15 December 2005 13:06
This isn't (and won't) be my normal fare on this blog, but I feel that Microsoft have really got it wrong on this subject. First of all what's happened?
Francisco Javier Ocasio Gotay (aka KoL) is one of the best and well-known artists in the theming community and has been for years. 5 months ago he released the first version of his VistaXP theme which mimicked the look of Vista/Longhorn on Windows XP. On Monday he received a legal request to remove the theme from all sites, which he has now done.
The theme was originally released on 17th July 2005 and is arguably the best Vista port to date. The thread here at Neowin generated more than a 1000 comments and had nearly 300,000 visitors. It has taken the company nearly 5 months to contact KoL to ask him to remove the theme. Third party law firm, Seed IP contacted KoL 2 days ago. [source: neowin]
So let's get the legal bit out of the way. KoL's theme did contain Microsoft UI artwork, fonts and images that are subject to copyright, trademark, etc and as such Microsoft have every right to request that the them be removed. However, theming communities such as Neowin, WinCustomize, ThemeXP and deviantART are rife with ports of Microsoft's Vista style to the Windows XP platform either as an MS Style or to the popular WindowsBlinds package by StarDock. Most, if not all, of these Vista themes draw from the same resources that KoL did to produce their themes. So, it would seem that KoL's theme received attention from Microsoft because of it's popularity.
So, a themer got busted by Microsoft for using copyright material, so what? Apple have been doing it for years. What's the problem? Well I think Microsoft are going about it all wrong. Back when Windows XP was released it support themes and Visual Styles, but it only supported 3: Luna, Silver and Olive. Since then Microsoft have only released one extra official theme: Royale. To this day Windows XP does not directly support the addition of user-created visual styles, it requires a hacked uxtheme.dll or an application such as StyleXP or WindowsBlinds.
I think this is where Microsoft got it all wrong. Having provided this great new feature I think Microsoft should have supported easy style switching of user-generated styles and themes. I'm sure they had a good reason for not supporting at launch time, but they've had plenty of time since to work round whatever those problems were. I really hope that Vista won't suffer from the same problem.
Now theming is very popular and exceptional artists, such as KoL, spend a lot of time and effort creating beautiful themes for us all to enjoy (as long as we use a hack or third party software) and there is a definite buzz around the new Vista look-and-feel. People like and are excited about it, that's why thousands of people downloaded KoL's VistaXP theme and continue to download the many other Vista-style skins that are available. So come on Robert Scoble, start talking to Microsoft and let's help the theming community make Windows XP and Windows Vista look good. People are clearly excited by the new Vista look-and-feel, so let's encourage them, not squash them.
Fortunately KoL hasn't been put off by all this corporate attention and will continue to create themes and styles, though no more Vista I guess. You can see KoL's artwork on his website StudioTwentyEight.com.