Tech Insider					     Technology and Trends

From webmaster at alpine.k12.ut.us  Sat May 31 22:02:52 2003
From: webmaster at alpine.k12.ut.us (District Webmaster)
Date: Sat May 31 21:17:17 2003
Subject: [uug] BYU students news website giving back awards
Message-ID: <sed91883.021@mail.adm.alpine.k12.ut.us>

Did anybody else see this?

Seems the BYU student news team is giving back an award they won for
their web site because their site looks similar to builder.com.
Personally, I don't see the resemblance. Here's a link to the yahoo
news story.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=528&ncid=528&e=3&u=
/ap/20030531/ap_on_hi_te/web_site_plagiarism

Dave

From mhalcrow at cs.byu.edu  Sat May 31 23:18:39 2003
From: mhalcrow at cs.byu.edu (Michael Halcrow)
Date: Sat May 31 23:33:00 2003
Subject: [uug] BYU students news website giving back awards
In-Reply-To: <sed91883.021@mail.adm.alpine.k12.ut.us>
References: <sed91883.021@mail.adm.alpine.k12.ut.us>
Message-ID: <20030601051839.GC1044@cs.byu.edu>

On Sat, May 31, 2003 at 09:02:52PM -0600, District Webmaster wrote:
> Did anybody else see this?
> 
> Seems the BYU student news team is giving back an award they won for
> their web site because their site looks similar to builder.com.
> Personally, I don't see the resemblance. Here's a link to the yahoo
> news story.
> 
> http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=528&ncid=528&e=3&u=
> /ap/20030531/ap_on_hi_te/web_site_plagiarism
> 
> Dave

Okay, this chaps my hide.

Quoth the article:

"It's really clear. We made a mistake and we are apologizing for it,"
said Jim Kelly, NewsNet general manager. "It appears to be an ethical
issue and not a legal one."

...  

Modifications made to the NewsNet Web site included changes to the
color palette and to the type of line boundaries between Web page
sections. Several icons were also altered or removed, Gibson said.

...

"When you're on the Web you look around and see what you like and you
model it," Gibson said. "These students didn't understand the nature
of copyright, as many students on campus do not."

---

Apparently Gibson does not understand the nature of copyright either.
There is no copyright infringement going on here.  I refer you to the
Fair Use clause in title 17, chapter 1, Sec. 107:

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html

For some enlightenment, I refer you to some background reading by our
friend Stallman:

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/misinterpreting-copyright.html

Whether you like the guy or not, you have to respect his point of
view on this matter.

Okay, folks.  Let's pack it up and go home now.  Evolution is a
blatant rip-off of Outlook.  The navigation bar on the left-hand side
is obviously the result of developers seeing something they like, and
(heaven forbid) modeling it.  OpenOffice needs a serious smack-down
while we're at it.  Any and all Tetris clones (like the one
coincidentally in Caldera's installation program) are completely
inappropriate and should be immediately banned from existence in our
society.  Have you ever been inspired by someone else's work?  Unless
anything and everything you create from now on has absolutely no
resemblance to something someone else has done before, just give it up
right now.  Forget it.  Stop writing software or web pages.  Stop
doing anything at all.  Go watch TV or something instead.

In case no one here has noticed, NOBODY DOES ANYTHING IN A BUBBLE.
The very nature of progress and advancement is to take work done by
those who have gone before us, adapting it, incorporating it, and
extending it.  When we have reached the point that we are no longer
able to do anything (and I do mean ANYTHING) that is useful to mankind
without worrying about ``infringing'' on someone else's ideas, our
progress and advancement literally comes to a complete halt.  The
creative force of our society is stagnated.  Who we are as human
beings is suppressed and muffled on every front with anal
interpretations of copyright run amuck.  Copyright exists to protect
the people, rather than to ``[maximize] publication output at any
cost.'' (Stallman's words).

If CNET were to pursue something like this, I fail to see how it would
be any different from the producers of Citizen Kane taking the
creators of the Matrix to court over their
``camera-moving-through-the-window'' shot.

It is one thing to copy an entire work verbatim syntactically and
claim it as your own; it is an entirely different thing to replicate
the semantics of another's work in yours.  From what I could tell,
there were a couple of icons copied (perhaps the greatest offense;
heaven forbid any of us should ever copy an icon from another web
site.  Aren't many of the icons at builder.com in the public domain,
anyway?)  and some color palettes that were the same.  Okay then; let
the NewsNet team redesign the web site, completely from scratch, and I
GUARANTEE you that I will be able to find another web site out there
among the MILLIONS that bears a striking resemblance to it.  ``Oops!
You have two columns with black and red text!  Well, here's another
page with that exact same layout and color palette, you filthy
copycats!!''

From what I could see in the source for both pages, there is no
copying of any code whatsoever (at least on a preliminary glance).
But even if there are (or had been) a few lines that have
similarities, SO WHAT???  At what point has the NewsNet team sinned?
When they use some of the same fonts?  Colors?  Icons?  The same
general layout?  What if the authors of the web site were to put an
acknowledgment at the bottom of the site, recognizing builder.com's
site?  Would there be any reason for concern then?  What if there are
10 other sites out there that have similar color palettes, layouts,
and icons?  Do we need to scour the web for every instance of such a
thing, lest we all become plagiarists?

What if I had someone else's code open in one window, and I used it
for reference while typing code for another program in another window?
``Ah, I like this tactful use of a decrementing iterator in this loop.
I think I'll use the same technique here.  And this library call seems
most appropriate for my operation, and so I'll make that same call.
But I don't like this approach to organizing the structure contents; I
think I'll deviate from that a bit in my program...''  Attribution to
the author(s) of the reference code is in order in this case, but the
process itself is neither contrary to copyright law nor immoral.

Security protocols depend on principles introduced by their
predecessors (Diffie-Hellman, SRP, etc. all depend on the difficulty
of discrete logarithms).  Each variance of the original is used to
solve a different problem or to give a different angle on the concept,
but sections of each protocol can easily be found to be the exact same
as sections of another protocol.  Imagine what would happen if the
original protocol developers started suing researchers who followed up
on their work to fill gaps and extend functionality.  The idea of this
kind of thing happening is intolerable.

We need to seriously lighten up on these issues and recognize that
using another's work as inspiration for your own is not a bad thing,
but rather something to be encouraged in a free and progressive
society.  Squabbling of a couple of icons and a table layout is truly
frivolous.  A verbatim syntactic copy of a web site is one thing; a
semantic color palette and layout scheme is something else entirely.

Mike

PS - I found this amusing:

---

 Officials initially had decided to keep the Editor & Publisher award
 because it was based on content, rather than design, Kelly said. They
 reconsidered after learning Thursday that NewsNet also won the design
 award, he said.

---

Considering the apology I found in the printed Daily Universe a few
months ago, where the editors apologized for a reporter having
plagiarized articles from other newspapers.  Now *that's* something to
worry about (claiming someone else's work as your own).

Please note that my above comments are entirely my own, and do not in
any way represent a position or statement on the part of my employer.

-- 
------------------------------------------- | ---------------------
Michael Halcrow                             | mhalcrow@cs.byu.edu 
                                            |
I stole this Sig.                           |
------------------------------------------- | ---------------------
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