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Instructables, Contests and Copying Answered

Copying and rehash are not things often regarded as good for do-it-yourself communities, yet Instructables is currently quite accepting of things that would fit under this umbrella and in some cases even sponsor it. I hope to convince the administrators that new rules need to come into play--particularly with regard to competitions. I'll discuss why unoriginal projects are a problem, lay out the causes of this and present some solutions that the administration could pursue.

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.

Discussions

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NoBoxEver

6 weeks ago

In the Creative Misuse contest going on right now there is an entry taken directly from a copyright publication of crafts made from small flower pots. In 2004 I taught these projects to eldercare clients, and told my supervisor the source of the project.

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OrigamiAirEnforcerNoBoxEver

Reply 5 weeks ago

I would not be surprised by that.

Keep an eye on that entry, history says it has a good chance of winning.

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sabu.dawdy

3 years ago

to me copying is fine. But using pictures of another person and adding it on to a contest and getting into finalist is not a good thing. This causes the hard workers to not get any fruitful result

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Kitemansabu.dawdy

Reply 3 years ago

If you see that happening, you should report it straight away - send an email with the details to service@instructables.com.

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sabu.dawdyKiteman

Reply 3 years ago

it's difficult to email in your inbox as I'm on mobile however here is the link of original

https://instagram.com/p/4w2k1VKPKs/

Here is the picture. And if you follow her on Instagram you will find a complete video tutorial.

The contestant ( I am not accusing her anymore or naming her) also mentioned in her comments that she will put her version soon. And later she removed the vomments

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Kitemansabu.dawdy

Reply 3 years ago

It's impossible to say for certain from that which was the original, as they were both published on exactly the same date, 5th July.

To my mind, though, that says the work is "kosher", as many members (myself included) post new projects on several sites at once (I use Twitter and Facebook to post mine).

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sabu.dawdyKiteman

Reply 3 years ago

well. I guess she should say it's her blog then

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Kitemansabu.dawdy

Reply 3 years ago

I guess it would reduce accusations of copying, but not by much (I get accused of copying people's work, even when the "original" is taken from mine, and there are years between posts).

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BrooklyntoniaKiteman

Reply 3 years ago

The fact that the watermark was smudged off is particularly suspicious.

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KitemanBrooklyntonia

Reply 3 years ago

Ah, that does change things.

I think, though, that rather than cast accusations around in public, this conversation should be by PM now, lest we accidentally offend the innocent.

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sabu.dawdyKiteman

Reply 3 years ago

pm me please so I can reply you. I can't do that via cellphone. Secondly who deleted comments of ours from her project? Just a question

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Kitemansabu.dawdy

Reply 3 years ago

It seems there is no need - the project is no longer a finalist.

It also appears that congratulations are in order, as you have gained the vacant slot in the list.

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Downunder35mKiteman

Reply 3 years ago

Where is the accusation?
It is either a fraudulent copy or not.
Messing with watermarks is usually a clear indicator of someone knowing what is done wrong ;)
As I mentioned before a flagging function for suspected copyright violations would be a good thing to have.
If the author can not proof that his work is in fact genuine bad luck.

The site is already overflowing with next to identical Ibles and with every contest there are more popping up.
For me it is also about protecting the members here:
After all basically all "copied" Ibles I have seen so far are from relatively new members with nothing good in their collection.
If there is a new user copying content from other members Ibles to make to make a splash, I don't need to check twice with Ible and user is benned until the case is solved.

Sadly Instructables relies entirely on the members to spot and act on such copies :(

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BrooklyntoniaKiteman

Reply 3 years ago

This case is less about accusing for me and more about helping others that come across this thread to make good decisions on when it might be appropriate to comment/report on suspected plagerism and avoid people feeling cheated, because ultimately that cheating feeling is what this thread is really about. Your points about the date and people posting their work to multiple platforms are important to consider and can leave people feeling okay about an entry being seen elsewhere, but a missing watermark is a red flag.

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sabu.dawdyKiteman

Reply 3 years ago

I reported. I tried to email you but on mobile it's impossible so il add link here

https://instagram.com/p/4w2k1VKPKs/

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Kiteman

3 years ago

Would you ban all alien-invasion movies because somebody had made one before? Or stop people writing detective stories? Or painting portraits?

Just because a version of something has been done before, that does not mean that a new version has less merit than the original. After all, the world's most expensive painting was "inspired" by a Matisse panting, and was even the seventh time Picasso painted the same thing.

It is, to be honest, an impossibility to check whether every entry to a contest is 100% original, even if the author has lifted photos and text from another site, but the number of outright copies is very small.

Further, it is incredibly difficult to come up with a genuinely original instructable - I have posted 204 projects; only a handful of them are completely original, but nearly two thirds have been deemed worthy of featuring.

The originality is in the presentation and write-up.

You yourself, after nearly 400 instructables on the same theme, must be having some trouble coming up with wholly-original instructables...

F5MGEFFI7IJ8ECF.RECTANGLE1.jpgFEKGTFYI5A22BR1.RECTANGLE1.jpgFO4XYNHI6DYT8S7.RECTANGLE1.jpg
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OrigamiAirEnforcerKiteman

Reply 3 years ago

I suppose I ought to have define what I meant by "original" more clearly. In writing this, I did not mean that improvements and new spins on existing ideas should be quashed. I meant that outright copies ought to be.

While I have now published more than 300 projects and similarities are indeed present. No two are identical however. In the realm of paper airplanes, small changes can amount to big differences and many of my designs reflect that. In addition, much of the commonality between various designs is intentional. I am often asked to increase simplicity, and so one way I accomplish this is using common parts. The Starfighter, Turbo Meteor and Fang designs are all examples of comparable designs that share parts, in line with that philosophy.

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KitemanOrigamiAirEnforcer

Reply 3 years ago

Oh, of course, straight copies should not (and are not) allowed. As Seamster says, if you discover it, highlight it for others to see.

It does sometimes happen that what appear to be copies are not, though; my first few Instructables were originally written for the BBC, I just copied over the text and added photos. To further complicate matters, other members blog their projects before they add them here, sometimes years before, sometimes under another username, so it gets very difficult to point the accusing finger with any accuracy...

(Unless the author has been silly enough to copy an existing instructable, because they saw it on one of the many rip-off sites and didn't check the original source...)

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sabu.dawdyKiteman

Reply 3 years ago

I agree to you on some extend. But if someone is there with another name out there. They should specify it in the profile. That I *dash* has this *dash* blog

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Kitemansabu.dawdy

Reply 3 years ago

It would be nice, but impossible to enforce.

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Brooklyntonia

3 years ago

"The originality is in the presentation and write-up." - Kiteman

Copyrights protect expression and patents protects inventions, and neither protect ideas.

Ideas do not belong to any one person. If you put a good idea out there, you have to expect that others are going to use it. Otherwise, we'd all be buying our cell phones from the same company. It is in how you express your idea that you create something. These creations, even of the same idea, are all different. Yes, it's best when they add a little something or change things up, but the presentation is just as important as the idea. If someone found the cure for cancer, but no one could understand the research, it would be up to someone else to republish the information in a way that others could understand and use it.

I often look at it like a remade movie. If the original was great and there's no way to make it better or expose it to a new audience, then there's no reason to create a new one and the creator, while not a thief, is wasting their time. If the original version is out of date, badly made, confusing, or not seen by a large group of people, then a remake makes sense.

Indeed, this is right in line with the message I had in mind. Projects are like writing, you're using existing materials (language) and making your own statements with it. Your message is imparted by you.

Also, truly original ideas are very rare. When you think about it, there are very, very few truly new things in the world. It's like with music. There is a finite number of musical notes and ways that those notes can be arranged. There are also only so many words in a language and only a few emotions that can be expressed or subjects that can be written about that will interest the listeners. Therefore, many songs sound the same and have the same subject matter. It can't be considered a copyright violation unless it is almost identical to the original song. And even then it's hard to prove.

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Downunder35m

3 years ago

I guess when it comes to copying content it is not so much about using a bit of the work of other people or to give something a new spin.

There are Ibles out there that are a 1 on 1 copy from another website as well as those using the videos from other users on Youtube presented as their own work with no mentioning it was only used as an existing example.

While I agree that some topics are so full or similar projects and would not need another topic covering the same, it is up to the author to do so anyway.
After all there might be a chance a newer release has more luck than an old one.

As for contests we already have a check for old Ibles, so if it is too old it needs a redo, but in some cases this is done by other people and not the author.
There is a nice featured Ible but it is too old to enter the contest, so quick and easy use it as a template to make one of "your own creation" - I don't think is right.
But for that matter I also think some entries shold not be accepted as they barely scrape on the entry criteria.
It would be no problem to see an Instructable about carving wood in a contest about making knifes.

As for copyrights and problems with it I think stating that it is up to the original author to take steps is the wrong approach.
In many cases he or she would not even know someone copied the work.
So instead of making a comment and to flag this it would make much more sense to have another option to flag, like suspected copyright problem, where a reporting user can add the link to the original right away.
As an obvious bonus a notification should be send to the original author and the ony who copied it.
At the current stage one might get the impression that Instructables is actually supporting to use the work of other authors as a copy for own projects.
It is like the filehosting debate where the hoster says: "It is not our problem that a user upload copyright protected material and unless someone complains we don't care."
I also bet that most members here would have no clue how to pursue a copyright claim and how to get a DCMA notice working for them.

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ThisIsMyNameOKDownunder35m

Reply 3 years ago

It is always the author's responsibility to protect their work. The same goes for anything you create, wether it's a work of art, a novel, a new invention.... you have to take the steps to protect it to start with and it's up to you to watch out for anyone stealing your work. And there are lots of ways around a copyright or patent. It sometimes only takes a very small change to make it totally legal.

It would be extremely difficult, as has already been stated, for the Instructables staff to know if something has been copied, or who the original author is.

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BrooklyntoniaDownunder35m

Reply 3 years ago

The requirement that the content creator post the protest against someone infringing on their copyright is actually common amongst all platforms I've seen, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was a legal issue. As stated before, you can alert the original content creator to what you've seen, so they can handle it. I sent out around 30 PMs to Instructables members alerting them to a file hosting site that had reposted their instructables and they were removed promptly upon the members alerting them to it. The internet is a large place, so you really can't expect the staff at any site to police the whole internet to make sure people's copyright's aren't being infringed upon. Be a good citizen and help them out!

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seamster

3 years ago

Good thoughts!

I've thought a lot on this very topic myself, both as it relates to contests here on instructables, and how it applies to creators of content shared on the internet in general.

Instructables staff try not to promote (ie, feature, put in newsletters, etc.) anything that is stolen, or likewise let this sort of content win contests.

Identifying stolen content can be tricky though, say, when the content is reposted here on instructables by the original creator who has a separate blog or site where the same content also appears.

However, the blatantly obvious stuff is easy to spot and quick to handle (say, when there are watermarks from wikihow, or the content is from someone famous online, like King of Random from youtube, for example).

It's *nice* when authors cite the inspiration for their projects, and even go as far as to list sources and locations where the ideas may have originated, but it's not always practical to do so.

As far as policing contest entries, we certainly do our best to keep an eye out for stolen content. However, since the staff here are not familiar with every idea or creation that has ever come into existence, "unoriginal content" or content based heavily on existing ideas, is nearly impossible for us to effectively watch for.

So as a practical approach, the onus is on the original author to file the proper legal paperwork to claim copyright or trademark infringement.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, we have existing channels in place to help you out. See bottom two headings on this page:https://www.instructables.com/about/contact.jsp

Hope that shed a little light!

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OrigamiAirEnforcerseamster

Reply 3 years ago

I don't particularly enjoy the prospect of policing projects just from the atmosphere that sort of action casts, however, I do not think copying is a reasonable thing to tolerate either.

Would it be appropriate to use that contact link if one can show the original
source copied from but is not themselves the original author?

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seamsterOrigamiAirEnforcer

Reply 3 years ago

Hmm. Probably not, to be honest. A formal DMCA notice needs be be done by the actual owner of the original content.

However . . . if you spot a project that looks like it's stolen (meaning, stolen images and/or text) here on instructables, you could simply leave a friendly but questioning comment on the project with a link going to the original source, and then flag your own comment as "inappropriate."

This might seem a little odd, but doing it that way will send your comment to a queue for staff review, and will call our attention directly to your comment and the link, rather than if you had flagged the project itself. Then, if needed we would take appropriate action (such as making sure the project is not promoted at all, or allowed to win contests, or in some cases just removed completely).

Logistically, we don't have the time or resources to research every item that shows up on the site. So extra eyes are always helpful and appreciated!

If you see suspicious projects, you can always send questions to the service email, or even just PM one of the community managers. Currently, that would be me, or tomatoskins, or amberrayh. We're here to help!

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Brooklyntoniaseamster

Reply 3 years ago

Sending who you believe to be the original content creator a message to alert them to the alleged copyright infringement is an option as well. Then, they can alert Instructables to the issue personally. I've done this when external sites have infringed on instructables members.

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KitemanBrooklyntonia

Reply 3 years ago

Some new members get a bit confused by this site, and think it's about re-blogging stuff you find elsewhere (especially if they've arrived here from a site that has blogged about an instructables post). A quiet word via PM usually sorts them out, and they then go on to publish their own works.

(I've had a couple of cases of that just recently.)