Curebit ripped off Highrise’s design – is this acceptable?

Curebit ripped off Highrise’s design - is this acceptable?

Curebit ripped off Highrise’s design - is this acceptable?

Saturday morning (night for us in Asia) had the internet abuzz with a dramatic exchange of tweets between one of the most prominent thought-leaders of the internet, DHH (David Heinemeier Hansson) and a YC-combinator funded startup Curebit’s co-founder Allan Grant.

What’s it about?

Curebit has been caught red-handed stealing (design) HTML code, images, and the like from Highrise… according to a detailed report by VentureBeat. Check above for a comparison between the original and ripped design.

DHH called the Curebit team “fucking scumbags” and Grant himself “a person of poor moral character”, after Grant, Curebit’s co-founder, tweeted this:

We are a tiny startup - what's wrong with a quick & dirty test?

We are a tiny startup - what's wrong with a quick & dirty test?

Shocking and convenient! Isn’t it? However, according to a Techcrunch article a few hours ago, Grant has posted an apology on the company blog. He also published “the actual apology” on HN. I strongly suggest that you have a look at the comment too.

Recently we launched a site with several pages copied from 37signals’ Highrise. We did more than take inspiration from their design – we actually used html & css code, and hotlinked to images on their site. We apologize to David and 37signals for ripping off their work. It was stupid, lazy, and disrespectful of their creative efforts. It’s particularly painful for us to have done this to 37signals because they are big heroes of ours. We just hope they will accept our apologies.

Is the game over for Curebit?

Of course not! It has just started.

Even though some doubted the ability of Curebit team to have lunch in Silicon Valley ever again, I suspect the opposite.

Believe it or not, Curebit has managed to get attention of almost every bigwig from the industry, in a not so positive way though. But then, haven’t we been told time and again that any publicity is good publicity. In fact, it has created so much buzz that their (Curebit’s) server was reportedly crashing.

Is this acceptable?

No, I’m not going to debate about the innocence (or purpose) of this rip-off. Honestly, it does not matter now! If it was planned, or innocently published, makes no difference to the current scenario. I am not even going to debate if this is an ethical issue or legal. What matters, or so I believe is, if this act of ripping-off an existing (and famous) design, is acceptable?

A gentleman suggested that this act is as good, or bad, as the act or pirating movies, music and softwares. And since it is a common act for almost everyone, why is everyone making a fuss about this one in particular?

IMHO, when one pirates a movie or music, in most cases, it’s not used for generating business (in a big or public way). Mostly, movie and music piracy is for self entertainment, or at times, for references. Ever known someone using Steven Spielberg’s (pirated) movie footage for marketing his/her business?

Steven Was irked when footage from his movie Duel (1971) (TV) was used as stock footage in an episode of “The Incredible Hulk” (1978) even though Universal Studios owned the rights to both the The Incredible Hulk series and the film of Duel.

Pirating stuff for entertainment, inspiration or personal use is one thing. Pirating for direct business usage is another. This, I believe, is a huge difference.

And no, piracy is not an acceptable act by any means.

Has it happened to you?

It is certainly a common affair. Many clients come to us with a reference design for a certain project. And in most cases, we’re asked to copy it.

However, mostly what they mean is to take reference, understand the points that make it good, and implement accordingly, without ripping off the design. It is just an incorrect choice of terminology, which is fair on a client’s part, as they are not experts in that field. It is for a designer, or agency, to understand the actual implication.

Have your designs or work been copied by others? Have you known anyone of copying others’ design or work?

Should businesses feel free to copy designs (and even source files) from the existing companies? We’re waiting to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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About the Author:

Himanshu Khanna is the founder of Pixelonomics and a senior designer at Sparklin. If you’d like to connect with him, follow him on Twitter: @SparklinGuy

  • http://twitter.com/drivenrajat Rajat Gupta

    In my view. If person B copies the work of person A then it validates that person A had done great work, as person B must have explored the options for ideas/inspiration for their own work. So if person B bluntly copies the work of person A that means person A works is flawless.
    Here Curebit must be having options to build their own website. If they have copied the Highrise design that means they liked their design too much.
    I won’t mind if someone copies my work :)

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