Brainstorms and Raves

Notes on Web Design, Development, Standards, Typography, Music, and More





"I Want My Design Like This Site..."

As a designer, you may have heard a potential or existing client tell you that they’d like a new site design exactly like the XYZ site (fake name) and may suggest that you copy it. I’ve even had several potential clients ask me if I’d build their sites exactly like mine, just changing the content with their own material. (I’m flattered, but no, I won’t. I’d build something unique just for them, though.)

copyright symbolMaybe part of the problem is some people don’t know or understand that copyright laws exist on the Internet (claiming ignorance isn’t typically a good argument in court, though!). Other people know there are copyright laws but disregard them, figuring that the Internet is a big place and they’ll never get caught.

Getting Caught

Guess what?! People DO get caught every single day. My colleagues and I catch people stealing our graphics, content, code, and more every week. We also catch people ripping off entire web sites, graphics, content and all, often claiming the work as their own.

Pirated Sites!, created by Tim Murtaugh, provides a journal with screen shots, URLs, and other documentation revealing quite a few stolen site designs and graphics—the originals and the rip-offs side by side. As you’ll see when you visit the site, many of the stolen designs have been removed from the Internet.


Another blatant theft problem is the alteration of someone else’s design, code or work. Recently a designer took on a site redesign job, altering the previous designer’s graphics and code (which was also done very badly, too) and also claiming the work as his own. After the fact the new designer tried to resolve the problem by offering to provide credit for the graphics to the previous designer. The previous designer wouldn’t want credit for these altered and poor quality graphics, and this kind of situation can become more complicated.

It’s best to not even consider something like that in the first place. Discuss the copyright issue with the site owner and make appropriate arrangements BEFORE proceeding with taking over a site. Get a copy of the previous designer’s contract. Check with your attorney to make sure you’re not infringing on copyright protected work.

It’s typically not OK to take or alter any part of someone else’s copyrighted design, whether graphics, code, or any other part of it. Whether or not there’s even a copyright notice, the work is copyrighted.


If you need graphics or site design templates there are sites that provide free graphics, linkware, or sell graphics and template sets, so it’s better to consider one of those options, or consider hiring a designer to create a site for you or make some custom graphics.

If you do take or alter other people’s work, there’s a very real possibility that you could be contacted by an attorney and be in legal trouble. That trouble could potentially include paying fines, being kicked off your current ISP and more. ISPs will definitely take action by removing stolen sites from the servers and discontinuing the siteowner’s service.

There’s an increasing amount of information on the 'Net about Internet copyright issues. Here are a few of them:

If you’re looking for graphics, has a listing of graphics resources that may help. In addition to custom designs and graphics, SKDesigns also offers linkware graphics.

06:26 pm, pdt22 June, 2001 Comments, Trackbacks ·

Categories: Design, Graphics, Weblogs


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I Wrote a Book

Deliver First Class Web Sites: 101 Essential Checklists  Via Deliver First Class Web Sites: 101 Essential Checklists, by Shirley Kaiser. SitePoint Books (July 2006). 

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Cover - Defensive Design for the Web: How to improve error messages, help, forms, and other crisis points, by 37Signals. New Riders Press (March 2, 2004). 

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