Community corrosive Mike | September 1st, 2009
Community. This is what crowdSPRING is truly about. We are a community that celebrates creativity, possibility, and fair competition. We are built to support our users and provide them with professional opportunity and value. Of course community is a delicate thing – even a strong community, built on common interests, support, and mutual respect, can be fragile and easily damaged. Bad behavior by its members can have a corrosive effect and, ultimately, degrade the quality and value that the community provides.
One of the ways in which we have built strong community is by providing industry-leading features and policies for protecting the intellectual property of our users. We also take pride in providing great customer service, which includes replying promptly to reports of IP violations and settling disputes fairly. Last fall we started providing educational materials to Creatives via the Tips tab. In January, our community contributed to this effort, when we collaboratively developed and adopted a Standards of Conduct for Creatives working on crowdSPRING, to codify behaviors that are not acceptable when participating on the site.
But, in spite of these efforts, since this past January we have seen a steady increase in reported IP violations. These reports include the unauthorized use of stock art, inclusion of offensive material, outright plagiarism, and (possibly the worst of all) the copying of submitted concepts. Too often we are receiving reports that one Creative has “stolen” the concept first submitted by another. Many of you have been victim to this harmful practice, and some of you are guilty of engaging in it. Since launch we have tracked this trend and we are considering ways we can reduce the number of incidents. Take a look at the charts below showing IP violations data for January through July. The first one shows the steep increase in the raw number of IP Violation reports since the beginning of the year. The trend is disturbing, yes, but considering that we have also grown dramatically since January in terms of projects and participating Creatives, perhaps not as bad as it appears at first glance:
The second chart, although it looks less dramatic in terms of trending, is actually the more disturbing of the two. This chart illustrates the ratio of reported IP violations to the number of entries submitted from week-to-week, displaying the number of reported entries per 1,000. This is a number we want to see going down on average, not up:
crowdSPRING and other similar online marketplaces have been criticized for putting designer’s IP at risk by the simple act of posting work on our site. This is a fair criticism, and we are working hard to address it and to find ways to prevent the theft of creative work. We want it to stop. Period. So, in the coming weeks you will see some new features and new policies designed specifically with the goal of reducing the number of violations overall and, most importantly, reducing the number of concept copying incidents to zero. But, at the end of the day, our efforts with new features and policies can only go so far. It is up to every member of this community to treat one another’s intellectual property with respect, professionalism, and consideration. Please be sure to report any suspected violations, but more importantly, please look carefully at every entry you upload and consider if your submission could infringe on someone else’s.