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  1. #1
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    How much of a site can you copy?

    Here's a question for you all...

    How much of a site can one copy and not be in violation of any copyright laws?

    I think its fair to say every single one of us has looked to another website for inspiration. For some, this could be as simple as imitating a good looking colour combination, for others it could be an exact copy of a site like amazon.com.

    So how far can someone go before breaking any laws?

    As I mentioned before, there's probably thousands of sites that look identical to amazon.com sans the amazon name. Are these sites ok? Most of us know programming code falls under copyright law, but if I copy from a site a CSS style does this style fall under copyright law?

    As always, there's a much strictor moral obligation than legal obligation, but lets try and keep this thread about the legal end of things =)
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  2. #2
    SitePoint Addict Phidev's Avatar
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    10% of the content or 200 words, what ever is more content.

    As for the aesthetics you cannot copyright them (Except for the logo) so you cannot for example "copyright" a css file. (Yeah, that sucks). I took a class about this, so I may have the literature somewhere if you need it.

  3. #3
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    I think there are two approaches you can use - either sketch out a layout you like, then code it yourself, or use pre-existing frameworks. Consider this - existing CSS frameworks and templates out there can by themselves render the underlying structure of sites - columns, rows, boxes. Use them because they are freely offered. Then use your own company/personal branding. I don't think you can reinvent the column/structure wheel, but you certainly need to design your own graphics and use colour palettes. Even if you use someone else's colour palette because you like the swatches, you're going to apply the colours differently across headings, content, links, and so forth, when you code it yourself.

    Personally I see this as far more primary than legal concerns - what's the point of designing if you just want to copy/paste someone's design? If you don't have an individual identity you can convey through colours, typography, and so forth, why bother at all? Just put the copy of Dreamweaver down and walk away so those of us who care can do the job properly.

    It's like when you did research projects in school - the teacher knew very well you were getting every thought in that report from books and other resources. You kept point-form notes if only to avoid copying directly. If you wrote in your own words, you weren't infringing on copyrights. So if you want to do a design, you should want to put it in your own words. If you do, you're sure to be fine. If you don't, well why bother at all?
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  4. #4
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Copyright laws vary between countries. In many it depends on the reason why you want a direct copy rather than using your own words and where that good reason doesn't exist you are not allowed to copy any. What is considered to be a good reason is also a specific defined list of those circumstances in which copying is allowed. Even with the best possible reason the maximum you are allowed to copy is 10%.

    Recreating the whole thing yourself from scratch in your own words is the safest option since then there is no possibility of breaching copyright.
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  5. #5
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    Wow, you cant copyright a CSS Layout? Thank you very much. Time to start copying from website. Sometimes copying a layout from a website is OK but NEVER copy a website's content unless you give the website a backlink without a nofollow.

  6. #6
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Any images used as part of the CSS layout would be covered by copyright.
    Stephen J Chapman

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  7. #7
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    Thanks for the replies.

    I am surprised there is such objective criteria for how much you can copy (10% of 200 words). I would have never thunk it. The law regarding CSS is also interesting.

    I'd be curious to read anything else anyone has
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  8. #8
    SitePoint Addict Phidev's Avatar
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    just to clarify.
    it is 200 words OR 10&#37;. Whatever is less.

    Lets say that you want to copy a book that contains 10,000 words, 10% is 1000 words, however this is more than the 200 words, so you are bounded to copy only 200 words. If you want to copy more then you need to credit the original author.

    Now if you are copying a book that has 200 words, in this case you cannot copy the whole article because is 200 words, but you can legally only copy the 10% (20 words). Copying more than 20 words would require you to credit the original author.

    The CSS thing came from a law suit between the creators of lotus notes and somebody else (I cant remember) because that second company copied the layout of the menus. During the trial the court determined that that code for each function was different and that you could not copyright the "feel and look" nor the layout. This makes sense, otherwise I could have copyrighted the following CSS

    body { font-family: Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, serif }

    or

    body { background:#000000; }

    This would mean that if you had this in your css then you would have to credit me, or pay for rights.

    And of course as felgall said, images in a CSS can be copyrighted.

    I am talking about the laws in the US, of course if you go to some other country laws can be different.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    I haven't seen any laws which specifies a 10 percent (or 200 word) limit. Any such limit which you hear about is likely to be a rule-of-thumb used by publishers, and not an actual rule. You can get in trouble for a lot less than 10 percent.
    Christian Ankerstjerne
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  10. #10
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C. Ankerstjerne View Post
    I haven't seen any laws which specifies a 10 percent (or 200 word) limit.
    My understanding is that the law in Australia allows 10% or one chapter (whichever is less) to be copied for educational purposes. The amount you can copy for other purposes is a lot less (so close to zero that you'd probably be in trouble if you copied two paragraphs).
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  11. #11
    SitePoint Member redwall_hp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phidev View Post
    10% of the content or 200 words, what ever is more content.

    As for the aesthetics you cannot copyright them (Except for the logo) so you cannot for example "copyright" a css file. (Yeah, that sucks). I took a class about this, so I may have the literature somewhere if you need it.
    I'm interested in what class you took...

    A CSS file certainly is protected by copyright law, just like a blog post or a novel. And aesthetics are protected as well. Inspiration and learning from a site are okay though, as long as you know where to draw the line between inspiration and ripping the design off. Sure, you can borrow ideas and color schemes. However, don't copy and paste large chunks of CSS from the site's stylesheet...

    The "10% of the content or 200 words" idea is mainly just a rule of thumb anyway. There is no law that you can only use 10%. Fair use laws simply state that you have the right to use portions within reason, and that you have the right to dispute any lawsuits from the copyright holder if they object to your usage. The judging criteria is based on four "tests," such as whether the usage is transformative or not.

    This stuff is complicated and hard to explain, and I'm not a lawyer, so that doesn't help. Just search "fair use" on Wikipedia.

  12. #12
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    I think you can copy site by opening Photoshop and making it look same - althought it's not nice.

    But it's a good practice for novices, to learn some good techniques for webdesign.

    But if you do commercial sites I think you shouldn't copy too much of site (if you copy colors than don't copy layout etc)

    If you do webdesign for fun, than I think you can copy whatever you want, but don't sell such works to clients...

  13. #13
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zero0x View Post
    If you do webdesign for fun, than I think you can copy whatever you want, but don't sell such works to clients...
    Of course then the copyright owner will sue you for theft of their copyright material. Just because you are not selling it doesn't stop it from being theft when you take it.

    By all means look at their code to see how they did it and then without looking at their code write your own version.
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  14. #14
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    No I didn't mean copying code, I meant copying design making it look the same.

    That's not stealing that's inspiring...

  15. #15
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zero0x View Post
    No I didn't mean copying code, I meant copying design making it look the same.

    That's not stealing that's inspiring...
    If you copy a design, then that's copyright infringement. You are not allowed to copy e.g. a painting either.
    Christian Ankerstjerne
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  16. #16
    SitePoint Member redwall_hp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zero0x View Post
    If you do webdesign for fun, than I think you can copy whatever you want, but don't sell such works to clients...
    If you put that site online at all, it's still copyright infringement. It may not be commercial, but if you blatantly copy a design, down to all of it's little details, your breaking copyright laws in most countries.

    If you copied Microsoft's design, and just pasted your logo in, filled in your own content, and put it online, you still ripped off their design, and it's still not legal. Even if you're not making any money off it.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by C. Ankerstjerne View Post
    I haven't seen any laws which specifies a 10 percent (or 200 word) limit. Any such limit which you hear about is likely to be a rule-of-thumb used by publishers, and not an actual rule. You can get in trouble for a lot less than 10 percent.
    It's the law in the UK - you often see it on posters next to photocopiers in colleges and universities, where lecturers photocopy a diagram from a book or article from a magazine for a lesson. It is a very well known law and limitation, it is not some made up rule of thumb. There is a fair use rule, which defines what is and isn't fair use (review, or illustration of something in an article or book or lesson, or web site - the common example is where one blog quotes the opening lines of an interesting article on another blog and then has a link to the original article, that's a clear example of fair use).

    At the last college I taught at, there was a complete extract from the UK law next to all the photocopiers explaining the situation (and the same extract appeared next to copiers at the last uni I took a degree at too)

    Yes, you can get into a lot of trouble if you happen to copy less than 10&#37; of something IF it is not matching the fair use rule.

    It is NOT fair use to copy a button and use it on your own web site. Nor is it fair use to illustrate your web site with images from someone else's site, unless you are reviewing the other site.

  18. #18
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    The easiest way around the entire issue is to ask permission when you want to copy something. If you receive permission in writing from the copyright owner then you can use it without having to worry about anything else.
    Stephen J Chapman

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  19. #19
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    You guys didn't get the point..

    I'm not talking about copying..

    I mean designing the same thing that already exists. To learn techniques.

    I'm not talking about using someone design with purpose of getting things done quicker and easier. I mean inspiring with purpose of learning with goal of being able to design things at same quality without any template ...

    The nice website designs are always inspired by some others ... But if someone can't see what looks good - it's best to make something look same (not sell it and never put it online) - just to train! ... And that's not breaking law that's learning...

  20. #20
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    As long as you copy ideas from several different sites and don't just try to recreate the exact design used on just one site then that should be okay.
    Stephen J Chapman

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  21. #21
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    Yea That's ok..

    But some people can't do even that.. It think it's OK if they copy everything from a site and as soon as it's finished and they have techniques memorized they should delete it and use it never again

  22. #22
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    I think you can't copy the entire code css. I think that instead you can take cue from css code to match your site.
    After these changes your site should not be perfectly identical to that site.

  23. #23
    SitePoint Member redwall_hp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zero0x View Post
    You guys didn't get the point..

    I'm not talking about copying..

    I mean designing the same thing that already exists. To learn techniques.

    I'm not talking about using someone design with purpose of getting things done quicker and easier. I mean inspiring with purpose of learning with goal of being able to design things at same quality without any template ...

    The nice website designs are always inspired by some others ... But if someone can't see what looks good - it's best to make something look same (not sell it and never put it online) - just to train! ... And that's not breaking law that's learning...
    There's nothing wrong with that at all, so long as you don't put it online.

  24. #24
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy Nadia P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zero0x View Post
    You guys didn't get the point..

    I'm not talking about copying..

    I mean designing the same thing that already exists. To learn techniques.

    I'm not talking about using someone design with purpose of getting things done quicker and easier. I mean inspiring with purpose of learning with goal of being able to design things at same quality without any template ...
    I agree with you :-) How else can someone learn graphic skills. Pretty much the same as learning from tutorial websites.

    As long as it's only used for 'learning purposes' on your own computer, there's no problem. Once it's put online however, that's where the copyright issues come into effect.

    Nadia

  25. #25
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    There are so many blogs with same design on the web and working fine.
    I don't think any problem in to copy website design.
    However certain changes would be there like logo, business identity and images so it won't create any problem.


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