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LayerVault Sends DMCA Takedown Letter re Flat-UI (github.com/github)
403 points by bencevans on March 6, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 353 comments

For the lazy, here's a summary of the claims that LV/DN is making:

Some icons appear to be heavily inspired by LV.

Here are three icons (circled) from Flat-UI: http://i.imgur.com/xDDULcG.png

You can see that the gears and news icons do bear some similarity to LV's versions: http://dribbble.com/shots/800428-LayerVault-icon-set-for-del... and http://imgur.com/rli5IVU (the latter via http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5332741)

In addition, LV claims that Flat-UI ripped off a number of other icons from dribble.com, such as this clock and map (Flat-UI above, originals below): http://cl.ly/image/3Q181w0b1u2K (original dribble links: http://dribbble.com/shots/695458-Nasa-Playbook-Icons and http://dribbble.com/shots/877061-Map-2013).

Finally, the color schemes have been claimed to be identical: http://pixxel.co/feed/layervault-issues-dmca-takedown

LV appears to be confused as to what constitutes copyright infringement. None of these icons are actually copies of the original, and even if they were LV would not have a right to issue a DMCA takedown for the ones they didn't own.

This seems to be a massive PR blunder for the LV guys. They could have put up a blog post enumerating how many of their (and others') designs were ripped off (which is not the same thing as copyright infringement) and probably garnered some internet sympathy. Now, by misusing the much-hated DMCA takedown notice they've positioned themselves in the same camp with all the DMCA bullies we have grown to loathe.

That looks pretty much open and shut, as if using a vague DMCA in itself wasn't already enough of a hint.

It's not even a rip-off. The basic pattern for the icons is insanely generic, and the execution is clearly different. The color scheme is a very common one.

It bears a resemblance as much as one black leather shoe bears a resemblance to another black leather shoe. It's not even worth making a passing remark about, let alone going nuclear with a DMCA.

LayerVault are copyright trolls and bullies.

Give me a break. One single misguided DMCA notice does not make one a copyright troll.

It doesn't make them a troll (IMO, you need to have a pattern of behavior to be a real troll) but it makes them potentially guilty of perjury, which is kind of a big deal.

DMCAs shouldn't be filed lightly (unless you have the legal resources of the RIAA/MIAA/etc to dissuade your targets from retaliation).

Not a lawyer, and haven't talked to a lawyer? Don't file a DMCA no matter how butthurt you are about being 'copied'. Just because it is relatively easy to do doesn't mean you should do so in the spur of the moment. It is a Real Legal Thing with Real Ramifications, and this is good because it limits the amount to which bad actors can abuse it, but it also means you should be really sure you're the victim of copyright violations prior to using it yourself.

Sure it does. They misused it and it is highly likely they will file another notice for another Flat UI design that in the future, for whatever reason they think, look similar to their design.

> it is highly likely they will file another notice for another Flat UI design that in the future

Or, alternatively, they might realize what a mistake taking this approach was and never do it again. That's what I think is "highly likely" here.

> they might realize what a mistake taking this approach was and never do it again

It doesn't seem like he's learned anything, considering he's making jokes about it on twitter:




Here is good point view - http://manufacturednormalcy.com/?p=70

I think trolling once still makes you a troll. It takes a certain sense of naive entitlement to issue a DMCA take-down notice without understanding the legal requirements or the very specific meaning of doing so.

I sang in a choir in grade 5 once. Would you consider me a singer?

That is some ... facile ... logic.

If you murdered someone in 1995, would you be a murderer?

Murder is too loaded of a act to serve as a good example for this discussion, IMO, but just the once? I would describe myself as someone who had murdered, but not a murderer. There's an active/repetitive component to being described as an *-er.

As I replied to electic, how would you feel if I described myself as a singer upon meeting someone, having only sang for 3 minutes out of the decades of my life? "Oh, hi, I'm lowboy, and I'm a singer".

> There's an active/repetitive component ...

The persistent/active component is in having the personal constitution necessary to engaged in the action in question. The type of person, for instance, who files a false DMCA take-down request -- censoring another person's speech -- without understanding or appreciating the ethical and legal implications of what they are doing.

"Repository unavailable due to DMCA takedown" -- https://github.com/designmodo/Flat-UI

Sure, but has LV engaged in this behaviour previously? If they haven't, then I don't think they could be described as patent trolls. Right now they might be engaged in patent trolling, but as my singing example hopefully illustrates, doing something once doesn't make one an active/repetitive doer of that thing. I'm not a singer, and feel that it would be dishonest of anyone to describe me as such. Same goes for LV with patent trolling.

You seem to have missed my entire point. Since there's nothing I could write here other than a repeat of what I wrote earlier, I will instead simply refer to my above comment.

I read it. LV is engaging in one act of trolling at the moment, and they have the "personal constitution necessary to engage" in said trolling. No arguments there, and I don't condone what they're doing.

But having the constitution to do an act doesn't mean one is a repeated doer of that act. Has LV actively trolled, or tried to censor people's speech in the past? If not, they shouldn't be described as patent trolls, merely that they are currently engaged in an act of patent trolling.

And describing someone as an x doesn't always mean they are a repeated doer of the x-act. Eg, dictator: do you think only someone who was a dictator of multiple countries can be legitimately called that? If you say, as you did for murderer, that 'this example is too loaded', then you are recognising that the reaction is different for acts of different impact, and therefore your analogy of 'singer' is irrelevant until you can show that people view 'singing' as something having the same impact of 'sending DMCA takedowns'.

Labeling sure is a tricky business. There are certain lines you cross in life though-- you get locked up, you live the rest of your life as an "ex-con" to most of society. Speaking for myself but I think also many others in this community, if you troll, whether you are later considered an "ex-troll" or just a "troll" doesn't matter, you trolled. It's an egregious offense that was foolishly committed and they will always regret it now, as they should.

The dictator doesn't have to be multiple countries, but a dictator for at least a while. Would someone who was a dictator for a day but was otherwise a civil servant for 30 years be called a dictator? I wouldn't say so. You can say he was a dictator for a short time, but not just "a dictator" without that context.

Wouldn't it be correct to call him a dictator the day that he was a dictator? My point being is that as long as LV are engaged in what you say is "one act of trolling", then they can be called trolls.

Hmm, yes I suppose it would be.

This whole thread (and my objections to the use of language here) was based on onemorepassword's comment[0] that ended with a definitive "LayerVault are copyright trolls and bullies", which I read as speaking to their core and not just what they're doing at the moment.

Maybe omp has knowledge of LV having a past history of copyright trolling, but I don't think it's a fair statement to make based on one bad-faith filing, as abhorrent as that move was.

[0]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5333339

> Wouldn't it be correct to call him a dictator the day that he was a dictator?

Dictators are a really poor example here, often it is not quite as clear-cut and there is no point in time you can say then he became a dictator. Not even in hindsight, it is usually a rise to power over years until their power becomes absolute.

Yes, a bad one by professional standards, but yes.

So how would you feel if I described myself as a singer upon meeting someone, having only sang for 3 minutes out of the decades of my life? "Oh, hi, I'm lowboy, and I'm a singer".

Here is a description of a patent troll. In this case, we have a DMCA troll.

"one or more"


"with no intention to manufacture or market the product."

So, no.

That doesn't really speak to the issue.

Please answer my question about me describing myself as a singer. Would you feel I was being dishonest as describing myself as such?

Not at all.

It doesn't matter if you sang for 10 minutes or for 100 hours. There is no magic threshold number. If you identify yourself as a singer, you can claim to be one legitimately.

You would only be dishonest if you claimed to be a professional singer or a regular singer.

I don't think that claim would have any merit though, much as if someone opened up Chrome dev tools one day, edited an html attribute and solely based on that experience called themselves a web developer. I feel it would be dishonest, or at the very least woefully ignorant of common usage of language when someone is described as an *-er.

If you shag a sheep once...

At that point it time I would definitely consider you a choir singer, and rightly so.

And at THIS point in time, they DO file the DMCA thing.

Even if they self-correct, it's how they'll be treated. They just tapped into a massive vein of loathing for vague DMCA notices (particularly on the design trend front), and did it quite effectively. In the case of incendiary actions with ugly consequences, once is enough to brand you.

This is a legal issue. It's not a joke. It looks like LayerVault's founder turned quickly to legal bullying in a situation where he apparently has little to no justification. Just responding to and dealing with a DMCA notice like this would cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in attorney fees.

People who drag others into expensive, unwarranted legal situations are a blight on the entrepreneurial community.

> Just responding to and dealing with a DMCA notice like this would cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in attorney fees

No, responding to and dealing with a DMCA notice takes 5 minutes and a couple keystrokes. You send a counternotice, a simple e-mail you can copy and paste from any number of examples. There are no attorneys fees until there's an actual lawsuit, and there's never going to be one here.

5 minutes and then 10 days until github is allowed to act on the counternotice?

Legal issues should be dealt with by attorneys, period. Mishandled legal issues can, and frequently do, become very messy and expensive.

One who trolls with copyright is a copyright troll. This is not a difficult concept.

Making a mistake is not the same thing as trolling. Trolling is being willfully wrong, usually to gain some benefit (eliciting a pleasurable response, financial gain).

Showing that they were incorrect does not show they are a troll.

If LayerVault made a mistake and apologized, sure. But one look at their twitter page & their response on designer news implies no apology is forthcoming. So, they are copyright trolls and bullies. They are not only running against the spirit of the law, but also the letter of it.

Please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_troll

The term refers to entities who are in the business of enforcing patents they aren't generally even using in the marketplace. This is distinct from someone who actually thinks their work is being affected, as is the case here (even though in this case it seems to be overblown).

So what is the threshold? Two made up DMCA notices? One hundred made up DMCA notices?

Maybe a troll in training? Or a garden variety of troll?

It totally does. It means that you make an assertion you OWN something you didn't create.

That makes you the worst kind of troll out there, a knowingly lying one.

I can't believe that the threshold for a DMCA notice claim is simply that LayerVault is the sole owner of the works. No where did LayerVault specify which works they were claiming (aside from saying the whole thing was theirs) which it obviously isn't based upon the differences.

That's not quite the threshold.

It's a solemn legal claim, with consequences if they lie.

And the people claimed against can file a counter claim.

(DMCA is a terrible law, and needs to be fixed.)

> This seems to be a massive PR blunder for the LV guys. They could have put up a blog post enumerating how many of their (and others') designs were ripped off (which is not the same thing as copyright infringement) and probably garnered some internet sympathy. Now, by misusing the much-hated DMCA takedown notice they've positioned themselves in the same camp with all the DMCA bullies we have grown to loathe.

Maybe I've had my head in the sand for far too long, but I had never heard of LayerVault until today, and I know them now for all the wrong reasons.

I find it somewhat silly that no matter what trend you follow, someone will always be there, waiting to pounce.

This isn't the mid 2000's, "First" posts were childish back then, and "First" claims are the same now.

...and seriously at the colour schemes. The flat colour trend is basically the same as a new art movement (it's only pastel colours made more vibrant). I predict that with the current trend being Real -> Flat, the next phase will be a new form of Pointillism.

If we really wanted to be picky, you could draw comparisons between the way that LV do human faces (see bottom of the Tour page) and the old Mac OS logo.

Bears a resemblance is not enough for DMCA. LV was stupid to file a DMCA on this. It was clearly a scare tactic and all it did was make them look like petulant children.

If Flat UI had really stolen assets, that would be one thing.

But aping a design isn't the same thing as stealing. See also: Apple v. Samsung.


Colour schemes are irrelevant to the DCMA as they can't be copyrighted, though they can be trademarked in some circumstances. Either way there isn't a relevant infringement.

Hope it wasn't the basis for the DMCA takedown...

"In addition, the color schemes have been claimed to be identical: http://pixxel.co/feed/layervault-issues-dmca-takedown

Flat UI has more than 20 colors. LV just 7?...

Google and Pantone - http://cl.ly/NO8C

Yup, Google's really no different. Had to do one myself just to check -- http://i.imgur.com/qJXJUaH.png

Does this mean I'm not allowed to use Google any more because they're using that colour palette on something that's free...?


      -Most often done by... Jonathan Ive 
See examples here... http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Arts/Arts_/site_furnitur...

2) Has anyone visited LayerVault's site?

Does anyone think that they invented all of the styling, color schemes, magnifying effects, icon styling out of thin air?

Anyone seen google do something similar? (looks waaaaay better than LV old site BTW)

3) If you wanted to shame someone, the best way to do so would have been a blog post...

See OXO v.s. Quirky http://goo.gl/Zccse

4) It's impossible for an idea to be truly unique/novel. They are always tangents/leaps based on a previous discoveries or insight.

Picasso never said that. Jobs misquoted. But the real quote from T.S. Eliot is better: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn.”

Designmodo announced Flat UI Free v.1.1 is public Now! Download updated version - http://designmodo.com/flat-free/ PSD & HTML (Twitter Bootstrap based)!

And here's a reply from Allan: https://news.layervault.com/stories/1992-layervault-whats-up...

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.

A really good way to coerce the pitchforks back into their sheds is to provide proof, especially when your DMCA is vague and posted on a ridiculously public platform.

Allan has done neither, and still hasn't done so in his tweets or this post over on his bubbly walled garden. A few simple side-by-side screenshots would have sufficed and put the court of public opinion squarely on his side. He may be completely in the right but his approach left him open to the "pitchforks" he's so dismissively bemoaning.

Not to mention, he even says himself that it was " ... 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."

DMCA notices are to enforce against copyright infringement only, not as a tool for organizations to abuse in order to remove content which they think is "too similar", if this was the case, businesses would simply send their competition DMCA notices for being "too similar."

He also stated that because DesignModo "removed some icons" which LayerVault thought were the most blatantly infringing somehow implies guilt, as opposed to just someone trying to handle a dispute in a friendly manner.

I'm not a designer, and I haven't heard of LayerVault until now, however unless some very damning evidence is presented, I feel like every statement he's making is essentially digging a deeper grave.

EDIT: Having looked at the examples of the claimed infringement which are now surfacing, this is even further evidence that this is misuse of the DMCA. At most, this would be a civil / trademark dispute.

Striking Similarity is the standard. While the standard there is not crystal clear, you expect to hear things like, 'hey, they have the same bug we do!' and 'is that one of our comments?!!'.

Web folks these days have some strange ideas about copyright, particularly as it relates to an overall 'site feel'. Unfortunately, this 'site feel' is not a single work, in the same way that you couldn't successfully keep others from making art in your 'style'.

The proper way to get a monopoly on a 'feel' is with one of those ridiculous design patents. That'd be inexcusable, because these patents mean nothing except that you intend to spend a lot of time making lawsuits based on poorly examined, impossibly wide patents.

Here's the side by side comparison

Noun Project vs Layer Vault vs Flat UI


If anyone notice other similar icons, I can update image with side by side comparison.

*Thanks to fellow HNers for the links to the images. I just stuck it all together side by side.

Edit: Updated with more samples.

Wow, that is considerably less egregious than I had imagined it would be.

From my initial reading, it sounded like images were outright copied, or copied and slightly altered. That is hardly the case in these examples.

If there aren't any stronger examples than these, then LayerVault wouldn't seem to have much of a basis for all this.

Wow, that's absolutely not plagiarism. Just generic concepts that have been interpreted similarly.

That may have divined inspiration from the LV icons, but that is in no way copied.

The prototypical talking head with speech bubble: http://www.guidebookgallery.org/pics/gui/installation/comple...

Three gears together doesn't seem to be that novel an idea either: http://thenounproject.com/noun/gears/#icon-No8949

As a graphic designer I was pre-disposed to siding with you against the pitchfork wielding pirates, but that's ridiculous. Bullshit takedown. Folded newspaper done in a minimalist style? Cogs? Face talking?

Is this a prank or art piece troll?

DMCA takedowns are basically form letters. There is no place to put the full explanation. Second, it was Git Hub that posted it publicly, not the DMCA issuer.

Yes, a full explanation would be nice too.

Though much is boilerplate, it's also irrelevant.

Here, we have a DMCA takedown notice that lacks two of the necessary elements: specific identification of the copyrighted work infringed as well as the infringing material.

It doesn't take much to meet these elements, which together would have also allayed public concerns. Barring that, however, it's not a valid notice. As a result, Github has no duty to act as the courts have explicitly affirmed.

Filing a DMCA request when you don't have a very solid copyright claim can be dangerous:


I doubt this case will escalate to that, but at the very least I think I can safely say LayerVault is the loser here. I was only scarcely aware of LayerVault previously with no specific opinion and now after hearing the claims and seeing the supposed "proof" I have a negative opinion. And for what gain?

"Eventually, he removed the most blatant icons which (in my eyes) is an admission of guilt."

Sure, couldn't possibly be that he just wanted to do whatever it took to get you to leave him alone.

Here are the icons in question. http://i.imgur.com/xDDULcG.png

Also, the Flat-UI guy also copied other artists on dribbble. http://cl.ly/image/3Q181w0b1u2K

From http://drbl.in/eXkk, and http://drbl.in/gmsD

I'm not saying these are in copyright violation, merely examples he has copied prior work.

You're using a very weird definition of the word "copy." They are similar in that they depict a similar object from the same angle using a "flat" artistic style, but nobody is going to look at them side by side and mistake one for the other for even a second. This seems a bit like saying the iPhone is a copy of a slice of bread because they are both rectangular with few surface features. If you were asked to copy something in a drawing class and gave such an unrecognizable result, you'd likely get an F for failing to follow the instructions.

False analogy. Comparing design work to carbohydrates is a thin argument.

Here is the definition of copy.. "A thing made to be similar or identical to another."

The worked linked to was not original. It is similar and identical to other designers work.

Can you show the earlier work to which these are identical? If that is the case, I will retract what I said. But I don't think it's the case.

The links are in the original comment. Isn't that what we've been talking about?

There aren't any examples of identical artwork from the two sources that I can see. There are links such as http://cl.ly/image/3Q181w0b1u2K that show substantially different artwork side by side. Do you really mean to tell me you can't see any difference between those? The only substantial similarity in either of those is the placement of the pins of the map. Notable differences:

The clock:

* The FlatUI one has a drop shadow

* The length of both hands is different

* In the Dribbl artwork the hands are all the same size, while the FlatUI one has a "skinny" minute hand and an even skinnier second hand

* The colors are not at all similar

The map:

* The width is different

* The landmasses are completely different

* There is a different number of landmasses

* The colors are, again, quite different

* The Dribbl art is of a map with three folds, with both ends facing downwards so it forms an "M" shape, while the FlatUI one has four folds, with one end facing down and the other facing up

Beyond details inherent in the objects and art style (e.g. clocks are round and have hands), there are more differences than similarities. I would hardly call that "identical."

There are substantial similarities between the two. That it's not a 1 for 1 copy doesn't change the fact that they are substantially similar.

Case in point. The text below has more difference contained within it then the list of 9 specific difference you listed in your post. Taken individually, they prove that I did not copy your post, and that what is below is original.

However, any reasonable person would take a look at the two and find that they are very similar in terms of style, presentation, and intent. That they are copies. Identical, no, but copies nonetheless.


There aren't any examples of identical artwork from the two sources that I can see. There are links such as http://bit.ly/13IvNcq that show substantially different artwork side by side. Do you really mean to tell me you can't see any difference between those? The only substantial similarity in either of those is the placement of the pins of the map. Notable differences: The clock: * The FlatUI one has a drop shadow. * The length of both hands is different. * The colors are not at all similar. * In the Dribbl artwork the hands are all the same size, while the FlatUI one has a 'skinny' minute hand and a skinnier second hand.

The map: * The landmasses are different. * The width is different. * The colors are quite different. * There are a different number of landmasses. * The Dribbl art is of a map with three folds, with both ends facing downwards so it forms an 'M' shape, while the FlatUI one has four folds, with one end facing down and the other facing up.

Beyond details inherent in the objects and art style (e.g. clocks are round and have hands), there are more differences than similarities. I would hardly call that 'identical.'

No, that is much more similar. You changed a couple of words and punctuation and reordered a couple of paragraphs. Those are minor changes. It is substantially the same as what I wrote, with far more similarities than differences. The similarities are so overwhelming that without careful inspection, it could be mistaken for an exact textual copy of my comment with some of the paragraph breaks omitted. The same is not true of the graphics in question. A cursory glance at those will reveal obvious differences.

A better refutation would be to produce a well thought-out comparison of the two graphics that shows substantial similarity. I compared them as best I could and most of the artistic decisions seemed to be different between the two. If you have reached a different conclusion, I would love to see your analysis to compare.

If you haven't analyzed them in as much detail as I did and reached a different conclusion, I don't see why you felt it was intellectually honest to take a computerized copy of my comment and claim it as containing "more difference."

Would your same hypothetical "reasonable person" file a DMCA takedown notice if they are able to discern "substantial similarities" between their work and work that has been given away to the world on Github?

> There are substantial similarities between the two.

That's similarity, not copying. Copying is bit for bit or pixel for pixel identical.

>A thing made to be similar or identical to another.

So... couldn't we argue that LayerVault copied the design of actual clocks? Using your logic, the inventor of the wall clock would be just as justified sending LayerVault a take-down notice, right?

Layervault didn't design that clock. There is no logic, just the definition. You should look up "common knowledge" and "public domain."

If you recall apple is paying $21m to license the Swiss Railway clock design.


You do understand that none of the examples you have posted are in fact examples of copyright violation right?

Yes I didn't say they were in copyright violation.

Here is the definition of copy.. "A thing made to be similar or identical to another."

The worked linked to was not original. It is similar and identical to other designers work.

Right. The linked commit that is the subject of this thread is a DMCA takedown notice, which is a legal instrument designed to allow holders of copyrights to prevent their copyrighted materials from being distributed. Setting aside the merits of the DMCA, it has nothing to do with any definition of "copy" (yours, Oxford's, or Wikipedia's) at all. It is a remedy for copyright infrigement, which, again, is a legal term with a very specific definition[1]. No matter how creatively you define the word "copy", designmodo's actions simply are not equivalent to "copyright infringement" by any legal definition.


I'm not defending the DMCA. Did I mention it? I pointed out that DM copied other works I saw previously on dribbble. Adding information to the discussion, that spawned more threads.

"What exactly is the point you're trying to make?"

The point I am trying to make is that you are not adding information to the discussion. It's obvious upon inspection that a small portion of the graphical assets, and even the color scheme are similar. It is equally obvious that they are not identical. This thread is about the appropriateness of LayerVault abusing the DMCA's takedown provisions in order to stifle an open source project in response to perceived "similarities" that do not satisfy the standard for copyright infringement, the only situation in which it is appropriate (or legal, for that matter) to issue a DMCA takedown notice. The original point I was trying to make (and the point that basically everyone else responding to you is trying to make, that you don't seem to understand) is that this is true regardless of whether or not designmodo is "copying" their "style", "feel", or color palette, and that throwing around a DMCA takedown notice so casually is unacceptable behavior, regardless of how injured they feel.

> It's obvious upon inspection that a small portion of the graphical assets, as well as the overall color scheme are similar.

Thank you for agreeing with my original comment. night!

I have been trying to communicate a concept to you, specifically that copyright infringement is not the same as copying a design. I fear that I have failed. Perhaps you can't hear me, and don't want to. Maybe you understand what it is that I am trying to communicate, but lack the tools with which to articulate your dissent. Either way, it appears that you're now simply arguing for the sake of arguing instead of responding to what I'm actually trying to say. As fun as that sounds, I think I'll pass.

At this point, I'd like to refer you to pg's essay on how to disagree[1]. You might want to pay attention to sections 4 and 5 in his hierarchy of dissent.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

Don't mind Alex, he made a fuss about the guy on the right jacking his design on the left a few months ago - http://cl.ly/image/1g3q372r1c2F/shot.jpg. Information designers would have a chuckle at that.


It's a clock - how many unique ways are there to design it? It's a folded up map with pins in it.

He moved the hour/minutes hands, changed the colors and shadows, used different continents in the map.


Apple paid $21 million for a clock design after first adopting your attitude: http://www.law.com/corporatecounsel/PubArticleCC.jsp?id=1202...

The clock in question, aside from being an exact copy, was an example of a trademark infringement not copyright infringement. It's very different. In fact trademarks must be defended against infringement or they can be considered void.


If he had copied, even in just a similar way, LayerVault's logo to use as an icon (and assuming LV trademarked it) then this discussion would be pretty different.

Apple's clock was an exact copy of the swiss railway clock. In this case, the rounded corners are different, the color is different, the shadow is different, the lengths of the lines are different.

Apple's wasn't an exact copy either. (The Swiss railway clock design was nicer.)

There were slight differences in hand lengths, removal of the logo (obviously), and stroke widths.

Apple's clock design was indistinguishable from the original. This is not.

This is the essence of what is wrong with copyright law: "Apple paid $21 million for a clock design."

I believe in the value and importance of design, but the money/value ratio of design IP has gotten out of hand.

Did you read the article? They were sued over trademark infringement. Trademark has nothing to do with copyright or the DMCA.

Here are a thousand other ways to design a clock. http://dribbble.com/search?q=clock+icon

What exactly is the point you're trying to make?

Swanson asked: It's a clock - how many unique ways are there to design it?

Thanks, I figured that part out. I was more replying to this response in the context of the grandparent, which made little sense to me at first, and even less sense when he edited it in some strange attempt to distinguish between "copying", which he seems to be accusing the Flat-UI creator of, and "copyright violation", the legal prerequisite for filing a DMCA takedown, which is what the rest of the comments on this post seem to be discussing.

Try adding "flat" to that search criteria, then how many ways do you get?

s/copied/used as inspiration/

Copyright means you literally copied the design. Are you maybe confusing copyright and trademark? With trademark, you can get in trouble for creating brand confusion, which has a more to do with the look and feel than the actual copy.

Copyright also grants the exclusive right to create derivative works. Using another work as the basis of your own, even with zero direct copying, can be an infringement of that right. I doubt that happened here, and proving it would be near-impossible, but we should be cognizant of what copyright actually is.

All it manages to show is that as a designer he is not very original and maybe influenced a bit too much about what he is inspired by. But this in itself is not a copyright violation.

The analog clock designs with the red seconds hand are all simplified versions of they style popularized by the swiss railway clock: https://www.google.com/search?q=swiss+railway+clock that can be seen in many clock products: https://www.google.com/search?q=clock+red+second+hand&hl...


I am not affiliated with layervault, none of the work linked is mine.

This isn't at all related to my comment. Did you reply to the wrong one?

The color schemes of LayerVault and FlatUI are also almost identical. http://pixxel.co/feed/layervault-issues-dmca-takedown

Let's add some google colors in this comparison http://cl.ly/NO8C

Your point being…?

If it were ONLY the colors, or ONLY the look and feel of the widgets (which, come on, are almost exactly the same as well), or ONLY the icons… different story entirely. But it's the SUM of all of those things.

> But it's the SUM of all of those things.

This is not how copyright works.

I'm less concerned with the allegations of copyright trolling, etc (IANAL; I don't really know whether or not this qualifies for a DMCA takedown notice, although I suspect it does not) and more with the general opinion among commentators here that this was anything OTHER than a blatant ripoff of LayerVault's UI.

To me it seems like more of a trademark/trade dress issue, which as far as I know doesn't fall under copyright, but it's extremely silly to say that the resemblance between FlatUI and LayerVault isn't uncanny.

Ripping off someone's design isn't grounds for a DMCA takedown notice unless you actually violate copyright(the legal definition, not some hand wavy "I did it first" definition). If LV had filed a trademark claim no one would be complaining b/c A) they would definitely lose(there's no issue of brand confusion here) and B) the guy would get to decide himself whether he wanted to risk leaving his stuff online (instead of github deciding for him).

One of problems with copyright is that the statute basically says you can't copy original works under certain conditions, but it doesn't define what constitutes copying. As far as I can figure out (IANAL) only a judge or jury can make that determination. You can try to figure out what has been considered copying by reading through other cases but it is not definitive until declared so by a court.

That's not a copyright violation.

I don't think it's a copyright issue, but between the colors, illustrations (some of which almost match exactly), and the appearance of the widgets, you could make a very strong case for trademark/trade dress violation.

> I don't think it's a copyright issue, but between the colors

The only thing you can file a DMCA takedown notice for is a copyright issue. That's it. By filing a DMCA takedown notice you are asserting there is a 'copyright issue'.

Trademark and trade dress have nothing to do with a DMCA takedown though.

And besides, establishing an infringement of trademark and that it was then infringed will require an absolute mountain of cash and lawyers and time. I'm assuming they have nothing relating to the IP they're annoyed about on paper and so they'd need to show that they 'owned' it in equity. They'd almost certainly go bankrupt before they have a chance of winning a case in court.

(IANAL... yet)

As others have pointed out, Allan's "reply" is quite the non-reply with the lack of concrete proof and evidence of the supposed "copyright infringement". What I personally found interesting, however, was Allan's initial reaction to the Flat UI Kit on Twitter: "Has nothing to do with us. Very distasteful."[1]

Later on, after the pitchforks had showed up, he tweeted the following: "It's neat that someone made a flat ui kit"[2]

That tune sure changed quickly!

[1] https://twitter.com/Allan/status/308937462221254657

[2] https://twitter.com/Allan/status/309346292902014976

Sounds like a non-reply reply lacking specific/concrete examples of what was infringed that they needed to issue a DMCA takedown.

LayerVault needs to illustrate their case with clear-cut examples or else they are coming across as ye olde IP Troll and thus deserving the collective pitchfork stabbing that DMCA hammer wielding requires.

Did you realize that you were doing something illegal (and seriously abusive) by responding to this with a DMCA takedown?

If it's the best example he found to justify the takedown notice, it was really not a smart move...

Huh? Not the same.

Designer News icon: http://imgur.com/a/H3zlP

Noun Project: http://thenounproject.com/noun/newspaper/#icon-No6346

Flat-UI's newspaper icon: http://i.imgur.com/9TKbKNl.png

If anything, the Designer News icon is much more similar to the Noun Project's.

All of these icons are similar to innumerable newspaper icons, including several at the Noun Project alone.

I agree.

That's the point…

'He kinda copied it, so we slapped him with DMCA. We kinda copied a free icon, but it's okay.'

Did he "kinda" copy it, or is it a copy? The two icons we're comparing here are not copies. They are markedly dissimilar.

Well, LV said 'They even managed to kinda lift the old DN icon :)'

Don't know if 'kinda' is being used to soften the accusation or it's not a straight up copy - I can't see the icon they are talking about.


Edit: Found them and slapped them together for side by side comparison http://imgur.com/rli5IVU

They've been posted upthread, and they aren't copies.

Now I don't know what icon is in the Flat UI pack, but to cite the DMCA's icon as being 'kinda lifted' from theirs[1] when it is so similar to a number of CC-licenced icons on The Noun Project seems like a poor argument in my eyes.

[1] http://imgur.com/3zoKuvH

If the Flat UI icon is as different from the Noun Project icon as DN's is, Alan at LayerVault will be equally wrong.

They just aren't the same icon. The visual metaphor all these icons rely on is decades old. It's the details that matter.

I think you are hitting the nail on the head - with styles/aesthetic arguments like this, when is it a copy? Adding a leaf of paper into the icon? Colouring it in? Adding a line of faux text below the faux image? Which came first? Which was the origin?

My only point was that when you are getting hammered by people and the evidence you provide is that, it looks poorly thought out.

What evidence? What am I missing? Does someone have a link to the Flat UI icon he's referring to? The impression I got from his message is, Flat UI included a verbatim copy of the DN icon.

That's the impression he wants you to get, but you are being deceived by his misleading wording. Flat-UI's newspaper icon is different than the DN icon.

I see that now. Thanks!

"... they even managed to kinda lift the old DN icon ..."

I think you misunderstand. I'm not arguing as to whether the Flat UI guys copied them or not, but like the larger argument, the icon he is putting forward as copied work is itself conceptually very similar to other existing icon work(s). As a designer I would be more than a little miffed if that design appeared if I had created the Noun Project's version and not openly licensed it.

If that is the case, it somewhat undermines the claim that the assets are fully owned by them or even that ownership can be so quickly claimed.

Similarity is completely irrelevant. If we independently arrive at the same original work then that is not copyright violation. That's not what copyright is about. We then each hold the copyright of our respective works, even if they're completely identical (in practice it will probably be hard to proof that you didn't just copy the other work if they're really identical).

IANAL, but that's what I was told by a law student.

Here's the comparisons.


It's certainly not a verbatim copy or even close.

Agree! Thanks.

Note that the matter of the "newspaper" icon is not the reason for the DMCA request, but a sidenote.

Yeah, that's a pretty strange claim. Same concept, but completely different details.

There might be some ground for trademark infringement if the original icon was important, but no way is that a copyright issue.

What he's claiming is not the perfect copy of the shape, but the style. It's a clear "copy" too, very very similar. In the end, if you change a pixel from that you can make a "not the same" icon, don't you think?

We can discuss on how many differences but it will end on nothing. I can express that, 2 o 3 differences are not enough to claim "different" and you can claim than 1 will not be enough too.

To me, they're clearly wrong. But if the guy copied the art and pasted it, that's another story.

Wow, I never looked at DN before and I don't think I will start now. In that thread they come across as thuggish scumbags who don't care about evidence and believe that anyone should be able to use the legal system to bulldoze competitors doing "similar" work.

Also, this Allan guy whoever he is, is dripping with self-importance.

It's pretty obvious that these icons are not copies of the originals. They are very similar, but clearly independently produced. It's a bit tenuous to apply copyright law here. Copyright is for the act of copying information, not style.

Trademarks can legally protect a particular style, but trademark law isn't enforced through DMCA requests.

Who are LayerVault's lawyers? Seems like bad legal advice to me...

I doubt they sought any. Presumably any half decent lawyer would tell them that there's absolutely no breach of copyright.

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t look like a copyright infringement to me. I cannot see any artwork that was directly lifted. The icons may be superficially similar but they are no copies.

The founder of LayerVault is claiming it was specific illustrations which were stolen

https://twitter.com/Allan/status/309346292902014976 https://twitter.com/Allan/status/309350351054716929

This needs to be the top comment here, rather than people insinuating that LV called for a DMCA takedown because 'they look alike'

Take a look at the comparison here:


To my eyes, it does not look like 'blatant copying.' The icons look similar, but so do many others. If LV's evidence comes down to "looks too similar, but isn't actually a copy," then the DMCA is not the avenue for pursuing this.

I don't see any specific comparison or illustrations in the two links jgj posted. Do you?

Those tweets sound like classic whining in face of collective pitchfork stabbing.

Bet on HN embarrassing itself every time on stories like this.

HN posters being reactionary to hot topics like DMCA when all the facts aren't out? Say it ain't so.

Except I've read most of the comments and on the whole they seem a) correct (to my understanding of the DMCA) and b) reasonable and well thought out.

The initial ones were very reactionary about boycotting Layer Vault and so on. The DMCA is super wishy washy, and I can't say whether this is a valid use or not because IANAL.

I have the old pre-dmca Flat UI gitgub page from yesterday open in another window, and designmodo has apparently made a few changes since then. Just based on that, I'm going to guess that the problem was stemming from these.


I can find icons that kinda look a bit like those that were removed (http://dribbble.com/shots/875799-Designer-News, http://dribbble.com/shots/800428-LayerVault-icon-set-for-del...) but nothing that's a direct copy.

They look sort of the same? Three gears in a circle. A guy with a chat bubble in a kinda same style?

You can't issue a DCMA based on sort of look a likes. Or everyone would be DCMAing everyone else.

So the entire DCMA is invalid.

This is the most helpful post here. Nobody else seemed to have tracked down what they were specifically talking about.

Any else can also see it for themselves by using Google's cache: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:designm...

Complete Side by Side Comparison


Noun Project vs Layer Vault vs Flat UI


If anyone notice other similar icons, I can update image with side by side comparison.

Thanks to fellow HNers for the links to the images. I just stuck it all together side by side.

Edit: Updated with more samples.

That talking head / speech bubble concept is generic:


The Noun Project also has a profile speech version, though with curved lines instead of the bubble: http://thenounproject.com/noun/speech/#icon-No1202

Flat UI's version might have been partially inspired by LayerVault, but it's far from identical. In fact, the Flat UI head is very similar to the Noun Project's head, similar to how the LayerVault's newspaper is similar to the Noun Project's.

I know that its a bit of a stretch but it wouldn't have surprised me if the head/bubble icon came up during the email conversation that preceded the DMCA being filed though.

Doesn't mean I agree with it, but if you're going to have everything that potentially infringes LV's work you might as well put the stupid ones too. Plus it's now missing which makes it a bit suspicious (though the replacement is far better IMO which would explain the head's absence too)

And google is next victim - http://cl.ly/NO8C

Filing a counter notification is extremely straightforward, and moves this to a court dispute, which will almost undoubtedly never happen.

You can use Chilling Effects Counter-Notification generator to automate the process:


For those who are unfamiliar with DMCA notices, in short:

1. Content Provider Receives DMCA

2. Content Provider must act 'expeditiously' to remove content which is claimed to be infringing

3. Individual has an opportunity to submit a counter notification to their content provider, in which case the content can be reinstated after 10 business days regardless of the other parties claims. (Unless an injunction is obtained.)

4. Any further action is only by legal means (court injunction)

Disclaimer: IANAL (yet)

Re #3, the reinstatement must occur no sooner than 10 days from receiving the counternotice. It's not immediate. This gives the other party time to go to court for an injunction before the content goes back online.

Good catch, updated original post to reflect this.

Curious: What happens if the individual in question is NOT in the US? Can this still be done?

EDIT: After rereading your question, I'm assuming you're referring to a situation similar to my third example scenario, that might best address it.


- If the content provider is outside of the United States, DMCA is not valid whatsoever. However, some organizations, especially in English speaking countries, will honor it simply as a notice of infringement.

- If the individual sending the complaint is outside the United States, but the content provider is within the US, usually the content provider will cooperate anyway to protect themselves from legal obligation under Safe Harbor provisions.

- If the end user receiving the complaint is outside the United States and the content provider is within the US then the content provider should still honor the counter notice and would be covered by Safe Harbor provisions. I'm not sure on the specifics of this, however you must at minimum consent to the jurisdiction of US Federal Law for any further actions.

For the most part, the content provider / hosting company will do what is in their best interest to legally safeguard themselves, with little regard for end user rights. Generally speaking, the larger the company the moreso this applies.

Github seems like a reasonable organization, and if you submit a counter notification in valid format they should act accordingly.

Also, I see the Chilling Effects URL is getting hammered, here's a static version which you can modify: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Terrorism/form-letter.html

While unrelated to this issue specifically, something which is interesting to note is that in a several year old paper from Vanderbilt University, they specifically mention a provision dealing with enforcing the DMCA on foreign websites. While this provision has never been used to my knowledge it does exist and is quite scary considering the implications:

While direct action against a foreign site is not possible in U.S. courts, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) allows courts to order the blocking of infringing sites. Section 512(j)(1)(B)(ii) (the “Foreign Site Provision”) permits an order to restrain an Internet service provider (“ISP”) from providing access to a “specific, identified, online location outside the United States.” Therefore this provision, with some limitations, may be used to block U.S. access to infringing foreign sites.

By the looks of it, I don't think they are. But I think Github will take it down since its hosted in the US?

Why don't we, as a community, collectively agree to boycott copyright trolls? (and teach them a lesson in the process)

esp. when the target audience consists of developers/designers

EDIT: I tried to cross-post this on Designer News, but it turns out they're invite-only. Can someone do me the honour?

We might want to see if they're actually trolls first.

While I know it's pretty de rigueur on HN to assume that anyone who issues a DMCA takedown is evil/a troll/an idiot who doesn't understand the internet, it doesn't mean that some of them aren't being filed because their copyright is actually being violated.

Until there's more evidence either from LayerVault that DesignModo has used their assets, or from DesignModo that they haven't - something beyond DesignModo just shouting "they're lying!" in any case, perhaps it's best to withhold judgement for the time being.

This would be much easier to do if they had included any specifics in the DMCA notice itself or in their public statements since then. Part of the de rigueur reaction is because DMCA actions often lack this kind of evidence.

Why don't we, as a community, put away the pitchforks until hearing from both sides?

Looking at the top comment in the thread (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5332398), it seems that DesignModo lifted some of their illustrations straight from the LayerVault site.

He only mentions that it looks similar - which isn't enough to file a DMCA takedown. When does it become problematic? When there's an identical icon in both sets, which I haven't been able to find so far.

Of all the links I have seen posted so far, I have yet to see anything lifted from their site.

I'd be much happier if we as a community learned to read, research and formulate opinions before picking up pitchforks.

Yes, we need to create a new DN. LayerVault really has proven they are not the right entity to be running it.

I see no reason why hackers and designers can't mix :)


They have proven to be an closed elitist circle and they go against the web openness nature of the web and development.

this works too :)

Am I understanding this right; that LayerVault is trying to claim that they are the sole owners of the flat UI trend? I'm sorry Allan, I've been a fan of yours since before LayerVault was even launched, but this is really low. And if I'm remembering correctly, this isn't the first time you guys have harassed someone about using "your" aesthetic.

What he said is that he is "the exclusive rights holder for the artwork contained within Flat UI". Presumably he's referring to Flat UI the UI Kit, not Flat UI the general trend.

TIL solid colors constitute artwork now. Please excuse me, I've got some baseless, reputation-damaging takedown notices to file. Maybe next they can go after everyone that participated in http://dribbble.com/shots/911303-Designer-News-App-Icon-Play...

Yup, like T-Mobile, who owns the trademark on Magenta in Europe.

Trademark, exactly. Not copyright.

_BUT_ as mentioned in the Github thread, FlatUI framework does NOT use any artwork from LayerVault.

All of their assets were created in-house by DesginModo's designers..

Well, that remains to be seen. Looking at both websites, it's difficult to tell what they are talking about. Flat-UI doesn't seem to have any assets that mirror anything on LayerVault's. They need to be more specific.

> Flat-UI doesn't seem to have any assets that mirror anything on LayerVault's.

I would say that is the issue in a nutshell. LayerVault is claiming they are the exclusive rights-holders, yet absolutely nothing in Flat-UI is the same as anything on LayerVault's public site.

The only possible angle remaining would be if LayerVault had a bunch of these elements behind their paywall... something tells me that's not the case.

Edit: Alright, I admit the colour Turquoise is used on both pages. Still, I'm fairly confident turquoise boxes (of differing shapes!) are not copyrightable.

It's not about the flat UI trend. If you look at Layervault, their design is really unique and top notch. Flat UI-framework is heavily inspired by Layervault's design. There's no doubt about it. Same roundings, paddings, pastel color scheme, etc. They look visually extremely similar.

LayerVault is obviously pissed that a design similar to their unique design will be used by amateur Bootstrappers all over the web.

I think we're all upset more about the attitude and approach of how LV went about this.

You can't patent Colors / Helvetica Neue / Rounded Corner Squares. It just reeks of tactics similar to patent trolls.

I think a while back there was blog theme used that was similar to Svbtle, but there was no take down notice or such nonsense. It generated a decent discussion and conversations about something that's too close in style.

Look at @layervault on Twitter, they are just getting destroyed right now. Even by designers, their main target audience.

If they went along the lines like 'Hey, this is pretty similar to our design. We think it's cool we inspired you but can you deviate it from us a bit more or re-name the project to like Layervault Bootstrap?' I mean why not - have your name in the same conversation as Twitter Bootstrap!

A total botched and missed opportunity.

It's unique and top-notch if you live in the bubble LV seems to think people do; even Google's been using a similar approach for a few years now as they focus more on design. They also got on the defensive recently regarding Pixelapse; a product that essentially does the same thing LV does (but better in a few regards), citing that the concept for a "Github for designers" was "stolen" and using screenshots to compare the two, which were both basically Dropbox's sync/manage drop-down.

Allan says Designmodo was not being cooperative in emails on the issue, and I think that's the point where you take it to a blog post with examples of the case you're trying to make, rather than forcing Github to shut down an entire project that goes outside of just the illustrations in question.

Their approach seems less about actually proving their worth by focusing on their product and ignoring outside "competition", and more about trying to shut down those that they feel are a threat to them. Not sure what exactly that says about them or the confidence they have in their own product, but it's a bad attitude to have towards innovation and inspiration.

I really really like LayerVault's style a lot and there's no doubt that Flat-UI is influenced by it, but it's not as if LV created this in a vaccuum. Dribbble (which is my main way of watching design trends) has had this stuff pretty common over the past three years.

They look visually similar. As well as dozens of other pieces/sites.

"Heavily inspired" != copyright infringement. Sorry. Patent infringement would be closer but it is not copyright infringement.

Oh dear. Now I have to stick with Twitter Bootstrap.

Layervault are going after Microsoft now with their "Metro style"... those copycats!

Can someone please summarize for those of us not plugged in to the web UI framework (or whatever this is) community? I'm seeing entities like "LayerVault" and "Flat UI" and products (?) named "trend" that I've never heard of.

Is this an abuse of process I should actually care about or is it just a "who did what?" spit between estranged developers?

This appears to be an abuse of process from LayerVault.

They have a design in a style that's not quite originally theirs-- they've seemingly abused the DMCA to have github remove a completely unrelated UI kit in the same style.

The two items in question are as follows: https://layervault.com/ http://designmodo.github.com/Flat-UI/

Flat UI has (seemingly) been designed and developed completely independently, having nothing to do with LayerVault. No artwork is derived, based-upon, designed by the same artist, etc.

You should care about this because the process is biased towards the accuser. Given no chance to rebut, Flat UI is removed, and disabled. Despite providing his side of the story in the commit comments https://github.com/github/dmca/commit/735e17614cca63102b8414..., the author now has to write a formal counter-takedown notification, and the repository will still be offline for up to 10 days (https://help.github.com/articles/dmca-takedown)

Furthermore, 'designers' and HN users should care because LayerVault runs a 'Hacker News' for designers at https://news.layervault.com/. LayerVault is not the right entity to run this site after these DMCA shenanigans (if in fact no infringement has taken place).

The rebuttal is a DMCA Counter-Notification. They're easy to write and just asset that you do in fact own the copyright, or are otherwise authorised the use the materials that the DMCA notice referred to. Once that's been done, the host has to restore the removed content within a certain time period and the issuers of the original notice have to take action directly against you (as in sue you) if they want to pursue the issue further.

Before we start yelling about "abuse of process" though, we might want to wait for more information about what's actually going on here. It would hardly be the first time one small company has used another company's assets without permission, so perhaps we should see what LayerVault has to say before getting so worked up.

LayerVault has posted details on what they felt was infringing and appears to misunderstand (willfully or otherwise) the purpose of a DMCA notice. There is no evidence that artwork identical to that of LayerVault has been used in FlatUI. While some artwork is similar, that is another issue entirely, an issue outside that of the DMCA.

The host cannot restore that content within 10 days.

10 days can be a long time to have stuff go unexpectedly offline.

Could be the death of a website / community.

  | the host has to restore the removed
  | content within a certain time period
10 ~ 14 days, IIRC.

Yesterday, somebody posted a toolkit [0] on Github Pages consisting of a color pallette and some UI elements that are basically "flat" -- no gradients, drop shadows, etc, just color and shape.

Today, LayerVault [1], a company that makes 'github for designers,' sent a DCMA github a DCMA Takedown Notice [2], claiming that they own the exclusive rights to "the artwork contained within Flat UI."

The creators of Flat UI are disputing this in the linked comment thread, but we do not know if they've actually sent a DCMA Counter-Notification [3].

Incidentally, Flat UI's page probably did violate somebody's copyright, but not necessarily LayerVault's. No, they used part of Big Buck Bunny [4] without proper attribution [5] under its Creative Commons license [7].

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5321603

[1]: https://layervault.com/

[2]: https://github.com/github/dmca/commit/735e17614cca63102b8414...

[3]: https://help.github.com/articles/dmca-takedown

[4]: http://www.bigbuckbunny.org/

[6]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5322357

[7]: http://www.bigbuckbunny.org/index.php/about/

Flat UI (http://designmodo.github.com/Flat-UI/) in an open source project along the same lines as Twitter Bootstrap. or another bootstrappable interface framework.

LayerVault (https://layervault.com/) are a company that provide a version control system for design work.

Thanks. This isn't directed at you personally, more at the community mindpool:

And did Flat UI derive artwork from LayerVault? Is there a connection between the developers? Did they work with the same artist? Certainly some of the icons on the two sites look similar, though I don't see any obvious duplication.

A critically important step in any hot blooded DMCA freakout is verifying whether or not infringement took place. The letter (frustratingly) doesn't point to any specifics but it does at least allege infringement. I can't find a clear denial in the linked thread. So again: should I be upset about this?

To add some context, LayerVault posted a blog post outlining "The Flat Design Era"[1]. While the term has been used before in various context, to me, the post seemed to ignite a lot of discussion in the tech/design community about flat design (and by relation, skeumorphs, etc.,)

LayerVault is a vocal proponent of the "Flat UI" approach and uses it almost as a signature look and feel for their product. In the follow up discussions, the blog post author has said that no post or discussion fully understands what he meant [2].

I can't read the takedown letter or discussion where I am (for some reason github is blocked). But based on what I've seen, the kit is similar to LayerVault's approach to employing Flat UI. That combined with the blogpost, I wouldn't be surprised if LayerVault felt that their look and feel was infringed upon. Obviously, this doesn't mean that they actually were infringed upon in the eye of the law, even if the kit was derived from LayerVault.

As a designer, I can sympathize with LayerVault's issue with the kit (I'm making assumptions), but with such a design, I really wonder how valid their complaint is within the law.

[1]http://layervault.tumblr.com/post/32267022219/flat-interface... [2]Designer News thread that I have no link to at the moment.

I don't have the answers to these questions, but I'm happy I'm not the only one that wants these answered before I jump to conclusions and bash LayerFaul OR the Flat UI people.

They're just claming to be the owners of the style, colors of his work. Meaning you cannot do something with Avenir and Helvetica font, combined with non-glassy graphycs. Something totally absurd, like saying I cannot make a framework inspired on X design movement.

Check what the framework developer said: https://github.com/github/dmca/commit/735e17614cca63102b8414...

"he said that he: "I am the exclusive rights holder for the artwork contained within Flat UI". Liar!."

They're not claiming to own the style or colours, they're claiming that some of illustrations used in FlatUI are illustrations that LayerVault owns the copyright to.

Right. And doing it in a vague way (not specifying WHICH illustrations they supposedly own the copyright to). Most of us who have looked at the illustrations side-by-side see their claim of owning copyright to be unfounded, for lots of reasons:

1) None of the illustrations in Flat UI are identical to LayerVault's illustrations. Derived works? Maybe. But under the law, that's okay.

2) Looking at illustrations from the Noun Project, and color palettes from Google and elsewhere, we see the same similarities that we do between LayerVault and Flat UI. If Flat UI is guilty of copyright infringement as LayerVault asserts, then LayerVault is most certainly guilty of copyright infringement from elsewhere.

3) Copyright isn't even the right legal vehicle for this debate. LayerVault could conceivably deem its icons to be trademarks, and show a likelihood of confusion when compared to Flat UI's icons. But LV using an icon set as a trademark would be unprecedented, and difficult to argue. (And even if that were the case, the Noun Project could just as easily claim LV infringed on their trademark.)

Overall, if LayerVault is claiming they own the copyright to illustrations used in Flat UI, they're flat-out wrong. And that's where the problem comes in - filing a fraudulent DMCA notice is bad business.

Oh yes you're wrong: http://imgur.com/IH1osAD

And http://i.imgur.com/qJXJUaH.png are just proofs than they can't own anything.

Additional to the notes of others, LayerVault have a HackerNews clone of their own called "Designer News".


It makes me happy that Designer News has (what I consider at least) noticeably inferior design to HN.

Have we established exactly which elements are allegedly infringing copyright? I've gone though both websites and I don't see it...

What I personally don't understand is that if DesignModo did actually copy assets from LayerVault, why doesn't LV name said assets and possibly include screenshots or whatever in the DMCA claim? Or make a post about it. Or really, anything that would include the specific information so that people wouldn't be left guessing. As evident by the reactions, not being specific here only serves to make LV's claims seem unsubstantial. I'm personally rather doubtful about their validity for the same reason as well.

Also, I think it's pretty ridiculous that a DMCA takedown can even be "valid" without specifying what exactly was infringed - "I am the exclusive rights holder for the artwork contained within Flat UI, Free Web User Interface Kit" isn't exactly saying much.

Without some extraordinary explanation by Layer Vault detailing an actual theft of files or copying of their actual work, it sounds like Layer Vault just did a major scumbag move that harms designers everywhere.

And that's a shame because I like Layer Vault a lot.

Maybe Hacker News should send you a take down notice for copying HN with "Designer News" aka DN?


Takedown notice was also (briefly) in that site too http://imgur.com/a/u0ez8

Ha, this is totally a bubbly rip off of HN


Whether this is true or false, I see this hurting LayerVault more than it's worth fighting. It will be interesting to see this play out.

Agreed. Imagine if LayerVault had taken a more transparent and community oriented approach and said: hey guys, the flat gui project is really cool and we're delighted that it got inspired by our stuff, namely x, y, z (comparison screenshots).

It makes them look incompetent when it comes to internet law. Any one want to test their "unlimited storage" claim?

You can't copyright a color pallet. You can't copyright an icon concept.

Sending DMCA take-downs without full intent to prosecute and full conviction that your copyrights have been violated is not only illegal but shameful.

For being a design oriented company, LayerVault can't choose type colors worth shit. I can barely read any of the body text on nearly every page of their site.

They need to read up on W3's proposed contrast minimums: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG/#visual-audio-contrast-contrast

What's kind of ridiculous is that LayerVault took a lot of inspiration (I repeat, A LOT) from Hacker News with regards to the design of their discussion site. From the URL, the minimalism, and the link design. Heck, even the name is copied -- Designer News? Really?

I guess pg should send a DMCA takedown notice to them, then.

I thought "look and feel" lawsuits over UI were settled long ago?


From the DMCA takedown letter:

> I am the exclusive rights holder for the artwork contained within Flat UI

That's quite a difference to "look and feel". Right now, there is just not enough information to know what this is all about.

Not sure what "artwork" was copied if any.

If it was icons, I think a court said recently icons cannot be copyrighted?

Ah maybe it was thumbnails cannot be copyrighted.

Congratulations to LayerVault on their biggest day of traffic ever. Whether this brew-ha-ha was intentional or not, a lot more people are now aware of them than before today.

I like browsing their Designer News links on a daily basis, but I would think twice about signing up for a service run by people with questionable character and morals, which is the feeling I am coming away with after reading through this thread.

This whole thing could have been handled a lot better and with far more professionalism.

I can't help but think this sort of thing is going to happen more and more as we move towards a flat/minimalist UI.

I've read comments (not on HN) from people who have endorsed the DMCA takedown because of their personal ethics and morals rather than knowledge of the law. Particularly one who claimed that the similar colour palettes between LV and Flat UI justified the takedown - even though colour palettes themselves are currently not copyrightable subject matter. To win on those grounds you'd need a genius (and crazy) lawyer and a judge who is either asleep at the wheel or bribed. Then you'd lose on appeal anyway.

Colours can be only trademarked. Using that colour is not a copyright violation. Hence no DMCA.

It makes me sad that as we all move towards minimalist design startup founders will need to know IP law better than a few years ago. Some of this is due to trolling and some because of a mislead or otherwise naive understanding of the law like I mentioned above. It's just adding pressure on founders that we don't really need and more work for lawyers.

A lot of us are doing whatever we're doing for the first time and that makes us (potentially) easy targets. A better knowledge of the law in this scenario might have prevented everything from blowing up like it has. But Flat UI and Layervault wouldn't have had as much energy put into the product and so everyone suffers.

Then again I'm in law school right now so at least I know there's a job in all of this if i ever need it :-/

I guess I just wish we could stop bickering about stuff like this and get on with building cool stuff.

I don't care for the whole "flatUI" trend, but I REALLY can't stand this kind of blatant abuse of the DMCA (which itself can be argued to be an abuse of common sense).

I not see any resemblance between layervault project and Flat UI, colors are different, icons too... explain please guys what is the problem?

Maybe if you compare them side by side, I don't know. When I first saw UI Kit however I immediately thought LayerVault had 'open sourced' their design as it looked so similar. I later learned the kit was created by a 3rd party.

I checked the colors and they're different. They may look the same, also square/flat interface is part of Windows 8.

I'm pretty sure colors cannot be protected by copyright.

Whilst (afaik) unrelated to the DCMA claim at hand, it is possible to trademark a specific colour, with plenty of examples at [1], and there have been controversial suits over 'infringement' in the past. My recollection is that colour trademarks are much more restrictive in their coverage than other forms, although I may be wrong there.

Edit: Emphasise the trademark-ability, not copyright-ability, of particular colours/palettes.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/colors-that-are-trademarked-2...

Trademark infringement and copyright infringement are different things. The DMCA only deals with copyright.

Plus, it is actually fairly difficult to trademark a color.

> Trademark infringement and copyright infringement are different things.

Yes, I'm aware of that, and have edited original comment emphasise it. I had vaguely thought there was some provision in the DMCA for remedies for other types of IP infringement as well as copyright, but haven't really looked into it that much. Then again, given how much easier it is to (potentially) infringe some trademarks, the severity of the remedy (immediate takedown, with perhaps later return) does seem like overkill.

I wasn't arguing that it was easy, merely possible. The examples all do seem to be large companies with significant legal budgets and generally strong or exclusive brands though, which does indicate it being quite rare.

Am I the only one here who sees nothing wrong with copying icons? Layer Vault doesn't own the things they freely display for others to imitate.

I'm repulsed at the idea of "owning" a visual depiction of a fucking newspaper.

And yes, I've worked for years of my life as a designer. I know what if feels like to have people copy you.

I'm not into people directly using the exact files I create myself (I mean, do your own work). But I don't think anybody owns the idea of "three cogs", "a newspaper that curls to the left", or "a head with a speech bubble". Don't get me started on things like Coke owning a particular part of the red light spectrum... Value comes from solving problems, not from a font, or a colour, or a texture, or a style.

EDIT: When I say i'm not into it, I don't mean I mind people using things I've made as building blocks for their own creations. I just think if you're going to use something, make something new/better out of it.

The reality is that DesignModo is not new to this.

I have been waiting for this to happen for a while. Their "Bricks UI" is an extremely blatant copy of Google Ventures' web site, and it's weird nothing happened there.

http://www.googleventures.com/ http://designmodo.com/the-bricks-addons/

I'm not on either side, but it's just painful to watch the reactions on HN. It seems like a lot of the commenters were just closed down somewhere waiting for the right occasion to blame some copyright enforcer.

Always With Honor should go after LayerVault. Saul Bass should go after Always With Honor. Picasso should go after Saul Bass.

Any designer that doesn't understand that design is an iterative process, shouldn't be a designer anymore.

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