Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Brick Queen has been Banned from Cuusoo

Earlier today the well known Lego personality Brick Queen and all her projects were removed from Cuusoo.

Cuusoo respects the privacy of all its users so we will likely never know Cuusoo’s specific reasons for doing so.  There is however a lot of “content” being flung around so I thought it would be best to post what I know about the subjects that have come up around this event in a general and informative manner.

 

What We Know Happened

Brick Queen posted two Batman projects (one about to cross into 5000 supporters), one Superman projects, and most recently two Juarassic Park projects to Cuusoo.  These were all quite popular and were in fact four of the top twelve most supported (delta) projects last week.

Last night two additional Jurassic Park projects were posted by Senteosan and Tjspenser1.

A few Cuusoo users, identifiable as fans of Brick Queen by their support history, accused both of these new projects of copying Brick Queen’s and also denigrated the projects for using renderings instead of real bricks. Things pretty much went down hill from there.

The exact content that lead to Cuusoo’s action is now deleted so the details are lost at this point.
What follows is in no way an opinion on Cuusoo’s actions.  I am in fact shocked that Brick Queen was banned.  What follows is an attempt to clear up some confusion about Cuusoo that lead to a lot of the accusations flying around before and after this unfortunate event.  The intent here is to seek clarification when, pursuant to Cuusoo policy, there will be none forthcoming from Lego in the interest of privacy for the individuals involved.

 

“Copy Cats”

On the subject of Copy Cats there are three very critical subjects that must be discussed to clarify the issue of duplication of projects and what that means on Cuusoo:
  • Original Subject Matter
  • Non-Original Subject Matter
  • Plagiarism

 

Original Subject Matter

The only projects that Cuusoo offers to protect based on the subject of the content are those ideas that are the absolute creation of project creator like Hyborea  or Galaxy Command.  Even in these cases for action to be taken there must be a clear duplication of the concept and design.  To my knowledge, no project has ever been removed from Cuussoo for copying an original idea.

 

Non-Original Subject Matter 

If you publish a project that evokes something that is a publicly recognized Intellectual Property or anything from the real world, your project has no “subject based” protection on Cuusoo with the exception of cases of plagiarism (see below).   There is, quite frankly no squatter's rights on Cuusoo.

This rule is absolutely necessary for Cuusoo to operate.  Every major and minor IP and random car, building, or place has some project on Cuusoo and it they were offered on a first come first serve basis, then viable IP concepts would be “owned” by the quickest rather than the most qualified to carry the property or concept to 10k.  In addition, the poor staff at Cussoo would have to be as familiar with every single project as, well, as I am, and I will readily admit, that is not healthy.

If Cuusoo did not allow for duplication of subjects, Brick Queen would not have been able to post her Jurassic Park ideas at all as this project would have precedence over her own by more than a year.

This has been famously displayed Several times:

The Portals that got to 10k vs The Portals that was published earlier

The Ghostbusters that got to 10k vs The Ghostbusters that was published earlier

And in my opinion the most egregious of cases:
The Back to the Future Train by Team BttF vs GRusoo's Back to the Future Train published earlier

Not to mention a near infinite series of Batpods,  Bat Tumblers, and Mos Eislei (what is the plural of Mos Eisley anyway?)

Lets face it folks, If Cuusoo does not take down Team BttF’s train when it is functionally identical to GRusoo’s then you can see how serious Cuusoo is about sticking to its guns on Non-Original Ideas being up for grabs to anyone at any time.

I used to be bothered by this, but allowing it is really the only way Cuusoo can deal with the issue fairly while getting projects published that can get to 10k.  What I really wish people would do in these case is agree to mutually collaborate on a journey to 10,000.  Cross promotion is an asset.  If Team BttF came to GRusoo offering to leverage their connections and build with GRusoo's already healthy support base, the results would be a project with 5000 support.  With the actual extreme disparity between the Senteosan's UCS build and Brick Queen's Play build they could have cross promoted amazingly well in an independent but collaborative journey to 10k both feeding support to the other.

 

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the one Copy that gets you deleted.  If you include in your project content that has been demonstrated to be the work of another builder, in part or in whole, without them being part of the team, your project gets the ax.  This is however part for part or in some cases print for print if someone is stealing a custom made minifig.  This does not include functionally identical builds like the trains in the case above.  I would show you an example, but I can’t because they all get deleted.  (Well, I have strong suspicions about one currently posted project but as I can’t find the original source I am keeping my mouth closed.)

 

Summary on the “Copy Cat”

Brick Queen’s posting may have even inspired the other creators to post their Jurassic Park projects, but given that Jurassic Park is a Non-Original Idea (from the stand point of the project creators anyway), there is no protection for the idea.

Additionally, it is my opinion, just like how Brick Queen had two distinct Jurassic Park projects, that each of these projects represented a different take on a final product.  Brick Queen’s builds are highly detailed, “largish” scale vehicles with figure based Dinos.  With Tjspenser1's project you get two vehicles, but with simpler builds.  Senteosan project  is a UCS if you will, with a brick built Dino, one "largish" car and the iconic Gate to Jurassic park.

Since Lego makes the final set you really need to look at what the set is promoting, not the actual brick for brick details.

 

“Real Brick”

Some people are decrying the use of rendering in the production of projects.  Given that you need not have a single image of brick in your project, at all, for your project to be valid, this argument is absolutely invalid from Cuusoo’s standing.  That being said, projects without even a rendered brick are not going to get any traction on Cuusoo.

Indeed, the freedom to post rendered Lego is very egalitarian and allows for ideal presentation.  Were Cuusoo to disallow the use of renders, then publication of quality presentations would be limited to the few with the budgets and collections to produce such content.  This would have an even greater impact on those regions where Lego is priced at a premium.  Meanwhile LDD and the rendering tools I and many others use are free to download.

Some colors are also not produced for specific parts.  Rendering allows designers to showcase their conceived color combinations that Lego could follow, since it can make the bricks in any color they want (as long as it fits the schedule).

Finally, the ability to take a production quality photograph is a limitation in and of itself.  Photography at the high end is a difficult skill necessitating refined resources while rendering is always in focus with a cleared out background.

I will grant that building virtually allows people to make designs that won't hold up to the rigors of gravity (beautiful cases in point) but the value of renders in my opinion, far exceeds these issues.  If Lego can't satisfactorily build your design because you designed it too impracticably, that is your problem.

 

...but Regardless on both Copying and Rendering

To terminate the argument all together, as stated before, and ad nauseum again and again, the project is just a concept for the final product.  As a supporter you should decide if the core idea, the heart of the project reaches out to you.  If you want Lego to make a project based on the idea of the project, you support it.  END OF STORY.

The depictions are a mere proposal of the final idea.  In fact if you think a project is so similar to another as to be a “copy” then vote for both or vote for neither.  Voting for both will increase the chance that Lego will make the product you want right?  If you choose not to vote for a project that is similar to another then you should really be asking yourself, what  is the difference that I am not in support of and Is that a legitimate reason?

You are of course free to not vote for the "copy," but in doing so you are not voting based on a desire for the actual product to exist but perhaps to reward a quality of presentation,  the order of publication,  or to benefit a specific creator or organization and you should accept that and be honest with yourself about it not to anyone else.

If you find yourself in this position, more power to you!  It is your vote to cast or not, do with it what you will, but in recognizing that you have an agenda, please don't attack other projects just because they don't match with your agenda.  That serves you not at all.  Instead, spend your energies promoting your agenda.  Instead of insulting an otherwise innocent project for not matching your world view, tell someone else about your preferred project and get to support it. 

 

Deletion of User from Cuusoo

This actually happens with regularity on Cuusoo and users with much larger ties to the Lego Cuusoo community have been banned before but never an individual so well known to the larger Lego community as Brick Queen.

In my experience Cuusoo never seems to take this action lightly and I have never heard of someone being banned simply for being “flagged” over the course of a single day.  I will of course add the caveat that Cuuso is learning as it goes and is always subject to change and previous standards cannot be counted on to be current standards.

As I said before, Cuusoo does not reveal the nature of events that lead to an account being deleted but I have seen enough people on Cuusoo get deleted to have a feel for what they won’t tolerate.  What follows is every example I have encountered that resulted in the deletion of an account, where the cause was evidently clear.  Note, when I use the term persistent in the following list, I am referencing at least a week of continuous offending activity.
  • Posting Any dialog of a violent or sexual nature will get you banned on the spot.  
  • Persistent rude behavior.  In extreme cases where rude behavior targets a minor, you can get banned immediately. 
  • Persistent Plagiarism.
  • Persistent off topic comments.
  • Persistently being identified as an annoyance by the community (this falls under off topic comments as well).
  • Persistently acting with intent to disrupt the normal activities of others on Cuusoo.
  • Persisting in being an instigator or antagonizer in any activity for which a Staff Member has had to step in to address the issue.
  • Manipulating your Account ID with the intent of inciting mischief.
  • Presenting yourself falsely as a public personality with the intent to mislead.
  • Maintaining multiple accounts on Cuusoo.
  • Being banned previously (and using a new account to access Cuusoo of course).
  • Publicly accusing other Cuusoo users of illicit activities, without evidence, that could result in damage to the user’s reputation or projects.
The specifics of course are various but it breaks down to some base concepts.  Here Is my unified rules on what you should do to never get banned from Cuusoo:
  1. Don’t Lie to Cuusoo.
  2. If the staff tells you to stop doing something, stop it.  If you cause the Staff or Cuusoo hassle, their best option is to remove you from the equation. 
  3. Don’t be aggressive on Cuusoo or attempt to provoke others, you know when you are doing this
  4. If someone else is doing something intentionally disruptive or against the rules you may politely inform them of their infraction or report the activity.  If they respond aggressively or persist in the action, do not engage the user directly, simply report the activity and let the Staff handle it.
As a special side note, (especially for Americans (talking about my own people here)), Cuusoo is a global website.   Many cultures are famously blunt when they are commenting on a subject.  This can come off as rude when they are just trying to be helpful even.  So try not to over-react at every negative comment.

Additionally, if someone appears to be linguistically challenged, it is wiser to assume that they are in fact more linguistically educated than you with English being their third or forth language, so again be friendly.  (Unfortunately I do not have this excuse to hide behind for my mistakes)      

Again I have no idea what lead to Cuusoo's decision and largely remain shocked.  The point of this article is to share as much of my experience and knowledge on the topics as I can to help the surprised and confused people to understand the facts related to today's events.