So I was looking for something through Google images… I clicked on one of the images, which brought up a website I had never seen before but looked interesting.
You thought we wouldn’t notice
Wow! What a great site! It’s inspired me to do a post on copyright…
Every designer has had someone trying to ’steal’ their designs as their own at least one time in their life, usually more. Even as a young child of around 6-7 I remember coming up with ideas for things and having my classmates copy my work. I have personally had many instances of ‘friends’ who have copied my ideas and designs, and as frustrating as it may be, at the end of the day people always say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and you know that if you have talent and creativity you don’t need to copy others’ work!
Both in my degree and my recent web design course we had talks on copyright issues. Several in fact. The annoying thing though is there are no hard and fast rules and different rules apply in different countries. In Australia you can go to the The Arts Law Centre of Australia to get information regarding your rights and copyright issues.
Back to the site, it was thoroughly fascinating to see how many people could spot their own (or someone else’s work) being ripped off left right and centre. Here are just three recent examples I pulled off their site.
Left: Papercut by talented Essimar, Right: Hoodie by Mambo (Australian fashion label)
Left: Delta Dentist’s new mascot, Middle: Happy Beaver toy by Jeff Pidgeon
Left: Doll image from a doll manufacturer, Right: Artwork by Mijn Schatje
The very talented Australian graphic/web designer, Rob Morris, has had his website design copied dozens of times, which I guess proves just how talented and creative he is! (Totally off topic but I’m jealous of Rob because he lives in Okinawa! )
As webdesign.about.com says:
“Copyright on the Web seems to be a difficult concept for people to understand. If you did not write or create the article, graphic, or data that you found, then you need permission from the owner before you can copy it. Remember, when you use someone’s graphic, HTML, or text without permission, you are stealing, and they can take action against you.
Basically anything and everything that you create is protected by copyright. This includes but is not limited to: text, graphics, photos, objects, HTML, CSS and scripts. Simply saving someone else’s work is not copyright infringement but when you use elements of their work in your own to the point where it’s easily recognizable, then it becomes an infringement. It’s even worse when someone is making money from their design/object/website/piece of writing which is obviously not original and copied off someone else.
I’ve not spotted that many examples myself in the graphic/web design world (yet) but I have seen it countless times in the fashion world to the point that I don’t believe anything in fashion design is original anymore. A few years ago I bought a beaded cardigan from Sportsgirl which I later found it was an exact replica of one by Nanette Lepore. Another time I bought a pair of high-heeled sandals from K-mart which turned out to be a copy of a pair by Nine West.
Another time I saw a picture of a dress by high end designer Elie Saab from the runway, that looked suspiciously like a vintage dress I saw earlier on a vintage dress site, The Frock. I also have another example of an Australian wedding dress designer who has obvious copied an Emmanuel Ungaro gown. There are many many more examples but in all cases the designs are about 95% similar. What can I say? I have a very good memory and this just makes me have no respect for these designers with their so-called original designs.
What you can do?
- Don’t steal others’ work. Don’t claim it as your own. Don’t plagiarize! Put yourself in their shoes. If someone took your photo or text and plonked it on their website with no reference to you, how would you like it? Always link back to the original creator with their name/company name in the link if you are referencing their work. (not just Link or Image). It would also be nice if you let them know you’ve linked back to them after posting up their work.
- Report it to the designer/creator/owner or relevant authorities and/or You thought we wouldn’t notice if you have spotted theft of original work.
- Install Tynt Tracer on your website/blog. I’ve yet to check it out but it looks promising and useful.
- Check out Copyscape to see if others have plagiarized your written work already (and know that others can search for their own sites too so don’t even think about plagiarizing!)
- Use Google alerts to get email alerts for your name, your website/blog URL, or any other search terms
- Watermark your images with a copyright message and/or your logo. I use Copyright Inserter or Photoshop.
- Make your text articles as read-only PDFs.
- Set your permissions on Flickr so that people cannot download your images easily. On my account you will get the infamous ’spaceball.gif’ if you try to right-click, and you cannot view images at their highest resolution unless you are on my friends/family list.
- As a designer, don’t be overly paranoid. It’s obvious that a lot of people use extensive Flash on their website or put up small, blurry, low-res pictures because they think that people are going to steal their work. If someone really wants to copy your stuff they can and they will. If you don’t want anyone to see your work (and perhaps copy it), then don’t ever put it up anywhere in public. But then… what’s the point of creating it in the first place? Just be rest assured that you have more talent than those who are trying to copy you.
Of course none of the ideas are foolproof but every little bit of effort you put in helps!
Other related articles
- Suite 101 – Copyright Issues in Web Designing
- Freelance Switch – What to do when someone steals your work
- Freelance Switch – How to Prevent Hijackers from Ripping Off Your Website
- Webdesign.about.com – Copyright on the Web
- Webdesign.about.com – Protecting digital photos from theft
- DeviantArt/Sahwar – 5 easy ways to protect your work from copycats
- UK web design copyright information
- Articles for website owners about copyright etc
ETA (June 23): Found these groups/pools on Flickr dedicated to spotting rip-offs.
Posted June 6, 2009 by Livia. Read related: Flickr
, graphic design
, web design