Lego Changes Policy After Ai Weiwei Bulk Bricks Denial

Lego made a policy reversal after a controversy erupted after Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was denied the ability to bulk purchase Legos. The incident has been garnering media attention since last fall. Weiwei accused the popular and highly successful building block maker of censorship for denying him the same bulk purchase deal offered to other artists and consumers.

When Ai Weiwei was denied the possibility of bulk purchasing Legos, the company said that it routinely turns down such requests when they feel the Lego bricks could be used to create a political statement. The renowned Chinese artist is known for using his creations to criticize his government.

Ai Weiwei wanted to purchase Lego bricks in bulk for use on an art project featuring political dissidents, according to BBC News. Because Lego refused to sell him blocks in bulk, the Chinese artist used off-brand bricks, which were donated to him by folks from around the world. The art project was part of an exhibition in Melbourne, Australia.

When Lego initially refused to sell him the bulk bricks, the artist kept mum about the disappointment. One month later, the company announced plans to open one of its Legoland theme parks in Shanghai, the Independent notes. Due to the timing of the announcement, Weiwei felt that the denial from the company was based upon a political agenda. The artist had reportedly been allowed to buy the plastic bricks in bulk in the past. In 2014, he created another series of images of political dissidents that was shown inside the old Alcatraz prison.

Ai Weiwei was born 1957 in Beijing, China. His work as a human rights activist caught the attention of Chinese officials and prompted his arrest in 2011. After spending three months behind bars, he was released but was initially prohibited from traveling outside of the country, was kept under surveillance, and was barred from “engaging in pubic speech,” according to a PBS report.

The Lego Group is a family-owned and privately-held company based out of Billund, Denmark. The corporation also has primary offices in the United States, China, and London. The plastic brick manufacturer was founded by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in 1932.

Yesterday, Lego released a statement via its website, stating that the company’s policy had been for customers seeking to order bulk bricks to declare the “thematic purpose” of their project. The guideline was initiated in order to prevent the Danish company from appearing to “actively support or endorse specific agendas.” In an effort to thwart any potential “misunderstandings” or perceived inconsistencies, Lego said it has now changed it bulk purchasing guidelines.

Lego will now fulfill bulk orders as long as the customer posts clear information stating that the company does not endorse or support the project if it will be shown in the public venue.

Here’s an excerpt from the Lego policy change.

“This has been done, as the purpose of the LEGO Group is to inspire children through creative play, not to actively support or endorse specific agendas of individuals or organizations.”

When asked what he thought about the Lego bulk orders policy change, Ai Weiwei deemed it a “small victory” for free speech and added that he “welcomed Lego’s change of heart.”

What do you think about the Ai Weiwei controversy and the Lego bulk bricks policy change?

[Image via Ekaterina_Minaeva/]