My website was copied by another local photographer

Discussion in 'Website Creation' started by james_nowlin, Feb 13, 2011.

  1. Hi everyone,
    I've never had this happen before, so I'm looking for some suggestions on how to approach this.
    I spent two months creating my website - and started it from scratch. Just two weeks ago, I was beyond thrilled to launch it for the first time. I posted the link on my Facebook page to share with all of my friends and fans. Another local photographer, who I have worked with in the past and developed a decent relationship with, asked what website provider I used and said she was looking to create a new site herself. So I shared the information with her.
    Exactly one week after launching my site, she put a link to her new site on Facebook as well. I went on it to check it out and my jaw immediately dropped. The design is almost the same, the layout is identical and she even took some of my wording and used it on her page word for word. Even something as small as the "back home" icons in the bottom of each page is the same....and they are in the same locations. Talk about a slap in the face. I have been so frustrated about it, but have yet to say anything to her.
    Any suggestions on how I should approach this? I am not one who likes problems, and I will admit I don't like to be mean about things. But I do want to say something to her I just don't know how.
    I wouldn't mind as much if we didn't live in the same zip codes. But I feel as though these last two months of non stop work and trying to create something of my own, that is unique to my style, have been a complete waste.
    Suggestions?? Thanks in advance!
  2. What do you wish to accomplish here? That the other site be changed? Compensation? Apology? That will influence your conduct. As to something to discuss, you two share a career intertwined with copyright and protection of your creativity. A concept your colleague should identify with.
  3. Seems pretty simple to me. Tell her she'll be hearing from your copyright lawyer, then do it or maybe you shouldn't complain.
  4. The stakes are small, so why escalate? She copied the design of a web page, not your images or content.
    Make peace with her. Meet her for coffee, and tell her it bothers you that she appropriated your design, but that you value her as a colleague. Offer to help her create her own distinctive page. You may gain a friend and collaborator.
  5. I'm not sure I would be so peaceful. Did you file the proper copyright paperwork? I don't know what John H would think of filing it after the fact, but if you had done so, you could probably rattle your saber with some confidence in that an attorney would make her take it down. Depending on where she hosted it, you might gain the ear of the host and let them know about the infringement. I've had success in getting copyrighted material taken down without the poster even being aware of why.
  6. Talk about a slap in the face.​
    There is another way to look at it. All photographers or web designers would agree that "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", and have done so themselves.
  7. Just out of curiousity, did you use any kind of "template" site, or pre-made structure? Or did you code the entire thing from scratch and make all your graphics your self? This si a very fundamental question. If you used a template and this second photographer could have used the same template, then yes, you have reason to not be happy. If it was a template, all they had to do was get access to the same template. Nothing you can really say.
  8. Unfortunately, that I know of (but I'm not an attorney), it's not illegal to steal Web designs, nor can they be copyrighted since the underlying code is standard and free. What can't be stolen, which is copyrighted, is the content, meaning the writings and images. All the rest is fair game for anyone to steal the idea, design, icons, etc. This is especially true if your used a host who provides templates or a designer who uses them. If she used the same host, the replicating "your" design, which may by itself be a replicate of other Websites, isn't illegal. Feel good you designed one, which by the way isn't like in your profile here, that is like and stolen, er borrowed.
    Personally, if you see her again, just say, "You're welcome."
  9. Scott, you can both IP the code (if you use a unique pattern of doing things, or program things such as JS or PHP) and copyright your design just like any other design (magazine, books, etc). The exact duplication of your design is as illegal as the exact duplication of a design in a magazine. Any icon that you create is NOT fair game to steal. This is content created by you as an illustration. So just like it is illegal to steal photos, it is illegal to steal other content from the web.
  10. david_henderson


    I think the question asked by John Henneberger - what do you wish to accomplish- is critical here and the OP should answer it otherwise any advice here could easily be misdirected or wrong.
    I don't have a clue about the law in terms of what is copyrightable, and what isn't, in the area of web design using freeware or shareware as a basis- if that is in fact what happened here. I do suggest however that whilst it isn't possible to copyright a word like "man" or "camera", that it is possible by combining words in a particular way to write something that is subject to copyright. In short that the law is capable of recognising combinations of relatively mundane items as protectable. Maybe the same is true here if sufficient imagination and creativity has been used in the way that the elements available in a web design package have been used in combination?
  11. If I were in the same shoes, I would express concern, noting the culture of respect for individual design, but emphasizing the questions it may cause to potential clients ect. There would also be a suggestion that a change be made by the other photographer if the identical design tended to promote confusion. If refused, I would change my own site. No legal action would be taken, even if it were even feasible, unless really required for the business' well being. The potential backlash and BS portrayal to others as to what the backstory really is becomes a risk. I would keep it all peaceful and polite but future professional courtesies and exchanges of information would likely be declined if there were potential that it could be used by the counterpart in ways that may hurt my business. Particularly if they dismissed the concerns that were raised. The fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me principle.
  12. Besides what the others have mentioned there is another reason for taking steps. You put up your website because you want your site to deliver results. One of the steps on the way to results is being listed as high as possible in search engine result pages. Now if search engines detect duplicate content from multiple sites (as well as within a website) they will lower your place in the listing since what you have (your content and wordings) is in their eyes not unique. You do not want that so what you can do here:
    Put appropriate metatags in the head section of your pages to DATE your content and to claim AUTHORSHIP.
    Some meta tags you can use:
    <meta content="Yourwebsite yourname" name="author" />
    <meta content="Yourwebsite, CREATIONDATE," name="Copyright" />
    <meta content="Yourwebsite webdesign, yourname" name="Designer" />
    <meta content="Yourwebsite, yourCOMPANYname" name="Publisher" />

    Report the copy cat website to Google for violation of copyright
    IF you have not (yet) made a xml site map, make one and: *
    • open the XML file (ues notepad)and set the dates for the last modification** of the individual web pages to the creation date (which will be prior to the publishing dates of the copy cat's site) save your file and then
    • upload your site map to google.**
    Hope this helps you counter some effects of being copied :)
    Greetings, Michiel
    Pointers on how to do my suggestions:
    * I make my (free) sitemaps here:
    ** The xml file has entries for each webpage. The tags you want to adjust look like this: <lastmod>2010-07-13T11:40:29+00:00</lastmod>
    *** To upload to google: log in to your google account (or create one) and go to
    here you can do a bunch of stuff but ADD your website first. (lef collumn there). Google will want to verify that you actually own the website and they will offer some choices. An easy way to prove ownership is to choose the option where you upload a html file to your server. Just select that option and the menu will offer you the file and instruct you what to.
    After verification you can upload your XML site map to Google. Click in the left collumn on siteconfiguration and choose site maps. You'll see how to upload there.
  13. I do suggest however that whilst it isn't possible to copyright a word like "man" or "camera", that it is possible by combining words in a particular way to write something that is subject to copyright. In short that the law is capable of recognising combinations of relatively mundane items as protectable.​
    Wouldn't that be a trademark rather than copyright protected artwork?
    Just out of curiousity, did you use any kind of "template" site, or pre-made structure?​
    I was wondering this too. If the O.P. were to post the addresses of the two websites in question, we would be able to judge better for ourselves. At the moment it's all speculation.
  14. Wow. I understand your concern. This is not really a legal issue, but an ethical one. I'm assuming she got the same website design as you because you used some type of template from a quick DIY web company. This happens all the time in web design. In terms of design I don't think there's copyright infringement, but in terms of text copy there may be, depending on the extent of how much copy was copied, no pun intended. So the underlying issue here is the person who copied. You can either confront the person to get it out of your system or say, try a different design from the company's template service, if they have alternatives that is. The problem here lies in that you're both in the same area and market, so having the identical design is a marketing tragedy. You would think people have more common sense than to do that.
  15. david_henderson


    I presume that you will soon come back and say that you have spoken with the photographer concerned, indicated that you are unhappy with the similarity and with the possibility of confusion amongst customers and prospects, and politely but firmly asked that appropriate changes are made. And had a response from her.
    There's no real debate on any of this till you've asked for that and had a refusal or unsatisctory offer. Until then we're all speculating -even about wat you actually want.
  16. I agree with David, we need to know what you have done, but in the end, I disagree with those who argue it's a copyright issue. It's not, but then you should ask an attorney, and don't be surprised by their answer. I would ask anyone who think it is a legal issue to find the law making Website designs copyrights. People sell them in books, provide services and offer templates, but once it's out there, it's available to borrow or use.
    As case in point, if Website designs were copyright, how is it books on Websites designs have a lot of Websites of companies, professionals, etc. in the book and on the enclosed CD's? That's commercial use and I don't see the companies suing the authors for the templates and how-to's. Icons have some copyrights, but there are far too many free ones with are identical or similar.
    Personally I'd like to see your and her Websites. Citing a case without the evidence leaves room for questions. We can't judge until we see.
  17. Scott, what makes you think you can borrow and use anything on the web? Where is that stated? If you create custom illustrations, they are custom illustrations, doesn't matter if it is an icon on a website, a background on a website, or the cover of a magazine. The same copyright laws apply to the web that are applied anywhere else. And illustrations are as protected by copyright as photos are.
    Not to mention, written verbiage (i.e. a book, article, or essay) is protected by copyright law. What do you think the copy on your webpage falls under? Once again, you are not free to steal it.
  18. Scott, I would like to point you to part of the Copyright law, in the US, specifically regarding overall design:
    So basically, if the site is very unique, it is easily protected in copyright law. If it is not unique, than it will be tough to claim the overall design as a copyright issue.
    Also, note that code can be copyrighted in the US but not EU. However, 90% of code for websites is pretty generic, so it really doesn't fall under copyright. Some of your javascript and serverside code can get pretty unique, so that can easily fall under copyright as we know it.
    If the OP did use a "canned" website and just changed a few colors, they don't have much of a case.
  19. Back to the case in point, if the "website provider" was a Do-it-yourself pick-a-template type website, it's a free-for-all. No legal debate there. But if the site was custom made by a professional design studio and stolen, that's a different case altogether, which I don't think applies here, since the affected photographer James referred the copycat photographer to a "website provider", not a web design studio. And considering the coding of websites, most are Open Source if created with HTML/CSS/PHP/Javascript, except for the designs, illustrations, and icons, which are property of the site owner if it's a custom made job. To avoid this type of problems a custom made site is your best bet.
  20. The kind of action you can take depends largely on how your site was constructed. I work as a manager in a very large US/Canadian hosting company and come across cases like this all the time where site owners are claiming infringement.
    There isn't much you can do about it if your site was built using any DIY tools provided free online or by your host.
    Also I see that someone mentioned bringing it to the attention of the host. That won't do you any good usually. The host is not legally allowed to take down or modify a site based solely on a claim of infringement from the proposed legal owner of the content.
  21. So basically, if the site is very unique, it is easily protected in copyright law​
    There are no degrees of unique. Something is either unique or it isn't.
  22. The meaning of unique would be debatable by common usage and proper usage. But that doesn't add anything to the conversation at hand. Thanks for trying to be the grammar police though.
  23. I would have my attorney write her a letter and tell her to cease & desist immediately or U R going to sue her.....
    this has a powerful effect on people.....even if U dont plan to follow thru..they dont know that.....
    David G
  24. If I received such a letter and my website was created from freely available templates I would tell the sender to get lost.
  25. but he said she copied wording and layout exactly......I hope he had it copyrighted...but it is an obvious case of
    low class copying.....U may tell the sender to get lost...but it is doubtful that you or any photographer worth their salt would stoop to copying.....
    David G

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