Dear Lug 4/2 AFOLs,
Today I would like to share an experience with you that I had during and after the Christchurch Brick Show. As some of you already know, one of my exhibits was banned from the show by the Show/Lug Committee. I displayed the LEGO Ferrari F40 right next to its LEPIN copy. The models were accompanied with a poster explaining the lawsuit between LEGO and LEPIN. The reason for banning the exhibit was that it was against the rules. Reluctantly I took the exhibit down.
This was the most unpleasant experience I ever had at a show and you might wonder why I email all of you about it. My intention is to prevent this to happen to any of you and to help the club to define clear guidelines that would prevent such situations in the future. Again, you may ask, why emailing this to everybody when this could be discussed with the committees. Well, I communicated with the club’s management extensively and eventually submitted an official complaint. I did not receive any response to my concerns and my complaint. To make things worse, the management of our club instructed our LEGO ambassador not to talk to me and not to provide essential information. Moreover, they also gave the same instruction to David Woodbridge, head of the Auckland LUG. At this point I felt rather isolated. A club is about sharing and communicating with fellow enthusiast. Isolating a member from this is certainly not in the spirit of the club.
I did receive one response from LUG 4/2’s management and I will explain to you why this message is so significant. First, here is the message:
The RLUG IP Guidelines is what I requested from our LEGO Ambassador and from David Woodbridge. Both of them and the LUG management withheld this document from me. Luckily, I was able to obtain a copy through another channel. This document defines how a show may use LEGO advertising material, such as their logo, to promote the show. It does say nothing about what may or may not be exhibited.
LEGO’s Fair Play Policy, however, does give clear indications that copying one of their models is considered unfair. LEPIN is most likely violating their Fair Play Policy. Hence the lawsuit. But here comes the important difference. Reporting about LEPIN is not the same as copying a LEGO model. As a matter of fact, Brickset recently published a review of LEPIN’s Super Star Destroyer (https://brickset.com/article/29578/review-lepin-super-star-destroyer). Reporting about a crime does not make the reporter a villain nor the report a crime. Brickset has to follow the exact same rules and guidelines as a recognized fan media than we have as a recognized LEGO user group.
I contacted the LEGO company to ask about their view on the issue and their clear message was that the LEGO group does not influence what may be exhibited at a fan run show. LEGO is not always happy about what is exhibited, such as the burning twin towers in New York, but they do not interfere. Let’s consider the case of Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist famous for his critical and controversial work. TLG initially declined a bulk order he made since it would exhibition would contravene “corporate policy”. Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen later revised this decision and in January 2016 In LEGO dropped its restrictions on bulk orders, saying it would stop asking people why they wanted its bricks. Customers wanting to build public displays out of Lego bricks would now only have to make clear that the company does not endorse the project.
Another claim made by the committee was that my exhibit would have triggered a report being send to the LEGO company. Owain Bunyan, a representative from LEGO New Zealand who attended the show told me that he is not aware of any such report. Jan Beyer, LEGO community manager, was also unaware of any such report.
Showing two Ferrari F40, one from LEGO and one from LEPIN, and challenging the community to guess which one is which is a playful and engaging method of stimulating a discussion. A discussion that we desperately need. The public and the AFOLs need to be informed about what they are buying and how they can tell original LEGO products apart from copies. The two Ferraris showed how difficult this has become. Section 3.c of the LUG 4/2 rules even stipulate the goal to “Assist in education of the community through participation in LUG4x2 events, related workshops and increasing the capabilities of the community”. The charitable status of our club is based on its educational mission. We have to provide education to the community, including how to tell original LEGO models apart from copies.
In summary, it appears that the show/LUG committee was not aware of the rules or did not understand them correctly when they made their decision to ban my exhibit. This can be best described as negligent if not incompetent. What followed after the show is also highly problematic. Withholding information, ignoring complaints and instructing other club members not to talk to me is unprofessional. As a matter of fact, it gives me the impression that they had something to hide.
What can we do to prevent this from happening in the future. First, the show needs to have clear guidelines about what is allowed at the show and what not. Do we allow the display of military equipment? Do we allow the depiction of violent scenes? (Both happened before). How do we deal with fake LEGO and non-LEGO products? Does everything at the show has to be 100% original LEGO?
I hope that we have a chance to talk about this during our upcoming annual general meeting.
A more detailed report on my experience is available on my website at: http://www.bartneck.de/2017/09/02/critical-lepin-exhibit-banned-from-lego-fan-show/