99designs seems like an awfully good idea at first blush. I mean, cough-up a few hundred bucks and dozens upon dozens of designers will perform a dog-and-pony show, trying to please you with their creative brilliance. Hundreds of logo goodness to choose from. What could go wrong with that?

99designs artwork

Other than the issue of, ahm, “heavily influenced” artwork that looks like it might have been lifted from our portfolio being entered into their contests – apparently for some Television show that wanted a buck as part of their design – not too much.

99designs contest gallery

But that should be okay, because if any ahm, “heavily influenced” artwork is submitted, it will be noticed. Design contest sites refer to this as self-policing. Some even say that because more scopes are on the design concepts, it’s more likely that any copyright infractions will be noticed. And hey, whaddaya know – someone did catch this one.
99Designs comment thread

So what happens now? Well, if this case is any indication, once the design has been noticed, the comment will be ignored by management, and even more variations of the same design will be entered. Seems “99designs can’t make decisions about what constitutes a derivative work” because it’s “not their bag“. The designs will remain in the contest, will receive three out of five stars, but luckily won’t win.

This time.

At sometime during the festivities, 99designs site owners will ignore an e-mail, sent through their IP violation thingy, informing them that this particular ‘creative’ isn’t being too cool about respecting IP property rights (probably cause that’s not their bag either). Then, once the contest is completed, site site owners will leave a really, really big version of the logo on their server, so that others can find it, copy it, and enter it into other contests that require an deer icon.

Yep. That all sounds fair enough. And it probably goes a long way towards explaining this entry (below), from yet another contest, that looks remarkably like the logo we created for the Watts Performing Arts Center years ago. Luckily enough, someone noticed that one too. And just like the TV logo above, a really, really big version will be left kicking around the 99designs server for others to copy, then enter into a contest for a theater company logo.

Watt's Community Performance Center

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  3. Roh-oh. Winning entry in Cadbury Chocolate’s design contest may have been plagiarized
  4. The dirty little secret that most spec, design contest & crowdsourcing sites don’t want designers to know
  5. Spec work hackery redux. More of our work copied & entered into 99designs logo design contest