Plagiarism is the term given to the borrowing of someone else’s ideas and passing them around as one’s own. It exists in academia, in professional work environments, and any other field where there’s a creation of some kind of content involved.
It’s considered a serious offense, leading to copyright laws, fines, and even imprisonment (in some severe cases). Today, there are software and other special practices implemented to keep plagiarism in check.
The consequences of plagiarism affect concerned parties everywhere, regardless of which field or line of work they belong to. Plagiarism in web design is just as unethical as it is in, say, academic professions.
Plagiarism in Web Design
Almost all websites contain ‘all rights reserved’ in their footer. That means that website is protected by copyright laws.
Simply, plagiarism in website creation — called website plagiarism — is when someone else’s ideas about website layout, its organization, and management, etc., are copied in creating one’s own website while claiming they are one’s own ideas.
Web design plagiarism is monitored by websites using third-party services. More and more web traffic also implies more chances of web design plagiarism being caught by users. This can be reported to the concerned website staff. Google alerts and other plagiarism tools can also be set up for that purpose.
Key point: If you’ve copied something off another website without linking to it, it’s plagiarism. There are a number of ways to respond to plagiarised web content.
General Consequences of Web Design Plagiarism for Plagiarisers
Copying, recreating, and/or distributing someone else’s ideas and/or works without the legal authorization of the holder implies infringing upon their rights as the creator of that content. Copyright infringement is the term given to such an activity. It’s also called piracy.
Purdue University lists the following as consequences of copyright infringement:
- The infringer has to pay the actual amount (in USD) of damages and profits involved in the infringement. The law has set up a $200 – $150,000 fine range for each work infringed.
- The infringer has to pay for an attorney and other court fees.
- To stop the infringement act, the Court can issue an injunction.
- The Court can also hold back the illegal works.
- The infringer can be sentenced to jail, the time duration of which depends on the severity of the infringement.
Aside from legal matters, a plagiariser’s reputation is also at stake. Their right to creating original content and web design is also jeopardized. If a web designer applies for a job after having been through a legal fiasco of web design plagiarism, it would also complicate their hiring process. For such things stay on one’s record.
Tip: If you’re still confused, looking at some examples of plagiarised web design might help.
State-Specific Consequences for Plagiarisers
There might be different consequences for web design plagiarism (and for plagiarism in general also) depending on countries and states. For instance, US infringement act laws might differ from those of the UK or Europe.
Key point: Copy scraping and copyrighting aren’t the same things. Even though both are wrong, content scraping and plagiarism differ slightly.
According to Plagiarism Today, the US copyright laws are limited from those of the EU or UK in the sense that they claim to protect an idea’s expression, not the idea itself. This implies that while web design itself might not be protected by copyright laws, but the code—designed by web developers to create that design — will be.
Interesting read: Product plagiarism has been around for a very long time now; many brands copy other brands’ product logos or designs and print them out with a few alterations here and there. Sometimes this doesn’t raise many concerns, while at other times, it has led to protests, beginning mostly with social media.
Guess’ Telfar-like product bag is a commonly cited example. Even with such printable objects, web design is involved; it all begins with the web anyway. A company’s logo might be copied using the same web design techniques and tools, for instance.
Other Legalities about Web Design Plagiarism
There are some important legalities about website plagiarism that should be kept in mind, such as:
- It’s illegal to copyright web design elements including but not limited to: text, images, design layout or source codes used to create such elements.
- Using another’s trademarked content and/or logo is also prohibited.
- It’s legal to be inspired by another web design and incorporate that into one’s own web design while crediting the source.
- It’s also legal to use custom-built code for recreating (not copying original source code) some elements identical to another website.
- A custom website means you are privileged to obtain ownership of its unique design, and another site cannot legally copy it.
- Plagiarism is legal as long as the plagiarizer has complete legal rights granted by the original holder to duplicate and distribute the content.
Key point: Remember that in case you’re using a website template, there will be many more websites identical to yours that have also used the same template. In such a case, you will not have any protective rights to the source code. It’s the template’s, not yours originally.
Consequences for Web Designers
There are repercussions for those that plagiarize others’ content. But there are also consequences for those whose content is being plagiarized. How are they supposed to respond to such an activity? Who are they meant to contact? What is the legal course of action to take?
As rightly stated by Jonathan Bailey on Plagiarism Today, “To Web developers, code is poetry and design is art.” So what does one do when they find out someone else has stolen their art and is passing it off as their own?
There are multiple courses of action to take in such a case, as per rights granted to a web design creator/holder. Even visually-appealing, highly unique-looking websites and web designs can turn out to be plagiarized.
Here’s what a web design can do if they find out their design has been plagiarised:
- Sending a cease and desist letter to the plagiarizer.
- Bringing it to the attention of the Chamber of Commerce.
- Giving the plagiarized web platform a one-star review on their Google page and letting Google do the rest.
- Sending a takedown notice to the website host, in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
- Suing the plagiarizer in court.
- Directly reporting plagiarized website directly to Google.
In case the web design plagiarism is severe, laws pertaining to copyright infringement will decide whether the author (or web designer, in this case) gets any compensation for losses suffered.
Plagiarising web design is not just harmful for plagiarisers, but also for clients and consumers involved in that particular web platform. It’s a matter of ethics; fooling clients to believe what they’re being told on a web platform is the plagiariser’s idea and/work is unlawful and subject to great disdain, even morally.
Whether it is about the plagiariser or the one being plagiarised, the consequences of plagiarism in web design affect both parties. The best way to prevent those consequences is to avoid plagiarising a web design, to begin with. Now the things that go behind what constitutes copyright content and what doesn’t can be confusing.
That is why before designing a website, researching such trends is very important. It will not only save everyone a whole lot of legal trouble but will ensure creativity and originality in the web design world, something that’s not worth compromising over.
So, whether you are about to create your own web design, platform, or any web-based element, do a little bit of research first. Make sure someone else out there doesn’t use the same logo you have made, for instance. Run a copy-scape on the text you will be displayed on your website.
Check for other forms of plagiarism by using third-party services. Even in this day and age, you can be authentic and original without having to steal someone else’s ideas and works.