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Guerrilla Republishing: New Trend?

When you REALLY dislike a site's design... fix it!

     
1:50 pm on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Here's a new wrinkle on, "They stole my site!" How about, "They stole my site, and made it better!"

According to Changing the Face of Web Surfing [wired.com] in Wired Magazine, some web designers are taking matters into their own hands and "fixing" websites whose designs are terrible or aren't accessible to handicapped users. These renegade designers redesign the site and host the improved version on their own server.

Although they aren't trying to siphon away business or traffic from the real websites, these designers generally come under fire from the real site owners who may fear confusion or traffic loss. The designers feel they provide a valuable service by making sites better and in particular by making their content accessible to disabled individuals.

What would your reaction be if an "improved" version of one of your sites showed up on someone else's server?

1:52 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Improved or not, if they use my content without my permission, it's theft.
1:53 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Is it just me or is that a bit... arrogant? Presumptuous? It's one thing to suggest some changes or improvements (as from one pro to another), and another to take your site and do a complete revamp!

Personally, I'd send them cease and desist letters.

2:29 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Initially I guess I'd be flattered by the attention and curious about the changes and what supposed flaws were being corrected, but I'd certainly be leery of a cloned site living somewhere else.
2:30 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Who would remake the Mona Lisa?

Goober

2:37 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Who would remake the Mona Lisa?

Salvador Dali
[studiolo.org...]

5:43 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Improved or not, if they use my content without my permission, it's theft.

Should be:

Improved or not, if they use the content that I hold the rights to without my permission, it's infringement.
;)

I would be quite annoyed, but I would at least try and learn something. I would at least fix any accessibility issues before I went to court.

At least in the US, congress is the one that has control over copyright laws, and they are also the ones that came up with the ADA. If you are not provicing a site that meets ADA guidelines, they might be able to make a case for their site, OR at least hit you back with a counterclaim on the accessability issues.

It's an interesting question, if there has ever been a clash between the copyright laws and the ADA in court, and what was the outcome.

6:16 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I've had a whole site swiped; I caught the new host in the process of swiping files in the logs and traced the IP. They took my name off the copyright and put their own on. I had the site removed from Google, following the proper procedure, and when the person said "make me" when I told them to take it down I wrote the host who happened to be in the same state as I am - and they had it changed within the day.

That wasn't for usability reasons, it was for financial reasons - but imho it's irrelevant what the reason is. Theft and plagiarism is what it is and there's no excuse for it nor for cyber-vigilantes playing Don Quixote. To me it's like horse theft in the old westerns - a hanging offense. Including scraped content, in spite of the fact that Google is rewarding the practice.

[edited by: Marcia at 6:19 pm (utc) on July 20, 2004]

6:18 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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if they use the content that I hold the rights to without my permission

LOL Dave, if you're going to mess up my parallel structure, at least say "content to which I hold the rights ..." ;-)
7:33 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Personally, I'd send them cease and desist letters.

First I would figure out what they did and implament it into my site. Then I would do the cease and desist letter if it really was better.

[edited by: rogerd at 8:46 pm (utc) on July 20, 2004]
[edit reason] Typo repair [/edit]

7:39 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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First, I'd take the compliment that someone thought enough of my site and content to fix and republish.

Second, I'd note all of the "improvements" that have been made and ascertain whether or not I should implement them.

Third, I would take necessary action to remove the plagiarized site and pursue prosecution of the designer(s).

Fourth, I would send a "thank you" note for the great suggestions about my site.

7:42 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Sorry Buckworks, you are correct. That'll learn me not to do public edits when I am in a rush. You also could have dinged me on using "at least" three times in such a short post.
8:10 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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There was an interesting story on the BBC recently about a UK designer who built an accessible version of a cinema's site.

[news.bbc.co.uk...]

8:14 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Depends on how it was done. If they just "did it" without bothering to contact me, I'd be mightily perterbed.

If they contacted me and informed me of the problems, and offered solutions (personally) I'd thank them and try and implement the change.

If a big corporate site received the suggested changes, and responded with their typical "Thank you for your input..." (read: We're big and can do what we want and usability and accessibility are for commie pinko open source anarchists.... err, at least that's what I think a lot of big corps must think like with the way they design things).... Then launching a "usability accessibility" version of the site might be an effective, high profile way of making a protest.

edit: my typos are multiplificating

9:37 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Should the ADA apply to everything?

I'm not sure that it has a place on the internet. If someone's site sucks for people that have low / no site, they will go on to the next guy that has good structure... right? If someone is so frustrated with a site that doesn't work, they'll shop somewhere else. If you want to advance purchase movie tix, and their site doesn't work, drive over there, or call in. Am I missing something about this? Maybe the ADA should supply browsers that can get the job done for people w/ disabilities.

If their defense is that the site sucks... I'd be all over them with lawyers, and all over their ISP if they didn't comply with a cease and desist order in a timely fashion.

I don't mean to be coy or condescending... but life goes on just fine w/o the internet... (insert collective gasp here haha)

<sidenote> this does raise some good questions, and I'm excited to see the case law catch up with the technology! </sidenote>

9:56 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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It doesn't matter if the ADA shouldn't apply, in most cases it does if you run a business. Making that business accessible is a cost of doing business.

Insisting that someone should call on the phone or drive to the box office to buy the tickes will get you exactly nowhere in court. Why should they have to pick up the phone and have to wait on hold when other people do not have to? What if they are a mute with poor vision? It would probably be decided in summary judgement because you are basically admitting that your site is not accessible.

I suppose that the big question is, why didn't you take the minimal steps to make your site accessible? It's built into the HTML spec and is just basic good site design. You actually have to go to some effort to make a truly inaccessible site.

9:58 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Assuming, a polite request didn't work, I'd find the physical location of the indvidual responsible, hop a plane, and make a personal visit.
10:36 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Assuming, a polite request didn't work, I'd find the physical location of the indvidual responsible, hop a plane, and make a personal visit.

Hmm, the tough guy approach, also known as the stupid guy approach. You've been watching the Sopranos too much.

It's a good way to get your business awarded to the plantiff by the courts.

And don't forget, that no matter how tough you are, there is always someone tougher. You don't know who your opponent is, and who their friends are.

11:33 pm on July 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Hey, I'm no design guru so I'd be happy... as long as they sent me all the new files when they were done so I could upload them to MY server =)
12:36 am on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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hahahahahahaha.....

I copied/stole someones site because it had really lousy monetization/conversion. I fixed it and re-posted it under my own domain, as a service to all those buyers who were confused and unable to buy on the original site.

It's not theft, it's a public service!

Seriously,though, "accessibility" is *not* as simple as some say it is. It's a mess and needs to be fixed, but not at the expense of every website and webmaster. Fix the browsers and fix the screen readers (standardize them) and then come back and ask for accommodation.

<lots of experience in 508 land>

11:32 am on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Someone should republish "Wired".

Think they would sigh...

2:54 pm on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I applaud the intention, and god knows I've seen my share of overcomplicated garbage. But this kind of vigilante redesign doesn't acknowledge the fact that web property, as in the real world, is private property.

The web *is* the real world, subject to real world law, and people have the right to publish and protect their work as they see fit.

Imagine going to someone's storefront, and pouring concrete for a new wheelchair ramp...

3:18 pm on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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My tuppenceworth - the Odeon site actually goes out of its way to be inaccesible - you all know you have to work really hard to build a site that will only render as one background image in any browser other than IE.

According to this post here, the math says that the sacraped accesible site was doing a third of the Odeon's traffic:

[isolani.co.uk...]

And someone has now issued to CPan an open source Perl API to scrape the site:

[search.cpan.org...]

5:21 pm on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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That Odeon site is a mess. It's almost as if they purposely wrote it to be hostile to anyone that didn't have 20/20 vision and was using IE6... and unlawfully so. It's unfortunate that so many "web designers" are unaware that the ADA (US) and the DDA (UK) fully apply to business websites.

In the case of the Odeon, where they were knowingly discriminating against everyone with low/no vision, I have no problem with someone taking their content and putting it in an accessible framework.

What's also interesting is that 31% of the visitors preferred the accessible version to the IE-only Javascript-required steaming pile of crap version.

6:00 pm on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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the fact that web property, as in the real world, is private property.

Actually, the fact is that the web property is not private property. The copyright is private property, and the copyright gives you limited control of the web property, but that is it.

As for the Odeon site, they would most likely fail in their suit if it was in the USA, not on ADA reasons but because their show times would not be protectable by copyright.

In that case, the new site just scraped the odeon site for "facts" with no creative value, that were placed on another site that was a unique design. The site itself was not copied.

6:23 pm on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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A listing of movie showtimes is protected under compilation copyright. Article 5 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty states:

"Compilations of data or other material, in any form, which by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents constitute intellectual creations, are protected as such"

So basically, a set of showtimes is protected if there was a logic applied to their selection. This treaty was signed by both the UK and US.

6:55 pm on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Wouldn't this be similar to someone remaking all or some of Bob Dylan's songs because a percentage of the population can't understand a word he says. I wonder if Bob would be upset?
7:16 pm on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Zamboni, you could - and cover bands operate on that principle. The catch is that they can only play it live - they can't sell recordings.

Similarly, a web designer is free to cache the Odean site on his/her hard drive, and redesign it as they see fit. But they can't publish it to the web.

7:51 pm on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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sherwoodseo,

First off, in the United States, it is the US Code that applies to the the people, not the treaties. Treaties are used to bring action against the country, not against the people.

The treaties are written in such a way to allow for a reasonable set of different interpretations by national laws. This case would never make it to trial in the US.

In this case, it is the entire database that is protected, and not the individual facts that are contained in the database. The database is not presented on their website, only select pieces.

The presentation also might be protected, but it would be very simeple to put together a scraper that only extracts "facts" from that public source, and presents them in their own format.

8:34 pm on July 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Bigdave, making a personal visit doesn't imply anything "soprano-ish" (A very good show, I must admit) I do think, however, that it might shock the bejesus out of the offending party. You wouldn't have to do or say anything out of hand. Just announce who you are, why you've come, and how far you've traveled to make your point. You might also mention that you noticed on the way over that their yard is in need of landscaping or that there's a little rust on their car that they should attend to.

This would signal to them that you are completely serious about your followups, legally and otherwise. Personal contact if conducted properly can ccasionally get another to see one's viewpoint.

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