I'm not really a vindictive person, so I want to be clear that the purpose of these posts is not to humiliate anyone--I will continue not to disclose the identity of the person who stole my web design. But I really do think it's important to discuss the gravity of copyright infringement--so your constructive comments and personal experiences are welcome.
Very shortly after I sent a formal "cease and desist" letter I received a long, explanatory e-mail from the web designer. She was apologetic of course, and went on to tell me that she found the items on a template-based website which was available for download--but she just can't remember what site that was. I find this excuse questionable--because I know my site was completely custom built by a talented web designer (Jennifer at Pish Posh Design) who I paid good money to employ. Some of the elements of my site are licensed images, which were legally and ethically obtained. Others, like the green birdie (which has become a piece of my brand identity) are my own original, digital illustrations.
Despite my doubts about the excuse that this person gave, I still am thankful that she quickly complied with my request to remove the offending images. I accept her apology and I'm happy to move forward without taking further action.
In this case, because of the fact that exact code was lifted, I don't believe that it was unintentional. However, there are situations that really start to get into that grey area. For example, I often struggle with the subject of trends in the wedding industry. I want to be an original, innovative designer, but let's face it--trends become popular and brides want to be a part of that. So I can't claim to be the first designer to do a wedding invitation with birds on it--but does this make me a copycat? I find myself stuck in the middle between wanting to create unique and original work, but also wanting to satisfy the inquiries that are going to pay my bills. Does that make sense? A conversation on the subject of whether using stock imagery could be considered creative came up on Twitter the other day.
What are your thoughts and experiences on this touchy subject? Do you think I handled the situation correctly? What would you have done?
Photo credit to DippyLulu