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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

Layout Copyright
is layout copyrighted, copyright infringement

 5:24 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

My website has a layout very similar to that of Twitter's when one is logged in. However, all of the images, content, and code is written by myself not looking at twitter's source.

My site has a black bar on top that mirrors twitters visually, almost identically, although images/text is different.

My site has a bottom content area split up into two parts like twitter's. One section is for questions, while the other section slides out when a question is clicked on, like twitter. However again, colors, content, images, and site purpose are 100% different.

Basically, I thought twitter's design was really cool, so I implemented it in my own site. Nevertheless, I will do anything to avoid any type of lawsuit with twitter, so is the layout I described above a candidate for copyright infringement and could I be ordered to shut down my site?



 6:47 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

"Look and Feel" has been a copyright issue over the years. Can't say you will have to deal with that, can't say you won't.


 9:30 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Did Google get stroppy about Bing and some others copying their layout?


 11:08 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Could Twitter sue you? Yes.

Will they? Probably not.


 11:38 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

i do not know the answer to the question, however i can tell you that it is a pointless question if you are looking for a legal opinion.

see the charter for this forum:

The comments are strictly the personal opinions of individual members. As always, if you have serious questions regarding your copyright rights, appropriate counsel should be consulted. The comments of WebmasterWorld members, moderators, and administrators are not legal advice; such advice should be sought only from a qualified legal professional in your jurisdiction who can review your facts and circumstances in detail.


 11:43 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

They could sue you but whether or not they would be successful remains to be seen. People have been copying nice structure and layout for years. I do it all the time.

What you have to do is what you have done, i.e. recreate it yourself. Use your own code, images and content. You could be in trouble if you actually stole the code although that is also very much in doubt.

When you think about, the first person who designed a drop down or fly out menu has had their layout copied many millions of times and it has not been an issue.


 12:50 am on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

It is called "Trade Dress" infringement and it certainly is an actionable tort.

There are volumes of case law on this.


 10:27 am on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Actually I don't think Trade Dress (or passing off in the UK) would apply here. The black bar that the OP refers to is hardly unique. There are many thousands of websites that use this or something similar and they probably did so before Twitter existed.

If it is immediately apparent that the website is not Twitter then I can see no potential problem. If it was a social media site called "Twittar" or similar then yes, that would be asking for trouble. ;)


 12:10 pm on Mar 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Layout is definitely intellectual property. Remember the Apple vs Microsoft "look & feel" lawsuit when windows came out? It's a similar issue.

I once had a competitor completely copy a website. Menu items the same, submenus the same, layout the same. I called my lawyer and said, "is this fair use"? He said fair use doesn't apply when you copy a competitor's Intellectual Property and use it to make money. So I sent a cease & desist and told them they had 7 days to desist. After 10 days they did.

Maybe the issue is whether or not you are competing with Twitter.


 12:38 pm on Mar 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Interesting. I had a partnership go bad, he started up a new website, and ripped off my layout. Right down to the css file and class names. COnsidering he saddled me with all the debt from the venture perhaps I should have been a bit more vengeful and fired off a C&D or DMCA.

Ah well, he took what he knew of what I did in terms of marketing and tried to compete. The site's still around, but it never did anything. So whatever.

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