The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
~ Albert Einstein
Almost all web designers have used elements of a web page from other great web designers. The simple truth is that those great designers already have their craft well formed. We learn best by imitating the people who are already experts, the end result being creativity and ingenuity. The problem appears when people cross the line from using material for inspiration to flat out stealing it. Plagiarism is a serious crime and an insult to most professional designers. However there are always going to be a few bad apples. It’s surprising how small the internet is. People flagrantly rip off designs, leave footprints everywhere and expect no one to notice. Well these days it’s a very small world and you can be easily found making plagiarism risky business.
Imitation = Creation
While there is a delicate balance between inspiration and imitation any good web designer must utilize the works of others to find the talent deep within his or her own self. Using parts of a great website is not wrong so long as you expand and modify it in your own image. Thatâ€™s what Pablo Picasso meant in his famous quote is that by using the solid foundation of others you can create new forms of ingenuity and creativity while maintaining the appeals of the original design.
Designers block is common and everyone needs help finding creativity. There are many showcases for amazing websites and these are the best websites to visit for inspiration such as:
The Law & Plagiarism
When it comes to plagiarism the law is perfectly clear. A long standing principle of US copyright laws is that the expression of an idea is protected but not the actual idea itself. What does this mean for the average web designer? Well it means that most of your intellectual property is relatively unprotected. Our copyright laws say that only things in a fixed medium are considered patentable. Unlike many other countries the United States does not recognize a design idea itself as fixed. Basically if someone decides to rip off your design ideas there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.
While there are various copyright laws regarding this issue there are outlets for blatantly stolen materials. To find out if content has been stolen from you visit www.copyscape.com. If you have discovered stolen content the first step is to make sure that your content is actually stolen; don’t jump to conclusions. Once you know your material has been ripped off you should attempt to find contact information on the offending website and politely ask to have the materials removed. In most cases this works because nobody is looking for a lawsuit and this is a convenient out: for them. If you have a hard time finding contact info on the site simply perform a search for that domain in Whois. If this fails you can find a great sample â€œcease and desist letter on the internet or if you have access to a lawyer you can draft your own. Your best recourse is to jeopardize the websites standing in the search engines by filing an official DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). And lastly if you need proof you were the original creators use the internet archive http://www.archive.org.