No it is not *your* technique – credit is currency and should be paid [Editorial]

In what I believe is a first (apologies if I’m neglecting credit) for The Brothers Brick I’ve decided to write a somewhat counterpoint editorial to Andrew’s latest editorial.

Andrew argues, with merit, that demands for credit are excessive and potentially “stifling (of) others’ creativity”. While I don’t disagree with his major points I do feel that his post has risky consequences which I do disagree with: discouraging credit when it can and should be given.

As a medium with a finite parts pallette, building technique is not just a means of aiding the design process but an integral part of the design process. Technique is not just a tool but can be an inseparable part of a creation. This is, for me at least, one the most interesting aspects of building with LEGO (and/or other construction toys).

The LEGO fan community has developed in an environment of sharing, cooperation and mingling of ideas. From the earliest days of through to the diaspora of today one of the key elements of the online community has been the active sharing of the techniques that go into a model in addition to the sharing of the model itself.

However, this sharing is encouraged, at least in part, by the giving of credit where credit is due. If someone knows that a clever trick they’ve spent hours developing will be used by others without so much as a thank you they may not feel so compelled to spend the time to show a cutaway version.

Likewise if someone sees a neat idea they’d agonised over being used and lauded without acknowledgement a week later by a more experienced builder they may feel justifiably aggrieved. Credit isn’t just polite, it is a driver of the shared creativity that drives the hobby.

So no, it is not your technique. If you got it from someone else then give them the credit they deserve for their creativity so that they’ll feel happy sharing other techniques. Credit is a currency and if you don’t pay for the service you may find it goes away.

60 comments on “No it is not *your* technique – credit is currency and should be paid [Editorial]

  1. Magnus

    There was only one time when I felt like someone was “lifting” my idea.
    It wasn’t even a building technique or copying a MOC, it was for a camo scheme for a military fig. My military factions have been fairly visible on Flickr for a few years now and while I don’t feel like I in any way own “rights” to using certain color combinations, I do think the look of my factions is recognizable enough to know when someone was directly inspired by my figs. And there was a kid who posted a pic of some little fig that looked almost exactly like he was from my fig army. Same colro legs and arms, same color and style of helmet – and I think he may have used a bley torso instead of the old style gray I use.

    It was just one little fig, no big deal at all really. Anyway, I bring this up because the thing is, I thought it was a little strange that he didn’t mention me, but most off all I was just disappointed that he didn’t do more to make it his own.

    Copying someone elses stuff is a little lazy, doing so without giving them credit is a little disrespectful. But it’s also antithetical to the whole poit of a creative medium like LEGO.

  2. The Mad Physicist

    Chrism, I completely agree with Jargon.
    As ever with a discussion like this it draws out a lot of people with fairly explicit points of view. I too care about this issue (probably because I make a living generating and disseminating ideas and, consequently actively hate plagiarism), but I don’t see it as a big problem. (Copying pictures is another matter.)

    I’ve been sharing pictures of MOCs on-line since early 2005, am a fairly prolific builder and am probably reasonably well-known (at least to followers of this blog). In all that time I recall only a few instances where people claimed (wrongly) that I’d copied somebody else’s ideas without attributing them to the right person. Other people claiming ideas as their own that I know they very likely copied from something I did happened a few more times and did piss me off, but it is still outweighed by the many times that people actually do give credit.

    You’re likely to run into jerks wherever you go on the internet, but the majority of on-line LEGO builders aren’t out to give anybody else a hard time.

  3. Mike


    I think my main difference is that I unearend value the same as you do, or something like that. Clearly I don’t really have a very good undestanding of economics.

    I think your last paragraph is a really good point though, that we shouldn’t see crediting as giving something up as it will dissuade people from doing such–makes good sense on my end.

  4. Catsy

    ^ It’s not a question of economics, it’s a question of logic.

    If you assert that something gains value if people think you came up with it first, and thereby loses value if you credit the source of your inspiration (by making it clear that you did not think of it first), you are making an implicit assertion that said value depends not on whether or not you actually did invent the technique, but on whether or not your audience believes that you did. In other words, that the value depends not on the factual truth of the proposition, but on what others believe that truth to be.

    It then follows that any value you “gain” from allowing others to believe you invented a technique–which you allow by making a conscious choice not to inform them of the source of your inspiration–is gained dishonestly through a lie of omission.

    Hence my statement that any such value is “unearned”–and in my mind, worthless.

    Now, I need to be clear that I do not think that this is how things work: I do not believe that a creation loses any “value”–in whatever way you wish to define that term–when you credit your sources.

    If anything, it adds value to you personally, in the sense that it increases your reputation as an ethical builder; to your creation, in that it creates an association between your creation and your source’s creation that raises the visibility and expands the audience of both; and to the community, in that adds positive reinforcement to the cycle of innovation to which Tim was referring.

    It is in every conceivable respect the opposite of a zero-sum, I-gain-you-lose relationship.

  5. Kevoh

    Petecorp says “Whenever I come up with a radically new technique, never before seen, and powerful enough to spark revolutionary changes in future Lego creations, I just don’t post it online.”

    I do this too y’all! I cured cancer and AIDs and invented cold fusion but I’m not going to share with anyone. You’ll just have to believe me. Radical!

  6. Bunbrick

    Talk about radicals sparking revolt… ;-)

    I would be even more at awe of Kevoh right now if he confirmed the ongoing rumours that he accomplished those accomplishments with actual LEGO bricks.

    *will reserve his credit for Kevohplc stocks*

  7. ColourSchemer

    Biggerjim wrote: “Be generous in giving credit and humble in claiming it.”

    I interpret ‘claiming’ as ‘accepting after offered’, and so I would suggest adding:

    “and extremely careful in requesting it.”

    I’ve seen many people demand, insist, request, beg, and plead credit for something they believe themselves responsible for creating. And sometimes they’re wrong about being the source. But almost always they look like tools. “Flattery is the greatest…” and all that.

  8. rh1985moc

    I am currently building an asylum. It features a tall hollow tower with a spiral staircase running through it.

    I fiddled for ages to try and get the staircase right, several ideas tried. In the end I came up with one I was happy with.

    Scrolling through brickshelf later I found a very similar design. Actually it was virtually identical; mine didn’t have a handrail though. That was the only difference.

    In this case a coincidence; and it happens. I don’t think it hurts though to just put a passing mention in a photograph if you have clearly been inspired by another’s technique. Assuming they were the first to do it of course; and there is the grey area.

  9. Binkmeister

    I’m not exactly known for my MOCs or inventing any techniques, so maybe my view is a little simplistic.

    If I know where the idea came from, I’ll say. If I don’t, I won’t. I’m not going to do a lot (or actually ANY) research to try to determine provenance of a technique I might use. I will admit that I get irked when seeing demands for attribution, whether it’s deserved or not – and how would I know? Begging for credit just seems… petty.

    Anything and everything can be inspiration.

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