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British Government Violates Copyright

Homer's picture

Gordon Brown's Pirate Website
It seems that an agent acting on behalf of the British government has violated the copyright of the software it used to create the PM's spiffy new Website. As much as I utterly despise the entire premise of Intellectual Monopoly, this is about violating the principles of a Free License, and if it's good enough for the British government to violate our civil rights in the name of Intellectual Monopoly, then it's good enough for the Free World to protect its "property" (in fact Freedom) too:

After receiving many emails on the subject, it’s been brought to my attention that my NetWorker theme for Wordpress has been used by the government of the UK, and it seems they’ve not honored the copyright agreement. The theme was released under the Creative Commons 3.0 license, which requires attribution to me whether the theme is modified or not. The link that I place in the footer of each theme I have available, which points to this website, is the attribution that I expect from each website that uses that theme.

The theme has been heavily modified, and looks very different from the original. However, one look at the source files verifies that it is indeed built on NetWorker.

The website in question is apparently the official site of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and boasts protection under Crown Copyright.

~ Anthony Baggett, NetWorker developer.

The agent in question is New Media Maze Ltd. of London, who proudly announce the publication of their "Top Secret Project, namely designing, migrating and building the new Number 10 Downing Street website!" on the front page of their site.

This blatant contempt for Free Software copyrights prompted me to write an official letter of complaint to FACT (the Federation Against Copyright Theft), the UK Intellectual Property Office, and various other interested parties, as follows:

Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2008 02:35:33 +0100
CC: Katie Lydon,
Matt Mullenweg,
Lawrence Lessig,
Catharina Maracke,
UK Intellectual Property Office,
Anthony Baggett
Subject: Creative Commons copyright violation report

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to report a copyright violation which is being committed by the following company:

Dave Smith, Managing Director
New Media Maze Ltd.
2-4 Hoxton Square
N1 6NU

Phone/FAX: 0207 097 3600

The copyright violation occurs on the following Website:

This site is using a blogging application called Wordpress, and a derivative of a theme called NetWorker, which is copyrighted under the Creative Commons 3.0 attribution license (cc-by-sa):

However, New Media Maze have removed the copyright notice from this derivative work (specifically the "footer.php file which displays that copyright notice), and are therefore in violation of the license.

More information from the author of the original work is here:

New Media Maze seem to be claiming that because their theme is heavily modified, that they are therefore not subject to the terms of the original license. This is simply not the case, since their work is still a derivative of the original author's copyrighted work, nonetheless.

I would also direct you to this disclaimer, in which New Media Maze appear to be claiming that they do in fact satisfy the terms of the copyright, however this is false:

The original author's code provides a mechanism (the original footer.php) to clearly display his copyright notice, such that those viewing this copyrighted work are made aware of the copyright owner's identity. The fact that New Media Maze removed that part of the original author's code, indicates a deliberate attempt to obfuscate that copyright attribution and falsely mislead their site visitors into believing the copyright was attributable to another party (in this case The Crown Copyright). The original attribution may still exist in (what equates to) the source for this code, but it is not clearly displayed as per the original author's wishes, as indicated by the presence of the file that New Media Maze deliberately removed. In other words, from the perspective of site visitors, attribution is not being maintained, and the original copyright is therefore not being honoured.

The cc-by-sa states that "such credit may be implemented in any reasonable manner", however it is my contention that implementing credit in such a way that this attribution is not actually displayed to site visitors, is not in fact reasonable, since most site visitors will not know how to view the file containing that attribution (style.css), and the actual copyright notice (footer.php) has been completely removed. This is a clear copyright violation.

I urge you to contact New Media Maze and remind them of their legal responsibilities, which they appear to be making every effort to avoid. This is particularly inexplicable, since the original work is licensed both free of cost and with the granted freedom to modify that work, so New Media Maze only need maintain accurate attribution of copyright in order to comply with these requirements, at no financial cost at all.

In addition to reinstating the original copyright and attribution notice, New Media Maze are also required to release their derivatives of this copyrighted work under the same cc-by-sa license or similar.

"If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same, similar or a compatible license"

As far as I'm aware, Crown Copyright is incompatible with cc-by-sa, therefore this is a secondary violation of the original license.

This infraction of copyright law is especially disappointing given that the Web site in question belongs to the British Prime Minister, and as such brings both the British government and the Crown into disrepute. For this reason I believe that this copyright violation needs to be addressed as a matter of the utmost urgency.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Stay tuned for developments as they unfold.


Anony Mouse's picture

The Facts

You neglect in your article and email to link to my statement of the facts, also failing to link to Anthony's post in which he accepts those facts. Guess those links don't serve your purposes quite so well.

So, if this comment makes it through moderation (surprising how many of my comments on the issue haven't in our so-called blog democracy) here are those all important links, and a short summary of the facts for those who can't be bothered to read the long form version:

In summary:

1. The only file that was drawn upon from Ant’s theme was the css file. Ant accepts this fact:

2. Under Ant’s theme license (CCL), there was no requirement to attribute the work to him in the footer.

3. Under the CCL, he was correctly attributed in the CSS file that was used.

4. Therefore we have abided by the license of Ant’s work.


Dave Smith
New Media Maze

Homer's picture

Read the license ... all of it

"So, if this comment makes it through moderation"

Why I would want to censor you, I have no idea, especially as you seem so good at digging your own grave.

You clearly didn't even read the license for the software you plagiarised:

Such credit may be implemented in any reasonable manner; provided, however, that in the case of a Derivative Work or Collective Work, at a minimum such credit will appear where any other comparable authorship credit appears and in a manner at least as prominent as such other comparable authorship credit.

So tell me Dave, where is the prominent notice of cc-by-sa copyright for your derivative of Athony's work, that is "at least as prominent" as the Crown Copyright notice on No10's Website?

Homer's picture

Hypocricy and Lies

From your own Get The "Facts"® blog entry, you start by admitting that you've "been unsuccessful" in resolving this issue, and end with the lie that "Ant accepts this fact" that "the only file that was drawn upon from Ant’s theme was the css file". He has stated no such thing, in public at least, and if he's "admitted" such a thing in private then that rather overlooks the fact that you've nonetheless removed the original copyright attribution from that theme. Just saying "we don't use that file, so it's OK" is not good enough, I'm afraid. Indeed the omission of that file is the whole point.

Ironically you also point out that you "cannot allow the company’s reputation to be sullied", when in fact it's you who's dragging your own company into disrepute by violating Anthony's copyright.

How hard can it be for you to just do the right thing, and restore the correct copyright notice?


I wonder if Mr. Gordon Brown, our esteemed Prime Minister, will be as "understanding" about the situation, especially given the extraordinary lengths his government is going to by undermining our democracy in the name of Intellectual Monopolies. The stench of hypocrisy and corruption in this farcical affair is overpowering.

Homer's picture

The *Real* Facts

There's nothing in Anthony's response that suggests you haven't actually violated his copyright. AFAICT he's merely apologising for for his behaviour, not the cause of that behaviour. You keep referring to that response as though it's a retraction, but you're perpetuating a lie. It's not a retraction. In Anthony's own words:

The whole thing never would have started had they not made their mistake in the first place. But the bottom line is, I have other things in my life that deserve my focus more than this, and I don’t want to be guilty of affecting someones career negatively if they are telling the truth. I’m sure they’ve learned a lesson from the whole thing.

As for you twisting and slithering around trying to escape your legal responsibilities, the cc-by-sa requires that you preserve attribution, regardless of how you or anyone else wishes to twist it. So please explain to me where the necessary attribution to Anthony's copyrighted work is on this page:

How useful is attribution that nobody ever sees? And how misleading is it, when the only actual copyright attribution on that site is to Crown Copyright?

You deftly removed the copyright information from footer.php, which clearly states who the actual copyright owner is, and now you're trying to twist this into an argument about there not being a "requirement" for that footer in the license. If you removed the EULA dialogue from Microsoft Windows, and replaced it with your own, whilst leaving a copyright notice in a source file that nobody will ever see, do you suppose Microsoft would be quite happy with that situation? How confident are you that they wouldn't unleash an army of lawyers against you?

But then this isn't Microsoft, is it? It's just some hobbyist that you managed to bully into submission.

And through all this you've still never given any justification for why you removed that copyright notice.

Maybe Anthony has given up, but I'm not so easily deterred, and neither I suspect is Larry Lessig. As far as I'm concerned you're a plagiarist, and the Crown (i.e. Her Majesty's Government) is falsely claiming ownership of stolen property. If it hadn't been for some diligent Web surfer examining your sources, no one would have ever known about this, and you'd have happily continued using plagiarised code.

You screwed up ... admit it, and do the decent thing by returning the correct and full attribution to that code, in a way that shows everyone who the actual copyright owner is.

But then you won't do that, will you, because that doesn't serve your "purposes".

Anony Mouse's picture


You cannot just pick and choose bits to source from! The CCL covers the whole theme, you cannot just decide to 'not use' the page that holds the visible attribution and think that is ok.

Look here, Dave:

Stop posting your drivel, and either restore attribution or remove the theme. Simple. I do not understand why you keep posting the link to No where there does it say that he accepts you only sourced from the .css file.

Homer's picture

Yes, very convenient, I'm sure.

"You cannot just pick and choose bits to source from! The CCL covers the whole theme, you cannot just decide to 'not use' the page that holds the visible attribution and think that is ok."

Excellent point.

It's very convenient for Smith that the part he chose to "modify" also included the copyright attribution, but the bit he overlooked just contains a name without an actual copyright declaration.

Is that even legal?

I say ... no.

Pity that Anthony has been brow-beaten into not pursuing the matter any further, or we might have found out for sure ... in court where this case belongs.

Homer's picture

False attribution

"No where there does it say that he accepts you only sourced from the .css file."

Exactly! It's only Smith who's published that claim. It seems he just can't stop falsely attributing things to the wrong people.

Anony Mouse's picture

Last words on the matter

In declining my offer to come in and compare the code for himself (or a local representative), Ant accepts that the code is not his. As I put in my 'facts' post, given that Ant has decided not to, I extend the offer to anyone else (including you) who wants to represent the blog community. Two days later, and guess what? Not one email or call offering to do so... I wonder why that might be?

So i say to you what I said to Ant: put up, or shut up.

I'm in the office next week tues - friday, just call me on the office switch to arrange a time, and you can come in and compare the code on condition that you publish the truth on your blog as prominently as you've published the lies.

On your comment: "The CCL covers the whole theme, you cannot just decide to 'not use' the page that holds the visible attribution and think that is ok."

The point is you CAN because the .css is not a 'substantial part' of the original work and therefore the licence doesn't apply to it. That's how the law works. You don't need a licence because a licence is a right to do something you would not otherwise be allowed to do, and since you would not be infringing copyright by using an 'insubstantial part' you aren't doing anything wrong in law.

Looking forward to receiving your call next week?

Anony Mouse's picture

Substantial Part...

Ohh yeah, the .css file is not a big part of the theme.... Considering its probably the only file which is directly referenced in every other file?

Are you _serious_?

I hope your creating a list of all these statements homer, because it describes pretty clearly the level of ignorance at the top level of NMM. FACT may like to hear them.

Im now off to create windows clone based on windows XP, but with a custom explorer.exe. Everything behind the visible aspects are not substantial, dontcha know? I'm selling it down the market for £20 a pop.

Remind you of anyone?

Homer's picture

NMM's ignorance

Yes, I think it's pretty clear how ignorant NMM are of Free Licensing conduct in general. Here's a hint for them: Free = Freedom + the protection of that Freedom ... not a "free-for-all, every man for himself, leechathon" where we plagiarise from each other without attribution.

And no it didn't escape my attention that despite the "single" nature of that "small" CSS file, it is nonetheless central to the whole site, since it essentially defines every aspect of that's site's layout and appearance.

As I've said before, Anthony may have been brow-beaten into giving up, but I am simply never going to shut up about this until either Anthony's attribution has been restored to it's former state (i.e. actually visible to site visitors), or NMM give up and simply replace all of those files completely. Given the spitefulness with which they've behaved so far, I'm almost 100% sure they'll eventually opt for the latter, rather than do the decent and courteous thing.

Place your bets.

Homer's picture

More lies and contradictions

I'm afraid you don't get the last word on the matter Smith, especially when that last word is bullshit.

So now I understand exactly what you mean by "resolved" when you claim you've settled this case ("put up, or shut up"). That doesn't exactly sound like the amicable resolution you've pretended this was so far. Your true colours are showing.

You expect me to travel 558 miles to your office just to confirm what I already know, that out of 24 files in the original theme package, only three files have been removed. This is rather more of a "substantial part" of Anthony's copyrighted work than you're claiming, but you're still missing the point. It is exactly because of what you've carefully and selectively removed that there's a problem. You can't just arbitrarily strip out a copyright notice and claim that "it's OK because I didn't use that file anyway". That "file" contained the mechanism that displayed the actual attribution that's now missing thanks to your "modification", and the attribution is the whole point of this license. What you've done is stripped out the means to display that attribution and copyright notice from one part of the covered work, but left attribution hidden in another part of that covered work, that will never actually be seen by the visitors to No10's site. Then to make matter's worse, you've then implied by omission of Anthony's copyright notice, that the whole thing is actually the sole property of the "Crown".

That's plagiarism Smith, pure and simple, and with your false claim that the "only file that was drawn upon from Ant’s theme was the css file" you've also proved yourself to be a liar.

Rather than demanding that your accusers travel hundred of miles on your whim, how about you simply zip up the contents of that "modified" networker-10 directory on the Web server, and publish that zip file on your own company's Web site for all to see. Isn't that a lot easier?

I bet you one plane ticket to London that the conclusions drawn by The Open Sourcerer are correct. That's assuming you have the balls to actually publish your plagiarised code in the first place, of course.

Anony Mouse's picture

Fact Checking required

I make it you are out one plane ticket.
See my reply to the Open Sourcerer.

Of course the file names are the same, they are standard WordPress theme filenames.

Homer's picture

Proof required

I think that plane ticket is pretty safe.

Your idle speculation is not proof, since that doesn't actually prove what the contents of those files are.

Show me the source

NMM are required to do this anyway under the cc-by-sa license, so they should have no problem with that, right?

In fact by your own admission you don't know what you're talking about: "Alan, please admit there is no violation here (Anthony does)" - when that is clearly not the case "You are right that Anthony does not state their is no violation (my bad)".

And regardless of whether or not I win that particular bet, the other point is far more important ... that this is still a derivative work regardless of how little of that work has been plagiarised. Copyright covers the entire work, not just conveniently selected parts of it.

Show me the prominent attribution

Get back to me when you have proof, and when the copyright attribution has actually been fixed.