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  1. #26
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    A design is no different than a piece or artwork, you can very well copyright a design. If you I dare you to rip off Amazon.com's design, only change the name, and see how long your website lasts.

    You of course cannot copyright concepts because they are not in a fixed form, or even tangible really.

    Layouts can be copyrighted. For instance if you publish a commemorative calendar that features the Gettysburg Address set against an American Flag, you can't copyright the address, you can't copyright the flag, you can't copyright the calendar year, but you can copyright the presentation and layout of the address, the flag, and the dates in the calendar. Much like if an orchestra recorded a copy of the 1812 Overture. They wouldn't be able to copyright the actual song, but their performance or presentation of it is definitely copyrighted. No one can copyright the game of baseball, but every individual game or performance is copyrighted. The examples go on and on.

    I'm not going to argue about this with you, you can read up on copyrights here:

    http://www.loc.gov/copyright/

    And I recommend this copyright basics article here:

    http://www.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ1.html
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  2. #27
    SitePoint Guru jkcity's Avatar
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    It makes no difference if you can copy right a design, If no body has copied your work it won't make a difference, If you both designed exactly the sane site independantly you can not be done for copyright as you ain't copied anything.

  3. #28
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    I'm not going to argue about this with you, you can read up on copyrights here:
    I have read all of that. I have also tried to obtain copyrights for a site interface and hence am telling you from first-hand experience. I am saying "design and layout" with reference to web pages, specifically. Photographs and print layout is different and there are also a lot of gray areas. http://www.loc.gov/copyright/fls/fl103.pdf You can not create a web page and copyright any of it - give it a try, it is only the content that is copyrighted. However, if it goes to litigation you can only make a case if it is exactly the same in appearance or almost similar. In this specific Burlee example, there is absolutely no case unless they have copyrights for the published images.

    There are two different things: 1. obtaining a certified copyright from the copyright office and 2. having a copyright by virtue of publishing a piece of work. Any work when it is published in the US, you automatically own the copyright and you do not need to file for a copyright. However, that goes only to a certain extent. When it comes to litigation, the second one (by-virtue) goes out the window. You can go to court and present your case why it is copyright infringement and say this matches that and so on. Unless someone has copied a good percentage or ditto, there is no case when it comes to design and layouts. Specifically, in the above case there is nothing.

    They wouldn't be able to copyright the actual song, but their performance or presentation of it is definitely copyrighted.
    What?
    Last edited by Gurudev; Dec 17, 2001 at 20:33.
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  4. #29
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    You don't copyright the appearance of your site, that is not in a fixed form and is dependent on the browser. You copyright your source code, which is no different from any other written work, and it is automatically copyrighted upon its inception. With your interface you probably tried to copyright a visual representation or a concept of design that wasn't unique enough.

    As for the differance between having a registered copyright or not, it simply does not "go out the window." If it had no legal basis it wouldn't exist at all. Not having a registered copyright simply means it is harder to prove you are the owner, and it may also limit the amount of damages you could hope to collect.


    Specifically, in the above case there is nothing.
    I never said there was, I'm just making sure that people know that what you've been saying isn't accurate. Most webmasters have enough misconceptions about copyright without you telling them that no websites can be copyrighted.

    What?
    Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture is the in public domain, so it is free from copyright. However if a modern orchestra made a recording of a performance of the song then that performance would be copyrighted. In this case they are not copyrighting the song itself, but rather their performance or presentation of it. Like in the example I used above with the calendar. Its the presentation or layout that you are copyrighting, not the actual content, which is public domain in this case.

    A layout or interface concept cannot be copyrighted because it is not in a fixed form and in many cases is not unique enough. No one can copyright the concept of a drop down menu or of a left menu or of a left menu using mouse-overs. Its not unique and its not in a fixed form.

    Your website design and layout however is unique, and it is in a fixed form (your source). And that is what you copyright.

    Think of it like books. Someone doesn't copyright all books, or all 30 chapter books. Simply because they wrote a 30 chapter book. However that specific book IS copyrighted.
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  5. #30
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    You don't copyright the appearance of your site
    Hmm... then what have been talking about so far? The burlee site and the other site is in all with reference to the presentaion and appearance.

    I'm just making sure that people know that what you've been saying isn't accurate. Most webmasters have enough misconceptions about copyright without you telling them that no websites can be copyrighted.
    What I have been saying is accurate - you don't have to agree but I suppose you are not a lawyer. The misconception: there is none, when you (one) say the web site is copyrighted, you own copyrights for your content and not for the design. You can bring the argument of the source code but essentially it is the "visual representaiton". You can claim copyrights for the source code of the entire web page. However, because of the nature of the web page design the source code is comprised of several elements which are common to thousands of other sites. If you go by the argument of source code, then no one would be able to produce any sites as most them have a lot of common elements. I hope that makes sense and I know you are an adviser here but... unless you tell me you are a lawyer I have nothing to argue with you or learn from you in this regard (something else, sure).

    Also, like I have mentioned there are a lot of gray areas and if there are any cases of web pages that have been successfully won (not sued) in the court of law, I would love to take a look.

    Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture is the in public domain, so it is free from copyright.
    1812 is too old. Most copyrights are valid for 70 years, if I am correct. Hence, if you wrote a song and published the work today, you own copyrights for your song (lyrics) - no?

    Well, anyway I guess we will leave it there (unless you want to have the last word) and if anyone is serious then they can get a hold of a lawyer.
    Last edited by Gurudev; Dec 17, 2001 at 22:37.
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  6. #31
    SitePoint Guru hurtdidit's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Gurudev

    1812 is too old. Most copyrights are valid for 70 years, if I am correct. Hence, if you wrote a song and published the work today, you own copyrights for your song (lyrics) - no?
    ummm, was the 1812 Overture written in 1812?? I'm thinking it wasn't!!

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  7. #32
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    I'm not a lawyer but I've taken business law classes, specifically with regards to Internet issues. Obviouslly you're rooted in your misconception and I won't change your mind, I'm just going to let everyone one one final time that what you say is wrong and that they shouldn't feel free to copy other's designs.

    1812 is too old. Most copyrights are valid for 70 years, if I am correct. Hence, if you wrote a song and published the work today, you own copyrights for your song (lyrics) - no?
    Yes you would. But suppose you let another artist perform that song, that artist would have the copyright of the performance, not you.

    You can claim copyrights for the source code of the entire web page. However, because of the nature of the web page design the source code is comprised of several elements which are common to thousands of other sites. If you go by the argument of source code, then no one would be able to produce any sites as most them have a lot of common elements.
    Thats a non-issue. A poem is comprised of elements common to all other poems, they're called words. You're not copyrighting the individual words, you're copyrighting your unique arrangement of them. This is what I was getting at with that book example. When you write a book you don't copyright all books, you copyright your specific book. With a website you don't copyright HTML tags, you copyright your specific arrangement of them.

    One of the rights given to a copyright holder is the right to make derivative works. So you do not need someone to completely copy your source code in order for you to go after them, all you need to prove is that they based their site off yours, that their site is a derivative of yours. There is no magical 15% that you can change something and call it your own, the act of changing it itself is the act that is forbidden.
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  8. #33
    The Madness Out of Time Arkham's Avatar
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    Originally posted by aspen
    A design is no different than a piece or artwork, you can very well copyright a design. If you I dare you to rip off Amazon.com's design, only change the name, and see how long your website lasts.

    You of course cannot copyright concepts because they are not in a fixed form, or even tangible really.

    Layouts can be copyrighted.
    While I'm not a lawyer either, I have done a fair bit of research on intellectual properties when I was trademarking my site's name. This is something I remember coming across.

    You cannot copyright the design and retain universal protection for it. How many sites have copied "Amazon"? Lots. How many sites used a similar layout that "inspired" Amazon beforehand? Lots.

    If someone copied the exact code, the case is different, but if they wrote their own that just happened to resemble Amazon (which a billion sites have already done), then they're safe. They're just lazy and uninspired. Look at the Sitepoint rip offs we've seen in the msg base. The similar ones are free and clear, but are razzed for being lazy, while "That Guy" who lifted the exact code received the brunt of people's dismay.

    Amazon can trademark their name, their logo, and copyright the contents of their site, but not the general design and layout. The proof is on the web.

    Layout = 1812 Overture.

    The exact code for that layout = the performance, which is copyrighted.

  9. #34
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    trademarks are not the same thing as copyrights.

    You should read up on copyright basics on the link posted above. I'm not going to keep repeating myself. If you copy a website expect legal troubles.

    The 1812 Overture is a song, its content, a performance is a presentation or layout of that content. Your analogy is just odd.
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  10. #35
    The Madness Out of Time Arkham's Avatar
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    Originally posted by aspen
    trademarks are not the same thing as copyrights.
    Really? Wow. :0

    edit --

    actually, i found something relevant that has to do with trademarking. From freeadvice.com:

    IF I CAN'T COPY THE NAME, MIGHT I IMITATE THE "LOOK AND FEEL"?
    The trademark laws may protect distinctive elements of design, decorative or non-functional aspects of a business under the concept of "trade dress". In a recent United States Supreme Court case, a taco chain sued a competitor for imitating its design and decor. The Supreme Court afforded trademark protection to the originator's decor as it found the decor was "inherently distinctive" and "nonfunctional". These terms are unfortunately undefined, which is why advice from a trademark lawyer on the particular facts you have in mind is so important.




    You should read up on copyright basics on the link posted above. I'm not going to keep repeating myself. If you copy a website expect legal troubles.
    Old news, thanks. You shouldn't keep repeating yourself, I agree, because you're not 100% correct here. Imitating a site's design is not illegal, look around on the net. It's a grey area and hard to pursue, but there are millions of duplicate layouts.

    Re: "If you copy a ..." Well duh! That's what we're saying. If you *copy* it *exactly*, you're probably taking the code. If you *structure* it with a similar layout (Folder tabs on top, logo top left, menus on left, content arranged in blocks elsewhere) you're just going with a certain style that is so WIDESPREAD that Amazon cannot expect it to be protected. Have you never seen other sites with the same layout? That's all I'm saying, is that the general layout is not copyrightable. If someone's taken the code and filled in their own data, that's wrong. The presentation (The CODE) is copyrighted.

    The 1812 Overture is a song, its content, a performance is a presentation or layout of that content. Your analogy is just odd.
    I was simplifying your analogy, and restricting it to LAYOUT, which is what we were debating was copyrightable or not. It's the performance of the piece that is analagous to what we're talking about (The Layout).

    IE The music is Amazon's CODE for their page.

    The performance is the visual arrangement (design, layout).

    One can use the a similar visual arrangement for their site, as long as it's not using the exact code (the song) for the whole page. Obviously some of it is going to be similar, which is why on the web this issue isn't pursued as much.

    Relax. I think we're all really trying to say the same thing.


    Cheers.
    Last edited by Arkham; Dec 18, 2001 at 14:54.

  11. #36
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    Your canadian, so your laws may be slightly differant.

    you're just going with a certain style that is so WIDESPREAD that Amazon cannot expect it to be protected. Have you never seen other sites with the same layout?
    Did I not mention that if something has to be unique to be copyrighted? Obviously general concepts cannot be copyrights, I never said they could be, and I pointed you to the copyright basics page that explains this as well.

    That's all I'm saying, is that the general layout is not copyrightable. If someone's taken the code and filled in their own data, that's wrong. The presentation (The CODE) is copyrighted.
    Presentation == Layout. No one can copyright the concept of a left menu bar, but your specific left menu bar is copyrighted. I think we agree here but you just got your words confused.

    I was simplifying your analogy, and restricting it to LAYOUT, which is what we were debating was copyrightable or not. It's the performance of the piece that is analagous to what we're talking about (The Layout).
    I don't think you know what an analogy is. It is a comparison of two relationships where the items in the relationships are different from each other, but the type of relationship is what forms the common bond.

    You are again usinglayout and presentation as separate things, when in fact they're synonymous.


    So here is your analogy, let me see if I can illustrate why its wrong:

    The song is Amazon's CODE for their page.

    The performance is the visual arrangement (design, layout).
    How do you visually arrange code? You see, unless you can visually arrange something thats not even seen your analogy is incorrect.

    Understand?

    Here are some straight copyright facts, these you may understand more than analogies:

    1. Every unique creative work is copyrighted as soon as it enters a fixed form.

    2. Only the copyright holder has the right to make derivative works, that means to base other works off his own.

    3. You can copyright your presentation, version, or layout of something even if you don't have the copyright of the object you are presenting. This doesn't mean you can present something without the owner's permission, it simply means if you do have permission your presentation will be your copyright, and not that of the person that actually owns the object's copyright. In other words copyright is not limited to content, but presentation, layout, and format are also copyrightable. Thus a performance of a public domain song is copyrighted even if the song itself is not.
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  12. #37
    Probably eating pie mitsubishi's Avatar
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    This s a joke right? The two sites bare not the remotest simerlarity. In any case it is certainly not illegal to be 'inspired' by another creation. They are taking the piss. I'd invoice them for the time of yours that they have wasted and see how they react to that. Copyright law is misty especially on the web, but you're site infringes nothing. On thier front page they have the line "More bandwidth and storage than anyone", that I'm sure is a lie and so it is them who breaking the law. If you a saying a desgin has been copied then you would have to be clear how much constituted design. If I were the first to create a web page with a blue background and a central column of text, would every subsequent site like that be copyng mine? To infringe design copyright in this manner there would have to be a clear indication that unique aspects had been stolen. I did think that a work of any kind was automatically copyrighted, but when I was reading about the GPL I discovered that copyright on software has to be registered within a certain period of its public release, I'm not sure what even ths means, because I'm sure many pieces of code have not been registered properly but are still not allowed to be coped freely.

  13. #38
    Prolific Blogger silver trophy Technosailor's Avatar
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    DAMN! I betcha Burlee stole this from VDHosting!

    Sketch

    Originally posted by Seer
    Are these Burlee people for real?
    That statement is ridiculous, to even claim the "grouping of icons" to be a trademark infringement.

    There are plenty of sites i've seen that use Burlee as an inspiration, yours is a lot further off than these.

    Heck, check this one out http://www.vdhosting.com/
    That's *far* more worth complaining about!

    I cand only laugh at that, there needs to be a bit more "intellect" in these intellectual properties...
    Last edited by Sketch; Dec 18, 2001 at 15:30.
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  14. #39
    The Madness Out of Time Arkham's Avatar
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    Your canadian, so your laws may be slightly differant.
    They're similar enough in these cases. They're not much different

    Did I not mention that if something has to be unique to be copyrighted? Obviously general concepts cannot be copyrights, I never said they could be,
    You said that if someone copied a web site's layout they would be in legal difficulties. That is ALL I was responding too. This is officially a non-conversation.

    Presentation == Layout. No one can copyright the concept of a left menu bar, but your specific left menu bar is copyrighted. I think we agree here but you just got your words confused.
    No, you misread what I said. You're repeating what we've been saying since the first post, basically. You're adding absolutely nothing to this conversation. It was over before your first incorrect post.

    I don't think you know what an analogy is. It is a comparison of two relationships where the items in the relationships are different from each other, but the type of relationship is what forms the common bond. You are again usinglayout and presentation as separate things, when in fact they're synonymous.
    Don't try to be so condescending at the same time as mispelling "you're" and "different", or at least bury the mispellings away from the first line. (Nyeah, nyeah, you started it.) I was using analogies in university before you were out of public school. In the previous post, I was using "layout" and "presentation" interchangeably. Whether or not you read it that way is as irrelevant as this conversation has become.

    How do you visually arrange code? You see, unless you can visually arrange something thats not even seen your analogy is incorrect.
    Not the code, old jedi master, the LAYOUT. The Presentation. What people see in their browser. Again you misread.

    Understand? ... Here are some straight copyright facts, these you may understand more than analogies:

    Again with the mistaken condescension. Ladeedaaa.

    Enough, we agree that copying Amazon exactly would be wrong.

    General menu/page layouts and designs can't be sufficiently protected by copyright. (You apparently agree: "No one can copyright the concept of a left menu bar, but your specific left menu bar is copyrighted.") While your particular page is copyrighted, the basic structure is not protectable, and not unique enough to defend.

    That's where the point of this thread started and ended on page 1 -- just before you disagreed with Guru's statement that "concept, layout or designs are [not sufficiently protectable]" . That's when this thread went to pot.


    Buh-bye.

  15. #40
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    Not the code, old jedi master, the LAYOUT. The Presentation. What people see in their browser. Again you misread.
    How do you make a layout if its not with code? By copyrighting the code you're copyrighting the layout. The reason you cannot copyright the layout directly is because it is not in a fixed form and is reliant on the browser for it's display. However your layout, design, and everything else is still copyrighted because you copyright your code.

    Don't try to be so condescending at the same time as mispelling "you're" and "different", or at least bury the mispellings away from the first line.
    This is just for your benefit. Different is spelled like I spelled it in the section you quoted, so is you're. "Mispelling" is actually spelled "Misspelling" though. I guess I should apologize for my typos in the previous post, I did misspell those words, but only once in the post since they were typos and not a result of not knowing how to spell.

    I have decided to close this thread to stop the further spread of misconceptions. To others simply know that websites are indeed copyrightable, to believe otherwise is to invite problems.

    For more information on copyrights you can read this introduction article on Sitepoint:

    http://www.webmasterbase.com/article/35
    Last edited by aspen; Dec 18, 2001 at 18:45.
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  16. #41
    Your Lord and Master, Foamy gold trophy Hierophant's Avatar
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    Thread re-opened. The only way to dispell myth and misconception is to confront it with education and knowledge not innuendo and obfuscation.

    No one here is a known lawyer and your best bet on any legal matter would be to consult a lawyer.

    I believe that any copyright lawyer will in fact tell you that you cannot copyright the layout of a computer presentation including icons and graphics through due precedent in a court of law and upheld via the appelate courts in the United States (Apple Computer Inc. vs Microsoft Inc. 1985, 1991 and 1995).

    They will also tell you that Copyright Laws are fluid and vary from country to country so you need to find out what the laws are in your country.

    Finally, if the sites are completely identical down the the same out of place pixel in the graphic to the left, the fact of whether it is infringement will rest with a judge or tribunal depending on where the lawsuit is filed.

    The worst thing you can do is just ignore the letter, and you need to get legal advice. If your lawyer feels they don't have a case then a letter on your part will be sent and so forth. It is a nasty proposition but if you don't fight it then you will lose the case by default, it won't simply go away.

    So in essence take everything said here in regards to legal advice with a grain of salt and go see a lawyer. If you are a member of your local chamber of commerce then you might be able to get one for free. If not call around and arrange a free 1 hour consultation with one. GO to the lawyer prepared and get the most out of your hour. Have full color printouts of each site, their addresses, copies of the letters, and any other information you have marked and numbered so it can be referred to quickly and easily. Write down a list of questions to ask and points to make. After that get the lawyers determination on the status of your case. From that point you will have to determine how to proceed.
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  17. #42
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    If people only apply copyright basics there is no need to ask any questions.

    Is it in a fixed form?

    Is it unique and creative?

    Then it is copyrighted.

    You can't take a screenshot of your site, or just about anything on a computer and try to copyright that layout... though you may be able to copyright it as a digital image. The reason being is because the layout can easily be changed by an end user, its simply not in a fixed form.

    However your code is, therefor your code is copyrighted.

    What if someone made up their own code that produced a site that is your twin? What then?

    Well what if you rewrote The Lord of the Rings in your own words? Even if it is in your own words its the same story, and everyone knows you can't do this. Its the same thing with a website and it is illegal because only the copyright holder can make derivative works in a lawsuit you would have to prove that the defendent based their work off yours, which would basically mean you'd have to show that the works were identical (pretty easy) and that he had been exposed to your work before he started his own, or the judge could make the inference.

    All of that is spelled out here:

    http://www.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ1.html

    Of course in any legal matters you should speak with an attorney. However if you think you can copy the design of a website you're mistaken, simple as that.
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  18. #43
    The Madness Out of Time Arkham's Avatar
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    Originally posted by W. Luke
    I believe that any copyright lawyer will in fact tell you that you cannot copyright the layout of a computer presentation including icons and graphics...
    Agreed. That's really all guru and I have been saying. The actual code is copyrighted, obviously, just as this message is as I save it. The site I copied the last passage from (re: branding, on freeadvisor.com) has some great Q&A's with many detailed examples. Stanford University has great texts on Fair-Use that delve into this topic too. (Generally, using a similar layout "inspired" by another site seems to fall under fair-use.)

    Bottom line, a rule of thumb seems to be to open a polite, civil conversation with the people who have asked you to change something. Even if you like a layout, it's good to email the designer and tell him you would like to do something similar. It's common to read msg exchanges where the designer has helped someone with the actual code. That's what's great about the medium.

    ... through due precedent in a court of law and upheld via the appelate courts in the United States (Apple Computer Inc. vs Microsoft Inc. 1985, 1991 and 1995).
    Yeah, that was a milestone case. (Kinda funny, since Microsoft's success with Windows was thanks to an independant company they saw at a trade show... Of course, no one could legally do anything about it.)

    Finally, if the sites are completely identical down the the same out of place pixel in the graphic to the left, the fact of whether it is infringement will rest with a judge or tribunal depending on where the lawsuit is filed.
    Speaking of down to the pixel... Does Sitepoint incorporate that watermark technology in any of its graphics? Or is that one of those "I could tell you but I'd have to kill you" things?


    cheers

  19. #44
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    Generally, using a similar layout "inspired" by another site seems to fall under fair-use.)
    Fair use is always up to the judge's interpretation, but that is one thing that isn't allowed.

    Fair use allows people to quote others, you may be able to use a line from a poem, a page from a book, 10 seconds from a song, etc without worrying about copyright. The individual portion is always up to a judge, or you could ask a lawyer how much use they'd be willing to defend in court.

    Fair use allows for parody (a form of criticism), this is why we have Weird Al, Spoof Movies, etc.

    Fair use allows for academic critiques. You can use an entire article from the New York Times if you are using it to critique the journalist's writing. You can't use it if you just don't want to write your own article.

    Fair use also hinges on profits. If your use in any way hurts the revenue of the copyright holder, there is slim chance it'll fall under fair use.

    So using someone else's design does not fall under fair use, the example with the New York Time's article is applicable, as in the fact that you'd be denying the copyright holder of revenue (specifically payment for him to design your site).
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  20. #45
    The Madness Out of Time Arkham's Avatar
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    Originally posted by aspen

    Fair use is always up to the judge's interpretation, but that is one thing that isn't allowed.


    <... Snipped Irrelevancies ...>

    So using someone else's design does not fall under fair use, the example with the New York Time's article is applicable, as in the fact that you'd be denying the copyright holder of revenue (specifically payment for him to design your site).
    Notice the words "Generally" and "inspired" in the original post. You're right though, that fair-use isn't applicable. For that, the general (not exact) layout would have to have been copyrighted, which the general layout cannot be. <Duck! Run! Scurry! here we go again >.

    Here, this is an rough example: You like the bottom nav bar with a status line on top that someone used, and you've seen oodles of other examples of a similar set up elsewhere. You can use something similar for your site. That layout in its basic form is not protected, and it's general enough for you to use. I'm not talking about ripping anything off verbatim here.

    I'm just trying to relate this all to the ORIGINAL subject of this thread. Layout 1 versus Layout 2. The general layout of the complainant's site is nothing new, very common, and outside of copyright. That's it, that's all.


    (here, I saw this generalisation the other day on www.whatiscopyright.org, but it's really just repeating what some of us have been saying:

    "Further, if such person were "inspired" by my web page layout, and decided to do something similar (similar - not identical), he or she could do that if the HTML were written entirely by this person without any copying or pasting. All of that is legal (whether it is imaginative and creative, well, that is something else). ")
    Last edited by Arkham; Dec 19, 2001 at 16:19.


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