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Copyrights on Web Interfaces 390

wildag writes "I've recently come into a battle with a guy who owns this site. You might notice the 'similarities' between his web site and I'm going to doubt that bought the interface from him. The acutal battle comes from a statment that is on his message board (posted by the admin - Leo). He says 'The layout of any website is "public domain" which is freely available to the public' (that is avaliable here: http://hobbes.resne What do you guys think? (BTW, has been notified and he didn't ask permission)." There are countless websites that are direct ripoffs of others, but few as blatant as this one. My policy with Slashdot has always pretty much been take what you want, but give us credit for what ya lift. I've seen this done many times to many sites and it always bums me out: making a well designed website is hard work, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... but isn't saying thanks and crediting your source part of it too? (For those who don't know, Slashdot is owned by VA Linux now, which also owns This doesn't really have anything to do with this story, but I figured I'd mention it). I post this not to point fingers or cause a fight, but to open a discussion about this. Just because you can take something, should you? When are you stealing? Is is hypocritical to demand open source, but not be willing to share your design? And should "Sharing" mean "You can take it, and claim it as your own, and not give the original creator any credit?" Its an issue that spans genres: Web Pages? Source Code? Samples in Music? Fair Use?
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Copywrites on Web Interfaces

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  • by British ( 51765 ) <> on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:44AM (#810579) Homepage Journal
    I remember the company I work for's website was copied for some city-related site. He just changed the text and graphics labels around to suit his needs. Needless to say, we were amused since he did real sloppy job of working on it.

    Seriously, how can you copyright a website layout? Anyone ever notice all gaming related websites(like UGO) look EXACTLY the same, with the trendy left-side navigation in a really small font?
  • Is is hypocritical to demand open source, but not be willing to share your design?

    Rock? Glass houses? Hmm...

  • by Tower ( 37395 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:48AM (#810584)
    give credit where credit is due. If you run slashcode, then you (should) have a Slash logo with a link to, and it would seem appropriate to provide a link to Slashdot, too. In this case, I'd think that a link to and certainly a nice writeup on the credits page (like "the layout of this site was inspired by, blah, blah")... besides, this is a kid's site on his linux box in his dorm room (yes, he does host autctions). I think we could cut him some slack here - this really isn't a commercial website, so it shouldn't be a big deal. Likewise, he should give credit for the layout. Really not much of a problem, though.
  • by .sig ( 180877 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:50AM (#810586)
    Well, IMO there's nothing wrong with web pages being laid out the same way. The point of a web page is to convey information, not to come up with a flashy interface. Personally I get pretty fed up with having to study a page just to figure out where they put things, and would love it if more web sites had a consistant format.
    Now that doesn't mean I totally agree with this guy. Until it becomes common for sites to follow certain layout standards, the very least he could (and probably should) do is give credit to where he got his source. Creating a similar layout and just copying the source and changing a few words are two completely different things. I didn't think to look, but I wouldn't be suprised if you checked out the page source and saw comments from the original site.

  • by Jerky McNaughty ( 1391 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:51AM (#810591)
    Look at this page []. Isn't that the [] logo? Wow. Just give credit where credit is due. I don't see any credit given on his site.
  • by gardenhose ( 85937 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:51AM (#810592)

    The View Source button in every web browser is a tool for stealing! It should be banned IMMEDIATELY! Just think -- ANYONE can go to your PRIVATE homepage and download the source code! You worked DAYS on that font size -4 text with the bright yellow background! That javascript fade background code took MINUTES of removing the comments!

    I have yet to see a single web page design WORTH stealing, geez.

  • I deffinately agree that site layout is public domain. I mean, lets say that I was the one who created the first romance comedey. I created the layout, characters, screenplay, etc. Does this mean that I have the right to sue such and such movie for also creating a romance comedy with a different plot and different characters? Of course not, that is absurd. What if Elvis, the undisputed king of Rock'n'Roll, decided that he was going to sue everyone after him who made songs that were in the Rock'n'Roll genera. Once again, that is absurd. So what if I do a news page similar to slashdot, but not using the slash code. It is not the same page, not the same content, not the same code, just similar idea. Would slashdot sue me for that? You can see what I am getting at. Anyone who tries to patent a page design is nuts, and the patent office is even more nuts for granting them. I ought to just move to Noraway or Finland or something where they could care less about US patents and copyright laws and such.
  • Call me a skeptic but I can't help but think this is a ploy to get tens of thousands of hits streaming to the page of some guy who lamely ripped off another website's page. Seriously isn't this rewarding someone for thievery? It's one thing to say "Is it okay to rip off a sites look" but it's quite another to say "Hey everybody, go visit this guy".

    Just meandering. Wheee.

  • by Floyd Tante ( 210193 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:53AM (#810597)
    Is VA Linux seriously going to sue some college kid in Texas because he stole their site design? Somehow I doubt it. Imagine the great publicity that would generate...

    At any rate, think of it as "Open Souce": both web sites might look the same, but don't share the same content. A person looking for Linux informationis not going to be confused by "". And even if it was a Linux site, the readers would flock to the best site, regardless of design. Much like Open Source Software, projects can compete, but still share. Just think of the Invisible Hand of web site visitors.

    -- Floyd
  • by tupawk ( 220841 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:54AM (#810602)

    I look at web design this way. It is sort of like a book or magazine. All books, magazines, newspapers, etc... have the same basic look and feel. Lets examine a newspaper. There are columns of text and graphics placed on a page. All newspapers follow this format. Websites are the same way, text and graphics are layed out on a page. This could be viewed as the design.

    I personally have no problems with anyone copying my design, layout, whatever you want to call it. Just like a newspaper they can have the same general layout.

    The place where the line is drawn is when they start copying content without permission, including graphics.

    After taking a look at the two sites in question it is obvious that hobbes copied the news graphic from Did he gain permission for this? If not then he is violating copyright. If he has permission to use this grpaic and all his content is original, I dont see a problem.

  • by Imabug ( 2259 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:55AM (#810605) Homepage Journal
    only had a casual look at the two websites, but it's a pretty blatant ripoff of layout, colours, formatting. heck the site even stole a bunch of the graphics used at
    I think it's one thing to borrow the layout of a website and modify formatting and colouring to suite your needs, but IMHO, this is pretty much the same as plagarizing.

  • Well, since there's several different slash-like Open Source alternatives Out There(TM) (slash, php-slash, Squishdot...) I'd hardly think that it would be a problem. As it has been mentioned, imitation is the sincerest form of flatterly...

    That being said, most do give some credit, at least...
  • by Rombuu ( 22914 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:55AM (#810607)
    ...this is the road that RMS and the FSF want to lead us down. No IP rights, and no recourse against people who "share" the output of your hard work. If you complain, you are automatically being selfish, since information wants to be shared, and you are obviously a petty capitalist just interested in the fast buck.

    Something to think about, isn't it?
  • by Cy Guy ( 56083 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:55AM (#810608) Homepage Journal
    I'd bring it up with Texas A&M as they probably have restrictions against using copyrighted material on the free webspace they provide to their students.

    Specifical, read this FAQ []:

    What activity on ResNet will get me in trouble?

    Students are subject to rules of responsible computing, as described in . [] Activities including but not limited to the following will be considered violations: ... unauthorized possession of copyright material;... use of any A&M resource for commercial use.

    The site seems to potentially violate both of those.

  • If the other site stole HTML and reworked it, then there's copyright issues involved, unless the web code has been released into the public domain. If he reverse engineered his web page to look like, then there isn't copyright issues involved. At best there might be trademark issues involved. As I vaguely recall, there are 'look and feel' issues that some people feel can be trademarked or owned (I could quite easily be wrong though). But in case I sort of doubt they went that far.

    In short, it depends on whether HTML was stolen or not. Otherwise, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
  • by LoonXTall ( 169249 ) <> on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:57AM (#810612) Homepage

    Seriously, how can you copyright a website layout? Anyone ever notice all gaming related websites(like UGO) look EXACTLY the same, with the trendy left-side navigation in a really small font?

    Copyrighting a general concept like left-side navigation is silly. However, copying the entire site down to the images/colors and just changing the name (like from Slashdot to FishFriends News) is definitely wrong. Even worse is stealing the HTML, then changing the images to "SRC=", since /. then pays for your site in the bandwidth dept.

    So the copyrightability should depend on the specificness of things. What would computing look like if Bell Labs had copyrighted the idea of having an OS kernel?

  • by killbill ( 10058 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:00AM (#810619) Homepage
    I posted something similiar to this a month or so back, but it bears repeating.

    It is important to Microsoft to make money, and they have written restrictive licenses to accomplish that end.

    It is important for academics to gain prestige and recognition for themselves and their organizations, and they write restrictive licenses (use only with attributions) to accomplish that end.

    It is important for free software advocates to make all software completely free and always open, and they write restrictive licenses (the GPL) to accomplish those ends.

    It is important to me to show people God's love in practical ways, and I wrote my restrictive license (LGPL with a further explanation of intent) for my open source published software to accomplish that end.

    It is important for musicians to control their message and generate income, and they write restrictive licenses to accomplish that end.

    So, do we honor the original authors wishes, or is intellectual property immoral... you can't have it both ways! It is either totally free (not only as in beer and speech, but even further as in total lawless anarchy), or it is "owned" by the original author and you must respect their "license" that meets their goals and desires if you wish to use their work.

    Bill Kilgallon
  • by Dr_Bones ( 125791 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:00AM (#810620)
    Has anything actually been *lost* of a result of this? I certainly agree that when you copy someone's site design, you need to give credit to them.

    To be honest, I've done this, more times than once. I've given credit to the appropriate people, either via email, or by posting it directly on the site. What it comes down to is that some people just aren't gifted creatively, and will just steal your idea (and I'm one of them). Do I feel bad about it? No. I'd bet the person running the offending site has no problems with it either.

    The point is this: give credit, it's ok. don't give credit, you're an ass.

  • I think you would have to prove that the code was completely original and unique. I mean, it's entirely posible for Frontpage to put out identical code for two seperate people.. and how many paged are done in FrontPage?

  • by drivers ( 45076 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:03AM (#810624)
    Normally I'd say horking some else's style is not illegal, but in this case, he ripped the actual icons off of As I write this, the "News" icons on and that tamu site are the same thing.
  • Okay, when I go to, a copy of that website goes to my internet cache. If I make a couple of changes to the site and personalize it, change the substance a little bit, who is to say that I am wrong?

    This is one of those areas where I think people have to go with their own gut instincts. I would not have a problem doing a total rip of say, slashdot or and putting up a personal website with information about me, my family, or my favorite hobby. For me though, I would have to draw the line at ripping off someone elses site design to make money. That would be BAD.

    The site in question in this article does kind of leave a bad taste in my mouth... it's kind of somewhere in between the two extremes that I listed in the above paragraph. Maybe I would feel better if he had kept the page formatting and simply changed out some of the graphical style involved.

    Oh well, everyone is entitled to their own opinions (except for persons with schizophrenia, who may be entitled to multiple opinions. No! They are entitled to no opinions what-so-ever. Yes they, are you crazy or something?)
  • by Greg@RageNet ( 39860 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:03AM (#810627) Homepage
    If your looking for a warm fuzzy from the slashdot community to 'take action' (i.e. involve lawyers) against this site I doubt you are going to get it.

    Lets face it, there is only so many ways you can lay out a website. you can put nav crap on the left side, right side, or top, or have combinations of two or all three. Theres only so many ways a site can be laid out and if one looks like another then either accept that fact or break out the lawyers and join the ranks of the MPAA and RIAA in bullying to get your way.

    The only place you would have might have any leeway is on the images, ask them to have made their own if you feel this bit of 'intelectual property' is so important that it needs to be restricted.

    Under the 'Legal Information' the only asserted copyright is over articles and reviews, the rest of the site is described as a 'community site', with no stated restrictions on using/copying the website layout and images itself.

    If he broke into your servers and stole your (restricted) source code then perhaps action would be justified, but just taking the 'look and feel' while coding/building his own backend does not.

    -- Greg
  • by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:05AM (#810631) Journal
    If deep linking is considered bad, by the courts, what do the courts thing about complete coping of a web site. I had a guy ask me once how did some things on my web page. It was mostly done in JavaScript, so I said that he needed to learn JavaScript if he wanted to copy it. It is bad enough that someone is going to rip my design, but then to ask me to help them rip my design is really bad.

    I think he could possibly get into trouble if he has images on his web site that area copied and he does not have permission. I think I have heard of that happening before. Are the images free?

    Also there was a case of a company sewing another company cause the first company did work on a web site and the second company fied the first and then brought in someone else and the new someone continued the work on the web site, and the first company threatened to sew. I amm not sure where that went.

    The question is how does feel about this. They are owned by va linux, I believe and are supposed to be advocaters of open source as I understand. If so then they may not care.
    I don't want a lot, I just want it all ;-)
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • by Mahy ( 111194 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:05AM (#810632) Homepage
    I don't know if it is operating right now, but hobbes is in fact a huge Samba search engine which indexes all the student shares at TAMU as well as several other large universities. You can like him or not, but...maybe it would be good to get his point of view in here? He isn't some kiddie with copy and paste, he is a really REALLY bright guy, and I'd like to see his point of view.

    I wonder how long it will take for this to get moderated down... :)

  • by Daemosthenes ( 199490 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:06AM (#810637)
    Except on the exact same page, where he credits's cool layout. Yes, it's right there on the page.
    - - - - - - - - -
  • I do think they should say something like "The design of this site was modeled after" or something of the sort but if the site admin dosent want to, what can you really do.

    Release your site under the GPL.

  • As of this writing, the website in question is not responding at all.
    So that's why you posted this, eh? Make readers slashdot his site, that's how he will learn.

  • Is it free speech to be able to copy a work, or is it copyright infringement? These are questions that have come into the limelight recently.
    this particular subject holds special meaning for me since I am a web-developer (of sorts). Anyway I spent *many* hours working on refined, and generally developing my site. The question I have is: "Is ripping off graphics, and website, then same as ripping off code, and/or is it the same as ripping off writton work?". I would like to compare it with a great work of art, take for instance the Mona Lisa, there nothing is stopping someone from digatally copying it, and saying that he/she did it. Now of course that person will get laughed at, at flagged as an obvious plagarist. But happen when the work isnt so well known? Inspiration is a good thing, without inspiration, the intellectual evolution of man would slow to a crawl. Hence its of the emulate something and try to match a particualar work, in fact if someone likes my site enough to want to emulate it, then I feel honored, becuase it means that at least one person liked it so much that they wanted it for there own. But when your working with digital imagery the problem arising where the person can obtain perfect digital copies of you work, and reuse them. Then it turns into a insult to the original author, becuase you are stealing the work he/she poured all that effort into. Plagarism is wrong inspiration isnt, people need to know where to draw the line. There are no "gray areas" in computers, they are yes or no, there is no maybe, humans on the other hand live in the analog world, where most of our time is spent in the gray area. That is why computers, and copyright issues have become so prevalent recently.

    Just my $0.02

  • The 'look and feel' theft is going to be difficult to litigate should a battle like this go to court. An obvious defense to this might be to say that a website's interface is the same as a song. The actual recording of an artist performing a song belongs to that artist (or the behemoth record company). But for Weird Al Yankovic to do a cover, that's a parody and is protected by the first ammendment. Even if it's not Weird Al, but instead is Poison Idea doing a cover of 'We Got the Beat' by the Go-Go's, that's perfectly legal, too. Even though the words and song structure are exactly the same (read: the html formatting is the same), it's a different rendition because it's different musicians (read: the text / graphics of the website are different).

    So if you're the Eddie Van Halen of the html design world, how do you turn your back to the audience during live performances of 'Eruption []' so that those young upstarts don't steal your guitar riffs? I guess you could obfuscate things with javascript that does a server origination validation routine before outputting some page-critical component.

  • But the fact of the matter is, he even gives credit to the layout, as shown here. [] All of you are talking about how he gave no credit, yet there is blatant proof that he does. Now, the real question is whether that is enough credit to give in return for "yoinking" an entire website design.
    - - - - - - - - -
  • by swerdloff ( 16397 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:14AM (#810666) Homepage
    The open source movement has turned previously canonical rules of intellectual property on their head. However - they have done so by working within the rules. The open source community depends on the GPL and its brethren, which are _still_ all licensing schemes, they're just open. Working within that framework gives the holders of these rights the ability A: To revoke (unless the GPL totally revokes all rights, you retain them (I haven't read the GPL, I don't know)) and B: to choose what you want to keep and what you want to give away.

    Put metaphorically - just because I let you use my pool doesn't mean I want you also sleeping with my wife in my bed.

    It is _not_ hypocritical to have an open source/public good for one piece of software but maintain proprietary rights in something else. Just b/c someone has given away _some_ of their intellectual property doesn't mean that they've decided to give it _all_ away. If a hobbyist works on a widget for the next Red Hat distro and it gets burned in, do you also expect said hobbyist to give away all of his copyright material in some other field? Illogical.

    Giving away something does not equate to giving away everything.

    Unless the new Linux argument is "do away with money" and if so, email me, and I'll tell you where you can send the pre-IPO shares of your company.

    There are no logical paradoxes. If two things seem to conflict, check your premises. One of them is usually wrong. -- Ayn Rand (Via Hugh Akston)
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:15AM (#810671) Homepage Journal
    Besides the fact that this is glaring hypocrisy. Slashdot bitches about the fact that Metallica don't want people ripping off their music then wants people to acknowledge the fact that they copied some HTML??? What the fuck?

    It's freaking HTML. It's not a big deal, it didn't cost you any money to produce nor is it any skin of your nose if someone else uses it, so what's your problem? It's not like it cost Slashdot thousands of dollars to market, produce and distribute the HTML so what's the big deal?
    Before corporations got here, the Web was a place where people shared stuff and information was free, now we see people trying to claim ownership on stuff as intangible as the HTML that a website is written with or for it's look and feel? B.S.

    I almost expected to see CmdrTaco claim that people are stealing his intellectual property.

    By the way, for all the Open Source guys out there, forcing people to advertise slashdot simply for using it's HTML or look and feel is counter to the spirit of the GPL. After all, Slashdot isn't forced to display powered by Apache or running GNU/Debian Linux or served by MySQL. So why should people be required to display a logo based on the most intangible and flimsiest part of the site, it's HTML?

    (-1 Troll)
  • Heh, let's not forget the importance of the "View Source" button in the evolution of the web.

    Today's web coders learned much (if not all) of what they know by stealing HTML code from other sites. Around 1995, when I started throwing together my first ugly webpages, one of the ways we learned how to do it was to steal code off of other sites. In fact, people still steal code all the time for some of the fancier Javascript effects (not that I'm a real fan of Javascript, but...)

    Still, who cares if someone stole your site design as opposed to content? People aren't coming to your site to check out your design, they're coming to check out your funky fresh content. I mean, just look at Slashdot... one of the uglier sites out there, IMHO, but also one of the best and most functional sites in the world- if not THE best.

    Aside from design geeks, who the hell's gonna visit a site just because it looks cool? That's something a lot of suits don't get.

  • You're kind of missing the point. It's not so much that they _can't_ rip a layout from another site, just that it's considered common courtesy to provide some form of attribution to the source. This recognizes the hardwork of the person or persons who created the original.

    In the case of most Open Source softwares, there is a legal obligation to provide the attribution (ie. GPL, Artistic License, etc...)

    The question is if this legal oblication exists when copying the visual layout of a site. IMHO, this falls under the question of copyright. If posts an explicit copyright to the layout as well as the content of their site, then the obligation certainly does exist (if it doesn't precluse the rip alltogether.)

    There's plenty of legal precedent in UI design regarding this kind of issue, so the point is moot somewhat.

    No, will sue this guy? Probably not. Is the guy in the wrong on this one? Probably so.

  • <HTML&gt


    &lt!-- By Viewing this source code, you agree to the following conditions: ...

  • by xant ( 99438 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:22AM (#810687) Homepage
    In any discussion of plagiarism, people should wonder who is being hurt by the "theft" of the idea, in this case the layout (and, apparently, the icons - I couldn't verify that because the hobbes site was /.'ed). My answer is that no one was hurt. Does anyone really believe will lose hits because of this new site that has their layout? It's the information the site provides that matters, and if you don't think so, you shouldn't be running a website.

    Now, many people will be saying "credit should be given where credit is due." To them I say yes, you're absolutely right, but the ability to use ideas from someone else (notice I didn't say take), no matter how many of them you use, is fundamental to the ability to produce any new ideas. didn't arise in a vacuum, it came about because of many similar layouts that came before it. Which came about because of the invention of HTML, and HTTP. Which came about because of the invention of networking . . . etc.

    And sure, outright carbon copying is lazy and largely useless to the rest of the community since it provides nothing new, but that's the extent of his crime.

  • I think layout and design need to be distinguished in this discussion. Layout is where things go on the page - nav menu on left, title banner on top, content in the middle, additional links on the left, etc. Design is the graphics, motif, color scheme, font faces all rolled together that give a site a distinct look and feel. That hack ripped-off the latter, not the former.

    Layout is something that cannot really be ripped off. There are only so many ways to display a collection of items on a page, to say nothing of displaying them effectively. But design is something that takes blood, sweat, and tears. Effective design is something that is hard to attain and is typically intertwined with a logo and look, as far as businesses go.

    Although I hate analogies with print media (web design and print design are two completely different balls of wax) I don't think anyone would argue that stealing layout (TOC in front, advertisement in back) is the same as stealing design (logo, look, and feel).

    And sorry to break it to you but just because a web page is available to the public does not mean the design is public domain. You swipe someone's design w/o permission, you're ripping them off. If it's a corporate site, you can be prosecuted - if it's a personal site, you're just an asshole (fortunate for you).

    Sorry if I seem a little pissy but I'm a web designer/developer and this hits close to home. Most of you have seen the shitty web pages out there - effective, clean design is not easy. I personally, would not serve up design I spend days and weeks on to some uncreative, lazy ass. At the very least, ask permission.


  • As long as they are not stealing content, you really do not have a complaint in my eyes.

    I always thought these "look and feel" cases heald about as much water as a sieve patent. Yhey might, but they shouldn't.

    Hell, even complaining that another site has the same "look" as yours (yes, even if it is a clone with different content) is about as genuine as an Apple vs. whomever lawsuit. Yes, I *think* Apple won something along those lines, but did you support that decision then?

    This is the same thing.

    Visit DC2600 []
  • Stealing web-layouts and javascript and images and even web-apps is very much easier and quicker than making them your-self. I am a web developer and I find myself looking at the source of other sites to find out how they did this and that. But a person who blatantly copies the whole design, basically "cutting and pasting" someone else's idea does not love what he's doing and has no respect for those who do. That's the bottom line--I know I just opened a idealistic and ancient can of worms when I try to relate integrity and respect to the computer industry. 95% of us buy operating systems and applications from a company that has diluted the meaning of these words so far that most IT people don't understand how they apply to source code and ideas. People ask if this is legal or not, and the general consensus is to do whatever you can and bend the law as far as you can to get what you want as quickly as possible. The issue here is not legality--stealing code and copying sites SHOULD be legal, and the marketplace itself should be arranged so that the programmers who do cut and paste SHOULDN'T be able to find or keep work very long. A web developer who cuts and pastes shouldn't be a web developer, obviously doesn't like to actually DEVELOP, and stealing from someone else's bread and butter should be the fundamental wrong of the industry. It seems less wrong if what you're stealing has already been stolen 100 times, but think about it: that's 100 times the programmer who origonated the idea didn't get credit for it, and you'd be making it 101.
  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:26AM (#810698) Homepage Journal
    Something to think about, isn't it?

    No, not really.

    If you publish something in an environment where you've got no right to stop people from appropriating it for their own uses, you've got no one to blame but yourself. In other words, no one put a gun to your head and made you publish it, so quit whining.

    If you publish something under a license that permits derivative works, don't complain when derivative works actually happen, even when they make more money or earn more attention than your works.

    A corollary to the the first two: When the legal framework permits dervative works for the purpose of criticism and parody, don't whine when someone uses those rights to successfully counter your opinions or propoganda.

    When you try to claim ownership of something so vague as "look and feel", don't be suprised when people shrug you off as a possesive control freak. There are clearly optimum design patterns for user interfaces, and none of them require such an investment to implement to merit copyright or trademark status. One can own words, one can own images, one can even one an expression of an algorithm, but to claim ownership of a particular nesting of <table> elements is absurd.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:28AM (#810700) Homepage Journal

    Layout, look'n'feel, theme, interfaces, protocols -- these things aren't copyrightable. I thought Microsoft-vs-Apple settled that. (Furthermore, it would be particularly hypocritical for a Linux advocates site or RMS fans to argue the position that interfaces are copyrightable.)

    On the other hand, specific expressions (such as the bitmaps) are copyrightable. Theoretically, long strings of HTML that do formatting crap (seperate from the content) might be copyrightable too (but I'm uncertain about the length, and it seems silly to me somehow). If this guy took copyrighted stuff from, then he should either cease'n'desist, or agree whatever terms wants (e.g. give credit where it is due). If he doesn't like the terms, he can make his own bitmaps.

  • Theft is Theft.

    Yes, and copying is copying, and copying is not theft, since it does not deprive anyone the use of the object.

    And layout and look-and-feel is neither copyrightable nor patentable, so this isn't even unauthorized copying.

    Is is tacky and rude? Perhaps.

  • There really are an aweful lot of illiterate people on here some days. The original article poster made it quite clear that they were upset because the copier of the website re-licensed it as public domain, instead of crediting the author of the design.

    Open source software gives credit to authors, it isn't stealing.
  • I Agree.

    Probably sitting around the office going "hey, this kid ripped off Let's show him buy /.'ing his box. That'll learn him"

    There are plenty of websites that have blatently stolen the /. "look and feel" How many companies ripped off Yahoo!? Did Yahoo! put a link on their front page and say "click here to overload thier systems! They are puny compared to our massive bandwidth!!! [evil laugh here]" No.

    Of course, it is sometimes fogotten that /. isn't really a news site. None of the staff are educated in jounalism. It just happens to be a site that reported stuff from other sites that just happen to get kinda popular and big. Jounalism is more then just how many people read what you write. I don't really consider Slashdot jounalism any more then I'd consider National Enquirer or Weekly World News. All three are read by millions. None of it is journalism.

    That's nothing really against any of them either. All three are very entertaining to read. But to call it journalism your head is either in two places, in the clouds, or in your arse.

  • No. Left-side navigation isn't something you want to copyright, for that you'd want a patent *smirk*.

    As for getting someone else to buy bandwidth for your site by direct linking to their content/images within your HTML, there are ways to prevent this at the server that are not that tough to implement, so do that. Or replace the linked images with naughty stuff.

    But look and feel, even JavaScript/HTML tricks? It's not like C or Perl code which is usually long and involved, most everything that can be done with JS/HTML is documented in some book or online help, so I can't really see being possessive about someone dissecting your code and using it, or even going so far as cutting and pasting parts of it (that is, assuming the content is replaced).

    Of course, Slashdotting the offending site was a good move. :)
  • I haven't been by hobbes in a while to check it out (especially now, since it's down), but I have to agree that verbatim copying of a site isn't very cool.

    What saddens me more though is the lack of credit.

    You see, I was the original owner/creator of It was a place people went to to search for things on the network. It got reasonable traffic - 20-30k page views a day. The recognition was cool, and it was fun to code up.

    The idea of the service the server provide(s/d) wasn't mine however, and I credited the people who originally came up with it. Hell, I even credited a guy for using his idea on a bar graph using tables (asked permission first too - Thanks Doug - you know who ya are. :) ).

    In the last couple months before I graduated, I passed it on to Leo so that the service would continue after I left. I felt like he'd do a good job running it. Perhaps I should have spent more time evaluating folks to take it over. Interestingly enough, a couple months after handing it over the mention of myself or the previous originators of the idea disappeared.

    In a way I was a little pissed, but dismissed that as just me being selfish. After all, he did some work to improve the service performance, added other features, and so forth. But now, I'm kinda glad my name isn't on there. Not sure how much pride goes along with that.

    Thanks Leo. You make me proud.

  • The actual recording of an artist performing a song belongs to that artist (or the behemoth record company). But for Weird Al Yankovic to do a cover, that's a parody and is protected by the first ammendment. Even if it's not Weird Al, but instead is Poison Idea doing a cover of 'We Got the Beat' by the Go-Go's, that's perfectly legal, too. Even though the words and song structure are exactly the same (read: the html formatting is the same), it's a different rendition because it's different musicians (read: the text / graphics of the website are different).

    There are actually two related, but distinct, situations here:

    1. Parody (but not satire) in the US is a court recognized form of free speech.
    2. Any artist that belongs to ASCAP (or any other similiar group) implicitly gives permission to other artists to perform their work. Both venues that host live music and any record labels that put out product with 'covers' are subject to copyright infringement suits if they don't pay royalties via membership in ASCAP or some similiar organization

    On the other hand, how many bands are there that sound like Black Sabbath, Motley Crue, Amy Grant, or 10,000 Maniacs? You can copyright the lyrics, the chord progressions, the notes, etc. But you can't copyright the 'feel' of the music.

    So if you're the Eddie Van Halen of the html design world, how do you turn your back to the audience during live performances of 'Eruption' so that those young upstarts don't steal your guitar riffs?

    Eddie doesn't (or shouldn't) mind when those young upstarts steal his guitar riffs, because everytime someone hears it and thinks it cool and says something to a friend about that awsome lick, the friend, who is in the know, points out, 'hey dude, that is Eddie Van Halen's riff from Eruption.' Next thing you know Mr. Van Halen has one new additional customer of his albums.

  • >>I had a guy ask me once how did some things on my web page. It was mostly done in JavaScript, so I said that he needed to learn JavaScript if he wanted to copy it.
    Or, maybe he wanted to learn javascript, /so/ he was going to copy it? I will completely admit that's how I have learned javascript, CSS, and html, in fact. You see a neat trick, see how it works, take the plaintext and play with it a bit to see how it works, add another widget to your skills. It probably just meant that the guy was impressed with your site.
  • Isn't that kind of an inside joke for people in/from Texans? (Note that I don't say "Texans")
    Aggies are treated here like "Polacks" are elsewhere. Or "morons", or "retards".
    People would better be served making fun of Aggies' drinking while building a big-ass bonfire that was badly thought out, even though the school is known for its engineering and architechture. Now that's fodder. Or how about the way they blindly follow traditions like ostracizing minorities? Or how about the predominately macho military centric views they espise?
    By the way, the answer is 1000. One to hold the light bulb while 999 red pots turn the house around.
  • Just because something is published on the web does -not- make it public domain, any more than a billboard ad being published in plain view makes the advertisement public domain. It's clear to me that, legally, this is easily copyright violation. (If you don't explicitly give out rights, all-rights-reserved is assumed by the law since sometime in the 80's when they stopped requiring explicit copyright stamped all over everything.)

    OTOH, ethically, I think non-profit sites should publish on an ok-to-copy-for-non-profit use basis. I know my copyright page on my home page reads 'you can use it for non-profit purposes if you give credit, for-profit purposes require explicit permission' and I put a little hyperlinked &copy Copyright YYYY at the bottom of every page. Of course, everyone has the right to do with their copyrightable works what they will, but I have the right to make fun of them if they do things that I think are bad. ;)

    So, from my PoV, legally he shouldn't have done it, and ethically, should have a copyright permitting non-profit reuse/derivative works of the site and he certainly -should- have given credit.

  • Andover needs to sue the guy, and anyone that links to his site, and the program that copied the GIFs, as well as Apache Foundation, PHP authors, Mandrake, and the authors of fastcgi for providing him the tools that allowed him to do this.

    We must protect their Intellectual Property rights. They must not stop. Contact the heads of Texas A&M and demand the page be removed. If they don't comply, firewall them at the backbone, at ISPs. This must not be allowed to continue...

  • by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:49AM (#810742) Homepage Journal

    Slashdot covers the Napster v. Metallica issue because it's a fascinating battle of morons (ok, so I'm flattering Lars' intellect with that description) against technology. In this instance, the morons have chosen to attack a service provider (Napster) with a lawsuit, whereas legal precedent has demonstrated that a service provider cannot be held liable for the traffic it routes because to filter it would make it impossible to provide the service. This is roughly akin to Yahoo or Google having to be responsible for purging links in their indexes to illicit content hosted on other people's servers. For Google to police the fourteen bazillion pages they've got indexed to make sure there's no photo scanned in from Life magazine (or an mp3 file containing any song off Master of Puppets) would be impossible. Likewise, it's impossible for Napster to ensure that the clients aren't providing copyrighted songs for download. This is precisely why AT&T and those other service providers filed a brief on behalf of Napster earlier this week.

    The correct route for Metallica to have taken on this issue would have been to file lawsuits against the individuals providing the files for download on their servers. Because that's a publicly messy solution and also costly- the loser in such a case shoulders the court costs, and how many 14 year-old defendants can afford to pay for Metallica's lawyers? - Metallica has chosen to sue Napster.

    I've never seen Taco or any other staff of Slashdot advocate people pirating intellectual property. The debate here is whether or not a 'design' for a website can be considered intellectual property.

  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:51AM (#810745) Journal
    He says "Many thanks to's cool layout!" in the "contributions" section.
  • I'm sure we've all seen some neat things contained on web pages that we've decided that we just had to incorporate into our own. I know I do all the time. But it is one thing to swipe a javascript or menu layout that we like, and another two download and use an entire web site in its entirety. C'mon guy! How about some originality?

  • Finally got to the site in question ('twas slashdotted, I guess).

    First, the site has copied a number of gifs from, such as endcap.gif and stripes.gif. If these images aren't "freeware", but were created for, then the copying and ditributing of those images is a copyright violation.

    More generally, layout design (or blank forms) are not copyrightable. The U.S. copyright office's circular 32 (PDF) [] (on forms) says:
    "Copyright does not extend to names, titles, and short phrases or clauses such as column headings or simple checklists. The format, arrangement, or typography of a work is not protected."

    However, a "trade dress" lawsuit would at least make it into court - I don't have a clue what the outcome might be because a similar web-related case hasn't happened yet, but it's only a matter of time. In "trade dress", courts have ruled that a commercial "look" that consumers associate with a source of goods or services can be protected, that another business cannot use that "look" when it can create confusion in the minds of consumers. The example case of trade dress infringment is Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc. (91-971), 505 U.S. 763 (1992). [] wherein the Supreme Court stated:
    "trade dress was protected if it either was inherently distinctive--i. e., was not merely descriptive--or had acquired a secondary meaning--i. e., had come through use to be uniquely associated with a specific source".
    Personally, I'd say the look was inherently distinctive. Whether the copying leads to confusion is another, critical, question...

    Finally, this site appears to be a commercial site ( forwards to it), but is being hosted on the Texas A&M network (home is I'm suspecting that somebody in authority in the University would be annoyed at this relationship.

    Just a few changes quick changes could change the look enough to avoid the problem totally, but a little work is apparently a lot to ask of some people.

  • I think it's great to say "IP is evil" and "copyright must die." And it's even better to back that up by distributing your own IP freely.

    But it is wrong to wontonly use somebody else's IP against their wishes. This is Linus' perspective on Napster [], and I'm inclined to agree. Linux (etc.) is about sharing if you *want* to share. Not forcing others to.


  • At the very most, authors should get limited control for a limited amount of time.

    You can't mandate that users stand on their heads to use it.

    You shouldn't be able to control it forever... what's more important? That authors are able to restrict the use of their works 50 years down the road when people want to use it in situations the author never dreamed of, or that humanity is able to use its resources to the fullest extent? It's one author's benefit vs. many people's benefit. Still, the author's wishes should be respected for a time because their contributions are valuable to society. After that, it's impossible to restrict usage anyway because the copies are so far-flung and possibly incorporated into other works which were incorporated into other works...

  • Hmm. I see both sides here. Yes, please give me credit if you rip off my work. BUT...

    I thought 1/2 the point of Open Source was to Learn By Example. Which means that often code that you've written looks a LOT like something else. After all, EVERYTHING has been done at least once already.

    I've viewed source on thousands of webpages. How many thank-yous do I have to post? They all helped me develop a (crappy) sense of style, so they all contributed, but in the end if I write it, it's mine.

    Note this doesn't apply to directly ripping off things like slashcode, where the code is being used verbatim. But overall...

  • Please give us advice on how to help our Parent Company(tm) get a sister site out of potential legal trouble by discussing it in our forum and help us tell the Little Guy(tm) to go to

  • The thing is, non-celebrities (like me) crave some attention for their work, and want to see it acknowledged.

    Minor celebrities (like CmdrTaco) sort of think it would be neat if someone would mention their work and that it was good enough to use. As you can tell from the article, CmdrTaco doesn't really have a solid stance on this issue.

    Major celebrities (like those musicians you mentioned) don't ever want to hear from you, ever. They don't want to hear "thanks", or "you rock", or "you inspired my work". In fact, they don't ever want to hear from another human being again, with the possible exception of their significant others.

    This isn't really an article about ethics - it's more about ego, and politeness.
  • It's freaking HTML. It's not a big deal, it didn't cost you any money to produce nor is it any skin of your nose if someone else uses it

    B.S. Companies will pay tens of thousands of dollars to have some development firm create a good design, and I've seen many a developer spend hours working on HTML/JavaScript because it doesn't work in both MSIE/Netscape.

    Your comments are so blatantly ignorant I'm surprised you even managed to get some italic tags into your post. As to the Metallica comment, your missing the point. When I download a Metallica MP3, i'm not trying to pass it off as my own music.

    Smarten up foo.

  • Apple Lost. Otherwise Windows would look alot different. and we would be a lot better off.


    - - - - - - - -
    "Never apply a Star Trek solution to a Babylon 5 problem."

  • I'd have to agree with you in terms of appearance. Sites like Zope's Squishdot and this Hobbes site are made to look *exactly* like their inspiration. I much prefer sites that borrow the ideas of interface, but give appearance its own flavor. A perfect example of this is the now-defunct K5 clearly borrowed almost all of its interface ideas from Slashdot, but in terms of appearance it was much easier on the eyes, and didn't really look like Slashdot at all.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • It's apples and oranges.

    The nature of stealing someone's music means that it will always be obvious that it is theft. (Unless someone is claiming that their garage band sounds like Metallica.) It's very obvious that the person presenting the content (in this case a song) didn't originate it. No matter how you get the content you always know that the musicians created it.

    However, stolen web site design is much trickier. The web is a big place and with credit hidden or not given at all, the person putting the site up is letting visitors assume that he/she is a creative person who came up with this site design all on their own. Unless someone sees both sites and makes the comparison (like here) they will usually get away with it.

    That's why I think it fits the definition of plagiarism, because this guy isn't going out of his way to make sure visitors know that he took the design from somewhere else. Whether he intends it or not, he is taking credit for someone else's work.

    And HTML isn't intangible at all. It's code that your browser interprets to define how you, the visitor, experience the content that is presented. It takes time, effort and creative skill to define that experience, and if it's ripped off and no credit given to the original "HTML Artist" then that's theft.
  • He did not want to learn, he wanted me to say put these tags in your page and do this and it will work for you. Most people who learn to code, usually learn by example or accident. Taking code and learning fro it is one thing. But taking code and just using it can be theft. I was not asked hey can I borrow this code or that code. It was I like your design so and I want ot copy it, so how did you do this or that so I can make it look like I did it first. Using HTML pages to learn what to do and how to do it is how I learned. But my pages are now MY own, done by me and not copied from somewhere else. They may not be as fancy as some others, but I like to be able to do what I do I HTML, and am looking forward to when I can do it with xml, xul, xhtml, and Javascript.

    I am all for open source, but just because someone puts up a web page does that count as open source?
    I don't want a lot, I just want it all ;-)
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • He copied a very nice and clean layout. And he grabbed some images and repainted them with his own logos. If I needed a nice pastel shaded rectangle I would probably grab one as well.

    It's not like he's trying to hide where it came from. He has a dancing penguin, a "powered by Linux", and many other cartoon penguins on there. It is very likely that people reading this page have seen, or might find it rather quickly.

  • If you mean printed the actual Hex values out, then I don't think so... Since no one could ever interperet a shirt covered in hex-codes as the actual image, you'd be hard-pressed to prosecute such a case.

    However, if the picture was recognizable on this t-shirt, it would most definitely be a copyright infringement. The fact that it's on a t-shirt makes no difference.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • I hope you're kidding. 1) That would not be an NDA and 2) It would be clearly unenforcable, since to actually agree/disagree with the license, you'd already have to view the source code (since you put the license there). On top of this, HTML is an unencoded language, and is tranmitted in a cleartext stream. It's manner of display is determined by the client, not the server, so if I decide that I'd rather look at websites in their raw HTML form (as opposed to using a layout system like IE or Mozilla), that's simply my choice.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • It doesn't matter that he stole the bitmaps from the site, it's not like he went through a big pain to get them, he just right-clicked 'save picture as'. It isn't an OS. I don't wanna hear people saying that he should change it or shouldn't have done it. i've seen people in this chat that couldn't believe apple's nerve when they contacted stardock in order to remove the winaqua skins, they then come here and yell out 'bloody murder!' when they see someone copying a linux homepage.
  • Seriously, how can you copyright a website layout? Anyone ever notice all gaming related websites(like UGO) look EXACTLY the same, with the trendy left-side navigation in a really small font?

    Layout, and visual design in general, are trademarkable, not copyrightable. If a magazine or website were to come up with a visually unique layout, it could trademark the "look and feel".

    Borrowing someone's layout would not generally be a copyright violation, unless the underlying (copyrighted) code was taken without permission. In the case of automatically generated code, it would depend on the status of the program which generated the code. If I write a program which automatically creates web pages, I could conceivably copyright the HTML template my program uses. Of course, that would make my software unusable by anyone but me, since anyone else using it would be generating web pages to which I owned the copyright, unless copyright law has an exception covering that.

    It seems that the only potential copyright violations are in the images and possibly any javascript on the pages.

  • Legalities aside, how does this compare the the EverQuest vs. HackerQuest situation []? Is copying someone's web site design Bad, while copying someone's game server design is considered Good?

    I realize the two situations are different in many ways, but they basically boil down to the same issue in terms of ethics -- "Come up with your own idea; don't steal mine."

  • I've just made a T-shirt of the design elements of (now available at Copyleft), plus I've made a song about it and have posted it to Napster. Information (about design) wants to be free!
  • by Azog ( 20907 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @09:41AM (#810809) Homepage
    Don't laugh!

    I've seen web pages that use Javascript to catch the right mouse click button and pop up a little window saying "This is copyrighted". So you can't use the View Source context menu on the frame. And the browser menu won't help, because the site is using frames and all of the interesting content is in the frame, not the container document which just has a frameset.

    Of course you can get around all that if you try... but just wait until somebody gets sued under the DMCA for this.

    (offtopic: but does anyone know how to turn off Javascript in Internet Explorer 5.0? Did you know that if you search for Javascript in IE5.0 help you get no matches!?)

    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • I was not advocating this. I just suggested that he might rethink his theft if he had something taken from him. I'm glad that he is providing something to the community, but I still believe that he should be creative or get help from someone (some artist at TAMU would probably love to do that for free) that can be, and not take other's hard work.
  • ...but so are the perl scripts used for the messageboard... they're "vB" board is OBVIOUSLY UltimateBulletinBoard... And THAT is illegal... I think it costs something like $199 to get that software, but seeing as they've changed the name and stolen other knowledge, they probably ripped that off too...
  • Maybe he did this after being slashdotted (the page is not dated:


    Many thanks to's cool layout!

    If you have any expertise which you feel can contribute to Hobbes and want your work to be noticed by the masses, please write to me about it!

    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"

  • His credits can be found at: html []

    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • by The Queen ( 56621 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @09:54AM (#810825) Homepage
    the real question is whether that is enough credit to give in return for "yoinking" an entire website design.

    Speaking as a web designer, I say absolutely NOT. At least have the decency to change the color scheme or something. Some may call it imitation/flattery, I call it disrespectful laziness. If you don't have the talent to create your own 'look and feel' then hire someone who does. Sheesh, if my clients could just steal other people's entire sites for their own then I'd soon be out of a job... then again, most clients would still need help just doing that. Ugh.

    The Divine Creatrix in a Mortal Shell that stays Crunchy in Milk
  • Intellectual property is a means to an end -- the betterment of society/humanity. IP isn't a magical natural right: it was created by society/government because in many cases it's beneficial. Copyright makes sure artists get rewarded for their work. Trademarks keep knock-offs from confusing consumers. Patents (in theory at least) reward people for publishing their designs instead of keeping them secret.

    Just like most things in the real world, it's a mixed blessing. When IP is doing something that helps society overall, it's good. When it's used to bludgeon people into being intellectual serfs, it's bad.


  • 'nuff said.


  • Well, If I copied Time Magazines design that closely, I'd be expecting a phone call soon.
  • That information on the net should be free, provided that credit is given where appropriate.

    I feel that I should have the right to use someone else's idea for my new web page, and give them credit for it, especially if they simply ask for credit. If someone says that it's their idea and no one else's, fine. They can have it. Ideas that arent shared, may as well be dead. Information DOES want to be free (as in speech), and we could all stand to take some learning from our kindergarten classes we all slept through so long ago.

    To share with your friend is a nice thing to do.

  • Slashdot authors believe in selectively applying IP as they see fit.

    I have read most if not all of the Napster editorials by Hemos, Jon Katz, and CmdrTaco and there is a stong tendency to make it seem that musicians should just roll over and face the fact that people will steal their music and they should get other jobs.

    Yet once the shoe is on the other foot (and doesn't even harm them financially as opposed to digitally available music[0] which harms artists revenue streams) they scream and bitch about IP.

    [0]Even if it doesn't seem like that now, once high bandwidth, reasonably priced MP3 players and home networking standards are prevelant there'll be a sharp drop in the revenue of professional artists, if services like Napster still exist. Even worse instead of the creators of the music being paid, fat cat venture capitalists will reap the fruits of their labor. Anyone can see this coming.

    (-1 Troll)
  • by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @10:03AM (#810837) Homepage

    I run a website called Omphalos - its pretty small, its taken a lot of work to develop, and I don't make a dime off of it, so I am not upset at lost revenue or anything, but I have had my site content ripped off completely by some other individual in the past, and despite repeated attempts to get the situation resolved (which I handled badly at the start I admit) and despite chasing the guy across multiple webhosts I have still failed to get my stolen content removed from his site. I even contacted the EFF on this, but they do not deal with issues of copyright.

    My website has completely changed since this event, so to illustrate the point I have to point to an older copy of the site that can be compared to the stolen version (which has undergone some changes too for that matter). Keep in mind we are talking content here not appearance. What was specifically taken from my site are the website descriptions and categories that were present in my directory. Here are some example pages:

    1. My old page Beginner [] and the corresponding page on Under a Magick Spell Magickal Books Beginner's Page []
    2. My old page Covens, Circles, Groves & Groups [] and the corresponding page on Under a Magick Spell Magickal Books Covens Page [].
    3. My old page Paganism & Spirituality [] and the corresponding page on Under a Magic Spell Magickal Books Paganism & Spirituality Page []
    4. There are many more pages to compare, but I leave that to the reader. My old main page is at: here [] and the main directory page of the offending website is here []

    Now, my site has grown considerably since then, and undergone many changes. In one sense I don't care that this individual has ripped off my pages because my site is progressing and is probably far better known, its also a more useful resource (and I think I can do webpages better than the other guy too). OTOH, I am really pissed off at the offense of having my site content stolen and being unable to do anything about it other than complain. I don't have the cash to take someone to court so that is not a feasible option, and I am tired of chasing this guy from one ISP to another (I have had his site removed from 3 servers so far and it just keeps reappearing elsewhere).

    I found out about this because someone who had submitted their site to my website informed me that the same description had appeared on this other website, even though they did not submit their site description to that other site. Also, one of my websites ("Atho's Pagan Files Collection", now a part of Omphalos itself) is actually listed in the Bookstore's directory and *I* sure as hell didn't submit it there.

    When I first discovered this I posted a complaint on my website accusing the other site of ripping me off, then contacted the webmaster. I should have done it the other way around, cause I got his back up and it became impossible to reason with him on this issue. My mistake freely admitted here. When I asked him about the similiarities between our site content, he had two comments:

    1. Its just a coincidence that they are so similar.
    2. I don't own a copyright on the contents of my site because it is not possible to have a copyright on webcontent.

    So he refuses to listen to me, and the only recourse I have is to keep chasing him from server to server or sue him in court. I don't have the time or cash for either.

    BTW if the subject matter of my site is of interest to you, please use the current version: []

    Any suggestions?

  • Your argument is illogical to the point of madness. Stealing music harms the artist by denying them a source of revenue especially since there are opportunity costs to creating music (studio costs, time spent practising/learning music, instruments, promotion, etc). Simply because people are not claiming that they created the stolen music does not somehow lessen the impact of the fact that IP is being misused and is harming the artist.

    On the other hand copying the HTML on a page doesn't do jack shit to whoever's site the HTML was copied from.

    Yet CmdrTaco feels that his Intellectual Property in the form of his webpage design (i feel stupid just saying that...) somehow deserves more protection than an artists means of providing a living for (him|her)self

    (-1 Troll)
  • Dear Slashdotters,

    I know I'm sort of a public figure and all, but I don't recall giving anyone permission to use my image on your site. As slashdot is a commercial site, I consider this a use of my immage for commercial purposes. A thank you or something would have been appreciated. I have never been abducted by aliens.

    The Borg makeup is particularly unflatering. This is what really bothers me.

    As a private citezen, I feel greatly abused here, and I hearby order you to cease and dissist. Starting tommorow, my immage and all reproductions of it should be considerd copyright. All proceeds will benifit the Microsoft foundation and my dad. Now piss off kiddies!


    Billy G.

    This stuff is lame guys. Getting him slashdotted and bothered by A&M is just stupid. Before you know it A&M will be putting up sweeping and moronic restrictions on hosting. None of this supposed "rip-off" has hurt anyone. He's put up a credit page with listed (more than slashdot has done for BG) and his site never took eyeball one away from, until today. Now we can be disgusted at Slashdot and

    This looks bad TACO.

  • You're trying to get this guy's resnet connection shut down because he ripped of SOME GRAPHICS? For Christ's sake, CmdrTaco has ripped off graphics for use on Slashdot. Remember the IBM logo fiasco?

    I'd bet money that you have some copyrighted mp3s on your hard drive, or at least had some at one time. I'd bet that you've even used napster/gnapster/whatever at least once, too.

    At any rate, that's not the point. My point is that this guy's copyright violations were incredibly minor. There are probably 1,000,000+ other sites out there that have stolen more graphics than this guy. But you're a Slashdot drone like most everyone else here and you fired off your letter anyway. Now he's pretty much screwed. I'm guessing that he won't have a resnet connection at A&M ever again.

    God forbid anyone ever rip off VA Linux or talk bad about Slashdot and get mentioned here.
  • The FSF's concern is with software, not with other kinds of intellectual property. And the primary concern is that people should be able to build on each other's software, which is different from an information free-for-all.

    The problem with the current system of patents and copyrights is not that people make money with it, but that it means that it creates a web of dependencies and near-monopolies that customers get caught up in. That is clearly not desirable, least of all in a capitalist economy.

    The beauty of the FSF is that it may win through market mechanisms: proprietary software causes lots of problems for its users in a free market and free society. Rather than being anti-free market, free software may ultimately what makes the software market efficient. The only thing it needs to be protected from is legal trickery, like claiming patents and copyrights on trivial aspects of commercial software.

  • by Suydam ( 881 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @11:32AM (#810873) Homepage
    It's not like C or Perl code which is usually long and involved, most everything that can be done with JS/HTML is documented in some book or online help, so I can't really see being possessive about someone dissecting your code and using it

    That is the statement of someone who hasn't had to do something long and in depth in a language. I hear people make that comment about Perl all the time too. "Well stealing CGIs isn't like stealing C...they're short and easy to read anyway".

    So in my opinion, code (be in HTML, JavaScript, Visual Basic, etc.) is subject to a license. If you use the GNU, then people have the right to steal your code. If they use a more restrictive license, they should be required to leave your code alone. It's only a matter of time before people put the same restrictions on HTML/JavaScript in my opinion.

  • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. ( 142215 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @11:51AM (#810879) Homepage
    Use the DMCA to protect your website. Change every 'e' into and then say you are only licensed to decode it with a web browser if you agree to certain conditions. Bonus points if you write your own browser that enforces your conditions and get Netscape and IE banned as circumvention tools. ;)

  • A cease-and-desist letter is a formality. A bullying tactic. In that sentiment you quoted, CmdrTaco is encouraging resistance to this bullying tactic. I can assure you that before the RIAA sued Diamond multimedia over the Rio being marketed, there was a flurry of cease-and-desist orders mailed. When you are the target of a complaint as laughable as this or the RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia lawsuit, you have a decision to make, are you going to bow down and submit to the lawyers' demands or are you going to say 'put up or shut up'? All Slashdot is advocating is that people stand up against this tyranny.


  • If I remember correctly, I think Slashdot left those posts up and basically told Microsoft legal to 'bring it on'.

    This is essentially what slashdot also did when the MPAA sent cease-and-desist letters out to all the websites with links to the DeCSS code. Had they and the other defendants (2600, etc) acquiesced and removed the links, then this case would have been tried and our freedom of speech would have been reduced another notch.

    Perhaps it would have been better had Apple sent a cease-and-desist letter over to Microsoft back when Win 3.0 was released ordering them to cut-out marketing of graphical user interfaces because Apple had a copyright on it... Oh, I guess that's not such a good example. Sorry.

  • Actually, layout and design are copyrightable.

    In Tad Crawfords article Influence Versus Infringement [], he uses the example of a book cover layout:
    The idea is not copyrightable but the expression of the idea is copyrightable. So, for example, the idea to create a book cover using a certain combination of type faces and a negative image of someone's eyes that partially cuts off some of the type (the idea for the cover of Looking Closer 2) is not copyrightable, but the actual cover as created by Michael Bierut is copyrightable.

    Later in the article he states:
    If a book cover has been scanned and slightly altered, it will clearly be an infringement. If the idea for it has been stolen, it will depend on how closely the expression (as opposed to the idea) has been plagiarized. For example, a book cover that placed an image between the words of a title and shaved off the bottom of the type in the top word and the top of the type in the bottom word would presumably not infringe the cover of Looking Closer 2.

    If you want to see the cover that Mr. Crawford is talking about, Look here [].

    Generally, if a work is at least 30% different, it will not violate the copyright on the original work. Determining the amount of difference is usually left up to a judge, since it needs to pass a 'reasonable person' test.

    Though I have not seen the site in question (it seems to be slashdotted), I have little doubt, from reading others descriptions, that it does in fact violate copyright. As far as Trademark law (and the related category of Trade Dress law) is concerned, his site does not seem to be in the same industry, or have the intent to confuse or mislead the public that is a neccessary prerequisite for trademark violations.

    This is why slapping a 'Star Wars' poster on a lunchbox would be both a copyright violation and a trademark violation; because you are not only using someones copyrighted image, but using the 'Star Wars' image is likely to mislead a 'reasonable person' that the product had been endorsed by LucasFilm. However, if I create and sell a 'DreamWorks' line of carpentry tools, I am unlikely to get in trouble, because a 'reasonable person' is not likely to conclude that they had been endorsed by DreamWorks Pictures.
  • Actually, it's funny you would even bother to be posting here if you really believe that - it flies in the face of the motives behind the open source movement.

    There's an old saying: "Good programmers write good code, great programmers steal good code." Now before you go ballistic, realize that "steal" in the context of this saying has never meant actual theft, but simply leveraging the work of others.

    Why *should* the guy admiring your site bother to learn how to create the effect from scratch? The problem has already been solved, and he simply wanted to leverage an already existing solution to a problem he had. When Miguel says we should do this, it's a good thing...

    He probably went away thinking you were quite a jerk, and I'm not entirely sure he wasn't right. I'd have just told him how to take and use the code himself - where's the harm in that? (Especially since you seem to be referring to plain old HTML code and not even Javascript or anything even remotely programmatic?)
  • As your using IE 5 I strongly suggest you download the Proximatron []. You can set a rule to re-enable your right mouse click. Among other great things like resizing frames and tables and blocking popups and ads.
  • Plus, as of now, it appears that his network connection has been revoked! I know that if one of my personal sites that runs on my computer through my college's resnet was slashdotted, Netops would pull my resnet connection and charge me to get it reinstated!

    I think having to visit his local BOFH will be punishment enough. He's going to have to answer to all the bandwidth he's using!

  • If you'll look back into history, you'll quite likely find that it wasn't pagans burning Christians at the cross.

    Moral absolutes, indeed.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • I am sorry to hear that my misfortune and frustration has entertained you in this way. I gather you do not count compassion or sympathy amongst your ethical preferences here.

    I never said I believe in Moral Absolutes per se, simply that I do believe in the concept of copyright for one's works. My rights as such have been violated in my opinion. It's too bad your view of my religious choice has caused you to ignore speaking on this issue, and instead focus on maligning my religion. In my posting I made no comments of a religious nature at all, and in fact hoped to avoid any such discussions, but your inane and biased comments force me to make some reply.

    In what way, are my religious beliefs (about which you know SQUAT by the way since I did not post them) "fundamentally in opposition to the entire idea of objective truth"? What objective truth, and in what way are they opposed to it?

  • Ahem.

    You do realize that every slashdot user is a potential author, right? And that it's possible for different people to think different things about intellectual property?

    Well, now you know.
    No more e-mail address game - see my user info. Time for revenge.

APL hackers do it in the quad.