Update on the Web Ripper-Offer

I’m not really a vindictive person, so I want to be clear that the purpose of these posts is not to humiliate anyone–I will continue not to disclose the identity of the person who stole my web design.  But I really do think it’s important to discuss the gravity of copyright infringement–so your constructive comments and personal experiences are welcome.

Very shortly after I sent a formal “cease and desist” letter I received a long, explanatory e-mail from the web designer.  She was apologetic of course, and went on to tell me that she found the items on a template-based website which was available for download–but she just can’t remember what site that was.  I find this excuse questionable–because I know my site was completely custom built by a talented web designer (Jennifer at Pish Posh Design) who I paid good money to employ.  Some of the elements of my site are licensed images, which were legally and ethically obtained.  Others, like the green birdie (which has become a piece of my brand identity) are my own original, digital illustrations.

Despite my doubts about the excuse that this person gave, I still am thankful that she quickly complied with my request to remove the offending images.  I accept her apology and I’m happy to move forward without taking further action.

In this case, because of the fact that exact code was lifted, I don’t believe that it was unintentional.  However, there are situations that really start to get into that grey area.  For example, I often struggle with the subject of trends in the wedding industry.  I want to be an original, innovative designer, but let’s face it–trends become popular and brides want to be a part of that.  So I can’t claim to be the first designer to do a wedding invitation with birds on it–but does this make me a copycat?  I find myself stuck in the middle between wanting to create unique and original work, but also wanting to satisfy the inquiries that are going to pay my bills.  Does that make sense?  A conversation on the subject of whether using stock imagery could be considered creative came up on Twitter the other day.

What are your thoughts and experiences on this touchy subject?  Do you think I handled the situation correctly?  What would you have done?

Photo credit to DippyLulu

2 Responses

  1. Renee says:

    I come across this a lot too. People seem to seek me out to recreate another invitations set that they just can’t afford – not cool people! Gocco is not just a poor man’s letterpress!
    But then you’re stuck in this position of wanting to please the customer without getting sued. There was one couple who send me a couple truncated images from an invitation set they liked and I was able to find the same bird image as clip art. I designed a set, went through all the revisions, and was rather pleased with it. A couple months later I saw that it was almost exactly like a high-end designer’s. I’m not sure if it was coincidnece or if their revisions were steering me to recreate one they liked but couldn’t afford.
    As for clip art. I use it almost exclusively. There is no way I could draw all the intricate images some people want. My computer drawing skills stop at circles and lines. It definitely takes creativity to use stock images. I’d even go as far as to say it takes MORE creativity. Instead of simply drawing exactly what you need you need to think outside of the box, be resourceful, and try to make the stock images work for you. Very rarely do they have exactly what I’m looking for. It takes hours of arranging, morphing, cropping, and combining those images to make them into something that will please a client. It’s not like we just pick a flower and stick it to a card.
    I got into a big debate on Etsy once about it. Someone thought that people using clipart should disclose that in their item description to “warn” people that it wasn’t actually drawn by the person.
    I mean, think of an outfit. You wouldn’t tell someone they aren’t stylish just because they purchased their clothes instead of making them. It still takes effort to match colors, pick accessories, and put it all together.
    *steps off soapbox*

  2. daisy janie says:

    I think you initiated an action that was well within your legal rights…I would have done the same thing. It’s professional and reasonable. If you had had to sue them at a later date, you have evidence of your desire and effort to have it stopped at a small sacrifice to both parties. Fortunately, they responded.
    It’s inevitable that we’ll all be influenced by the trends and imagery that we’re all collectively bombarded with. It will re-emerge in some form or another if these styles are to your liking. Design possibilities seem endless, yet the individual elements that make up a design are finite. There’s only so many ways to make a mod leaf or a pretty silhouetted bird. All you can do is bring your touch, your vision and your interpretation to these elements and hope that the end result is as original as you intended.
    I just re-touched a design I’ve had in the vault since December & showed at Printsource in NYC, only to find another designer is releasing something similar. Hate doing “workarounds”…..

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