We want your ideas, but are not willing to put anything against it – how crowdsourcing should not wor

Today I learned about the terms and conditions of “Redesign Me”. A crowd-sourcing site where you can set out a challenge and people in the community can respond by sharing their ideas to: “redesign” stuff. It can be anything from a new logo to new stuff for the Schiphol Airport.

All nice and dandy: state your ideas, get heard and seen and maybe – if your idea is treally hitting the spot – your idea will be chosen and put into reality.

Working as a freelance coder, Intellectual Property is part of my work and life. As a freelancer, my work – according to Dutch law – is mine. My ideas and whatever comes out of that are mine. Regardless of how much my client pays me to do the job.

Waivering your IP, and why

The only way my client will be able to obtain the IP over my work is by contract and transaction. For instance:

  1. When I explicitly sign a contract – stating that I waiver all IP rights over my work and hand them over to the client.
  2. When the client pays me to hand over my (C) – A number can be: 1.5 times the agreed price for creation. So: when I create a logo for 1000 euro and the client pays me, the (C) is still mine. When the client and I agree that (C) will be transferred after an additional 1.500 euro, the (C) is of the client.

While the IP is still mine, I can control what happens to the creative product. I can forbid my client to use my (C) work in specific situations. For instance: “The logo can never be shown next to the carcass of a dead animal” if the client is a butcher and I am sensitiva about that kind of stuff. I can even sue the client when he breaks that rule – taken that this rule is broken AFTER I communicated this limitation.

The moment the IP or (C) is transferred, the client can do anything with my creation as – while I am still the author/creator -the IP is no longer mine.

IP and Redesign Me

Enter this paragraph in the Terms and Conditions of Redesign Me.

It basically states: any contribution you do to a Challenge from an Challenge Initiator will become the ownership of the Challenge Initiator, regardless if it will be used or not. Only if the Challenge states so, you might receive a compensation for waivering all your rights to your Intellectual Property.

And here is your reward…

I would advice people NOT to join any contest under these conditions due to principle. Regardles of the potential pot of gold that might lie ahead beyond yonder horizon. As – with these kind of Terms and Conditions – you are a nobody without any rights.

You will not get rewarded or paid for your idea (unless the Challenge states so). You might win a price. You might be invited to execute your idea – which is not mentioned anywhere – but the Challenge Initiator (the end client – of which one is Schiphol) is not obliged to do so. As there are no obligations from any party – including the Challenge Initiator – to you, you idea can be put into reality without any party – including the Challenge Intiator – rewarding you in any way.

In other words this reads to me as: we have no respect for you or your intellectual process. We value you and your idea to be worth nothing and us for the taking.

Waivering IP is OK if it happens respectfully, when you have a choice and when there is no money to spend and everyone can help to improve things.

I call people who do this in daily life “users”. They take things from other people without ever returning anything. I call this leeching the goodwill of other people when:

  1. There is money to spend – on people on the client side, but you are excluded from the list
  2. You as a creative are not respected – and / or rewarded for your work you did for them
  3. People are not showing their respect for you  – for whatever reason – in their treatment of you and in their rules of engagement

“Eating for free while others pay the bill” is another thing I would use. There are people able to make a living with that, crashing (wedding) parties of strangers as: “friend of the guy who used to live here” or: “Uncle bob from the cold side”.

On the other side…

If that is OK, as you like to create stuff and you do not intend to use that stuff anywhere else – nor intend to make any money out of that idea, then go ahead. Creating stuff is fun and if your idea is chosen, it can be a great honor. It can even boost your portfolio if you are at the beginning of your creative career and looking for something more than a 9 to 5 office job at some boring company.

A contrast: employees and consultants

The tariff of consultants is between 100 to 300 euro per hour. Their role is to come up with new ideas, protect you from harm and stupidity (in cases of – for instance – legal and financial advisors) and solve problems that have been unsolved until now. In some cases and projects, these consultants are working on the same project for over 6 months, as the matter can be complex and a lot of questions have to be asked.

The result is – in maybe 50% to 80% of all cases – something that – on hind sight – could have been thought up inside the company by one or two experienced people with common sense. As most consultants are just people with a job, like anyone else.

The tariff of employees is between 15 to 40 euro per hour. Anything they produce and come up with during working hours is automatically the ownership of their employers. In some cases, employees come up with ideas that solves problems that costed the company millions of euros per year until then and would cost tons of euros on consultants. As reward they usually get nothing, a pat on the back, or a small price like a “5.000 euro innovation award”.

More respect for the crowd you are sourcing, please

I would have liked it better if the people of Redesign Me (and similar sites) would show more respect for the creative that brought up the idea.

A better approach to Crowd Sourced IP (bold for speed-reading purposes) would be:

Everything you place into this contest will remain your intellectual property and any idea publishing by you in the contest- will be automatically registered as being submitted by you.

According to law in most countries, ideas themselves are not protected by Copyright law and can not be protected from use by others, including the Contest Initiator. By entering your idea or ideas into the Contest you automatically state that you understand and acknowledge this.

If you want your idea to be protected in similar ways as Copyrighted material, you can register it as a Concept. This registration is done at a  Notary. If you do, please mark your Idea as “Concept” and state where and under which dossier number your Concept was registered. (Add link here to brief and clear explenation on Intellectual Property and how to distinguish and protect different forms of creative material)

If the Challenge Initiator chooses to use your material, your concept or your idea, their rights of use is limited by Copyright law and what you agreed upon by reading and accepting the specific rules of the Contest. You are free to waiver your Intellectual Property rights in any way you choose, respecting and taking the rules of the Contest you entered into account.

The Contest Initiator will – according to the general Terms and Conditions for Content Initiators – always credit you for your contribution.

Let me be clear: I am not a lawyer and a lawyer would – and will have – enough to comment about the things I just wrote. Not for the content, but for the way it is formulated.

Still: it gives you an idea where I am coming from and the differences in respect and treatment of the people contributing to a greater whole.


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