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This is the same argument that was had about whether it was OK to make photocopies of content in books and magazines at the library, or record a radio broadcast or TV program. I would agree with you that up to a point it is: the content is made available to or broadcast to the public, and that implies a certain license to personally do what you want with it once you receive it. Hence copying or scanning printed material for later reference, time-shifting TV programs and sports events with DVR is generally and legally recognized as "OK" (I believe that "fair use" is the legal term here).

Likewise when you put your creative content on the internet, you are implicitly granting some license to people who view that content. They can view the source, study your CSS and javascript, save it for offline viewing if they want.

But when you take someone else's content, be it a book, a TV broadcast or a web site design, copy it either completely or substantially, and then proceed to personally profit from that work without the permission of the creator, you've crossed the line. Granted the distinction between copying (bad) and imitation (flattery?) can be fuzzy, but in this case it seems very clear.




Do you ever wonder why law is so complicated? Maybe it's because the people who make them have a vested interest in complicating matters such that lawyers become necessary. The same logic that you are advocating is what is necessitating the existence of IP law and IP lawyers.

If we simply say that with regards to information, no laws except the laws of nature are necessary, then some lawyers will lose their jobs, but there will be less friction and eddy currents in the system. Overall our endeavors will be more productive and quality of life will generally improve.




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