The Peacemaker

Some people say that, whether it was truly a case of plagiarism or not, it would have been polite if the propietor of had emailed me in advance to say he was lifting somewhat heavily from my own Web site, as discussed earlier today. In fact, I did get an email in the middle of the day today (still after the fact, but better late than never) from that was very polite and apologetic, and afterwards, at my suggestion, a small credit appeared at the bottom of the site’s home page that read, “Some CSS and code courtesy of Khoi Vinh.”

As I said, I was not, in general, made particularly angry by the affair, though neither was I pleased. But the correspondence quickly mollified me and made me realize that, if it was not polite for the site’s proprietor to fail to contact me about the design in advance of launching it, neither was it particularly polite of me to fail to contact him without first posting about it here on my weblog.

Why I Said It

My only defense was that it was very, very early in the morning — or very, very late at night, depending on how you look at it. I’d had a long day and I had been meaning to dash something off about this since Saturday, so I did so in a somewhat rash state of mind. And, admittedly, I did see the potential for a pretty juicy weblog post in it, which more or less bore fruit in the form of lots of excellent and thoughtful comments from readers. So I am guilty of a kind of online opportunism myself.

Anyway, my favorite comment came from Rob, whom I don’t know personally. He said, “Life is too short and the Internet is too big to get angry,” which I pretty much agreed with wholeheartedly. No real harm was done by, and if anything, it added a bit to my life by inadvertently providing a small episode of unique experience. So everyone wins.

I just better not catch nobody trying no funny business like this again!

  1. Just a note on the other actor in this drama feeling miffed that you took him to task on your site without alerting him. He didn’t seem particularly quick on the gun in letting you know he was lifting your design so, why should you have done him a courtesy he would not do you? (long sentence but I think it can still be diagrammed)

    Just as designers take the risk of having their work copied so do copiers take the risk of being pilloried.

  2. We talked about it Khoi, you did not have to apology in such a way, I was the only guilty. I do not know why I did not contacted you beforehand, maybe because of the “temporary state” of my MT as I explained to you.
    Anyway, I am sorry about it and thank you for the messages and your kindness.

  3. Good of you to post an apology here fabien.

    Khoi – you may want to amend your footer as it currently states that the content of is both copyrighted and licensed under CCL – which isn’t possible. It’s one or the other.

  4. > both copyrighted and licensed under CCL –
    > which isn’t possible. It’s one or the other.

    I believe this is incorrect. The two are different concepts, and quite compatible. To take a famous example: Disney owns the copyright in Mickey Mouse; they also choose to _license_ that image to various companies who wish to use it (to make souvenirs, etc.).

    In the case here, Khoi obviously intends to keep ‘ownership’ of the material, and he lets us know that by showing a Copyright notice. He then also sets up an open licensing system where people are free to use his material in certain ways – defined by the CC license terms.

    But as to whether or not the _design_ of the site is also covered under that notice ‘Contents under CC License’ is a matter of legal interpretation … decided ultimately at the bang of the judge’s gavel.

  5. As mentionned, the content only is under CC, not the design & code. I was faulty reading it too quickly or it was my english – I am not native english speaker – who took the word “content” as the whole thing, so I took the CC like that.

  6. Dave – perhaps a clarification of my point as it was written at 3am and few would have welcomed the ‘legalese’ response I originally intended to post on this matter.

    You’re correct in suggesting both concepts are compatible – copyright actually underpins CCL. Hence, the use of either term will denote that Khoi (unless otherwise noted) is the owner of the content on

    Where they differ (and the reason for my suggestion) is in the use of said content. Put very simplistically, a declaration of copyright (as is included in the footer) effectively means that the content cannot be used in any way without Khoi’s consent – so no printing, downloading or re-publication whatsoever. But the CCL license (that is also included in the footer) allows for Khoi’s content to be displayed, copied and derived from provided certain conditions are met.

    Hence the terms are contradictory in the way content from can be used.

  7. Steve, I think that you have mistaken here. Copyright basically means that you own certain asset, such as a poem, symphony or other work of art, by creating it in the first place. Now, only you have to right to make copies / instances of it (hence the term “copyright”).

    CCL is a license that sets various terms for using copyrighted content. It may allow something or decline something. In other words, it amends the rights of the body licensing the work from the basic rights set in the copyright law.

    The copyright holder (Khoi) may provide the content to other people under certain license (CCL). These people can use the content under the terms of the license. In this case, the license allows derivate works and redistribution with certain limitations.

    As a sidenote, you do not have to declare the copyright — you have automatically copyright when you have created an original work. By declaring copyright, you just announce the fact — situation itself doesn’t change.

  8. Lesson here: Don’t steal Janne’s site. This guy’s legalise is sharp.

    I am glad though that a dialogue was made. Things are always better through dialogue. Khoi and Fabien demonstrated what a little communication can do! Cheers!

  9. I’ve noticed before that someone else pinched your style for their site…as a designer myself I see this as more of a compliment that other people want to copy you.

  10. If you want to see some real bad plagarism, check out what some guy did to Airbag a while back. The comments are hilarious (and I think someone has screenshots – the guy didn’t change anything but the name. And got busted: Mykel on Airbag

  11. I’m glad to see this is worked out. As someone who has been ripped off wholesale a few times I know how frustrating it can be. At least in this case you got credit. I’ve got almost 100% copies of my old site out there floating around with not so much as a nod my way.

    As you know, I’m totally fine with borrowing ideas and taking bits from designs and designers you admire, but it’s key to give props where props are due and I’m glad this one worked out.

  12. Good point Keith – in seeing your site, looks like you should practice what you preach and also give Khoi his props, because guess what…..they’re due.

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.