Web design is a real steal

When Jason Behzadi found his site had been copied by a rival, he took legal action to shut it down. He's not alone. Michael Pollitt discovers how to protect your creative gold

Most business people and independent companies now recognise that a website is an invaluable tool in promoting their business in a global market. But the prospect of designing and organising a sophisticated yet easily negotiated site can be a daunting prospect. For most people, the only realistic solution is to employ a web designer, whose efforts can cost anywhere from a couple of hundred to thousands of pounds.

Most business people and independent companies now recognise that a website is an invaluable tool in promoting their business in a global market. But the prospect of designing and organising a sophisticated yet easily negotiated site can be a daunting prospect. For most people, the only realistic solution is to employ a web designer, whose efforts can cost anywhere from a couple of hundred to thousands of pounds.

Having employed a designer or invested your own time and effort to create something you consider to be totally unique to your company, the last thing you would want would be to see your work duplicated elsewhere. But this is exactly what happened to Jason Behzadi, the managing director of Meadway Radio Cars ( www.meadway.com), one of London's largest fleets of private-hire cars.

While browsing the internet one day, Behzadi was horrified to discover that much of his website he had so painstakingly constructed and written appearing on behalf of another taxi company, called Fairway Car Service. "The worst thing of all, though," says Behzadi, "is that Fairway just happened to be three quarters of a mile down the road". Fairway cars were one of Meadway's direct competitors.

Stunned by his discovery, Behzadi started scrutinising the smaller details of the site to see just how far they really resembled each other. "I read the text and recognised it as my own words. It had literally been pasted in whole chunks," he says. "For example, in one section they wrote that they'd been around for 12 years, but in another they said they'd been established since 1963. That was their downfall, because it proved they'd lifted my text."

But did Behzadi storm off down the Finchley Road for a showdown? No. Instead, he telephoned Clare Griffiths of the legal firm Be for advice. "She told me that I really didn't have anything to worry about because it was such a clear-cut case," he says. Griffiths has seen 15 copying cases already this year and understands how traumatic the experience can be. However, she stresses that when a company is approached by a solicitor, site owners usually take down copied material and often pay legal costs and damages.

Griffiths's first move was to write a "cease and desist" letter to Fairway Car Service. The managing director of Fairway, Pritam Singh Bhangoo, was taken completely by surprise. "We only knew that our website was so similar when we got the letter from the solicitor," says Bhangoo. "When I found out, we immediately took the site offline and changed everything. The matter was settled."

The story illustrates just how easy it is to "lift" someone else's creative ideas. So how did it happen?

Like many firms, Bhangoo had sought out a web designer and discussed some rough ideas of what he was looking for. But, like many other people, he was mindful of how much the project could amount to, and, in an effort to keep the cost as low as possible, he employed a friend of one of his colleagues to help him out.

Bhangoo admits that he left the details to the web designer and, charitably perhaps, blames the copying on that individual's inexperience: "I didn't have a desire to copy anybody. After all, we are in a similar field of providing a car service and we share the customer base. We did not want to cause any harm or grievances to any of my fellow operators."

Just like Bezhadi, Bhangoo became a victim too: a victim of shoddy, corner-cutting work by his web designer. Bhangoo had to pay Meadway Radio Cars' legal bill of several hundred pounds, and so, he adds, made a deduction from the web designer's invoice. He also suffered the ignominy of being telephoned by the chairman of the London Private Hire Cars Association over the matter.

But what of the web designers involved, and why did they do it? The company used by Bhangoo was called Cyberonic Systems ( www.cyberonicsystems.co.uk), and was operated by a man called Ayub. Despite efforts to talk to him, Ayub cannot been found: e-mails bounce back, his mobile numbers are unobtainable, and the website features a business address which has proved to be unobtainable. Another of his customers, the Tayyabs restaurant in East London, has been trying to locate him for over six weeks to fix its broken e-mail.

It's been a hard lesson for the unfortunate Bhangoo, who'd have done better to use a pin and the phone book in order to find a designer. So, how can anyone be sure that their chosen web designer won't simply lift somebody else's work?

The best way to protect yourself is to look for accreditation from the British Web Design and Marketing Association (BWDMA). The organisation describes itself as "the ethical home of UK web design". "We live in a cut-and-paste world," says the BWDMA founder, Patrick White, on the tricky legal implications that surround such a nascent industry. "There is a lack of knowledge and understanding of intellectual-property rights and a lack of understanding of copyright law. Nobody has any statistics for web theft, but it certainly happens."

Webcredible ( www.webcredible.co.uk) is a web design company. One of its directors, Trenton Moss, says that, while some web designers do copy sections of source code (that's how they learn), the copying of whole websites has not happened to him. But, "for somebody to come along and steal everything that we'd done would make me very angry."

So how do you protect yourself? The short answer is that you can't. Anything you see on the internet can be copied, including your entire website (look at www.pirated-sites.com to see numerous examples). And if your web designer is the one doing the copying, then you'll be in the same unhappy position as Bhangoo.

If you want to put your mind at rest (a little), then you can check that your site hasn't been lifted with the Copyscape utility, which is on White's website ( www.bwdma.co.uk). And if you're in dispute over copying, you can check to see who established their site first using the Wayback machine at www.archive.org. Other than that, keep your fingers crossed.

Not surprisingly, Cyberonic Systems doesn't belong to the BWDMA. Its members have never behaved like this, says White and, should they do, he promises a public naming and shaming. The low cost of entry to the industry, the "can do" nature of the internet, and cheap websites are a recipe for wrong-doing. Indeed, White agrees that the only way of creating a cheap website is to copy other people's work. Just remember that originality always costs more and looks better.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London