Theme Developers, Learn to Steal the Right Way!

I’ve talked about this on WPTavern before, but Leland’s tweet made me feel that we should talk about this more.

Remember when LogoMaid ripped of Dan Cederholm’s logo? Everybody pretty much agreed that that was illegal. And so imagine my surprise knowing that there are WordPress themes that are direct copies of Twitter, of Facebook, of Basecamp, and what have you. Heck, we even have a theme describing itself as “The exact Facebook clone theme for WordPress” in the official Theme Directory. This I believe is a case worse than the LogoMaid issue.

No clone themes, please.

Please stop this. The freedom in GPL does not mean the freedom to steal copyrighted design. Stop making clones of popular websites and turning them into WordPress themes. It doesn’t matter if you release it only for personal use, or under GPL, if you code the CSS yourself, if you painstakingly recreate the graphic elements in Photoshop. It’s still, as Ryan Hellyer puts it, “illegal, immoral, and unethical.”

Instead of doing that, go and read this article by Cameron Moll, “Good Designers Copy, Great Designers Steal“, and learn how to “steal” a design in a much better (and ethical) way. Learn what makes them work, and improve it:

This article wouldn’t be complete without a warning to be careful when copying well-known sources. If I were to summarize this warning in one sentence, this would be my golden verbiage: copy the inspiration, not the outcome.

Or teach us. Write an article on how you do that AJAX load more posts wizardry. Or how to make that rounded corner work on every browser. Show us how to recreate your favorite website’s cool feature in WordPress.

Now that will be awesome.

Update: Another discussion is up at Theme Lab, WordPress Clone Themes – Your Take?

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16 Responses

  1. Jeff Dolan says:

    I like to think of it as musicians do. What inspired you?

  2. Leland says:

    It’s not really about inspiration, it’s more about stealing design. There’s a difference.

    It doesn’t matter how popular the site is either, for some reason people seem to think it’s okay to make “exact” clones of popular sites like Digg, Twitter, Facebook, etc. It’s not.

  3. Taufik says:

    The exact Facebook clone theme for WordPress

    Seems like I’ve heard that tagline somewhere…
    Oh wait, that’s my friend’s WP theme :|

    Oops !!

  4. passang says:

    I think the phrase ‘Good Designers Copy, Great Designers Steal’ is somehow a copy of Picasso’s ‘Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal’ ;)

  5. Ryan says:

    I’m not sure why you mentioned the GPL in this. If something is GPL licensed, then clearly you CAN copy it. That’s the point of the GPL. You are referring to stuff which is not GPL-licensed, which is an entirely different kettle of fish.

  6. Leland says:

    Ryan, I think Hafiz is referring to people taking designs that are NOT released (i.e. CNN, Twitter, a unique blog design powered on WP, whatever) and then somehow using the GPL as justification for releasing it.

    Basically, it just doesn’t make sense to use the GPL (since the designs involved are never released).

  7. Hafiz Rahman says:

    Ryan, what I meant was that taking a copyrighted design and licensing that clone with GPL does not make it right. Otherwise what you said is true, if the original design is GPL then all is good.

  8. Nile says:

    This is a topic that is wide spread and not just within the WordPress community. For years I have been parts of communities that did web page reviews and have seen some ugly fights online of people outing design thieves (both graphic and coding.) It is illegal. It is against copyright. I am not the first, but I have been a strong advocate to promoting (which was originally created in 1998.)

    I might have to dig into my own archives on this since this is a topic coming up big time right now. It is not surprising. New year, but same dirty deeds occurring.

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  10. Thanks for write-up, it looks like you got it all figure out, no? Theme Developers, Learn to Steal the Right Way! | WPLover was a wonderful read.

  11. Felicia Muhn says:

    Who said web-logs are dead? Blogs like yours are the reason why people still visit blogs:P

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  1. February 2, 2010

    […] has also published an article on this topic with a great quote that brings up the GPL. Please stop this. The freedom in GPL does […]

  2. February 6, 2010

    […] Theme Developers, Learn to Steal the Right Way! […]

  3. February 18, 2010

    […] from Indonesia, and I wrote about this here:…-the-right-way I don't know precisely how the law applies in my country, but I'm pretty sure copyright […]

  4. March 4, 2010

    […] Update: Hafiz Rahman (previously mentioned in the post) has published a response: Theme Developers, Learn to Steal the Right Way! […]