Web site expansion for City Council is illegal

Graphics were copied from software maker

January 27, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

One day after the Baltimore City Council announced a high-tech expansion of its Web site, the council was forced to dismantle parts of the page that were illegally copied from a major software maker.

The Council's Web site, at www.baltimorecitycouncil.com, shows a purple and yellow graphic display that is identical to the graphics created by Jasc Software Inc. -- a Minnesota-based company that makes the popular Paintshop Pro software -- for its Web site.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III set up the Web site in October as part of his effort to bolster the council's use of technology and to make it more independent of the city's executive branch. The Web site allows Bell, who is organizing a campaign to run for mayor in this year's election, to increase his public exposure.

On Monday, the council expanded the Web site to include live audio and video broadcasts of council meetings over the Internet. That drew attention from some Web users who noticed that the council's graphics were identical to those created by and for Jasc Software.

David Brown, spokesman for Bell, said the council hired a consulting company for $9,713 to develop its Web site and was unaware that Jasc had a copyright on use of the graphics.

"We were under the impression that we got something original that was ours," Brown said. "We hired a company to do what they were supposed to do. It certainly is not the council's fault."

A spokesman for Jasc said the company doesn't plan to take legal action against the city, but the company asked the council yesterday to remove the copyrightgraphics.

"They're not legally using it," said Jasc spokesman Michael Johnson. "We have been in contact with the Baltimore City Council, and it is our understanding that they unknowingly infringed upon our copyright.

"Pursuing this further will not be necessary since the city plans to comply with our copyright by removing the material in question."

New World Technologies, an Ellicott City consulting company that created the Web site for the council, said it would redesign the council's Web site and have it up and running by tomorrow.

Troy Johnson, a consultant for New World Technologies, said he copied Jasc's graphics because a disclaimer on Jasc's Web site said the graphics could be used "for noncommercial purposes."

The copyright notice states that the text and graphic content can be used if permission is granted; if the content is used for noncommercial purposes; if copyright information is displayed; and if the content is not altered.

Pub Date: 1/27/99

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