Okay, so lately I’ve seen a lot of this. People seem to have taken to using characters that do not belong to them instead of their own original character. In this article I’m going to explore this issue for you, reader, and explain to you why this act is abhorrent and unscrupulous.
Firstly, let’s talk about Bearing. Bearing is a YouTube reply-girl style channel. What this means is he plays a video from someone else, and interjects occasionally with their own thoughts. Recently Bearing’s channel disappeared suddenly, which led to outrage in the remnants of the skeptic community. After a bit of speculation, a reason behind Bearing’s termination was announced, as well as a picture surfacing, showing that Bearing’s iconic bear, is a character from Total Drama Island, a Cartoon Network show. The similarities are astounding, as there is virtually no editing done to this character. I feel even greater disgust at the fact he even sold merchandise with this character on it. What this is, is a gross violation of Copyright Laws, because he not only used the character on a monetized Youtube channel, but sold merchandise with the image of the character. Why this isn’t fair use is because fair use let’s someone use an IP (Intellectual Property) for commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, and scholarship. One could argue that Bearing reports news, and commentates, but he isn’t reporting on the bear, nor is he reporting news on the bear.
Bearing’s CafePress store (Screenshot at the time of this article)
Now, if you’re someone that follows me elsewhere, you might know that I hate art theft. Being a furry leaves me with a lot of insight into art communities, and I see this often. The basic, underlying issue as far as art goes, is that this could be seen as tracing. It would seem that the picture Bearing uses, is traced from the original Total Drama Island bear, which as practice I can see being okay. However, to claim this character as your own? This is an act that I cannot condone, as I find it to be absolutely disgusting, and anyone who commits this act to be very misguided.
Moving on, character theft also hits smaller communities, I personally have seen multiple artists have a character stolen, and used on twitter as a RP (RolePlay) character. This act, I find to be even worse than the Bearing situation. I say that, because if you are so low, that instead of creating an Original Character, you steal another person’s, you are lower than dirt. Any creator, pours their heart into making memorable, and unique characters. They make these characters with distinct traits, personalities, likes, and dislikes. My primary issue, is that someone who does this not only takes the physical traits, but they re-write the character, in most cases turning them into a mindless whore for the purpose of Erotic RolePlay (ERP.) One such example being characters drawn by Chalo from the comic Las Lindas, the most common being Mora Linda.
Some may not realize they do this, but that is no good excuse. Some people I see will just take art from a site, and throw it onto their profile and make a character. This nullifies the OC that that art is of, and in a lot of cases, gives them the ability to impersonate them, if that OC’s owner doesn’t use the same website. Now, there is a varying degree here. Using someone’s art on your profile is one thing, as long as you state in an easy to see way that it isn’t your art. Take my profile on twitter for example, my icon at the time of this posting is from an artist named Wool. Using his art in this way, lets people see the art, and having a link to his Pixiv in my description, allows them to be able to go to his profile on Pixiv and view his art. This is a positive action for an artist, however if you make no such descriptor in your profile, then you allow that artist no way to gain anything from you using their art. Using the picture, without throwing in a story and ruining the character, is a good way to give an artist exposure, without ruining an OC.
The last topic to mention is removing copyright form pictures. Not long ago I had found an unofficial twitter for Pokemon Go, that shared a page from the webcomic Final Smash!, however they cropped the image so that the copyright and web address at the bottom weren’t there. Never do this, because if you can’t let people link to the source material you have no place to try to use it in any way. Letting people link to the source material is a courtesy that you allow the original creator when you use their stuff. There is no fine print, it’s truly as simple as that.
So what can you do about this, dear reader? Be vigilant, know your characters, know art styles. If you see something that doesn’t look right, investigate it. If you see an account that says “Character not mine” find out who the character belongs to and notify them. Alternatively, if you aren’t good at this kind of work you can send me the information on twitter @MishkaHuskyWoof and I’ll look into it for you. The biggest thing to do is to not expect praise. This duty is very thankless, but also a huge benefit to copyright in general, because you can learn the system and know how it works. Keeping an eye out creates a better environment for artists to feel like their work isn’t being torn away constantly, like they can safely put their content out. That’s all for now, thank you for reading!