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Ethics of Recreating a WP-Themed Site


#1

I found a WordPress theme that I really like for a client solution, and I would like to recreate it and build it in Webflow.

I’ve always wondered about the ethics of that. I mean, is that a bad idea? Would I be liable for art plagarism?

I can totally understand that the original coding of a WP theme is proprietary and licensed, but is the look of a theme also proprietary?

Would I need to give credit to the original version? What if I bought and licensed the WP theme, but then did not use it?

Sorry if this question is rather broad and maybe a bit naive, since the issue would apply with any builder app beyond just Webflow.

Thanks!


#2

Hi, great question, is the template a paid or free one?

Could you not have template as inspiration but still make it yours by making changes here and there?


#3

The template is a paid, licensable template.

That’s why I wondered, if I bought it, can I use it in this way (recreating it), using my re-creation in place of the original WP-licensed theme? (I purposely would not use the original – out of licensing respect.)

Some licensing terms and conditions specify something like a “No reverse-engineering” clause, or whatever they happen to call it.

Funny how most authors are usually quick to say how wonderfully customizable their theme is, and how much you can do with it.

Hmm…


#4

Sorry, @jorn… I neglected to address the second part of your response, nor did I express my appreciation for your so doing.

Although I could make small changes here and there, the work as a whole would still clearly be a derived clone.

And I wouldn’t want to inhibit my workflow by thinking, “Well, I wonder which part I should intentionally change – and how – so that it won’t be an exact replica.”


#5

It’s hard to give any good advise here. I think in end it’s gonna be all up to you and how you feel about what you’re doing. Maybe you could ask the maker?


#6

Unless whoever made the WP theme invented some brand new method of UI, I don’t see anything wrong with what you’re doing.

Would it be unethical to repaint the Mona Lisa?


#7

When I hear what I want to hear, I like it. :smile:

By now the lovely Mona Lisa is PLR (private label rights), and DaVinci’s patents and his IP rights are in the public domain. :grinning:


#8

Well, my point really is that it isn’t as if the person who put together the WP theme just came up with everything out of thin air. He/She took inspiration for this and that from here and there. You’re doing all the same exact WORK that they did just with significantly fewer sources.


#9

It’s a really interesting question @jeffreydevflow - and you can look at different areas of the arts for thoughts on it too - like you say with art, there’s also music too - what is original - what hasn’t previously been created - what is inspiration and what is copying?!

More specifically, like @Cricitem says - is there something uniquely original about the UI that has not already been done before? Many websites are using similar UI’s to each other…

Other thoughts are:

This was created for WP users as a theme, not for WF, so a different use case, and the code behind the scenes isn’t being copied, and will presumably be different in structure/content?

Will the site be exported out to use with WP, or keeping at all WF? If WP, then that might have an effect on infringement if you recreated to use/sell in the original platform…

Disclaimer! Of course, read all their licensing and terms, none of the above infers advice nor should be relied upon etc etc :nerd_face: :slightly_smiling_face:


#10

This is an interesting question, and maybe only one that could be answered by independent legal council, which might be a good feature for Webflow to integrate on the platform?


#11

Interesting conversation. I guess it depends how much and what exactly you are copying. It doesn’t take long to see most WP sites are varying versions of the same themes and structure built on a bootstrap framework. Unless it is highly original the structure can’t be proprietary. I’m not sure I’d want to copy a full site mostly because I wouldn’t want my site to look exactly like another with the pictures changed. Not sure the structure of navbar/ hero/ section/footer can be considered any kind of infringement. Without seeing the theme I guess it is hard to judge as well. MOst themes seem to be made up of building blocks from elsewhere. I would maybe ask the client what about the site they like and create something original pinpointing features they like.


#12

Good example, @jbleroux, about sites being built on Bootstrap. Bootstrap is not exactly trying to prevent that. (Nor would they want to!) :slight_smile:

The case may hinge on “personal use.”

It would be different if I was repackaging and selling the cloned theme for profit. This would understandably not be allowed by almost anyone’s standards – legal or moral.

Like, you can’t download whatever stock photos as you want from a reputable company like Shutterstock or Depositphotos, and then resell them – whether as your own or not. (It’s even expressly stated in their T&C’s.)

My use case is only about cloning a theme for personal use. Actually, now that I think of it, it would end-up being for business use – but still, it’s a one-off case.

Yet there are so many cloned apps (cloned Uber, Tinder, AirBnB, Udemy, Alibaba… on and on… even Facebook).

clonescript[dot]com
www.phpscriptsmall[dot]com/product-category/php-clone-scripts
www.abservetech[dot]com

And there doesn’t seem to be any aggressive prohibition against them.

So considering those cloned apps are extant, and are for sale, I feel relatively safe. :slight_smile:


#13

I think broadly all art is a derivation. What matters more is how you create uniqueness in your work. I’m not suggesting you just rip off the design but use it as the baseline for your unique creation, (the intention of the theme I might add). There is no legal basis to defend the design of a website per se. It’s usually more about the trademark, does company B misrepresent itself as company A.


#14

If you buy the template, I see no problem in recreating it on another platform, the WP maker has got his money. But If you make it exact similar without paying for the original WP template, I would consider it problematic referrring to plain copyrights. As a designer I would try to “steal with style”. In other words: Take inspiration, but make a twist or two to make it a little bit more your own. Try to take it one step further.


#15

Professional designers, whether Industrial, Graphic or UI, borrow all the time from each other. Design is mostly derivative and commonly based on inspiration. Design is not Art. Art is communication to self, Design is communication to others. Big difference. Copying Art is stealing. You can legally copy most designs, unless there is a design patent filed which explicitly defines the parts unique to it (design patents are very hard to protect).

Others use designs as inspiration. Even Apple has very strong derivative designs as pointed out at:

Young designers can learn a lot about proportion, contrast, color, and aesthetics by actually coping designs they like. In grad school, I used to copy Syd Mead’s work, brush stroke by brush stroke, just to learn composition.

It’s easy to use other work as inspiration, and once you know the design rules, you can make changes which will make it unique to you. I have told students NOT to start with an empty canvas, but instead find something that inspires them. Mood boards (look it up) are used specifically for that.

You not need feel guilty being inspired by other designs. Professionals do it all the time.


#16

I concur with @Ravnbo. Paying the licensing fee, and using the theme as you wish, is no different from any Wordpress user. You’re actually better off redesigning it in Webflow, since you won’t have to bother with those annoying updates.