Yes, it’s bothersome when my work is ripped off. I spend a lot of time crafting custom code, designing what I think are great layouts, illustrating or writing copy. And then some random person out there on the internet grabs my work and claims it as their own.
If it hasn’t yet, this will happen to you. Many times. My favourite advice ever on the subject came from Jeffrey Zeldman:
But you’ll probably still want to let the person know they’re in the wrong. This is how I handle it.
First, I wait until I’ve cooled off some. Acting immediately is a bad idea, no matter how tempting.
Second, I send a non-accusatory email. Sometimes I’m polite, sometimes I’m terse, but I avoid appearing angry. I tell them I’ve noticed some similarities. I ask for an explanation. I sometimes provide reference screenshots or URLs of the original material.
There are two sides to every story, and they want a chance to tell theirs. It was probably an honest mistake. A shady contractor did it. An intern didn’t know any better. They used my design or copy or code on a mockup that was never meant to see production.
I may not believe that. In most cases the story probably isn’t true, but it doesn’t matter. What does is their next action.
Nobody likes to be accused of doing something wrong, but I started the dialogue by giving them the benefit of doubt so we avoided that. Chances are they’ll be willing to own up to their guilt, then take any action necessary to remedy the situation. In most cases, this is exactly how it happens.
And when it does play out like that, I thank them for handling it properly. It was a learning experience, and I’m willing to bet they won’t be caught doing it again.
(Of course when it doesn’t, then it may be time to call in the lawyers. Or internet mob justice squad. Linking, Twittering, serving notice, public shaming etc. should only be a last resort.)