Unflattered by Imitation

After more than ten years of doing freelance web design/development, I keep thinking I've seen everything...and then I encounter something new. I received an email yesterday from a client who had been contacted by another organization, the latter asking permission to use unspecified aspects of the former's website in the design of a new site for the latter. (I tried to figure out a way to make that sentence even more complicated but couldn't do it.)

This is unusual for two reasons. First of all, there's this "asking permission" thing: who does that in the Wild, Wild Web? Sadly, all too few. Source code is too easy to "borrow" and embedded graphics too easy to download. So, props to the organization that approached my client.

But I'm afraid they lose all that goodwill based on the second reason that the request is unusual. You see, the organization had approached me a couple of months ago about redesigning their website, and they had specifically mentioned my client's site as one they'd like to emulate. I worked up and sent a quote for the project, and never heard from them again.

Until yesterday, that is, when my client emailed me to see if I had a concern about granting approval for the aforementioned request.

I'm kind of on the fence about the ethics of this situation. On one hand, I don't retain any intellectual property rights in the work I do under contract for a client. So, if the client wants to give away his design, that's entirely his call. And while there may be some implied copyright issues in play, we couldn't actually prevent another organization from "borrowing" the source code and adapting it for their own purposes.

But as I told my client, as a designer I find this situation akin to going into Dillard's and trying on a pair of shoes to make sure they fit and look good, and then ordering them online from Zappo's. If the second organization wants to hire another designer to do their website, fine...but I'd really prefer that they actually require that designer to do something other than adapt my work.

Perhaps I should feel flattered that someone wants to copy the design (although it's really nothing special). What do you think...am I being too sensitive?

6 Comments

If you're too sensitive, then so am I.

Hey, maybe you could have your client say you'd be happy to license it to them, and then ask for 10-15% of the quote you gave them originally. :)

You're not being too sensitive; seems this is almost like plagiarism! Think 75% should do it!!

Say yes on the condition that your client allows you to insert a few bugs first. :-) What's most important, aside from you getting paid for your work, is that this prospective client know you are aware of and offended by their tactics. People should know better.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on September 29, 2010 6:40 AM.

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