.     Explain what the affected user would need to do in order to remedy the infringement
I recently emailed Michael Riethmuller to express my concerns and asked him to please change the credit language he is attributing to Josh Duck on his sites page. I am willing to allow Michael Riethmueller to keep the derivative work IF he is willing to update the credit language to state me as the true and rightful owner of the work.

[The only person who believes you’re the “rightful owner” of common coding elements arrayed on a remix of Mendeleev’s periodic table is YOU, Ms. Mills.]

He has not responded, which makes me allege that Josh Duck is somehow behind Michael Riethmuller recreation of his work, to add injury to insult. Additionally, both parties are coincidentally from Australia, though Josh Duck now resides in Northern California and is employed at Facebook. If Michael is unwilling to make this change in credit of the work, then I want to request for it to be completely taken down.

[The world according to Mills: Australia is a continent inhabited solely by Riethmuller and Duck, who have both conspired to screw Mills out of some poster sales. This bizarre theory helps explain why Mills can’t be dissuaded of her notion that Duck somehow intercepted her earlier, unpublished chart. The world — well, at least Australia — has it in for Mills and will stop at nothing to steal her HTML 5 table.]

I also want to challenge Michael Riethmuller’s threat that he will simply send a counter to my take down request on the bases of fair-use. Though the periodic table is fair-use and the HTML5 elements categorized by the is fair-use, my unique effort in categorizing and placement of the HTML5 elements within my chart made it eligible for U. S. copyright. Josh Duck copied my work without permission and with the false assumption that it was not copyrighted and thus he did not apply any real originality to his version, using the exact same color choices and placement of the elements within his chart making them jarringly similar. It is for this reason that I am asking Michael Riethmuller to either give appropriate credit to me at the true author of his “inspired” work, or take it down.

[Nice. A preemptive strike against fair use. The best offense is a good offense, I guess. As for the rest, anyone with eyes can see Duck’s version does not use the “exact same color choices and placement of elements.” And this has to be the first recorded use of the phrase “jarringly similar.” Click through for the full-size version.]

The original takedown request is thoroughly ridiculous. As is Mills herself, who keeps finding conspiracies where none exist and doesn’t seem to have even a basic understanding of fair use, idea vs. expression, derivative works or even that her chart she claims Duck copied exactly only very faintly resembles her version.

So, she told Riethmuller she’d drop all of this and let it go. That was the evening after the post went live. The next day, Riethmuller emailed me Mills’ revived effort to have his table kicked off of Github.

Dear Github Support,

I am emailing to follow-up on the status of my DMCA notice. As per my last communication with Michael Riethmueller, I requested that he please place an appropriate credit to me as the original author of the work instead of taking down the work all together.

There is no mistake as to my copyrighted work being a protected work that does not fall under fair-use.

[This again. FAIR USE DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY. You can’t exempt your copyrighted material from fair use. It either is or it isn’t, but you can’t somehow get out ahead of it just by declaring your work not open to fair use.]

I added enough originality to the expression of this art work by placing the HTML5 elements in my own unique order different from the World Wide Web Consortium’s categorization of the HTML elements. This is the same copyright protect that is granted to all other authors of HTML5 literary books: they all came up with their own unique listing of the HTML elements within their works.

[So what? Just like all these authors used the same common elements to create protect-able creations, so did Mills. And Duck. And Riethmuller. It is completely possible for all of these to exist without infringing on each other and for every single one to be protected by copyright. Mills cannot seem to wrap her mind around this concept.]

The work that Michael Riethmueller is using is a modified version of Josh Duck’s unauthorized version of my original art work. Josh Duck was under the false assumption that my work was not copyrighted and therefore copied my exact color scheme and placement of the HTML elements making the works too similar.

[“Too similar?” It isn’t. It’s only as “similar” as the elements behind it force it to be (Mendeleev’s periodic table design; the semi-rigid hierarchy of coding elements).]

I don’t think it is unreasonable for me to request that Michael Riethmueller’s work be credited appropriately to me to avoid additional unauthorized use of his work. Again, if Mr. Riethmueller is unwilling to update the author credit, I do want to request to have the work taken down.

[Riethmuller won’t credit her because he never saw Mills’ version. He may have seen Duck’s version and his more closely bears resemblance to Duck’s than to Mills’, but either way none of these charts bear enough resemblance to each other to make one of them infringing. Riethmuller owes Mills nothing in the way of “credit.” She had no part of this. She only thinks she does because she registered her version back in 2010 and now feels other versions are somehow infringing on her creation.]

Given Michael Riethmueller’s refusal to credit the work to me as the rightful owner, I am also alleging that Josh Duck is somehow very much behind Michael’s recreated work as a form of retaliation for my rightfully filing a lawsuit against him which was settled out of court at Josh Duck’s explicit request.

[More conspiracy theories. Nothing factual alleged here and veering very close to being defamatory. This argument is about as worthless as her decision to play the sexism card during my earlier Twitter conversation with her. (If you’re planning on chatting with her, get screenshots. She likes to delete tweets.]

So, Mills has learned nothing other than how to give the appearance that she’s learned something. She’s continuing to push Riethmuller to give her credit she doesn’t deserve (and which is not a part of copyright law anyway) and she has clearly shown she doesn’t understand the first thing about fair use, derivative works or that the underlying elements of “her” HTML 5 periodic table can be remixed in a number of highly-similar ways without infringing on her “original.”

From where I sit, there just aren’t enough periodic tables of HTML 5 elements and that situation should be remedied, although I would ask any Australians to refrain from participating unless they already know everyone else who lives on their continent.

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Comments on “Designer Still Pursuing Bogus Takedown Of Periodic Table Of HTML Elements; Has No Idea How Copyright Works”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

She has no understanding of the law, is making an ass of herself, and then deflects criticism/mocking she rightly earned with her actions into the briar of ZOMG THEY ARE MEAN CAUSE I’M A GIRL!!!

Double down on this you ignorant hack, I very much would like to see a Judge explain it to you and then you screaming how it is the patriarchy taking you down for being a strong woman, and not just a bull headed idiot who happens to have ovaries.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Periodic Table of Barratry?

Another demonstration of the ridiculousness of Mills’ scam: Do a Google image search on [“periodic table of” -elements]. (“periodic table of”, excluding “elements”)

You’ll get countless results starting with “Periodic Table of Cars”, “Periodic Table of Jazz”, “Periodic Table of Swearing”, “Periodic Table of the Internet” and “Periodic Table of Dessert.”

Scroll down and you’ll see a Periodic Table of pretty much anything and everything. And of course all of them being adapted from the same source material as Mills’ adaptation – the Periodic Table of Elements – inevitably most look similar.

tebee (profile) says:

Re: Copyright in unpublished works ?

What copyright exists in unpublished works?

I thought the act of publishing was what started copyright rolling? Otherwise what’s to stop me claiming that I wrote a Harry Potter novel first and JK. Rowing stole the idea from me. More realistically how am I supposed to know about pre-existing works that something I produce may infringe upon when it’s not available anywhere?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Copyright in unpublished works ?

I thought the act of publishing was what started copyright rolling?

Where have you been, Mr Rip Van Winkle? That hasn’t been true for a long time.

In the U.S., following the 1976 Copyright Act, copyright subsists from the moment of fixation.

17 U.S.C. § 102(a)

Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. . . .

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright in unpublished works ?

“I thought the act of publishing was what started copyright rolling?”

That’s never been true. In the good old days, copyright began upon registration. In the not-so-good new days, copyright begins at the moment that the work is fixed in a tangible medium. Actual publication has never been a requirement.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Max Markson

This so much reminds me of the Max Markson stuff we were discussing earlier this week, which kind of shows the “only doing this because it’s a girl” story is ridiculous.

The two of them would get along.

Of course, Markson is also from Australia, ergo, he must be in on the conspiracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thanks for including the link to Mikes work in the text of her take down notice. Mikes chart is awesome; very easy to use and understand and I definitely use it in the future. Will also attempt to download a working copy of it in case it gets pulled. I found hers overly complicated and harder to understand. They are at a passing glance similar, and if anything Mike has improved upon the original. Hard to say if he saw hers first or not, even if he did, from my understanding it his would be considered a derivative work.

Anonymous Coward says:

One day!

I just wait for the day someone creates THE algorithm that mixes everything and then gets copyright for it. A piece of music made of every possible variation, pictures with every color possible in each pixel, then putting those pictures together to create movies…

How much does a supercomputer cost? Some bored billionaire might pick 10 of them up and of course I want 10% for the idea that for sure no one ever had before…

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: One day!

Well, at this point we only have access to the whole world (and a couple of pieces of the solar system), so your argument is mute, for the immediate future.

I do not remember the details (it was probably here on Techdirt) but there were lot’s of numbers and calculations, and the end result was it wouldn’t fit in all of anything available.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Due to not knowing all 23+ million people who live in this country of mine (my memory only has enough for 5million) I will not comment on the stupidity of this idiot who thinks she can order a takedown of something in Australia based on some kind of US out of court settlement that means absolute squat.

Nope not gunna comment on her moronic and fraudulent behaviour (after the official & legal statement from her that she would not pursue the matter) either.

Anonymous Coward says:

girl vs. tech-boys

“is it bc I’m a girl who created something you tech-boys didn’t?”

No, it’s bc you’re a (pick one or more) [delusional/lying/conniving/self-aggrandising] twat (and I mean that in the least gender-related fashion possible), who didn’t create something that truly inspired and gifted technogeeks (again gender irrelevant) did.

Anonymous Coward says:

I found it surprising that there are no, none, zero, zip, nicht, nein, nada comments on her “HTML5 Elements Table (TM) Reference Poster Updated for 2015” post on her website, even though they are allowed. So I made a test comment and, sure enough, she moderates them. Apparently there haven’t been any comments made worth keeping, which is surprising for material that is sooo copyrightable! And she likes to see what people have to say about her when she could just disable them. It would almost be sad if she weren’t such a ..bleep.

soillodge (profile) says:

“is it bc I’m a girl who created something you tech-boys didn’t?”

Yeah, you totally got us there. You took a great idea of making a free & useful interactive guide to assist people, and made an ugly vector drawing poster that no self-respecting programmer would ever consider putting on their wall. Then decided to charge 30-50$ for it. Why was I not surprised to see you hail from California. Only those bums in Santa Monica would think this was “art”.

Alara Mills says:

Re: Re:

All the same, credit should be given where credit is due was point. If I www a boy, would he have respected me enough to credit my work instead of just lifting my original work he assumed was not copyrighted. Dont just take something. and what I mean by something are the following similarities:
Text-level elements are both yellow
Form elements are both green
Table elements are both orange
Basic elements are both blue
Table elements are in same layout placement
Basic elements are in same layout placement

Then also publish a poster making it so that I am competing with my own work. Give me a break.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Dont just take something.

Which you did yourself! You decided the idea was so original that you accused others of obviously having stolen it. Did you not see that post above suggesting you google “periodic table of -elements”? Try it. There’s loads of them. You didn’t bother to do any research and that led you to threaten multiple people with court action.

You’re the thief here. They should be suing you for libel. Now that you’re on record for having done this once, you can expect that will be people’s immediate course of action in the future. Congratulations.

Still, don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn from it. Some educations are more expensive than others.

alara mills says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Okay, what are you talking about?
The periodic table is public domain which is why me as well as others are free to make new creative works of it which if they add enough new originality, which mine did, makes it eligible to be copyrighted, which mine is. Please review US copyright laws for further details. Those creative choices are not to be infringed upon. Others should take the time to make their works uniquely their, not take the creative choices of copyrighted works.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You’re astonishing! It’s like you’re standing in a hole and can’t for the life of you figure out why continuing to dig isn’t getting you any closer to escaping from said hole.

Do you not even bother to read what we’re writing about this, or do you just blindly hit reply and continue to spout your line, come hell or high water?

Good luck with those libel suits. You’re obviously going to need it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The periodic table is public domain which is why me as well as others are free to make new creative works of it which if they add enough new originality, which mine did, makes it eligible to be copyrighted, which mine is

Somebody else can take the same ideas and come up with a very similar work, and it is also a new creation, and have an independent copyright. Unlike patents, copyright does not give exclusive rights to an idea.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The periodic table is public domain, which is why Josh Duck as well as you are free to make new creative works of it. If they add enough new originality, which everyone’s does, that makes it eligible to be copyrighted, which everyone’s is. Please review US copyright laws for further details, which clearly states that anyone may use PD works, not just you, and such use leaves the original work free for others to use as they wish.
There you go, Alara. And before you start, my use of your words has ‘FAIR DEALING/USE’ emblazoned all over it. 😉

Homer says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hi Alara,

I can’t tell from the low-res images online, but I just want to be sure that you are properly attributing the use of the HTML 5, which is so prominent in your version. That logo is licensed under CC 3.0, which says:

“You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.”

“appropriate credit” is defined as:

“If supplied, you must provide the name of the creator and attribution parties, a copyright notice, a license notice, a disclaimer notice, and a link to the material.”

You have given no attribution on your web site, which you probably should since the HTML 5 logo is clearly visible and prominent.

Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, Riethmuller’s color choices are completely different from Duck’s, so if you’re complaining about Duck’s supposedly having copied your color choices, Riethmuller shouldn’t have a problem.

As to the layout, I don’t see it at all. Your two versions aren’t very similar, and Duck’s isn’t particularly similar to either of them. To the extent there are similarities, they’re almost certain to be dictated by the nature of the chart, and thus not copyrightable.

Your biggest problem is that there isn’t very much here that is copyrightable. The idea to make a periodic table of HTML5 elements is just that–an idea–and ideas can’t be copyrighted. The fact that elements foo, bar, and baz are all of type fred is, well, a fact–and facts can’t be copyrighted either. The idea to group similar elements together and color code them is pretty much dictated by the function of such a table–and functional elements, once again, can’t be copyrighted (see Feist v. Rural Telephone, 499 US 340 (1991).

The color choices could be something original and creative (and thus copyrightable), but (1) none of the same colors are being used–at most, a few similar colors are used in Duck’s chart, and (2) if that’s the only thing copied, it’s going to be de minimis.

BernardoVerda says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh woe. Woe is me. Poe is me

(Poe’s Law points out the inherent difficulty of distinguishing certain kinds of idiocy from intentional, satirical imitations of the same.)

I actually took this to be a satirical snark.
It was only upon seeing some of the responses to it I noticed who wrote it, and realized it was the real thing.

Kris (profile) says:

Any update on this moronic woman?
And just a thought. Mr Duck settled with her. That’s in no way an admission of guilt. The settlement agreement was that he’d agree to whatever it happened to be and that SHE would stop pursuing the supposed copyright infringement.
By claiming in this new copyright claim that this other guy’s table is based off of Mr Duck’s unlawful table she’s implying his guilt. She’s in breech of her previous settlement (by basing her current claim on Duck’s supposed guilt she’s both libeling Mr. Duck and filing a baseless and frivolous claim since Mr. Duck never admitted any guilt, a settlement is not an admission of guilt).
These guys both have a libel claim against her and Mr Duck has whatever legal recourse there is for her being in breech of a settlement.

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