Instructables, Contests and Copying
Copying is a problem for Instructables because making your own example of someone else's creation with no alterations does not advance development at all. In many cases, these copies even infringe on copyrights. In competitions, such as ones on Instructables, copied projects can become popular and even eclipse original designs; this discourages originality. An author might ask himself why he should bother investing time researching and developing a project when he could just as easily locate an existing design and copy it instead.
In many cases, the causes of copying can be innocent, such as when a child who posts his friend's favorite paper airplane design (which actually originates out of a copyrighted book, for instance). While innocent, this action still proves unhealthy to the DIY community. There are also less innocent types of copying as well; such as those who knowingly steal creations and post photographs or links to media of creations not of their own design. While this latter type is less prevalent on Instructables than places like YouTube, it still occurs due to embedding.
To discourage unoriginality and encourage advancement, Instructables staff should make a few changes to how entries are looked at as far as appropriateness goes, as well as what gets featured or judged a winner in contests. Projects that are not original should be recognized as such. It might be appropriate to outright disqualify an entry or issue it a penalty or rank reduction in judging. It is not advisable to feature unoriginal designs. These sort of steps could encourage people to contribute rather than copy.
I hope I have inspired thought in others regarding this. I have talked about the problems of copying, why it happens and how it might be addressed--hopefully it is.