I’ve been a little hesitant to talk about this on ProBlogger but in the last two hours I’ve had 30 emails about it so thought rather than responding to each one personally I should make a statement before things go much further.
The story is that a blog called AmBlogger.net has started a blog that until I woke up this morning looked virtually exactly like ProBlogger.net (except what you see here as Orange was blue, some names were changed and there were a few poorly formatted bits and pieces).
If you go have a look now you’ll notice that Vince Chan the blogger concerned has now deleted the three menu boxes at the top of the blog so it is a little different – but the similarities are pretty obvious. update: You can see a screen cap here of his design (now changed) after the three boxes were deleted.
I saw this blog a few days ago and shot Vince Chan an email raising my concern. I didn’t demand he stop using the design but made it clear I was not happy with it. Previously when people have stolen designs from me an email like this has been replied to with an apology and a commitment to change the blog design immediately.
In this case no apology was forthcoming and Vince replied with an email saying he didn’t have time to reply adequately at that time but that he’d come back to me within 48 hours. His response came within that time but rather that coming via email it appeared on his blog with an excerpt from my email to him.
My main concern was that the design of ProBlogger (by Rachel from cre8d design) is something that I paid for and something that I believe to be copyrighted. Vince Chan is not hiding that the design was inspired by ProBlogger and that in fact his whole blog is along similar lines but aimed at ‘Amateur” bloggers (you can read about his intentions for the blog in his about sections – written in the style of ProBlogger’s about sections of course).
Now I don’t have a concern with him starting such a blog or even it being ‘inspired’ by this blog. I think the more talking about how people can improve their blogs the better. What I do have a concern about is that someone can simply lift the code of a blog and replicate it with only a few minor color changes and think that they can get away with it without consequences.
Copyright and web design is a somewhat tricky business. While I agree with Vince Chan that there are only so many ways to present a blog in terms of structure, format etc I think there are enough options available to bloggers to come up with designs that are original.
I know of quite a few blogs that have been ‘inspired’ by ProBlogger’s design – there are quite a few with three boxes at the top like I have here – but in each case the designer has gone to lengths to make the design their own on some level. I don’t have an issue with their approach (sometimes done with acknowledgment of inspiration and a courtesy email sometimes without) but in this case it’s gone too far.
My other concern is that Vince Chan posted part of the email I sent him without my permission rather than discussing it in private. I can only assume this is part of a link baiting type strategy to launch his blog (unfortunately it seems to have worked as his traffic today is 50 times his normal levels – although he was only averaging 2 visitors per day). It is for this reason that I resisted blogging about this for a number of days – but as a number of others have begun to write about it I’ve decided to talk about it.
I’m quite perplexed by Vince Chan’s strategy. He states in one of his posts that he was hoping to collaborate with me:
‘I chose the design with the naivity that Darren would one day approach me and say that he’d give me his blessing to work and push the envelope to promote Amateurs in Blogging – a collaboration of sorts.’
I strongly doubt there will ever be such an approach. While Vince Chan has definitely got my attention (and that of others) all he’s done is burnt his bridges.
A number of people have asked me whether I’ll take further action against Vince Chan in a legal sense. I doubt it will come to that. He seems to be hinting that he’ll change the design as a result of the ‘discussion’ now happening in his comments (translation: after he’s milked this as long as he can). I wouldn’t rule out legal avenues to fix this but it’s not really my style.
Am I angry at Vince Chan? I guess you could say I’m a little peeved off. In the scheme of things it’s not a big deal and we’ll all have forgotten about it by the end of the week – but I guess it illustrates a few things about how to (and not to) launch a blog.
My only words of advice to Vince Chan are simply that while humans forget things quickly that web has a very long memory. Blog’s get cached, people’s posts about you remain online for a long time and Google has a funny way of indexing people’s names and projects in ways that we’d sometimes wish they never did.
I do wish Vince Chan the best of luck with his AmBlogging and hope he takes note of what people are telling him.
update: AmBlogger has just had an update of a new-ish design.