Another year… another Toy Fair

Pt 2559
Another year… another Toy Fair… Someone asked me if this is upsetting. Some thoughts…

i didn’t go to toy fair this year, but this is interesting to hear (and not surprising). As far as it bothering me, earlier in life, it would have, but now, not so much. Now, there are products at toy fair this year that are “based on” projects I’ve worked on/ or supported).

That being said, when issues like makers not getting proper credit comes up, i don’t mind helping a maker who simply wants proper credit (last year’s Bristlebot fiasco, for example, Scholastic and Klutz eventually did the right thing) – we didn’t need a lawyer, just a great community to rally. if companies break the law, other things might need to happen — and we’ll likely see or hear some examples as the DIY community gets larger and their ideas flow to and from more commercial ventures. For me personally, I really don’t want to compete on lawyering, I’ll move on to the next idea, hopefully :) a lot of maker projects are “based” on other ideas too, so origin can get complicated. Creative Commons, patents, trademarks, copyrights, are systems we all currently have access to — and although there are problems, it’s pretty exciting to be making things at the moment.

Many of us have seen our own projects “ripped off.” Now i consider it validation our work is both good and interesting. i can’t speak for everyone, this is just me of course — I also reserve the right to change my mind :) i think we’re all doing amazing things and the makers out there are leaders of a huge movement. Hobbyists, customers, makers, fans, and community will reward all of us. Sure, there might be sales that “leak” away to toy makers who don’t work with makers or give proper credit, but that’s always going to be true, taxation on being popular :) What we all need to do is provide the best value and customers service, that’s what cannot be commodified or cloned. And lastly, we can all try harder helping folks to choose makers and support makers via Maker Faire, Maker Shed, Maker’s Market, and companies like EMSL, adafruit, Sparkfun, etc. — PT

Thoughts, makers?

8 thoughts on “Another year… another Toy Fair

  1. Most importantly, it’s a reminder to decide the purpose of your project before you publish. If you want to design products, keep those projects separate from the open ones, in your mind and in your publications.

    If someone comes out with a product based on an open project, then you got what you wanted: more copies out there in the world. I wouldn’t feel “ripped off” if open is what you intended.

    Now, as far as credit and attribution, one part is to school companies in the licenses they use. Hardware vendors are new to this and on a learning curve, relative to software and the GPL story. It took a few push backs in software, and a few public readings of the GPL for them to get it.

    The second part I think is not to worry about attribution too much (would the Dali Lama?), but also to be confident that the net and maker communities will be stronger than a missing box label.

  2. NXT 2.0 was their choice for Educational Toy of the Year… it’s funny because it was more of a refresh than a 2.0. New light sensor = toy-of-the-year fodder? Okaysure.

  3. Unless there is a patent on the design, there is nothing illegal about copying someone elses toy. Trademark could protect your toy as far as looks are concerned but not function. You can get a crowd of people to “boo” them into admitting credit for the design, they can still legally sell it.

    US Copyright law does cover works of art which can be 3d objects. But the functional aspects of that art aren’t protected, just the “pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article”.

    It seems to me that Copyright law needs some changes.. Designs (text and graphics) can be copyrighted.. so i’d go with the angle of “If an original work, even a “useful article”, can be duplicated by simple inspection it can be counted as a design and subject to protection of copyright law.” Of course that should only be for prototypes and not the mass produced products of the original.

    Personally, when i see someone borrowing aspects of something i made i’m excited and feel useful to the world. But when they make something far better than me with it, i feel jealousy. That’s why making stuff can be hard, you want to show it off but realize that in doing so you lose control over it. If your creations have never run off without you, this can be hard to completely understand. You feel pride yet sadness (especially when it goes a direction didn’t want).

  4. I know I have mixed feelings about this. There is some point at which I’d be indignant and up to that point I’d probably be happy someone liked what I did. I can’t say when that line would be crossed, I think it would vary on the input I had in a project.

    If I came up with the whole project mostly independently and someone came along and copied as much as they could (for a retail product for sale) without getting into legal trouble, I would be annoyed. But I’d also have to take a step back and feel a little pride that my idea was “worthy” of that happening too.

    On the other hand, someone tracked me down from a comment I made on possible ways to reMake an item posted on the Make:blog. We traded some more detailed emails back and forth and I provided some diagrams and other suggestions. If he turned around and sold it for tons of money, I couldn’t really complain because I just discussed it without putting my fingers too deep into the pie.

    Now, for anything I might release to the wild, I will place it under the Creative Commons Non-commercial share-alike criteria. I’m releasing it so others can do it and enjoy it, not really so it can be sold for someone else’s profit.

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