I've been robbed.

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I’m not sure whether to feel abused or proud. I’ve just stumbled across someone who took my work and is passing it off as their own.

Back in 1998, I came across a JavaScript-powered Memory game written by Martin Staflund. The basic mechanics of the game worked fine, but there was a lot of nifty features that I wanted. So I took the code and started adding features, cleaning up code, and making it generally more customizable. Web promotion guru Jim Wilson asked me if he could use the game on his site and let his readers copy it for their sites and quite a few people ended up using it.

I’d nearly forgotten about that game until today when someone asked me for a copy of it. Curious to see who was using it, I did a few Google searches for various parts of the code and turned up a couple of sites that use it. One of those sites in particular caught my eye.

BigBad is a Web development company with a section of their site called “WebToys” that has games and fun stuff:

While WebToys are fun, they are created to convey the innovative technical proficiency that is behind the projects that we do. Further, WebToys demonstrate the collaboration between developers and designers that happens behind the scenes. Also, we like to build fun things.

You guessed it, one of those WebToys is my Memory game. It’s not that I mind them using the code — that’s why I created it. What I’m unhappy about is that they are passing the work off as their own to show potential clients the quality of “their” work.

Looking at the source code of the game, it even still has a comment inserted by Internet Explorer when they saved the page from JimWorld to their computer: “saved from url=(0038)http://jimworld.com/memory/memory.html”

I’m willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt. Elsewhere on their site, the code is credited to “Tim Seit, Applications Developer, BigBad.” Perhaps Mr. Seit didn’t tell his employers that he didn’t actually write any of that code. BigBad may be blissfully unaware of this mis-step.

In that case, BigBad, if you’re reading this and need some high-quality application development, let me know. I’m sure we can work together.

Update: It seems I’m not the only one who has been ripped off. BigBad’s A Better Mousetrap was developed by Karl Meissner and the code still contains his copyright, but clicking the About link on the game indicates that BigBad built it.

A Better Mousetrap was designed by Brian Short, Senior Technologist, BigBad, and Melanie Hannon, Designer, BigBad, using client-side Javascript, and server-side Active Server Pages.

The Line It Up slider puzzle was originally built by Port80. BigBad removed the original copyright, but a quick Google for some of the code contents turns up a site that also uses the slider but was decent enough to keep the copyright.

And just in case the page disappears, just remember that Google tends to remember such things. And even though the Wayback Machine doesn’t have a copy of the page, it might later.

Trackback from inluminent/weblog
March 31, 2003 8:44 PM

Ever Steal Code? Be careful if you do...

Excerpt: Ugh... oh how a thief must feel after being caught stealing someone's code. Adam Kalsey has publicly shamed a thief.

Ed
April 5, 2003 11:21 AM

I took a look at their list of clients and thought that if the MIT Sloan School of Management was one of them that they might not appreciate soliciting services from thiefs. Did you send them an email or any correspondance about their actions?

Trackback from Frenetic Mind
April 16, 2003 1:53 PM

stealing is bad business...

Excerpt: Funny thing happened today. I was just looking around the web last week for a company that might do the

Brian Phelps
December 13, 2004 4:43 PM

It's not clear if you've contacted BigBad and advised them of the problem. If not, you have no place to squawk. It's possible your code went through many hands before Mr. Seit came upon it.

darren Mauro
April 1, 2005 10:49 AM

As fellow software developers, we appreciate Mr. Kalsey's concerns over proper attribution for intellectual property. As Mr. Kalsey points out, a number of the WebToys on our site leverage code or algorithms developed by third parties. In each case, the third party contribution was a code sample made freely available on the Web and its developer has encouraged and suggested reuse of the code. However, since this issue has come to our attention (not directly from Mr. Kalsey but through a third party), we have reviewed the way that each of these is presented. While our review determined that there was no intent to misrepresent who was responsible for which portions of the work, we have also identified that some of the WebToys did not completely adhere to the original developer's request for how the code was credited or could benefit from more visible attribution where third-party code was leveraged. We have made updates to each of the three WebToys mentioned that leverage the work of third parties to clearly indicate this in prominent positions within each application as well as in code comments, according to the specific requests of each original developer. While some of the WebToys contain reused code, we believe that each WebToy represents a unique product of BigBad's concept for how the third-party element combined with original visual design, theme/message, and often additional new code can together provide an entertaining example of the power of the Web to engage, entertain, and inform. This was our intention all along and we have attempted to clarify this purpose on the WebToys page as well. If any of the original developers feel that their contributions have not been properly represented, we welcome a direct dialogue with the concerned party, as this is more likely to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution more quickly than an indirect forum like this one. BigBad

Adam Kalsey
April 1, 2005 11:09 AM

Of course my initial email requesting that the problem be taken care of went unanswered two years ago when I sent it. But once a search for "BigBad" started turning up negative results, then something needed to be done about it, right?

Lanny
January 28, 2006 3:46 PM

You may not believe this but the same thing is happening to a lot of people. 30 years ago I wrote a unique, non-interference performance monitor for a mainframe which the manufacturer just lifted an put into their operating system. They were not selling the code, just the machines with the OS. About 100 000 of them :-(

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