Stealing a book, according to Chinese proverbs, may be an honorable offense, but copying a website is not — or so administrators at China's Renmin University admitted when they removed a website that heavily borrowed from Princeton's own homepage design.
Less than 48 hours after being contacted by a reporter, the Philosophy School at Renmin changed its website, http://sph.ruc.edu.cn/en, from a clear imitation of Princeton's site — including its orange and black color scheme, nearly identical structure and similar font — to a plain-text page that simply says, "Updating..." Han Donghui, an associate professor in the Philosophy School, responded shortly after being contacted by The Daily Princetonian and attempted to explain the reuse of Princeton's original design.
"Thank you for your reminding or warning us," he said in an email, before proceeding to describe the process by which the website was created.
"When we were about to build the English version [of the site] ... in April, our designer, a student in the school, searched the internet and downloaded some website templates," Han said. "We chose one as ... our template with small revisions."
Evidently, officials did not notice that the designer had borrowed directly from another university: "Later, we found out that it is or looks very much [like] the Princeton University website," Han explained, "but we did not change it in time because we didn't think there would be anyone visiting [the website]."
The version of the website that appeared had apparently been posted as a trial but was not taken down. "Actually, it has not been updated for about half a year, and we nearly all forgot about it," Han said.
Han did not mention whether the Philosophy School had spoken directly to Princeton administrators, who had expressed some concern about Renmin's webpage. He did, however, offer an apology.
"As the webmaster, I am certainly very sorry for that and apologize for what we did ... and we will build a new website," he said. "It is a lesson for us and we'll never [commit] the same error again."
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