Friday, August 22, 2008

A New Kind of Plagiarism?

Randy Stapilus of Ridenbaugh Press pointed out today the oddities on State Representative Julie Ellsworth's campaign site. Noting that Mitt Romney was a hit in Idaho throughout the primaries, he was tipped off by a reader that Ellsworth's issues page on her campaign site prominently features the former Massachusetts governor.

A Ridenbaugh Press reader commented on the Mitt love being fascinating, however I am wondering if there is more to it than that. After all, if Ellsworth were attempting to associate herself with Romney for her re-election bid, wouldn't she post a photo of herself with Romney rather than completely lifting the layout and material from Romney's presidential bid website?

Take a look at Ellsworth's 'Issues' page and then take a look at the 'Issues' page on Mitt Romney's website. Look similar? It is completely the same setup and information. In fact, on Julie Ellsworth's page, supposedly setup for state policy issues, there is no mention of her at all. It is a cut-and-paste job from Romney's site. Same can be said of Ellsworth's 'Photos' page and Romney's. You can't click to enlarge any of the images, but the thumbnails confirm that the photos are exactly the same.

Another tab, similarly titled on Romney's site, the "Learn About Julie" tab takes the reader to a biographical page that is not in English. It's simply filler. Please tell me that whomever published this website is not done and didn't expect that on the surface this website would suffice for voters who truly appreciate these type of mediums for campaign information.

Not only do we get a repeat of Romney's site at Ellsworth's page, the design is exactly the same. The general setting and design of the masthead with Ellsworth's name and photo have replaced Romney's logo. Granted, politicians (excluding both Bill Sali and Larry LaRocco, I guess) tend to choose the red, white, and blue theme and understandably so, but they don't usually copy the exact settings of other campaign sites.

What's the big deal? The big deal lies with the designer of Julie Ellsworth's campaign site. Paid for by the campaign and designed by one Larry Landen is a cut-and-paste job that may in fact be plagiarism of Mitt Romney's campaign site. Nobody may have noticed if Mr. Landen had not failed to insert Ellsworth's own talking points and photographs before publishing.

Less than an hour ago, Larry Landen's website offered access to Landen's resume--nowhere on that resume was listed any work or association with the Romney campaign. Presumably, Landen did not design Romney's campaign website, therefore the design and settings were not property of him. Assuming that Landen is looking for a position in the computer design field, wouldn't that be something he would want listed on his professional resume? If I had designed a presidential campaign website you better believe I would list it as professional experience! In addition, a simple Google search nets no results when Landen's name and Romney's are combined in various forms. Romney's website makes no mention of the design being the expressed property of an individual.

The portion of Ellsworth's site that is distinguishably different than Romney's campaign site is clearly amateur in comparison. The tabs that do not take the reader to pages identical to those of Romney either are broken or are under construction. Despite the obvious lifting of material from Romney's site and the very obvious design similarities, Ellsworth's site lists a 2008 copyright. So, who owns the design and material? Looking at Ellsworth's site, you would think that the design, images, etc. are the property of Julie Ellsworth's campaign and Larry Landen. Interesting since Romney's site expressly states: All content © 2008 Romney for President, Inc.

Are Julie Ellsworth and her supporters paying Mr. Landen to design a website that plagiarizes the work of another site, especially one as high profile as Mitt Romney's?


fortboise said...

Clearly a work in progress. The text in "Julie's Biography" is a classic latin text used as a place holder. Google "Lorem ipsum" and you can fetch as much filler as you like.

The "issues" page is obviously copied, but we would expect it to be edited (sooner rather than later). contact.php is a blank page at the moment. The "poster" showing on the Home and other pages looks like the only Ellsworth-specific content.

Tara A. Rowe said...

Tom, I'm aware of what Lorem ipsum is. A few years of Latin under my belt. I was more or less pointing out how bizarre it is that anyone would publish this without at least completing enough of it that it is actually beneficial to the campaign.

"The "issues" page is obviously copies, but we should expect it to be edited (sooner rather than later)."

Right, but does that make it any more or less the copyright of Ellsworth? They still lifted an entire website design, information, and images and are using them as their own--some of which will be replaced, but can we expect the entire website to be redesigned?