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When web designer Zach Hornsby decided to write a blog post entitled 99designs is Effectively Ruining Client, Designer Relations he used a picture of 99designs staff to illustrate the piece. That’s probably cool under ‘Fair 99designsUse’ and ‘Parody’ provisions, but he promptly received an e-mail from 99designs founder Mark Harbottle claiming copyright protection and ominously suggesting “alternative actions” would be taken, if the image wasn’t removed within 24 hours. Snippets post-it noteCheekily, Zak wrote another article, this time outlining the take down demand, claiming 99designs had threatened him with “legal action“. 99designs spokesperson Matt Mickiewicz issued a correction through his Twitter account, telling Zak that “a request to remove an offensive image of (their) staff does not equal “legal action“. While Matt’s technically correct, it does makes one wonder just what these “alternative actions” might have been, if they weren’t gonna be “legal actions”? Gavel illustrationSpeaking about 99designs, and their conversion to stalwart guardians of copyright and intellectual property, maybe they’ll take care of this contest entry now. [Net Jelly]

Speaking about legal threats, just received one ourselves. A rather ominous, threatening and very lengthy Cease & Desist from some huge IT company out of Karachi, Pakistan. Seems someone took umbrage with a four-year-old blog post that we had kinda forgot all about. Actually, not the blog post itself, but a 55 word comment posted by some anonymous dude, also from Karachi, almost four years after the post was published. Even threatened to throw us in jail, they did. Usually, this would necessitate a call to our Mum, but figured this time, we’d not only comply with the C & D, but update the post to boot. You know, to set the record straight. [Updated Post]


99designs stock logo announcement

Speaking about 99designs, a little bit of buzz about their ‘ready-made logo‘ service that they launched a few weeks ago. Their new ‘logo store’ mostly features outcasts and rejects from 99designs logo design contests (for the time being, only designers who have won a contest on the Australian ‘crowdsourcing’ platform qualify to upload images), and offers customizable logos starting at $99, for non-exclusive stuff, to just under three hundred for exclusive stuff. Some designers were none-too-impressed with the announcement of the plan, partially due to the spec work nature of the endeavor (designers only get paid when the logos are sold), the amount Logos in a Box website circa 2001designers are getting (30 points of the sale provided they ‘hop to it’ when revisions are requested) and the fact that many people can purchase the same logo design over and over again, at odds with the point of a logo in the first place (so-called ‘non exclusive’ logos are nothing new, and can lead to all sorts of interesting situations). Anyhow, and despite the criticism, Matt Mickiewicz, one of the founders, was thrilled that 99designs managed to beat iStock Photo to the punch, (iStock announced it would be selling stock logos last fall) and twattered about the coup via Twitter (above). I guess it’s true that 99designs did beat iStock out of the gate, so if this sort of thing is important, congrats are in order. But if this kind of thing is important, should probably point out that 99designs failed to beat a host of others to launch. Outfits like Logo Yes, Logo Snap, Brand Stack, Logo Maker, Insta Logo, Logo Ease, Pixel Logo and a bazzilion others, all of whom have been flogging logo templates, stock logos and other variations of a theme for years. Hell, we launched our own stock logo website, Logos in a Box almost ten years ago, back in 2001 (courtesy The Wayback Machine). Even charged $99 too. And like the lads at 99designs, we offered multiple purchases of our stock logos (limited to 10 per) but scrubbed that idea shortly after launch. After having an fair play epiphany, we realized that selling multiple logos to multiple people was impossible to police, an affront to the idea of a logo, unfair to the customers buying them and smacked of general design dooshbaggery. [99designs]

Face PalmAnyone remember the fairly in-depth look we took at logo design review sites a year and-a-bit back? Let’s bottom line it. Evidence suggested that some, ahm, “independent” logo review sites weren’t as “unbiased” as they claimed, looking like they were owned and operated by, quell suprise, the frikkin’ company that owned the sites they were doling out top marks to. And several other of the top spots too. With that in mind let’s looky here. In the current Logoblog.org “independent” reviews of “The Top 10 Logo Design Companies“, the number one site, Top Ten Logo Design company reviewsLogo Design Guru, is still number one. No real surprise there. They’re always number one (wink, wink). Now there’s a new reviewee, Mycroburst, a design contest site that’s been parked in the number two spot of the “unbiased, reliable and independent” reviews, pretty much since the day it launched back in the fall. How this site got into the “Top Ten” list of logo design companies within a few weeks of launch is anyone’s guess, but get in they did, and as of today, Mycroburst boasts 4.4 stars out of five, while bigger, older and more established ‘crowdsourcing’ sites like 99designs and Crowdspring don’t even rate a mention. You can probably figure out where this is headed, but guess who operates the Mycroburst site? Uh-huh. None other than Guru Corporation, the company that claims Logo Design Guru as one of its “brands” on their Guru Corporation website. Right beside Mycroburst. To make matters even more, ahm, interesting, Logoblog.org recently ran an article ‘Spec Work in Logo Design: Boon or Bane?‘ that was supposed to take a look at Please pick my logoboth sides of the contentious debate about spec work. You know, the way Mycroburst operates on a day-to-day basis. Besides figuring out that spec work isn’t so evil after all (guess Mycroburst were relieved), and suggesting designers “chill” about the entire thing, the article also reveals this little nugget: “My message for aspiring designers…big logo design companies claim to hate spec work but then discovered to be owners of contest sites.” You don’t say. [Logo Blog]

Speaking about oddities and Mycroburst, the “Boon or Bane” article on Logoblog.org is a thematic doppleganger of the “Spec-Work: A curse or a blessing for Graphic Designers?article that ran over on GraphicDesignBlog.org a few months ago. Funny enough, author Charlie B. Johnson also discovered that spec work wasn’t so evil after all, advising graphic designers to “join in hands to contribute to the changing world of graphic design.” You know, kick in with the spec work. Odd thing though. That piece was written shortly after this post, in which Charlie positively raves about Mycroburst as “A New Warehouse for Graphic Designers“, telling readers to “Go for it!!“. Even stranger, and while admitting that “design contests are not live yet” (wonder how he knew Mycroburst was gonna be so peachy?) Charlie told designers that it was “high time to get ourselves registered, so our creative juices get flowing as soon as the contests are announced“. Seemed odd that a graphic designer would gush over yet another design contest website so enthusiastically, advising young designers to sign up for a spec site that had yet to prove itself, not having launched (at the time) a single, solitary contest. As the resident spec work ‘fly in the ointment’ I did what I usually do. Ask the question.
Graphic Design Blog comment
To date, no answer (though between you and me, I didn’t really expect one). Now, a few months later, Charlie’s site is replete with tons of Mycroburst ads and this odd little coinky dinky. A clicky on his free logo linky will lead you to Logo Snap. You know, Logo Design Guru’s flash logo generator thingamajig. That’s awfully sporting Charlie. [Graphic Design Blog]

On a completely unrelated matter that we weren’t talking about, anyone heard about the new FTC blogging regulations? Actually, debuting back in December, they’re not that new, but I’m sure a lot of bloggers and site owners are unaware, so let’s take a little time to have a looksee. Apparently, it’s now an issue if you endorse, or review, a product or service FTC Federal Trade Commission Logowithout disclosing your relationship with, or payment from. It’s supposed to level the playing field and protect consumers and, I dunno, designers, from unfair or unethical stuff they call “stealth marketing” and “conversational deception“, especially through the ever-growing area of social media. This isn’t the first time someone has tried to stem internet asshattery with search engine giant Google claiming to have taken a stance against “paid links“, particularly those designed to inflate ‘inbound link love’ to other sites, artificially inflating the PR of the target. Judging by some quick searches, as well as some discussions with others, Google’s campaign has been less than successful. Now, the Federales are getting in on the action, but not without some resistance. Seeing the move as an assault on “free speech“, some positively hate the idea of the Feds barging into the wild-west nature of the internet. Others think it’s a worthy effort, hoping the FTC nails “blogging scoundrels” seeing the regulations as a predictable price for “collective bad behavior“. Not sure how they’re going to enforce it with over 10,000,000 blogs, and I suppose it won’t have any effect on sites that are parked outside the USA but taking a look at Communication Overtone‘s summary of the regs, it’s a noble goal, I suppose. Don’t you agree Charlie? [New York Times]

 

 

 

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7 Comments to “Snippets: The wondrously wacky world of online logo design, legal threats and stock logo edition”

  1. Carson Shold says:

    Wow. The way 99designs responded is hilarious. If you’re going to act like a tough guy, do not turn around and say “Oh no, we’re not actually going to do anything serious… Just letting you know that we know.”

  2. James says:

    An entertaining read as usual – when will this spec nonsense end?

  3. Neil Martin says:

    Steve, just a suggestion: Please don’t make so many things bold in your post. It’s a bit unnecessary.

    • Steve Douglas says:

      @Neil You probably have a point. It’s a habit I picked up back in my magazine days, using a style guide that dictated company names and people’s names (on first use) and direct quotes get the bold treatment. Guess it might not translate to web use, so I’ll certainly keep your suggestion in mind. Thanks.

  4. Zach Hornsby says:

    Thanks Steve.

    It’s nice to know that I have support on the issue.

    When I received the email, I thought it would be protected by Fair Use provisions as well. But instead of fighting with them I removed it to return focus on the article. I think the whole event was entertaining.

    I think it’s strange that with all the negative press written about them in the past, they have allowed those posts to keep imagery referring to their company, but when I used an image, they issued an image takedown notice.

    I do plan to write about them in the future, which will outline how to correct the current mistakes. It should be an interesting read.

    Best wishes,
    Zach Hornsby

    • Steve Douglas says:

      Hey Zach. No problem at all. There are some issues that are worth fighting for, others not so much. In my opinion (though I’m not a lawyer) you did the right thing. I found your story interesting as it coincided with my recent experience, almost to the day. Ultimately, I chose to take the same approach you did. I wasn’t about to go to the mat for some comment on an ancient blog post that nobody read and that nobody really cares about. Like you, I figured haggling over details removed focus from the thrust of the article, and writing about the takedown demand was far more interesting than the disputed material itself.

      Overall, we need to pick and choose our battles, and I liked your handling of your situation. Figured I’d toss some link love your way, though with what, 17,000 followers on Twitter (nicely done), it’s hardly like you need it.

      Thanks for dropping by.