On Plagiarism, Piracy in Design, and the HTC Themes Outrage

On Plagiarism, Piracy in Design, and the HTC Themes Outrage

Android has matured by leaps and bounds as a mobile platform, winning the hearts of consumers worldwide and quickly establishing its dominance in the sphere, while simultaneously spreading to other ones.

While Andy Rubin’s brainchild does offer a host of options and variety that its competitors lack, the winning feature of Android is undoubtedly its customization options and the sandbox-like ecosystem which allows it to happen

The HTC Themes Outrage


HTC Themes is the Taiwanese manufacturer’s take on bringing a curated collection of themes, icon packs and wallpapers to Sense users, and has become quite popular in that clique. Recently, a Google+ user reported seeing a number of icon packs and themes on the store were originally works of the acclaimed Tha PHLASH. PHLASH handled it professionally, reaching out to HTC via multiple channels, but much to the woe of him and the community, the Themes store staff failed to respond. In the time since then, HTC has been tagged, emailed, mentioned and tweeted at in a widespread attempt to justify the wrong done, but to no avail.

Piracy in Design


Creative Design
Creative design, which consists largely of subcategories like graphic design, icon design, wallpaper design, et al, is the hub of piracy, theft and plagiarism in the design ecosystem, given the ease with which the act can be carried out. From masking and clipping with batch processing to color changes and blatant duplicates from showcase sites, the creative design sector has seen its fair share of scandals. The Android theming community on Google+ and Reddit is a tight-knit group, and on more than one occasion has been rocked by piracy and plagiarism misconduct.
Interface Design
While interfaces cannot be pirated per se, plagiarism runs rampant among its community. Layouts, visual styles, aesthetic theming, and other UI elements are often the brainchild of a designer thinking out-of-the-box, but once a certain element gains enough popularity, variants or even direct manifestations of it are bound to be spotted in the wild. Take, for example, Tinder’s card-stack layout, which gained traction at a tremendous rate and now exists in a host of apps, albeit some have their own spin to it.
Experience Design
Experience design remains the class of design most impervious to any form of infringement.  This category of design consists of a language that designers are continuously uncovering each day, a language that appeals to human being and conducts a subtle underlying conversation with the user’s consciousness, a language that is discovered and not created. As such, aside from the occasional blatant copy, experience design remains, for the most part, idiosyncratic to its creators.

When Piracy Reared its Ugly Head…


The Android theming community has seen its fair share of wrongdoings in numerous forms, with some of the most prominent instances of plagiarism and theft being the uprising when supposed designers decompiled relatively simple icon packs, used them as base shapes, added filters and masks, and released new packs under their own developer account. Another exemplar of classic design plagiarism is the blatant recreation of existing designs then amended and redistributed by the offenders, with this occurrence being boosted by design showcase sites like Dribbble, Behance and MaterialUp.

However, the close-knit theming community has ensured that during trying times, no developer or designer is isolated and left to deal with the subsequent fallout alone, showing remarkable solidarity by banding together to reach out to all viable sources through all possible channels, giving the issue at hand the utmost visibility and attention that such matters necessitate.


About author

Faiz Malkani
Faiz Malkani

Faiz Malkani is a designer committed to creating memorable digital experiences augmented by delightful interfaces. He's been working in the design field for over three years and is proficient in experience design and interface design. He also codes occasionally, with Android and Frontend Web being his preferred platforms.