piracy? plagiarism? or... ?

Zeldman pointed me towards an entertaining site that shows examples of "design piracy."

Made me realize that I've actually got mixed feelings about the whole idea of "design piracy"...when is it inspiration, and when is it piracy? How much is enough when you're changing /modifying/drawing upon an existing design?

And on the legal side, it's not clear to me the extent to which "site design" can be copyrighted. The guidelines on what constitutes "design" don't provide clear guidance. It's easier for me to understand how copyright governs the text of a site, and the individual images in it. But what about the kinds of font/graphic combinations that the site linked above displays? Are they over the line legally? Ethically? And where is that line?

In my web design classes, we have to talk regularly about the difference between copyright protection (what the law allows--which, in the context of school-related assignments, is pretty broad) and academic honesty (which I tend to be a stickler about). I tell them that I'm all in favor of them "standing on the shoulders of giants" by using code--and designs--created by others. But I want them to explicitly give credit for what they use. If it's visual, the credit needs to be on a sources page, or on the page displaying the item. If it's code, it needs to be in the comments, as well as listed on a sources page. I tell them that using someone else's work without crediting it results in an F for academic dishonesty...but that using the same work and crediting it can end up an A for ingenuity. And despite that warning, many of them fail to provide credit. They don't seem to "get" that I can (a) identify a shift in coding or design style by looking at it, and (b) find the source in a heartbeat. Disheartening.

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This page contains a single entry published on December 30, 2002 11:41 PM.

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