Help, we've been cloned!

by Toby Manhire / 25 February, 2013
In which a Chinese news startup rips off the Listener site's design. And our words, too.
The Tingzhong front page (screengrab via TechInAsia)

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is just bonkers.

In an unlikely exercise in online cloning, a popular New Zealand website has been ripped off wholesale by a Chinese news startup.

And that popular New Zealand website only learned of it after reading a post on Tech In Asia by Charlie Custer.

He writes:

We write a fair amount about copycats — see this story from early last week, for example — but it’s rare you come across one so audacious that it almost takes your breath away. That was what happened to me when, browsing 17Startup’s list of China’s newest startups, I came across ...

Tingzhong is a Chinese startup that was founded in December of last year, and it claims to be “a micro publishing media site with commercial value and influence.” But it’s actually just a run-of-the-mill news website, with a twist: the design, and quite a bit of the content, is copied wholesale from The New Zealand Listener. Tingzhong is so blatant a copy, in fact, that they’re literally still using the Listener‘s logo.

Or, at least, they were.

Shortly after Custer sought comment from the Tingzhong people, the site mysteriously went offline, and remains so at least for the time being.

Which, I confess, is to some degree a disappointment to me. It means I can’t, for example, have a gander at the Chinese version of a post of mine about Kim Dotcom’s day chez Paul Holmes, which appeared on Tingzhong credited to someone called Peter, and was “exactly the same, save that it has been poorly translated into Chinese and the ‘author’ forgot to include most of the images”.

“Tingzhong is a blatant copy,” says Custer.

He concludes:

There’s probably no harm done; the site doesn’t appear to have many readers and I can’t imagine it’s going to attract many. But there is a valuable warning here. Startups often do copy little things, and I’m not sure that’s not such a bad idea. Taking someone else’s idea and making it your own can be a good first step for a startup so long as you’re careful about the balance and you provide credit where appropriate. But if you find yourself copying so much that you’re literally using another company’s logo, you have gone way, way too far. There’s a big difference between a little creative borrowing and straight-up IP theft.


h/t @Pacificraft
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