British Government Caught Pirating On Prime Minister’s Website

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While the British government puts huge amounts of pressure on ISPs to clamp down on file-sharers, it is doing some pirating of its very own. It seems that Prime Minister Gordon Brown's own website is in serious breach of copyright, as it is based on a ripped-off Wordpress theme.

top gearThe issue of copyright is a hot one in the UK right now and the government isn’t scared of getting involved. It has been putting huge amounts of pressure on ISPs to take action against alleged music file-sharers, so imagine, if you will, the beautiful crimson color Prime Minister Brown’s face will turn today when he is declared a pirate too.

Amongst other things, Anthony from makes WordPress themes – he gives them away for free but if someone wants to donate, they can. His work is released under Creative Commons 3.0 license, which means that if someone wants to use a theme ‘as is’ or modified in some way, they are required to credit him. A link in the footer of every theme he creates points back to Anthony’s site – this is the minimum attribution he expects, which is pretty damn reasonable.

So imagine Anthony’s surprise when he discovered that his NetWorker theme for WordPress had been used by the British government without honoring the Creative Commons license. The theme has been heavily modified, including the removal of all links back to his site, but Anthony has been able to verify from the source files that Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s own website is in fact built on NetWorker.

It is clear that Brown’s site indeed uses the Anthony’s theme – violating the Creative Commons license. Not only was the link to the the original removed, Brown’s site should have also made their version available under a similar license – share alike.

Still, the site even claims it is protected by Crown Copyright – a quick look at the CSS for the theme should dispel that myth.

Anthony sent an email to the company who developed the site who claimed that although they did some testing on the NetWorker theme, they then rebuilt it from scratch. Unfortunately, according to Anthony “they failed to remove the credits in the CSS file that named the theme ‘NetWorker’ or to change the theme folder which is named ‘NetWorker-10’ (Networker version 1.0).”

There is a campaign running in the UK right now featuring “Knock-Off Nigel” along with cringe-worthy videos depicting this fictitious character as some kind of social outcast.

One would think that Mr Brown would avoid the sort of behavior that could easily make him the star of the next campaign but if it’s good enough for the MPAA, it must be good enough for him.

Update: We were contacted by Dave Smith, Managing Director of New Media Maze, the creators of the Number 10 site. He has a full statement on this issue which is available here, but in summary, here is his explanation, in his own words:

1. The only file that was drawn upon from AntÂ’s theme was the CSS file, a fact that we have never denied.

2. Under AntÂ’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 AntÂ’s work and are not guilty of ‘ripping off’ anyone’s work.

For his part, Anthony doesn’t wish to prolong the conflict. Click here for an update from him.


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