'Copied' Web site sparks row

An Australian business is being accused of copying its Web site from that of a Korean company - but it claims its site was built using free templates from the Internet

The small Australian broadband ISP Media Web has found itself in the centre of controversy after it was alleged the company had copied the design of its Web site from a Korean-based logistics company.

The issue highlights the potential legal minefield faced by companies which opt to build Web sites using prefabricated templates obtained via the Internet rather than start from scratch.

Media Web chief executive officer, Luke Connell, claimed to have obtained the Web site's template from a US-based company called Free Web Templates, and that any correlation between the design of the Media Web Web site and that used by Hankook Logitech was purely coincidental.

The allegation were posted by participants in the broadband community forum hosted by Whirlpool.

"When I found out about the match I went and looked through the Korean Web site carefully," said Connell. "There's no crossover between the content, and I put my own design on the buttons on the top of the page."

Despite not having obtained legal advice Connell was adamant that he had in no way infringed copyright, and had obtained the template in good faith.

"I have only just launched the business, and I intend to put all the initial capital back into the company, not into building Web sites," Connell said.

Connell went on to say he intended to change the company Web site as soon as possible, so as to avert potential conflict.

Matthew Hall, partner in the IT and intellectual property group for legal firm Phillips Fox, warned against downloading such Web site templates, without entering into a contractual arrangement with the template provider.

"It is important for the company obtaining the Web site to download to obtain the terms and conditions for the site's use which clearly state that the design can be used freely, together with an indemnity from being sued should another company claim rights to the design," Hall said.

Nonetheless Hall pointed out that it would be difficult for a South Korean company to have copyright on its work recognised in Australia, as the Asian country does not subscribe to the Berne Convention, which outlines international legal framework for the protection of copyright.

"At the end of the day, the Korean company would have to prove that their work had been copied and their copyright infringed, and then have the ruling recognised in Australia, which would be very unlikely," Hall said. "They would have to prove that the Australian company had copied the Web site directly from them, rather than obtained it from the US site, which would be very hard to do."

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