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How Not to Launch a Blog – The story of an Amateur Blogger

Posted By Darren Rowse 23rd of January 2006 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

I’ve been a little hesitant to talk about this on ProBlogger but in the last two hours I’ve had 30 emails about it so thought rather than responding to each one personally I should make a statement before things go much further.

The story is that a blog called AmBlogger.net has started a blog that until I woke up this morning looked virtually exactly like ProBlogger.net (except what you see here as Orange was blue, some names were changed and there were a few poorly formatted bits and pieces).

If you go have a look now you’ll notice that Vince Chan the blogger concerned has now deleted the three menu boxes at the top of the blog so it is a little different – but the similarities are pretty obvious. update: You can see a screen cap here of his design (now changed) after the three boxes were deleted.

I saw this blog a few days ago and shot Vince Chan an email raising my concern. I didn’t demand he stop using the design but made it clear I was not happy with it. Previously when people have stolen designs from me an email like this has been replied to with an apology and a commitment to change the blog design immediately.


In this case no apology was forthcoming and Vince replied with an email saying he didn’t have time to reply adequately at that time but that he’d come back to me within 48 hours. His response came within that time but rather that coming via email it appeared on his blog with an excerpt from my email to him.


About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Again, all for the sake of controversy. That’s pretty evident through your constant registration of “classy” domain names – what’s new?


  2. As a former practicing attorney, maybe I can shed some light on a few misconceptions here. This is based on US law, but Australian copyright law is fairly similar.

    Code *is* protected by copyright from the moment is comes into existence. Since Rachel made the code for hire, Darren owns that copyright.

    People who don’t think a stylesheet is legally protected are woefully misinformed, and if you steal from people less tolerant than Darren, your ass can and will be sued.

    Also, regarding damages, sometimes actual damages do not have to be proved. In the US if your copyright is registered (which can be done at any time befor suit is filed) you may be able to recover money damages without proving actual loss.

    The law is designed that way to stop people from stealing and then getting out of it by arguing “it didn’t hurt.” Infringing on copyright can have intangible bad effects, and the law wants to discourage that as well.

    So… other than for substantial modifcation or for “inspiration” only, keep your hands off of other people’s code.

    Also, just to alleviate any confusion, my current blog is about “copywriting,” which is different than “copyright.” Unfortunately, some people are not sure what the difference is.

  3. Brian…

    You have me a little confused as over the last ten years I’ve been designing sites and following web design discussions, the consensus (as lawyers/attorneys have piped in) seemed to be that yes, programming code (has logic and all kinds of other unique things in it) is copyrightable but HTML/CSS is not really “coding”, it’s “tagging” and hence not copyrightable. It’s like the tags put in a manuscript to make text bold, italic, etc. The words/story are copyrightable but the tagging isn’t. Your thoughts.

    Also, having been in the design business for 30 years, I’ve always been told (by attorneys) that the actual underlying “layout” is not copyrightable, only the words, art, photography within that underlying grid/layout are…Have I been talking to the wrong attorneys all these years?

  4. That’s wht I get for chiming in with legal stuff! The explanation is never quite thorough enough for the informed observer!

    OK, here’s the deal. A stylesheet by itself may or may not be copyrighted, meaning, I could take the actual tags and reprint them somewhere, perhaps in a tutorial, and not be in trouble.

    BUT.. if I steal stylesheet code and implement it together with other php files to recreate a knockoff of someone else’s design, then I *have* done a bad thing.

    The stylesheet dictates the visual presentation of a template. Taken as a whole, all the parts working together are very much protected by copyright.

    This is what Vince did. He didn’t take Darren’s CSS and publish it so everyone could see what great code Rachel writes.

    He stole it to create a near replica. And what he did does not qualify as a fair use parody, because his goal was not to critique or ridicule ProBlogger or Darren.

  5. Darren’s layout is also protected by trademark law, which would be an alternative cause of action to copyright claims.

  6. First of all a web design is art and, therefore, should be copyrightable. If current laws state that a web design can be ripped off by a simple right-click save then that law needs to be changed.

    Second, I have designed many many websites and I know how annoying and difficult it is to sometimes get your site just right. A lot of time and money was spent creating, testing and maintaining this site. It is completely unfair for anyone to swoop down and steal it and paste it on his/her own site. Why should other people let you use their hard work and not even get any recognition?

    I can’t believe that I’m having to explain this since it is blatantly obvious.

    I truly hope that the “Spanish Avenger” post was made to provide comic relief in a serious thread such as this. If he’s serious then well.. he still ended up providing comic relief. :D

  7. I think that when it comes to the web and wordpress designs it can get tricky as wordpress is free and many of the templates are free. Now darrens wasnt it was designed for him so its more unique so I can understand why he got peeved.

    It wasnt just your usual 2 colum blog or 3 column blog there are some very distinct differences on this blog that I havent seen anywhere else intill i saw the other chaps blog..

  8. […] A lot of noise is being made about AmBlogger stealing the design of ProBlogger. […]

  9. When Blog Theft Gets Plain Old…Old

    ‘m still not over people that just steal others content without permission. I’m not talking blockquotes eigther folks. I was reminded yet again of how people just blindly copy content today from ProBlogger. A blog pop-upped using the same design of P…

  10. I think the problem is really in the medium more than anything else. When it is so easy to copy something, people are going to do just that. I always smile a bit when some people put up pictures on the web and tell people to not to copy them. It is just too easy, and information wants to be free.

    If someone copied my content I would just take it as an compliment and hope for a link back to my page. It seems like Darren is pretty relaxed about the whole thing too. And if it was just linkbait it worked. Now I have another blog to check out from time to time :) I still think I will visit Problogger.net more. At least as long as Vince Chan doesn’t all of a sudden start to put out lots of original quality content

  11. […] This is elementary. Why steal? Whatever it is, just do not steal. Not even the design of one of the most popular blogs around. Anyway, read more about how this guy stole Problogger’s design. […]

  12. […] Something was bothering me about the whole amBlogger/proBlogger fit yesterday. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on till this morning and now it feels like an elephant in the room. […]

  13. I currently do not have a website or even a blog; however, I am doing extensive research on blogging so when I do launch my blog I can do so with a basic understanding of “how to do it right”. I believe Vince was absolutely wrong to copy problogger. I am and will remain loyal to problogger.

  14. […] Winds of controversy have been blowing again. This time over a blogger who set up a site called Amblogger–to mean Amateur Blogger–and took the exact code for the design from Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger site. The stolen version is no longer up, but Darren has a screen shot in his discussion of the incident. I won’t recap the story that will be retold. […]

  15. […] Yes. Late last year I stumbled on a blog called College Startup which led me to a number of other blogs about blogging. Blogs like ProBlogger by Darren Rowse, MakeEasyMoneyWithGoogle by Eric Giguere, Performacing, and a few others. I’ve read about how people developed their blogging careers, their great advice to novice blogger wannabes, do’s and don’ts of blogging, blog monetization capabilities, etc. What I learned from them is that if you have passion and commitment, can write and have common sense, you can do it. And you can earn some money from it. Or, if you are good, you can even have a pretty good life from blogging. Also, you really can’t lose. Even if you fail – it’s a good learning experience and doesn’t cost you much. […]

  16. […] This obscure person stole a template from this widely read blog, with minor changes made. Of course, designer of blog finds out and is annoyed. There follows a stream of publicity for the obscure person. Note that all the comments on his blog are on these two posts relating to the incident. Another success. And again, not easy to repeat. […]

  17. I hate to break it to you darren, but AmBlogger isn’t the only one stealing your template:

    Check out http://www.ipodbloggers.com/

  18. yes unfortunately it seems to be becoming more popular to do this. I’ve tried to reason with them also but have heard nothing. Very frustrating. I’m a bit over fighting over it though – if people can live with themselves for doing so and are willing to live with the consequences of being caught out then I guess they’ll continue to do it….

  19. […] The dust has barely settled on the Vince Chan AmBlogger fiasco (you remember Vince — he thought it would be a good idea to steal Darren Rouse’s ProBlogger template), and now the JOAB posse is back in effect. […]

  20. perfect site good information, very nice news and etc… tnx

  21. […] It seems once a thief, always a thief. Way back in the not so distant past of January this year a blogger by the name of Vince Chan stole the design of Darren Rowse’s Problogger. After somewhat of a storm in the blogosphere Vince yielded to the weight of public opinion and changed his design. […]

  22. Darren,
    Looks like our friend has gone and done it again. His blog Investorial.com lifted the stylesheet from Ben Bleikamp over at insidewii.net

    Pretty sad that he didn’t learn his lesson the first time.

  23. Personally I don’t see what you think you can copyright. The color of your bars and bg colors below them and the text color? Lets get realistic. There is no extensive design here nor is there elements on the blog that can really be copyrighted.

    Web designers are always looking around for nice color combinations that appeal to them. Yes, he probably came to your site looking for info, seen your sidebar and said I like those colors and used them. Other than that I think if you want copyright protection, your design needs to be much less generic.

    Right now all I see you doing is sending a bunch of traffic his way over something that should really be a non issue. Copyright is for original creative works, not the way you combined 3 colors on your sidebar.

    Blogging in its very nature, is a huge community with 1000’s of people using the same designs and layouts – what would make Vince think there was something wrong with using your color scheme and sidebar layout?

  24. Hey Henry – thanks for the comment but this is a pretty old post – 1 year yesterday. We’ve resolved it now :-)

  25. […] because he cloned the design of problogger.net. This story is about Amblogger.net who created a buzz by copying the design of Problogger.net. This Amateur blogger Vince Chan launched his blog by copying the design of Problogger.net. I […]

  26. […] a look at some of these outside resources that might help you with other pre-launch ideas: How not to launch a blog, Tips for a Successful Launch, How To Start a […]

  27. I just don’t understand how people don’t see content theft as THEFT. While it’s somewhat flattering to have someone think your design is worth stealing, it’s just so rude and lazy.

  28. I agree Jen, I get steamed when I see my work/content being used by someone else.

  29. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it’s still just so irritating to have someone copy what you’ve worked hard to achieve.

  30. Sorry you had to deal with this.I hate it when people cannot be original. I agree that there are only a few ways to do a blog, but you canalways make it somewhat original.

  31. Just read this a year or so late, but thought it was interesting. Very nice blog.

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