Copyright Theft -- Internet Highway Robbery
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Kari Hill designed and programmed a front page into html and sent it to her
potential client as a link. It was understood that they would get other
proposals. She normally posts the design online for clients to view. "I
contacted them a few times and about 45 days later I contacted them again but
they were still indecisive so I backed off, thinking that I might have been too
expensive," she says.
"Just out of curiosity (and I do this on a regular basis) I checked
their domain to make sure they hadn't taken my design and shopped it around for
a better price. Lo and behold, they had a new website with my graphic elements
and photographs -- they had stolen them from me!
Not only did they steal from me, but there were two photos on their website
that I had sold to another client, who happened to be a direct competitor of
theirs, both in the real estate market.
I personally took these photos -- they obviously were not stock images. As
well, along the bottom of their website were a series of images of trade
affiliations such as realtor logos. They have the right to the images if they
are affiliated with those organizations but in the design sample that I sent to
them, those images -- which comprised eight logos -- were in the same order and
position. They were taken directly from my design sample. Not only were they the
exact size and order, each logo still had the numbers attached that I had
I soon discovered which website company did this and I actually know these
people. I made sure all the evidence was in place, including all my pages and
source code and web logs. I can prove, without a doubt, that this other website
company went to my design sample page and used it because only this potential
client, now their client, had access. Turns out that someone in the realty
company gave the web designers the link to my design and the real estate company
apparently went onto my website, looked at my portfolio and liked my photos.
When the other web company signed a contract, the client forwarded my photos to
The other web development company is far cheaper than me and no doubt this is
the reason they got the commission. This is how they can be so cheap: they farm
out all of their programming to India. There, a programmer is hired for one
month at $1,500. The downside is that the client gets a lesser product and the
client has to supply all graphics, images, photos etc.
I spend a lot of time on copyrighting -- there's a big difference between
writing in text and putting in type. I spend a lot of time editing and choosing
words; it is a lengthy process to do it well. Then someone comes along and takes
away all my hard work.
All the design samples I sent to this real estate company state that
copyright belongs to my company and it stays that way until, or unless, it is
paid for. Then I change copyright to the client. There should have been no
I'm sure my design template is now sitting on someone's computer in India.
These companies are known to modify templates and for all I know, they can just
change my html and a few colors and may have used it a few dozen times by now.
Now I can't use my design because I can't tell future clients that it is
Unless I get an attorney to take my case on a contingency basis there's not
much I can do. I am a sole proprietor and don't have deep pockets so the best I
can hope for that the offending material is removed and somebody pays me for the
time I spent on this design that by now has been shopped all over the world.
A few weeks ago I sent the real estate guy, the person who gave my design
away, a bill for my time working on the design -- not including the time I spent
in his office. I'm hoping he has some integrity. I am a single Mom putting two
kids through college. I don't expect to get every job I quote on but I don't
expect to be stolen from. One of the things I told this guy was that you get
what you pay for. I don't profess to know copyright law, but I do know that this
has infringed upon my rights. A cheap website is going to cost them a lot more
than I was going to charge, especially when they are confronted with a class
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