Not that I don’t have enough of my own rip-off problems to contend with, given the handful of new sites based on Garden designs each day…
The downside that hasn’t yet been explored, with regards to standards-based design, is that separation of content and presentation makes it entirely too easy to steal one and not the other.
When it comes down to it, structural elements don’t change a whole heck of a lot from site to site. A few headers, some paragraphs, and extraneous container
divs. The design is neatly packaged up and ready to go in another file that doesn’t bring along pesky things like, you know, identifying text (which is easily discovered on Google) or links back to the original content creator, or the like. Sure, a few images and
ids need to be changed, but that’s a trifle.
Now, why would someone rip off another? That is a question to ask each individual offender, but the common reason nets to lack of knowledge and/or talent. There are very few deviations from this general rule.
Which is why it’s so damn confusing when you see something like what Nick Denton’s publishing empire has allegedly done. A well respected company doing great things in the on-line publishing space, run by a dot-com millionaire, appears to have ripped off a college kid.
Prude alert: some links on the referenced pages point toward sites featuring adult-themed material. Proceed with discretion.
Others have covered it in far more detail than I will, but the basic summary appears to be that Noel Jackson and Joe Clark approached Gawker Media shortly after the launch of its latest offering, Fleshbot. They had built a nicely-compliant XHTML/CSS version of the site, and were offering Jackson’s services in compensation. Gawker politely told them no, then used it anyway. And then took the code base and applied it to their other holdings as well — Gawker itself and Gizmodo.
Yes, Jackson provided free work without a contract in place, in hopes of landing more. This is called spec work, and regardless of my own personal views on the practice, it happens frequently in the design/advertising world. And Gawker had every right to say no thanks, and not pay for the work. But that wouldn’t allow them to turn around and use it free of charge. It’s still Jackson’s work. It would appear in this case Jackson did offer the code free for use on Fleshbot. But that’s only one site, of the three it ended up on.
It’s just a collection of code, right? You can’t copyright CSS? Photographs are just a collection of pixels. Novels are just a collection of letters. Music is just a collection of sound waves. The work is what matters here, and the work is unquestionably Jackson’s.
Denton has posted transcripts of IM conversations with Jackson on Jackson’s site. It appears that he has trouble differentiating between one site and three, and in the process shows that Jackson had tried to resolve the issue before taking it to the public space.
It’s a shame that an otherwise savvy company has seemingly made such a public blunder. Let’s hope this can be quickly resolved in a manner satisfactory to both parties.