If someone stole your work, explicitly copied it, and you saw it on his website, would you be flattered? This just happened to me. Am I flattered?

So here’s the scoop. I regularly check Google Analytics to study what’s going on on my site, but a couple of days ago, I saw something strange—Hits on pages that didn’t exist on my site were being registered.

At first I thought it was a glitch, so I ignored it. The next day, the hits increased. I dug in and came across a site that looked awfully familiar.

I first acted rashly, actively sniffing out as much information I could about the culprits. I’ll be honest, I was pretty mad; I wanted to call ‘em out on Twitter, Facebook and even try to get the design community involved.

Fortunately I thought before I acted, and I had a great, level-headed chat with a friend (thanks, Matt). I’m a Christian, and I’m reminded that Christ wants me to love one another as he loves me (John 15:9-12). I could have called them out, and I’m sure I could have justified doing it, but I can’t say it would have been out of love.

So, I decided to email them. Here it is, verbatim:

Hi,

I’m Jonathan. To be frank, I’m not sure how to approach this matter, but I came across your website in a most unforeseen way and desire to handle the matter ethically.

I saw that your website was being registered on my Google Analytics account. To ensure that you are able to accurately track the traffic to your website, you may want to use your own Google Analytics tracking ID. If you’re unsure, refer to line 148 of the source on your homepage and replace UA-XXXXXXX-X with your ID.

If I may, I’d like to ask for my work back by kindly ask that you take it down. I’ve invested a ton of time on my website, and although I encourage getting ideas and inspiration from others (I do it myself), I think you and others would agree that your website is an explicit duplication of my work.

I plan on documenting what has happened, but I have no intentions of releasing your identity or getting the design community involved, and I’d like to keep it that way—I’d like to maintain your integrity.

I kindly ask that you comply with my request.

Thanks,
Jonathan Suh
www.jonsuh.com

I didn’t wake up one morning with the abilities I have. I had to start somewhere. I have to remind myself that I’ve gotten inspiration and ideas, and even copied my share of work as a young designer and dev. I’m extremely thankful for all the other designers (graphic, web, fashion, architectural, automotive, etc.) and devs and their work that inspired me and gave me direction to get to where I am today.

I don’t think I’m a shyster, but I’m not perfect either. I make mistakes all the time, and I want people to forgive me and give me grace when I screw up, so I want to extend the same forgiveness and grace to others. As hard as it is, I try to treat others the way I’d want to be treated.

Don’t pawn someone else’s work off as your own. Copy to learn and grow, and keep it private. If you want to publicly showcase it, ask for permission first, let the designer know what you’re doing, or at the very least give the designer credit.

So… am I flattered? The answer to that question doesn’t matter.

I got a response back. They wanted a nice place for their stuff online. They have very little HTML, CSS, and JS experience and in their own words, they are “far from good coders.” They simply wanted a nice place for their stuff online, loved my layout, and wanted to use it to learn. They’ve apologized and apologized and have even told me they are embarassed. Yeah, I feel like a jerk for feeling the way I did when I found out, but I’m glad I didn’t call them out. Since the first email, we’ve exchanged a few emails, and they were even kind to comply and take the site down. I’ve encouraged them to keep using my layout to help them learn but suggested they stuff it in a folder with a subdomain pointed to it. Honestly, I’m interested in seeing their final product.

And for the curious, here are a couple of side-by-side comparisons. (I’ve decided to remove all references to their name/identity to maintain their integrity)