QC Industries Conveyor Blog

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Posted by Chris Thompson on Apr 11, 2007 5:16:39 AM

Side by Side Comparison

One of the greatest things about the internet is its free and open nature. Unfortunately, some people take the "free and open" part too literally.

On Monday, one of my colleagues received an email from a company touting their new website (I've concealed their identity because I don't believe they had any malicious intent). When my colleague clicked the link, he noticed something surprisingly familiar; the company's "new" website contained many elements identical to the QC Industries site. You can see the similarities in the side by side screenshots above.

Don't get me wrong, we're flattered that someone liked our website enough to copy it. But this site isn't a template we bought somewhere and repurposed for our needs; it was built from the ground up by our internal web design/development team. We spent countless hours and cups of coffee to build a custom site that met the unique needs of QC Industries and its customers.

We intentionally built the site so that it would be easy to change in the future. Unfortunately, this made it very easy for this company's web designer to copy the HTML and CSS source code from our site and make some very easy changes to turn it into a site for another company.

How can we tell this was copied and not an independently created derivative? Many parts of the CSS code contained specific references to things on our site, such as:

#conveyor-selection-guide td a {…

and

…body#conveyors #nav-conveyors dl…

Those are odd lines to include in their CSS, considering they don't sell conveyors (you can compare our CSS file to theirs). Many of the graphics from our navigation and headers were also copied wholesale, without so much as changing the file names. Even the text describing their newsletter was identical to ours.

Our entire website is copyrighted (and has been since we published it last July). This copyright covers not only the text of our site, but the images, design and code as well. This "copy" of our site equates to theft – the theft of thousands of dollars worth of work on the part of our web design team.

blue-screenshot.jpgOn Monday, our General Manager asked the company to remove the infringing portions of their site. In response, their designer changed the colors of the graphics to blue and removed a few of the most incriminating lines from the CSS code (see the screenshot at right and their updated CSS). Even though these changes make it a little less obvious that the site design was copied wholesale, it leaves intact several of the most proprietary and time-consuming portions of our design, such as the left side navigation and its flyout product descriptions (which are loosely based on the Suckerfish dropdown technique, but contain a significant amount of proprietary code and images to create the final effect).

It's unfortunate that this company's designer chose to charge them "several thousand dollars" for something as simple as copying and pasting our proprietary look and feel, code and graphics. Our sincere hope is that the company is able to develop another site without significant harm to their business and without infringing on our copyrights.

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