DesignNews

Agency urges designers to fight thieves

IP theft can hit reputations and search engine rankings

Devon-based agency Logo Design & Marketing has urged those within the industry to be more vigilant about their work being plagiarised.

The company has long enjoyed a high Google ranking, but in a press release said this had resulted in others cloning its site, with unforeseen results. In one case, a plagiarist was found only because one of that company’s “disgruntled customers contacted Logo to complain about the poor service he was receiving”. Elsewhere, even customer testimonials and staff names/images have been stolen.

The company outlined various tools now used to ‘protect’ itself, including Copyscape and Plagiarism Checker for text checks, and TinEye for reverse image searches. When culprits are found, Logo usually gives offenders a week to remove copies, and recommends exploring contacting ISPs or using the DMCA for those who won’t. It adds that Getty Images will take action against hijackers using their images without authorisation.

.net spoke to managing director Chris Bray (CB) about why Logo Design is urging others to fight back and where it sees the line between inspiration and plagiarism.

.net: Do you feel too many companies in the web industry are getting away with ripping others off?
CB: IP theft is happening on a vast scale by dubious regimes and underhand multinationals with potentially hugely damaging consequences, but when members of the so-called creative industry, which for the most part is comprised of tiny companies and individual freelancers, start ripping off other people's work and passing it off as their own, it makes me feel very angry.

.net: Some would argue to just ignore such things. Why do you feel it’s a problem?
CB: As a company that relies on its website as a significant source of new business, Logo’s greatest fear is Google may penalise its website ranking for appearing to have duplicated content. Google has been suspicious of duplicated content for a long time because it was used in attempts to manipulate search engine indexes. Also, its spiders have no way of telling what was the original content and what was a pirate version, and so even straightforward plagiarism of a website’s text can do it harm.

.net: But is it really worth people's time to get into legal spats over this kind of thing? Do people usually back down?
CB: Everyone I have contacted in the UK about stealing our work has removed it, often with apologies. I would like to see a court action against a serial plagiarist to test the law and, hopefully, act as a deterrent to companies and individuals who disregard other people's right of ownership.

.net: Where do you draw the line between inspiration and plagiarism?
CB: There's too much regurgitated material on the web, but we do all learn from each other's work. I admit that, being a non-techie, I look through the gallery section of .net for ideas and inspiration. The homepage of our own website uses a scrolling technique used on a site to promote eBay's redesign (.net showed how to code it), but I hope we have added to the experience by making the pictures change between scrolling down and scrolling back up.

Building on, enhancing and extending other people's ideas is fundamental to good design; it's how we learn from each other and move things along. People who don't learn anything are the people who copy blindly, gaining nothing in the process and contributing nothing to the world around them.

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