Let's Talk About Clones

Hey all,

We've been noticing an uptick of users discussing and expressing – often times quite vociferously – concerns about the presence and discussion of clones on SFF Forum. To define that term, a 'clone' is an enclosure or other product/design that is broadly similar to a pre-existing one.

I think it's important that I make clear where SFF Forum stands on threads/posts/users that publish and promote clones, as well as to explain the rationale behind that stance. I also want to take a moment to remind everyone of the rules surrounding decorum.
  • Let me be as clear as possible: SFF Forum has no policy prohibiting threads or accounts that discuss or promote clones. That's because our mission is to promote discussion and share ideas through the forum, and clones are a part (sometimes a big part) of the marketplace. As a part of this, we are not receptive to requests to delete something because an individual believes that one design is too similar to another. Simply put, courtrooms are the designated venues for defending intellectual property, not a web forum with zero jurisdiction or expertise on the matter. We strongly encourage anyone who is concerned about potential IP theft to leverage the full protections extended to owners by law, through the venues and channels established by that same law. On our part, know that – through our content moderation – we will acknowledge and respond to decisions by the courts surrounding the legality of any products or designs.
  • Let me also speak towards decorum around the discussion of clones. However you may feel about a particular project, any accusations, shitposting, thread hijacking or similar behavior in response to them is not ok, full stop. There are plenty of legitimate gripes and concerns surrounding clones (or simply products with similar designs). Believe me, as a designer and as someone running a collective of designers, I get that more than most. But whatever your point of view may be, channeling it into rants and accusations is against the rules, not because there can't be awesome and constructive discussions about clones but because those posts get in the way of that discourse. To illustrate this: a community member respectfully explaining the particulars of why they find a clone to be uninspired, undifferentiated, or unoriginal – and perhaps making thoughtful suggestions of how to change that – is great! On the flip side, accusing someone of stealing a design, lambasting the unoriginality of an enclosure, or just using language intended to incite, is not ok.
  • It’s important that I express the ‘why’ behind all of this. I know that some people may feel that SFF Forum should actively protect designers, and aggressively defend the IP of those who invest time and energy in their projects. I genuinely understand that point of view, particularly since one of the reasons for founding SFF Forum was to give designers a hospitable place to create, develop, and promote their ideas. But what makes that responsibility untenable is the fact that it forces SFF Forum to become an arbiter of who owns what designs, what constitutes a clone, or if clones or other classes of products should be designated as innately inferior or unethical. And as fellow enthusiasts and designers ourselves, we are plainly and woefully unqualified to do any of that. Philosophically, it's simply not our place to dictate such points of view on behalf of the community, either. Our job is not to proselytize. It is to encourage and shepherd respectful and constructive discussions, such that every member of our community can have an informed point of view and exercise their own judgement. So that is what we are committed to doing, to the best of our ability.

I’d very much like to know the thoughts you all have around this topic, so hopefully this thread will become the place to discuss it. As always, feel free to get in touch with myself, @confusis, or any of the mods if you have any questions or concerns. Finally, I’d like to thank all the community members that have come to us with questions about this subject, or who have reported incidents where discussions have become heated; I know it might not seem like it at times, but that feedback is essential and makes a real difference in our ability to moderate a healthy community. Thank you.

– Joshua


Chief Procrastination Officer
SFFn Staff
Jun 29, 2015