Check out this WordPress Q&A Plugin by WPMU Dev. They have completely ripped off the Stack Overflow design in their plugin, even down to the details like the accepting answers tick and tabs.

What's worse is that they are charging $79 a month to have access to this plugin, essentially profiting by copying the SO design (and concept, but I understand you couldn't copyright that).

Just to make this a question: Is this allowed/legal?

  • 18
    Wow. Not only do they copy the SO design down to the pixel; they also introduce their product with You've seen how engaging, informative, and just plain fun Q&A sites such as Quora can be. That's cold.
    – Pekka
    Apr 26, 2011 at 16:04
  • 5
    Pretty blatant rip-off. A short letter from a lawyer should result in changes to the template/theme. It's not like it would be hard for them to differentiate, but they had to go out of their way to copy it so exactly. And, frankly speaking, I'm used to the Stack Overflow UI, but it can most certainly be visually improved by a good designer. It always baffles me when people decide that the best course of action is copying, rather than improving. Stand on the shoulders of giants and reach higher, don't waste time merely reaching their height!
    – Pollyanna
    Apr 26, 2011 at 16:20
  • 4
    It might not be illegal but it sure is a dick move.
    – CanSpice
    Apr 26, 2011 at 16:24
  • 3
    Awesome. It's got the old look and feel. :-)
    – tvanfosson
    Apr 26, 2011 at 16:52
  • 3
    I'm not sure what to think when the first thing I notice in the banner is that Stack Overflow is missing the space.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Apr 26, 2011 at 16:59
  • It looks like they finally make mention of SO (and link to it) in a post made just today. At least SO is mentioned before Quora. The whole thing is still a little tasteless. When the MathWorks made their own SO clone they at least put enough effort into changing the style to make it look more MathWorksy. Apr 26, 2011 at 20:00

4 Answers 4


Hi, I'm the developer of the WordPress plugin in question.

I used the StackOverflow design as a placeholder. It was never meant to be used in the final version of the plugin.

I shouldn't even have made available a testing version until a proper design was in place. For that, I apologize.

I've sent a memo to the rest of the Incsub team so we get this sorted ASAP.



May have deleted the old one; jump in the new deal: http://wpmu.org/questions/how-much-should-i-charge-for-a-blatant-theft-of-stackoverflows-look-and-feel/

Once again


From the footer (emphasis mine):

site design / logo © 2011 stack exchange inc;

So at the very least, they could be brought to task over copyright infringement. But given that Jeff and Co. haven't actively pursued any action against clones like OSQA (which also more or less copy look and feel, just with different color schemes), one might say they aren't defending their copyright.

The legal page does not address proper/acceptable use of the copyrighted site design, only logos and names.

edit: (struck out the part that only applies to trademarks and not copyrights, source)

  • 2
    I don't think they can do anything against OSQA and consorts (nor do I think they should) - the basic look and feel is probably not protectable. A 1:1 copy this blatant may be a different thing however.
    – Pekka
    Apr 26, 2011 at 16:07
  • 1
    @Pekka yeah I'm no expert there, but I actually redacted that part because it only applies to trademarks and not copyrights anyway, I don't think you can ever forfeit your copyright Apr 26, 2011 at 16:08
  • Forfeiture of your copyright is possible in some jurisdictions. It is called a public domain dedication. It has to be done explicitly though. Jul 4, 2020 at 13:34

I know this a really old question, but since it does not have an actual answer:

In the USA, software is legally classified as a system which means it is not protected by copyright or patent laws the way you would expect. You can make a program that exactly mimics the features of another program in every way as long as you don't do the following:

  1. Copy source code from the other program against its licensing agreement.
  2. Copy "literary" content from the other program. This would be large blocks of text in or associated with the program copied verbatim such as documentation, articles, etc. This falls under plagiarism law; so, paraphrasing, citing, etc. is still legal.
  3. Trademark infringement of logos, slogans, etc.
  4. Using any copyrighted images from the other program.
  5. There is also grey area called trade-dress where a plaintiff can argue that the similarity of things like color and design are an intentional attempt to deceive consumers into thinking that the defendant's product belongs to the plaintiff's brand. Since Stack Exchange uses different themes for each subsite, it is unlikely that they could prove that they have a defined trade-dress to defend.

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