LayerVault. What's up with the DMCA?

over 4 years ago from , YUI/YUX?YUSUX?

Why issue the DMCA? What's the thinking here?

40 comments

  • Allan GrinshteinAllan Grinshtein, over 4 years ago

    Looks like the pitchforks are out over on HN.

    It was pretty straightforward. Our reaction was "Cool, a flat UI theme" to "Wait, this looks familiar" to "Wait, are those our illustrations?".

    I contacted the designmodo people over email, because that's the right way to handle this. The owner was being stubborn at first and refused to admit wrongdoing. At that point, I submitted the DMCA request. Eventually, he removed the most blatant icons which (in my eyes) is an admission of guilt.

    They even managed to kinda lift the old DN icon :) http://imgur.com/3zoKuvH

    If you have some intimiate knowledge of LayerVault's UI (which their designer apparently does), the similarities are a bit more than striking. That's not a huge issue until you release everything together - the icons, the colors, the UI elements, whatever.

    We give a lot of our stuff away for free. We put a lot of our projects on cosmos.layervault.com, we write about interesting concepts we've come up with and include the code on our blog, whatever. This isn't about thinking we own "Flat Design" or being mad that there's some other design out there with a similar aesthetic.

    31 points
    • Ben BurtonBen Burton, over 4 years ago

      I do have to admit that as soon as I saw the Flat UI github my first thought was "hey, some of these assets look a lot like LayerVault!"

      It wasn't the idea of flat design, it wasn't the color scheme... it was the asset of the side of a man's face that looked, to me, nearly identical.

      0 points
    • Al HaighAl Haigh, over 4 years ago

      I think it's fair enough. Especially since they're trying to generate income from sales of the UI kit. I've had work ripped off by a competitor before and if I could've done the DMCA thing I certainly would have!

      0 points
  • Connor Tomas O'BrienConnor Tomas O'Brien, over 4 years ago

    Guys, this is honestly pretty disappointing. The illustrations you allege "infringe" are, as many others have pointed out, extremely similar to prior work on The Noun Project. In fact, I recently used a "flat" newspaper image on a recent project that you'd probably call me out for "stealing" from you... which would be true, were it not for the fact I designed that asset almost two years ago. That basic newspaper graphic has existed for at least three years. It's almost generic at this stage.

    The sad thing to me is that it seems as though you mistakenly believe you've created your visual style out of thin air, and are unable to recognise or admit you used other artists' work as inspiration.

    Even worse, in fact, is that you made the conscious decision to promote your company's visual aesthetic as part of a "design movement". You essentially encouraged others to copy your "look". If you made it clear from the beginning that you felt ownership over your visual aesthetic, nobody would have considered it ethical to release a "LayerVault UI kit". However, you continually referred to your style as "flat design" and repeatedly suggested you wanted other designers to follow.

    I find your actions pretty difficult to follow. Yes, some of their assets are similar, but how can you not recognise why issuing this DCMA leaves an extremely bad taste?

    15 points
    • Sam SolomonSam Solomon, over 4 years ago

      Here's a link from HN comparing some of the Noun Project Icons. http://imgur.com/IH1osAD

      2 points
      • Connor Tomas O'BrienConnor Tomas O'Brien, over 4 years ago

        Yes. And if you have a quick search on Dribbble for "newspaper", "gears" or "talking head", you'll find dozens of similar images that predate both the LayerVault and Flat UI designs.

        The issue isn't whether the images are similar, or whether the Designmodo folks deliberately copied LayerVault's assets (I'd say they did). The issue is whether LayerVault's assets were original to begin with, and I think it's fairly obvious they weren't. And that's okay! Certain symbols (like interlocking cogs or a face and speech bubble) work because they're used so commonly. What's problematic is when somebody mistakenly believes that their particular rendering of a commonly-used symbol is original and attempts to claim ownership over it.

        2 points
  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, over 4 years ago

    While it's clear that they ripped you guys off, I don't think it warranted a DMCA. Color scheme and style are not covered by law, and thank god they aren't, otherwise we would all get sued by Coca Cola for using the color red.

    A blog post showcasing how and where they were ripping you off would have been much more effective in putting the community on your side.

    7 points
    • Stephen GraceStephen Grace, over 4 years ago

      About 6 years ago Cadbury actually sued another chocolate manufacturer over the use of the color purple — http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCAFC/2007/70.html

      0 points
    • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, over 4 years ago

      To expand on my point, I think abusing DMCAs is a graver offense than ripping off some icons (and again I definitely agree they ripped you off, even pointed it out myself yesterday).

      I think it was the wrong move both in itself and from a PR point of view, and you would probably gain to apologize for the DMCA (not for reacting to the rip-off, though).

      5 points
    • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 4 years ago

      I completely agree. DMCA is a very, very blunt object to use in this way, and it makes me like LayerVault a lot less for taking that path.

      1 point
      • Connor Tomas O'BrienConnor Tomas O'Brien, over 4 years ago

        Exactly. Yes, I can understand they felt frustrated at what they perceived as theft, but when you're about to go on the offensive, you need to step back and attempt to recognise how a disinterested observer might see things.

        We've seen dozens of examples recently of companies acting recklessly and doing damage to their brands because they believed themselves in the right (see Quirky's protest out the front of OXO's offices in January, for example: http://www.oxo.com/quirkyresponse.aspx). It's a bit disappointing that LV followed suit. Didn't expect this from them at all.

        0 points
        • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 4 years ago

          “Didn't expect this from them at all” — And I think that's the issue. LayerVault seems like a well intentioned company making a helpful and worthy product with a transparent business model. Not doing anything would have been a far more sane approach that aligns with what I assume their goals and motivations are.

          2 points
    • Matthaeus KrennMatthaeus Krenn, over 4 years ago

      Nobody owns ribbon type. Nobody owns red. But if you are a soda manufacturer and you use white ribbon type on red background on your bottles, you shouldn't be surprised if you find yourself sued by Coca Cola.

      Nobody owns the LV color scheme. Nobody owns the LV icon style. But if you are in the digital design business and sell LV styled icons in the LV colors, you shouldn't be surprised if you find yourself sued by Layervault.

      4 points
      • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 4 years ago

        They weren’t sued though. It was a DMCA takedown, which is far quicker, is less defendable and is not something that should be encouraged.

        1 point
        • Matthaeus KrennMatthaeus Krenn, over 4 years ago

          Didn't mean to defend LV's approach. I absolutely agree with the fact that this should have been handled differently.

          Just wanted to make a point that once enough individual aspects of a design are copied at the same time, it's far away from "nobody can copyright a color".

          0 points
  • Vivien LeroyVivien Leroy, over 4 years ago

    Yes, that would be great because as for now all we've seen was kicking people from chat rooms and deleting posts on DN and it's a terrible way to communicate on this kind of problem.

    4 points
    • Allan GrinshteinAllan Grinshtein, over 4 years ago

      I kicked that person from chat because the LayerVault Support Chat is not a place to have a discussion about this — it's for customers trying to get help.

      I removed the post because a having a conversation with the public about this isn't the right way to handle it. Probably not the best move, since it looks like we have something to hide. I posted a response below.

      5 points
      • Vivien LeroyVivien Leroy, over 4 years ago

        Yes, that's good to hear you and I can understand that Support Chat is not a place for such a discussion but kicking seems like overeact don't you think ? I'm glad to have more infos about this and as I didn't see those specific "stolen" illustrations like a lot of other people it was hard to understand the move.

        0 points
        • Allan GrinshteinAllan Grinshtein, over 4 years ago

          When you have customers who need help and a troll jumping into chat to cause chaos, I think kicking is more than appropriate.

          5 points
  • Antonio PratasAntonio Pratas, over 4 years ago

    I'm not taking teams here. I sympathize with both designmodo (I write for them occasionally) and with Layervault since I met Kelly last year when he launched LV on FOWA.

    My opinion is that designmodo is trying to use the momentum of the Flat UI trend and get some revenue out of sells with these kits, and it makes complete sense business wise, they look like they have their business figured out and are probably making some good money with it, because people like Flat (even if all we see is flat mockery lately), but most people want to use/design/be/buy/show Flat. If they inspired in Layervault? I believe so, I guess that given the impact that LV had in the Flat trend, everyone does. But I don't honestly believe that they blatantly and purposely ripped off any of Layervault's designs or illustrations.

    And Layervault has all the right to defend their image. Allan had a HUGE part in the Flat UI/design trend/movement/style whatever you want to call it. And this whole Flat discussion also gave a lot of attention to LV, and that's great for a company to designers be talked about its design. And it's totally understandable that if a couple of icons there are really similar or even inspired a bit too much, they have to go. But I don't think that a DMCA is the way to go. And it's really easy to create a Flat design that looks like another one, the style in itself makes it hard to differentiate with details, given that are almost none. http://dribbble.com/search?page=1&q=flat+design

    Now that I think of it, everytime I said "designmodo" back there, it should've been replaced by the designer's name, not the blog. If there's something to be discussed style-wise, it should be with the designer. But I don't really know who designed the whole kit, @monstercritic probably?

    So I'm not on team jacob and I'm not on team edward, I get both and I just hope that this doesn't affect either business by damaging their image in any way.

    4 points
  • Tim ParkerTim Parker, over 4 years ago

    Content (I think mainly illustrations) within that UI kit were owned by LayerVault. They put it back up and removed the bits acting like nothing was ever wrong and LayerVault did it because they 'think they own the flat style'. Thats what it looks like anyway. Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal?

    4 points
  • Zander BradeZander Brade, over 4 years ago

    I'm on Team LayerVault here. Let's be honest, there's huge resemblance to LV's style - and I think the only reason a lot of designers are taking Designmodo's side is because they had the DMCA put on them, and so were made to look like the victims.

    3 points
    • Jake Lazaroff, over 4 years ago

      I don't think it's a copyright issue, though. I do think designmodo has something to answer for, but a DMCA takedown notice is not the (legally) appropriate avenue.

      1 point
  • Jonas LekeviciusJonas Lekevicius, over 4 years ago

    LayerVault, I can understand why you would want others to not use icons similar to yours, but DMCA is absolutely not the way to go about it. Accept that your own design did not emerge from vacuum - comparisons to your, designmodo and noun project icons sometimes show greater similarity between you and noun project than from you and designmodo. Something so simple as flat icon style is bound to look similar.

    Same goes with colors and overall visual style. It's clear that designmodo made something that overall looks similar to LayerVault, but they also provided many sources to designs that show very similar style and colors that predate LayerVault.

    Once again, I am very disappointed with your overall attitude to this. So much, that you lost me as a customer, and even as Designer News member.

    2 points
    • Patrick RoganPatrick Rogan, over 4 years ago

      Yesterday, before I actually did my research and heard LV reply to this, I would've whole-heartedly agreed with you. However, it seems amazingly obvious that it's not even about the fact that it's Flat UI, but rather a blatant attempt to copy LV's assets. It cannot be a coincidence that they managed to magically get the same color palette, icons, and what not. As a designer who has had work stolen and have friends who have suffered from the same, I think we need to stop victimizing the author of the GitHub assets. LV sent them a friendly email which was the way to do it, they were being jerks about it (as I'm sure has happened to many of us), and they tried to play it off. So what? Shrug it off? Absolutely not. If you don't expose a thief, you're responsible for the next thing he steals. LV didn't even sue them, they merely said "Hey, we tried to tell you to take this down or at least change it the nice way, but you're acting like a criminal here. If that's the way you want it, I'm going to treat you like a criminal."

      0 points
  • Tim SmithTim Smith, over 4 years ago

    I have to agree with LayerVault on this one. When I saw the kit, I immediately thought of them. I thought it was them who had created it. It's their right to protect their intelectual property.

    2 points
  • Lucas CobbLucas Cobb, over 4 years ago

    If you "do" look at the comparison of the icons before / after here: http://cl.ly/image/3K3H2O0X453G you will see the icons in question have been switched since the DMCA. The sad truth is that a "few" icons were lumped into some other pretty creative design and I do think that LV is in the right by issuing the DMCA. If any part of the kit is borrowed and not changed and then offered for sale, the whole kit gets lumped in with those few icons and thus must be taken down.

    You can see the icons have been replaced by other "great" icons since. If the kit was shipped this way in the first place, DM would be in a much better place right now. A few icons were ripped and offered up for sale, not cool. They also then used LV as their soap box for releasing the kit. That is just a slap in the face.

    2 points
  • Kyle MitchellKyle Mitchell, over 4 years ago

    Am I crazy or has Google been working with a similar flat aesthetic that predates LV and DM ? I mean I know some call it "almost flat," but the same could be said for the LV ui. I do agree that theirs some fault with the iconography, but I feel like this style isn't particularly owned by LV, its just the en vogue aesthetic. What's my point? I have no idea.

    1 point
  • Chris RodemeyerChris Rodemeyer, over 4 years ago

    http://blog.keenancummings.com/post/44715900168/stop-stealing-my-style-bro#

    1 point
    • Tierney CyrenTierney Cyren, over 4 years ago

      That's bull shit. You can too own style--it's called intellectual property. What do the big companies do when someone steals their design? Send out a DMCA. What's so different about this?

      0 points
      • alec salec s, over 4 years ago

        A literal design is not the same as a style. 1000's of people have been biting off chunks of Apple's style for years. Spend a 2 minutes on Dribbble and you'll see that MANY designers have the same style without ripping each other off.

        0 points
      • Keenan CummingsKeenan Cummings, over 4 years ago

        the point was the the specific application of a style to solve a specific problem — that decision — is what is ownable. So to apply that idea to this situation would mean that a company that offers a somewhat similar product to a similar audience uses a similar style. Implicit in the idea of good design is that design decision are specific to the problem they solve. As an isolated set of elements, the UI kit seems fair to me. It's only if it is applied to a competitive product that it would I would call foul. Just my 2 cents.

        1 point
  • Adam WintleAdam Wintle, over 4 years ago

    wow, that escalated quickly

    http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/366/396/f8a.gif

    1 point
  • alec salec s, over 4 years ago

    It's definitely inspired by LV and I would agree they did something wrong be copying so many elements. But I also agree with Keenan's article about the ownership of style. No one will ever own flat design, but using the exact same style of elements, colors, proportions, icons and even some blatantly ripped illustrations is taking it too far.

    0 points
  • Tierney CyrenTierney Cyren, over 4 years ago

    Allan: I was actually planning on using this Flat UI platform for a school website. Would it be inadvisable to do so now that this situation has come up?

    0 points
  • Mark StuckertMark Stuckert, over 4 years ago

    Found the LayerVault icon they lifted that was removed

    http://dribbble.com/shots/908434-Icons

    0 points
  • Manik RatheeManik Rathee, over 4 years ago

    I would like to also point out that there is resemblance of this icon in other places too.

    See SymbolSet's paper icon: http://share.manikrathee.com/image/1C042u0V2t3w

    0 points
  • Cole PetersCole Peters, over 4 years ago

    Can't wait to hear this one… I haven't seen anything so absurdly and stupidly hilarious since Troll 2.

    0 points
  • Daniel HaimDaniel Haim, over 4 years ago

    "Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources" - Albert Einstein

    I think this went too far, and too bitter. It reminds me of the Christian Louboutin case where he actually managed to trademark the color "Red" for his red soles. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/christian-louboutin-ysl-red-soles_n_1857992.html

    You can DMCA for anything you want, but it doesn't mean you have a claim – and to be quite honest, the layout is not unique. The internet is not an island – and there will be better/worse versions of your design at the end of the day.

    I'll finish this with a quote,

    "Imitation is the best form of flattery"

    0 points