<a href= www.facebook.com/apps/applicat…>Hammerfall RPG is a Facebook game. You may have heard of it. You may have not, but by the end of this article I hope you wont forget it. It boasts over 233,000 (thats two-hundred-thirty-three-thousand, just to emphasize) monthly active players. With an average rating of 4.6 stars out of 5, as rated by more than 4000 players, its got a fairly good name for itself.
The premise is simple. You create a fantasy character and play your way through various quests, meeting goals and leveling up your character as you go. Youre also supposed to build a guild out of your Facebook friends and the more people you convince to join, the bigger your guild, the farther you progress into the game. Since its the online equivalent of a pen and paper RPG there arent 3D graphics or anything. Just small pictures displayed with each quest or with characters and items that you encounter. Like this: www.insidesocialgames.com/wp-c…
And they are beautiful graphics. Beautifully stolen graphics.
deviantArt, meet Hammerfall RPG, the latest in a long series of small gaming applications and forums online that are out to make a quick buck off of our hard workwithout our knowledge or permission. There are over a thousand images used on their site. I know. Ive looked through most of them (and Ill get to that in a moment). Of those thousand nearly half were pulled from deviantARTists. Some were probably googled, and I saw more than a few iStockphoto or other stock photos in there, but there were a large number that came from deviantART.
Unfortunately, because you have to play though the game to get to some of those images, it would be difficult to locate them the normal way.
Luckily for us, however, art thieves arent particularly known for their brilliance. Hammerfall hosts their images in a (public!) Photobucket account. We all remember Photobucket, right?
(If you dont, no worries. Heres a quick summary: Photobucket has one of the WORST copyright policies on the web. Images hosted in public Photobucket accounts are automatically available as prints, stickers, on coffee mugs and other products, without the artists permission, knowledge, and without any money going back to the artistor the person who unknowingly posted the artists image in their Photobucket account. Heres a quick video on how this works: www.plagiarismtoday.com/2008/0… few months back we tried to get Photobucket to change their practices, and they basically blew us off.
The bright side? Photobucket has a great DMCA policy. If you find your images hosted there without your permission, all you have to do is file a DMCA through email, and the image will be removed. More on this and how it applies in a minute.)
Since Hammerfall developers were too cheap to host the stolen images on their own servers, that actually makes it easier for us to get our work removed. Rather than having to try to get the developer to remove the images, we can nicely ask Photobucket to take them down. And they will.
With the help of several other deviantARTists and TinEye.com weve managed to track down many of the original images and the artists who did them. This was a long and tedious process because not only were the images stolen and then hosted on Photobucket, each image was also resized into 8 to 10 different versions (ranging from very tiny to medium large). All of the artists affected will be noted, but if you want to know who was affected you can find them listed here: mercuralis.deviantart.com/jour…
Unfortunately there were a lot of images that we couldnt recognize, and that TinEye didnt turn up any matches for. Most of them were photographs. If you have the time, go through the albums and look to see if you can identify any of the images. Please double check it against the list of already identified images before noting someone, and post a link on the journal entry so we can update the list.
The account hosting the images is here: s652.photobucket.com/albums/uu…
There is a long list of album numbers on the left. Each of these albums is one image that has been resized several times. Clicking on one of the numbered albums will open a subfolder that lists the various sizes. You have to click on one of the subfolders to view the image. If you want to see how this works, click here: homepage.mac.com/mercuralis/Mi…
Like I said: tedious.
(and much thanks to LouisaGallie MeredithDillman and faerywitch for helping me go through all of those images)
Getting your images removed
If you are one of the affected artists, its a simple matter to get your work removed. All you have to do is send an email to Photobuckets abuse department. This email should read as follows (bolded text must be included word for word):
Subject: DMCA notice of copyright infringement
The following images belong to me, and are being used here without permission:
Title of Image
Original image in my gallery: [insert link to image in your dA gallery or website]
Infringing Image on Photobucket: [insert direct link to the image URL. This is listed in the drop down box under the image on PB]
I hereby state that I have a good faith belief that the disputed use of the copyrighted material is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law (e.g., as a fair use).
I hereby state that the information in this Notice is accurate and, under penalty of perjury, that I am the owner, or authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyright or of an exclusive right under the copyright that is allegedly infringed.
Your full mailing address
Your phone number
Your email address
Normally you would file one DMCA for all of the related images, however we want this account suspended for being a repeat offender. More than 280 infringed images OUGHT to count as a repeat offense. In order for us to make an impact with Photobucket, it would be better if a separate DMCA was filed for each infringed image. That means if they resized it ten times and have it posted ten times, file ten different DMCAs.
Our hope is that by filing so many against a single account, Photobucket will be forced to take action against that account.
What about the rest of us?
For those of you who are not directly affected, now isnt the time to wipe your brow and say whew glad it wasnt me because the truth is, the next time it COULD be you.
As artists we face many social stigmas. That we dont do real work. That art isnt somehow a real career field, or valuable. Were faced with ignorance and apathy at every turn. Especially when it comes to certain misconceptions about copyright.
Weve all heard it, and many of us have said itusually in a resigned, world-weary tonethat putting your work online is like asking for it to be stolen. But we also know that thats not true. Putting your work online involves risks, yes, but we give up no rights by doing so, and the law remains firmly on our side when it comes to copyrights.
YOU, and only you (unless you sell your rights to an image) have the right to:
- post your work wherever you like
- choose who else can post it
- make money from it
- resize it, recolor it, add glitter to it, or change it in any way
Now I know wed all love it if someone could invent a way to make it impossible for images to be stolen. Heck, Id be thrilled as hell if I woke up tomorrow morning and there was a note in my dA news saying that the deviantART developers had come up with a foolproof way of protecting our work. Sadly, I know that art thieves are some of the biggest fools and its impossible to stop them from stealing images so long as things like screenshots are around.
Not all of the images stolen by Hammerfall were popular imagesso just because you dont think its worth stealing doesnt mean someone else will think the same. Please, artists, put your full names clearly on your images. Put copyright notices on them. Watermark them if you want but dont devalue your work by refusing to at least TRY to protect it.
We need to let companies like Hammerfall know that they cannot use online galleries like deviantART as their own personal free supply of clipart. We need to let Facebook know that we are serious about dealing with art thieves and we want them to take some responsibility when it comes to banning game developers that use stolen art.
We are not going to sit down and shut up and keep taking kicks from people who dont respect our rights or us.
In a day or two, the DMCA notices will hopefully start hitting Photobucket, which is going to result in a LOT of broken links in Hammerfalls game. Its going to make a lot of their players very upset when they realize that the professional game that theyve become used to playing is really just anther slimy developer trying to make a quick buck off of other peoples work.
If you are a Facebook member, consider leaving Hammerfall RPG a review, letting them know your feelings on this situation. If their reviews drop, its going to affect them in a real way.
With the help of Jonathan Bailey at <a href=www.plagiarismtoday.com/>PlagarismToday.com were also going to be drafting a letter to Facebook, letting them know about this situation and how we feel about it. Hopefully theyll step up and take some action against unscrupulous game developers. If not, we can at least give them some bad press to worry about. Were also planning on filing a report against the game, showing a list of all the artists whose work was taken, and citing them for breach of Developer TOS Section 5.
Admittedly its not much, but its a step toward getting some respect from the online community. And as a bonus we get to make some art thieves VERY unhappy.
That makes my day just a little bit brighter. How about yours?
Hammerfall RPG on Facebook: www.facebook.com/apps/applicat…
Screenshots of Images in Hammerfall:
List of affected artists: mercuralis.deviantart.com/jour…
Photobucket Abuse: photobucket.com/copyright/
A collection featuring dA work we've found on Hammerfall (updated as more original artists are located): mercuralis.deviantart.com/favo…