I found a really good landing page design on another site and used a variation of this design on a number of customer sites.
The basic layout is a pretty straight copy, however all of the wording on the customer sites is my own.
A few days ago the owner of the original site contacted me with an ultimatum.. take down the offending pages, or pay him a royalty for use of the format.
I am in the process of working something out with him, and, of course want to sort this out amicably.
I completely understand his concern, as I have had my own content stolen and duplicated word for word before - so I do sympathise.
However. This is not a word for word copy, and is subtly modified in other respects.
So my question to the community is, where do I stand? What are the rules in this situation regarding copyright? What distinguishes 'inspiration' from another site from copyright infringement?
I understand this is a sensitive topic, so please understand if have every intention of doing the right thing. For future reference though, it would be useful to know where the line is so I don't find myself in this situation again.
Thanks for any insights.
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If you copied any of the HTML or CSS code, he's got you dead to rights. I don't know the legalities of copying a layout as far as the "look and feel" of the site is concerned. Even if you want something like what somebody else has, you should at least change it a little bit, enough to where you can say it is yours and make it different enough to avoid such a claim.
Obviously, the guy found your site somehow out of the millions and millions of sites on the web. I can only guess you stole some of the HTML code. If you did, change it.
Nope. Wordpress. Long story short, we are both members of an online forum and he saw one of the sites through that.
But that's the thing, the design has been modified... I was careful not to just copy it outright.
This is exactly why I'm asking the question. It's the legalities of what constitutes 'a little bit' that I'm trying to understand
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If the piece you are copying is small enough that there really isn't any other way to do it then it is small enough to not be covered by copyright. If it is big enough that there are multiple ways of achieving the same thing then your version needs to be different enough from theirs so that it doesn't look like you started from theirs and modified it even if that's what you did. Any similarities need to be able to be attributed to similar functionality so that it can be demonstrated that anyone wanting to produce that functionality will end up with similar code.
You have a number of different issues arising from your set of facts; and the issues are complicated:
You have stated that the copy was written by you and not copied from the site. If this is true, there is not much copyright violation by you in this scenario.
If you copied his code on his site you are violating copyright law.
The copyright act does not actually address look and feel -- However, if your screen shots look just like their screen shots, you could be violating copyright. However, since you are both using Wordpress, some of that could be a result of using the same program.
The "look and feel" is not a copyright issue as much as a trade dress issue -- a Trademark concept. (i.e. selling Cola written in white script on a red can would probably violate Coke's trademark.
Finally, a "look and feel" suit would be expensive for the complaining party to bring - probably around $50K and your defense would be in the same ball park. Are the sites worth a $100,000 arguement?
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