1 Tip for Startups: Don’t Steal Design Assets

David Heinemeier Hansson's comment: "At least Curebit really mixed it up on their signup page." Photos via DHH's yfrog.

So this blew up over the weekend: A startup called Curebit was accused of copying its web design from 37signals‘ Highrise. And not only did the layout, hierarchy and buttons look eerily similar—it was revealed that Curebit had straight up linked to the images hosted on 37signals’ website. 

Curebit is a customer referral system that lets merchants more easily promote through social media marketing. They just raised $1.2 million in funding, so you’d think they could enlist a freelance designer with a good understanding of intellectual property for a couple days. 

David Heinemeier Hansson, a partner at 37signals and the inventor of Ruby on Rails (how many years of experience does he have? All of them), was pissed, obviously, and Twitter was the scene of the fight. Some highlights:

Then Curebit apologized to 37signals today:

Recently we launched a site with several pages copied from 37signals’ Highrise. We did more than take inspiration from their design – we actually used html & css code, and hotlinked to images on their site. We apologize to David and 37signals for ripping off their work. It was stupid, lazy, and disrespectful of their creative efforts. It’s particularly painful for us to have done this to 37signals because they are big heroes of ours. We just hope they will accept our apologies.

VentureBeat reports, though, that Curebit also used music from a San Francisco musician for a demo video without his consent. 

The bottom line: No matter how small your staff or budget is, there is never any excuse for plagiarism. 

Edited 2/2 to add: The hilarious 67signals.com site popped up on our radar this week, though it apparently was put up in 2010. 

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