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The ethics of customisation
I know that the very point of Lego is that you can build whatever you want, and customise endlessly and so on, but how far does this extend? I have seen plenty of MOC's which include 'Brickarms' weapons which are home-made by an individual (so, not a business or a company), and I recently came across a website called (I think) Clone Army Customs. This is, again, a one-man business which churns out customised clone troopers from the Clone Wars TV show, related video games, movies, books etc. Most of these look fairly well done (not like most of the Sharpie pen and craft knife versions you see all too often), and the 'about me' section of the website says he spends between 12-24 hours on each figure. What are the Brickset community's thoughts on this kind of customisation? Is it profiteering and should be frowned upon, or is it continuing in the grand tradition of creativity which Lego has created?
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At first I felt decals was going far enough, but then I needed to change the colour of someone's hair, (not enough cool colours in lego's world for roller derby girls!) And of course minifig sized skates needed to be bodged by hand drawing them. It felt wrong at first, but the results look pretty good, and it's got a lot more of my friends to have a bit of lego love in their lives :)
I like that there is a limited amount of colors and bricks, so that it stretches your creativity and makes you work out new uses for parts.
However I do seriously admire some of the modification work that some do, very artistic.
So will happily have a custom football minifig, but he will be a novelty and not become a 'part' of my Lego collection.
I think if someone does it mainly as a hobby and sells here and there then good luck to them. I suppose if someone 'sets up shop' producing huge amounts of 'modified Lego products' then that is a different matter and I would think TLG may not be pleased.
Actually, it stands for Big Ben Bricks if I'm not mistaken.
I like your former guess though :-)
"Profiteering" to me as I understand it would be if these 2nd & 3rd Party Customizers were passing themselves off as LEGO representatives. Selling their custom pieces (many of which are accessory pieces) as official LEGO and not Brick compatible. There are many LEGO resellers who could also be considered "Profiteering" by the initial statement because they sell boxes of LEGO sets years after a set or theme has been discontinued at marked up prices or because they get a huge lot of mixed random pieces from say a garage sale; go through and sell individually any minifigures, accessory pieces and unique parts.
Now, I haven't seen this Clone Army Customs person, but from the description given here, it'd be a case of either LEGO or Lucas Films to investigate and make any actions necessary.
Others such as Brickarms, cater to those who want to make for example military themed MOCs with their LEGO collection. And the creation of brick compatible accessories, decals and painting to modify and make a WWII minifigure and tank. In a way that should be allowed as it extends the level of creativity involved.
I'll buy custom accessory pieces, especially if it's something that LEGO themselves don't have or haven't made. I got some custom sheep and Shepard's staffs and made a rather neat looking little Nativity last year. Something that wouldn't have been half as good or even attempted if there hadn't been a customizer with some to sell.
But I wouldn't want someone who's making say... dogs that look just like what LEGO makes and passing them off as official LEGO. If I wanted say the extra LEGO dogs and they're no longer made, I'll look to sites like e-bay or Bricklink to see who's got any extras that they're selling.
The latter example is also not profiteering unless you were selling to the very same people in line behind you at the garage sale who were also interested in that lot.
Now what would be unethical about customizing? Well, claiming a minifigure as your own creation and marketing it as such when the scribbling on the decal or whatever is the only thing you created. Unless you molded the parts yourself the minifigure was produced by Lego, not by you.
However, in most cases there is no profiteering in customization. To use the original poster's example, no profiteering exists since the asking price is reflective of the amount of hand-made detailing done on the figures and the customizer is not claiming to have manufactured the figures themselves.
With regards to modifying minifigs, I take it in the same light as people who modify cars such as if someone had a standard Ford Mustang, then put a new motor in and a custom paint job.
There's a point that this customization is art. I see my brick collection in the same light as an artist looks at their box of paint. Though as a toy, there are sets I want the models of and others I've picked up for parts or a duplicated was picked up so I could part it out for customization/art.
I think the customization of minifigures is partly why LEGO is so popular among adults. Not only can you interchange existing parts, but you can modify them to represent more adult themes that LEGO would never explore (i.e. WWII)
I personally don't mind customizations. I use brickforge as I think they make some nice sci-fi stuff and have a good variation of weapons. I've shopped there a number of times and love their products. I use their stuff to give variation to minifigures. For instance, I army build a number of CMF and to give them variation I'll use Brickforge stuff in addition to changing heads and body parts.