February 13th, 2008
Scott left a comment on my T-shirt contest post, leading me to this discussion on Metafilter about Pixish and spec work. There are some who are saying that Pixish is essentially enabling Web 2.0 slavery practices, cheapening design work, etc. My contest, and specifically my language about how I will use your design on T-shirts and not pay you for it, are cited as one of the examples of how Pixish can be used for evil. As someone says in a comment in that thread “Am I the only one that notes the irony of a musician gleefully admitting they will be using another artist’s work for free?” Oy.
Let me be clear about a couple of things:
1) I wanted to run a contest, not because I wanted to get free design work, but because I wanted to get a design that comes from, and is ratified by the community here on this site. I think it’s fun when fans get involved – it’s the same reason I got people to send in hand claps for “We Will Rock You” and why I held a solo contest for “Shop Vac.” That was fun, right? Right?
2) I have no idea how much it would cost to commission someone to design a shirt for me, certainly it would depend on who it was and what they and I thought their work was worth. But for the record, it’s going to cost me $200 for the iPod, maybe 50 bucks in raw materials for Thing a Week Box Sets, a few bucks for shipping, and probably a few nights sleep while I worry about this whole affair and read a bunch of flamey comments. After all that, I’m not sure I’ll end up with any designs that I want to print (in which case just having had the contest will have been worth it to me). Honestly T-shirts are not a huge profit center for me, in fact, they’re just barely less trouble than they’re worth.
3) Another quote: “[H]oly cow, JoCo is going to get an assload of free design work that is only going to cost him a single iPod, and on top of that, he might use anyone’s submission without them winning anything.” Yes, that is what I said, I can see how that last part is not really fair, and in fact it seems to be against the rules at Pixish: “…publishers have no rights to your work if you don’t win.” So I’ll change that. Only the winning design may be printed.
4) I admit this is not the first time I’ve felt a little weird about getting free work from fans – I’ve got helpers working on this video shoot for comp tickets (or not, if they already had tickets), many fans who have sold merch in exchange for comps and free merch, website work from Kerrin, illustrations from Len, forum moderation from Bry, music videos from all sorts of people, not to mention the free handclaps I tricked the internet into giving me. And I’m not the only one getting free stuff from the internet: Amazon gets book reviews, YouTube gets videos, MySpace gets, erm, error messages. But seriously, where do you draw the line?
Anyway, this whole thing was supposed to be fun, but it’s feeling a lot less fun now that the internet thinks I’m some kind of Web 2.0 plantation owner. I myself am pretty sure this contest is way different from me asking a bunch of designers to do spec work for me, and I’m also not comfortable deciding that Pixish is evil just because it can be used that way. But I am curious to hear what you all think (and folks from the Metafilter thread if they find their way here – I was going to sign up and post a comment, but it costs $5). If I’m wrong, I’ll call the whole thing off. Then I’ll just buy an iPod and smash it in the street, I don’t care, I’m rich.