One of the reviews for Deborah Griffin, Scottsdale AZ Realtor reads:
HONEST & LOYAL: I found Deborah to be very focused, results-oriented, and a person that demonstrates a great work ethic. She is a highly motivated individual, remarkably intelligent, honest and loyal. I would highly recommend anyone the opportunity to work with her…[emphasis mine]
What if I told you that it appears Deborah Griffin is a common thief, of the worst variety? One who not only tries to profit from another’s labor, but one who has no problem stealing from people she knows, intimately…
As most of you know, ha media builds custom sites for real estate professionals for a living, among other things. Everything we design is done for that specific client, one a time. The clients who hire us want to stand out. They want their marketing to look and feel like them alone. That’s what we promise and that’s what we deliver.
One of these clients is an agent in Fountain Hills, AZ, Patti Irwin. About a year ago we released her brand new site, http://realestatefountainhills.com, a custom responsive design with IDX Broker integration. Here are a few screenshots for the curious:
Two days ago we ran across this site belonging to Deborah Griffin: http://coolscottsdalehomesforsale.com, which, according to Google, was published on March 15th of this year.
Here are a few screenshots of Deborah’s site.
Ms Griffin went so far as to copy not only every tool we used in building Patti’s site (including custom settings for those tools, such as custom fields we used in the WP Reviews plugin), but she blatantly stole every element, down to the price breakdowns of custom search links and their naming conventions, the entirety of the navigation, form, layout, meta titles and descriptions and pretty much everything else she and or her designer could figure out how to steal. You’d think that if one was trying to steal a website in its entirety, they would not be quite so brazen and, at the very least, would create their own background image. But even here, the photo of the cactus that our client took was appropriated, albeit lazily, into the background of Deborah Griffin’s website. As if it was so hard to take photos of cactus in Arizona…
Whenever a conversation about stolen designs, images or content takes place, the advice dished out tends to revolve around pursuing legal avenues for getting the stolen content removed. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is in some cases advisable to send a C&D to the offending party and maybe even file a DMCA with the hosting provider, or sue for monetary compensation. While in most cases the offending party will indeed comply and remove the stolen work, we don’t believe that to be a sufficient lesson, nor does it do much to protect service providers like us and our clients from future theft.
So with that in mind, we believe that every creative professional has the RIGHT to protect their work from being stolen and that every client who retains the services of a creative professional to design something that will be UNIQUE to them, has the right to protect and defend the assets they had paid for.
We charge a lot of money for what we do for our clients, commensurate with the time and effort we spend on each project precisely because at the end of the day our clients will have something that nobody else has. What Deborah has done here was not just an insult to Patti, but it is injurious to the survival of businesses like ours. It dilutes the value of the work that we do.
If anyone reading this finds it tempting to appropriate any of our work for their benefit, we will find out, and we will out you publicly. If you happen to sell real estate for a living and you choose to steal content, images or design from anyone, you will be branded as a thief, and…
I have yet to meet a consumer who’d want a thief to handle their most important financial transaction or a broker who would knowingly hire one.
I’m sure some of you will tell me that I should have handled this differently. That I should have maybe started with a phone call to Deborah Griffin or a nice email, followed by a C&D and on and on, all in an attempt to have our stolen work removed from the internet. I don’t think that would be fair to me, or to my client. You see, I believe that putting any undue burden on the injured party is insane. I think that the only person who should feel any discomfort, and hopefully, shame, should be the guilty party.
Some of you might also try to suggest that maybe Deborah Griffin simply hired a designer to build a website for her and was unaware that the site was pretty much a direct thievery of an existing site that we built for Patti. I am pretty certain that this will indeed be the defense that Deborah Griffin employs, should she run across this post, but it doesn’t wash for me. Deborah knows Patti. They work in the same office, and as recently as a year ago, they were talking about designing their sites and sharing ideas and such. They were friends.
This makes this incident even more disgusting in my eyes. And it makes my heart ache for the hurt my client must be feeling. This isn’t about the money. It’s about that very basic line of decency that should never be crossed, certainly not by members of the Real Estate profession, the ones who subscribe to a Code of Ethics that is supposed to make consumers trust in their honesty and integrity. I read the review of Deborah Griffin today that is copied at the beginning of this piece, and the two words: “honesty and loyalty” made me sick to my stomach.
Honesty and loyalty indeed. Et Tu, Brute
(Note: If you are reading this post days or months after its publication and the offending site content has changed or was removed, know that the offense has happened, and this post simply being an account of said offense, shall remain, no matter what course of action Deborah Griffin takes.)
UPDATE 1, May 1st, 2013: Prompted by the DMCA notice from the hosting provider, Deborah removed the cactus picture. Sadly, nothing else has been changed on the site, nor has there been an apology to our client.
UPDATE 2, May 2nd, 12:15 a.m.: HostGator suspended Deborah Griffin’s site, after receiving multiple DMCA notices. We’ll keep an eye on it to see if Deborah realizes the errors of her ways and builds or purchases a website that doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights, or simply chooses to move the site to a different hosting provider. Thanks for reading, all, and the many comments here and elsewhere on the net.