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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old November 1st, 2009, 01:48 PM   #1
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What to do?

I have recently had TWO instances of competitor's THAT I AM FRIENDS WITH copying my website.

***The sites (mine and theirs) are irrelevant so I will NOT post them. Besides, I don't think Chris would approve and that's not what this thread is about. It's not about proving a copy or trashing anyone. I just want to know how YOU would handle the situation.***

One friend copied my text WORD FOR WORD! The same bold print, punctuation and even the prices! I was stunned. I did call them on it and asked what was up. They apologized and changed it... but it was more as a courtesy than anything else. They told me that all wedding videographers sites look the same anyways.

Huh?

In the past month, another buddy of mine commented on my site and said he liked it. A visit to his a few days ago and he had redone everything about his. Lo and behold, it's a mirror image of mine! Background, fonts, layout, logo placement, links, navigation bar & buttons, etc.

I'm about speechless (except for I'm writing here!) and not sure how to handle this. I think the reason is because he probably doesn't see it as an issue since we're about an hour apart from each other although we're still in the same neck of the woods.

However, a copy is a copy... and I'd hate to lose business from a potential bride because she saw our sites, loved the way they looked and decided to go with his because he's a tad cheaper. It's also hard to stomach because this is a friend as well and we've helped each other a bit too.

***My disclaimer: I have looked at other videographer's websites to help 'inspire' my creative juices in helping to create my own. Much the same way I will look at many of the INCREDIBLE video samples posted here to help 'inspire' me before I go out on a shoot.
Kind of like watching 'Chariots of Fire' before you go running! However, I make sure that my final product is MY OWN and not a blatant copy of someone else's work.***

My question is: How would YOU handle this? Or would you even handle it at all? I know that if a competitor used my video footage as a demo and was getting work, we'd be in court. And I get that websites are out there in the public domain and I don't 'own' the color black or white... but it's still a bitter pill for me to swallow.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 02:57 PM   #2
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A courtesy call is certainly in order. As you've noted, taking "inspiration" is one thing, blatant copying of your look and feel (and text) is too close to just stealing your IP IMO.

Sometimes I think people believe that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", and don't grasp that cutting and pasting isn't IMITATION, it's simply using someone elses time and talents and trying to pass it off as your own... and that's not OK.

Re-interpreting/rephrasing and adding your own style isn't plagarism, cut and paste is... one takes actual intellectual effort the other a few clicks of the mouse. This is the bane of the digital revolution - any idiot can C/P, but it's no more "creative" than cutting your toenails...

With a website, the intellectual property is a bit more (potentially) "generic", but establishing a "look and feel" that works takes time, effort, and probably at least SOME $$ investment. You can't copyright or trademark a black background (which seems like a common choice, one I plan on using myself), and fonts are generic (unless you use custom graphics), but how you arrange things and in what order AREN'T.

Since you say it's pretty obvious that your friends are impressed with your work and you get along, it shouldn't hurt their feelings if you tell them that while you are flattered that they liked your site so much that they mirrored it, you really think they could have done better by themselves and right by you if they had found their own extension/expression rather than just being another copy.

While "borrowing" ideas and concepts isn't a bad thing (it's not like I haven't seen movies/TV that "borrowed" liberally for their plotlines...), if you don't find your own voice, you're just a cheap knockoff, and I'd think your friends should be encouraged to aspire <wink>.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 06:14 PM   #3
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And I get that websites are out there in the public domain and I don't 'own' the color black or white... but it's still a bitter pill for me to swallow.
Websites certainly are not public domain. US copyright law clearly states that copyright protection is "granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression." Putting words and images on a web page is every bit as tangible as putting them on a printed page.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 07:01 PM   #4
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Unfortunately being right and in the right, which I guess (since I'm a programme maker not a lawyer) you are, doesn't solve your problem.

Any action at law must inevitably demand some proof of timeline and establishing the history of websites is difficult - it's a dynamic medium.

It would however seem to me that you must be some sort of a whizz at creating websites - if so, my inclination might be to create a new one and have the satisfaction of knowing that between them your two former friends still have almost identical websites, albeit of your design!

At the same time I'd consider registering or somehow protecting your style (though I don't expect trademarks are any cheaper to register in the USA than here in the UK). Remember that photos are easier to establish copyright in than say a paragraph of text and I would think that images have a greater effect on the "look and feel" of a site than the words.

I'd certainly have your lawyer write to both your former friends and warn them that any copying of your new site will be regarded as an infringement of your copyright. In reality you probably won't want to initiate legal action against them if they do, but often a stern lawyer's letter can concentrate the mind. It will certainly establish a clear timeline ie that your new site pre-dates any further copy they might make and being aware of the implication might persuade them that plagiarism isn't worth it.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 07:33 PM   #5
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Hi Philip. I'm far from being a whiz at building a website. For the past 4 years I've been updating and changing my site probably once a week... a tweek here and there, moving some stuff around a bit, etc. Small stuff... but it was because I wasn't satisfied with what I had. I knew what I wanted but didn't know what it looked like I guess.

Now I finally have a 'look' I actually like! I don't change the site any more and I'm somewhat proud of it.

Now my pal has copied it and it makes me want to vomit.

I think I need to find a way to bring this up and see what happens from there.
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Old November 1st, 2009, 11:04 PM   #6
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Blake

I'm sorry if my response seemed complacent because I can well understand your anger. The problem is what can you do that is both effective and won't cost you a fortune to achieve?

As I see it it's a bit like the situation in which most of us in this business sometimes find ourselves - when clients make their own copies of the DVDs we've made for them. Legally we own much of the copyright (and sell them a licence we buy to cover the music copyright) but what's the cost of enforcing it?

My view is that our business is making programmes not going to court; we price our copies so low that there's almost no profit in them so copies are only an extension of our customer service and the most we hope to get from previous clients is their good referral - which we'll definitely not get if we get heavy over a couple of copies.

I am genuinely sympathetic to your plight but I don't think you'll achieve cost-effective satisfaction at law. Some friends! Sorry.
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 12:10 AM   #7
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Dont tell us, tell your friend.

Any of my friends can handle criticism.

Candy coat it some if you arent comfortable and tell them it looks like crap when three sites in an area all look the same. And tell them to copy a website from the opposite coast so maybe they wont get into trouble.
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 05:49 PM   #8
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Websites aren't "public domain", they are technically copyrighted once "published" to the web.

As I said, I HOPE they were just thinking that "imitation was flattery", but there's a BIG difference between being inspired and just cutting and pasting... and COPYING without compensation or credit is just as much a violation of copyright - if you can show that the source code (or graphics) on their sites was "lifted" directly from your site (and that shouldn't be that hard to figure out), they'd be in violation of any copyright you may have on your design (you do have a notation somewhere, right? If not, time to put it on).

Still, it's better to figure out a way to call their attention to it, and see if you can find a way to resolve the issues amicably - why someone would even WANT to knock off another site like that is beyond me, guess your site must be pretty good, maybe I should have a look <wink>!
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 05:58 PM   #9
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Dave you are too funny! If you or anyone else saw the site, you'd think, 'That's it?! SERIOUSLY?!'

Here's the update: I called the co-owner of the place ('Bill') who is also a good friend. Since the other guy ('Bob') does the site, I figured it would be best to talk to 'Bill.' 'Bill' had no clue about the site's update since that's not what he covers and he said he would take care of it and apologized for stepping on toes.

I hate it because I've been agonizing over it for the last 48 hours... but after talking to 'Bill' I feel TONS better and have every confidence that their site will be changed to suit them.

I appreciate everyone's time and responses in this thread. I thank you all kindly.
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Old November 3rd, 2009, 07:07 AM   #10
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Blake, please post links. Thanks.

BTW, if they are located near you then I would be upset. If they are outside of your market, and since they are friends, then I would let it slide.
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Old November 3rd, 2009, 08:28 AM   #11
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Hi Paul. We are in the same area, not too far apart.
I didn't post links because I have seen other threads where a site is posted and Chris quickly deleted it.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 09:34 PM   #12
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This is so subjective. If your site has a generic look to it... expect to see similarities. If your site is wildly unique, that's another story.

Take a look at the obligatory flash templates every other photographer uses. When two photographers choose the same template are they copying each other? [sarcasm] Yep. They picked the same template and now their sites are mirror images of each other. The first guy should sue everyone after him that chose the same template. [end sarcasm] :P
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Old November 15th, 2009, 12:48 AM   #13
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Or you could take the conundrum and re-fashion it into a marketable strategy. Add some notations to your site (perhaps as text inside a watermarked image file) that describes the influential nature of your design sensibilities, and that you have applied your media and design expertise to help mentor newcomers to the field, who are only now learning to grasp the skills and techniques that have been a hallmark of your entire career.

Then, if you wish, you might even include links to their sites as well. This allows you to take the higher road while putting things in perspective, points to their indiscretion in the most polite manner possible (in a manner that they can't possibly resent since it can be taken as a potential referral), and yet still has you coming out on top as the more highly skilled, pioneering and creatively influential video production company in the group.

If your competition happens to recognize the patronizing sub-text of the notation, then they can choose to design their own site with their own content, at which point you can then remove the notation and links from your site.
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Old November 15th, 2009, 02:42 AM   #14
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Blake, please post links.
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Originally Posted by Blake Cavett View Post
I didn't post links because I have seen other threads where a site is posted and Chris quickly deleted it.
Yes that's right. You're a good man, Blake. Thanks,
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Old November 16th, 2009, 06:49 PM   #15
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I asked my son, who runs a website development business, to comment:

"There is not a lot he can do, the good thing regarding the content is that Google penalizes other sites that carry duplicate content (they know who had it first).

Also here is a good article on the subject matter - http://freelanceswitch.com/freelancing-essentials/what-to-do-when-someone-steals-your-work/"
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