“Concept Stolen!”


I came across this thread the other day on Guild Wars Guru, which is so ridiculous that I just felt the need to comment on it.

A while ago, in mid 2006, I did a drawing for someone and it featured a sword that many people liked (along with the armor). Fast forward to Nightfall and there is a sword at the end which many are now familiar with, the Forgotten Sword. These two swords look incredibly similar as shown below. This has happened once before with another game. So what’s going on? Are they stealing my ideas, or is it just pure coincidence? I know that I’m not going to put anything on the web I don’t want the possibility of being filched from now on.



I am just in awe at the egotism of this character in thinking that, just because he may have produced a drawing of a similar looking object a year before, that the artists of Guild Wars “stole” his concept. Anyone whose seen some of the concept art for Guild Wars, or simply played the game for that matter, realizes that Guild Wars’ artists don’t need to rip off some kid’s art.

Of course, even getting into that point is fruitless — Anyone with any sense realizes that the object in Guild Wars is completely different entity than the sketch this guy made. One is a 3D model, texture, with supporting code that allows it to actually function in the game. The other is graphite on paper.

I’m not a copyright lawyer, of course, but the idea that you can copyright an “idea,” in this case, the idea of a sword that has such and such characteristics, is pretty asinine. Good luck proving that, in thousands of years of history where men have been making swords, no one has made a sword like yours before. Good luck proving that simple derivations of existing swords couldn’t independently come up with the same design without needing to reference your work at all. The arrogance of this thinking just boggles my mind.

I think the thing that bugs me the most is that even a cursory glance can tell that these weapons aren’t identical — The drawing has a straight-edge on the top of the blade and a triangular protrusion on the cutting edge near the hilt. The forgotten weapon lacks the triangular protrusion on the cutting edge, but has an additional flourish on the top of the blade. These aren’t terribly major changes, but when it comes to changes which differentiate one similar weapon from another, that pretty much invalidates the whole claim of “theft” right there.

11 Responses

  1. I’m very unfortunate to have come across this blog. Very, *VERY* unfortunate, to the point that I wish I could regurgitate unpleasant memories. Viewpoints like this are what is the undermining to the global artistic community. If you had any respect for your patriotism for fantasy gaming, animation and film, you would respect the notion of intellectual property.

    Now, I’m not a copywrite lawyer, of course, but as international copyright law states that any form of creative and artistic work give a copyright holder the sole exclusive right to that piece of intellectual property up to the creator’s life, plus seven decades.

    Do you know what that means, fanboy? it means that Josh Berens is right, and despite how prolific the folks at Guild Wars are, they do (like many advertising companies do illegally every week) steal unknown work to keep original. Perhaps that one GW artist deemed to create the design was aware of the artwork, perhaps he glanced over it and subconsciously logged it. The fact remains that he could contest this, and it’s in his artistic right to do so.

    I am just in awe at the egotism of this character in thinking that, just because he favours his Guild Wars. As a Concept Artist and independent designer, I’m disgusted that consumers are so opposed to those that create entertainment for them every day. Perhaps you should be more grateful to intellectual property laws. I am, at the very least.

  2. I’m very unfortunate to have come across this comment. Very, *VERY* unfortunate, to the point that I wish I could regurgitate unpleasant memories. Viewpoints like this are what is the undermining to the global artistic community. If you had any respect for your patriotism for fantasy gaming, animation and film, you would respect the notion of intellectual property.

    Instead, you decide to “pick sides” on a case of which you have no knowledge, and plenty of evidence (about 3000 years’ worth) contradicting the ridiculous claim that the sword design in the first picture is totally original. Instead, you choose to side with some random guy who produced a simple line drawing and attempted to gain notoriety by attacking ArenaNet over it. Do you know what that means, fanboy? It means you fell for this guy’s ploy hook, line, and sinker.

  3. It’s a good thing I’m the second fellow in this topic to pick sides, eh? I don’t know about you, but I’m going to side with the guy with the pen over the guy with four cups of coffee in his system who wishes to berate conceptual designers in favor of his thirst for consumer titles.

    10,000+ years of civilization, culture and art have nothing to do with it, if you had any idea what a copyright is. The Romans designed roads, but they didn’t patent them, did they? No Greek artisan ever claimed running royalties on images depicting Heracles. But does that mean a yogic meditation instructional video company claim rights on thousand year old stretching positions? If you say that designs like this sword have already existed, then why does GW get the right to advertise it as an original concept?

    I don’t care who made it, I’m reserving the right for the contest of smaller artists over ones who are big enough to steal others’ ideas. I doubt you’d be happy if a major brand corporation stole tag formats of your web designs. The sad part is if you didn’t have a creative copyright on it, you’d have nothing to dispute. At least Josh has his rights reserved, and it still happened:

    Do you know what this means, fanboy? It means you fell for this company’s ploy hook, line, and sinker (it’s also means the last time either of us should use direct allusion, heheh)

  4. It’s amusing to get lectured by someone about copyright when that person obviously has a far more tenuous grasp on the concepts of copyright — Well, not just copyright, but logic and reason.

    “The Romans designed roads, but they didn’t patent them, did they”? What the hell? Apparently you’re claiming (a) that Romans didn’t care who learned about their architecture and engineering knowledge, (b) that it’s perfectly okay to take Roman engineering inventions and claim them as your own because they weren’t “patented”, and (c) that it’s impossible to develop “roads” without using the knowledge of the Romans. All of these are obviously false.

    Your other examples are so confused that you apparently don’t even realize they counter your own argument.

    Since you obviously are too ignorant on the subject to realize why I’m right and you’re wrong, and too dogmatic to listen to me, here are some relevant quotes from Wikipedia on Copyright:

    “Copyright law recognises the right of an author based on whether the work actually is an original creation, rather than based on whether it is unique; two authors may own copyright on two substantially identical works, if it is determined that the duplication was coincidental, and neither was copied from the other.”

    “Copyright usually protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself — in US jurisprudence this is called the idea/expression or fact/expression dichotomy. For example, if a writer has a general concept or idea for a television program, the law of copyright does not prohibit other writers from copying that general idea…Another example could be if a book is written describing a new way to organize books in a library, a copyright does not prohibit a reader from freely using and describing that concept to others; it is only the particular expression of that process as originally described that is covered by copyright.”

    In this case we are talking about one original work, the drawing of the woman with the sword, and another original work, the 3D model of the sword in Guild Wars, and its textures. Further the “concept” of “a scimitar-like sword design with a tapered tip” is not the original creation of the creator of the line drawing, and thus he cannot “copyright” it. The only way that he could legitimately claim the Guild Wars item infringed on his “concept” was if it was a direct copy of every single element of his design (it’s not), and even then it’s highly unlikely that a unique work in a substantially different medium could be found infringing.

    Next time you feel like adding in your two cents, it might be a good idea to take at least 30 seconds to do some basic research before making a fool out of yourself.

  5. Now, the funniest part of this is you took my sarcastic remark and ran with it as a bona fide statement. Oh, but it’s okay, I understand. A *lot* of people mistake the notion that The Romans and Greeks had access to the *International Patent Institute*. Never you mind, sweet dear.

    Now let’s run past what What I’ve stated, and here’s the tricky part. You’ll have to listen:

    1. – “as international copyright law states that any form of creative and artistic work give a copyright holder the sole exclusive right to that piece of intellectual property up to the creator’s life, plus seven decades.”

    See? Now this is the truth in copyright as the acting form of intellectual property! and if we look to Wikipedia again, it’s practically verbatim, isn’t it?

    “may subsist in creative and artistic works (e.g. books, movies, music, paintings, photographs, and software) and give a copyright holder the exclusive right to control reproduction or adaptation of such works for a certain period of time (historically a period of between 10 and 30 years depending on jurisdiction, more recently the life of the author plus several decades)” – Wiki

    As ironic as it sounds, you can thank Michael Eisner for that gem of an extension. This is precisely the legal activity that gives ole’ JB the ability to defend his idea! Any reproduction or adaptation, you say? well, that’s just like if someone used a piece of *artwork* and adapted it to mesh, model, and texture!

    “The fact remains that he could contest this, and it’s in his artistic right to do so.”

    There’s the tip of the sword which one has blatantly denied a stranger. I would have never noticed this poor blog if you could have insulted anything else other than that. If “cursory glance” is all you have to go on, can you also deny the legal rights for this
    to dispute intellectual property over this?

    Cursory glance, like hell. A cursory glance is what had my own work stolen, thank you very much. And that was before I had the knowledge of registering my portfolio pieces. And what hits me the most is that this post is still the running opinion that allows people to blatantly steal, reproduce and sell personal artwork online. I’m glad you actually *wiki’d* the word copyright, good for you. However, it left me feeling as though a child had thumbed through the dictionary and called me an “innumerate”. Please, try reading between the lines, if you don’t wish to read the actual lines.

  6. Lutemoth,

    It’s pretty clear that you’re

    (a) Not willing to consider the facts of the situation,

    (b) Largely uninformed about copyright, as anyone who has had substantial exposure to media can confirm (regardless of explicit copyright knowledge), and cherry picking quotes from Wikipedia using your own malformed opinions to couch them in a way that validates the stance you’re taking,

    (c) Substantially emotionally involved in this argument (Hi, Josh)

    The facts are these:
    One artist created one piece of line art depicting a woman with a sword. A second artist or group of artists created a 3D model of a sword.

    We do not know when the second piece of art was conceived or created, and we do not know that the second artist had exposure to the first artist’s work. In fact, the only reason I even came across this whole debacle is precisely because the artist made a stink about it in an area other than an fan artwork subforum.

    Whether or not the second piece of artwork is different enough from the first is a question that to me has an easy answer (Yes, it’s clearly an original creation), but is largely irrelevant because you/Josh have failed to provide any evidence besides wild speculation and angry accusations against people who are skeptical of such claims (me) that the artists responsible for the 3D model had any knowledge at all of the line art drawing. Given the volume of the internet, I rate that as a pretty remote possibility.

    Of course, you’ll probably try and claim that it’s irrelevant whether or not ArenaNet employees had direct knowledge of Josh’s picture, because obviously Lutemoth’s version of copyright gives Josh copyright on all similarly designed swords for lifetime + X years. But wait, what exactly is the chronology here? Josh claims his picture was done in “mid 2006” while Guild Wars: Nightfall came out in October 2006, and was in development since November 2005. So, according to your theory of “copyright,” it’s more likely that the unknown artist(s) over at ArenaNet had “copyright” over this sword design, and Josh is the scurrilous villain who copied them. Figures, kids these days!

  7. A note on the GW:NF publishing bit there, it’s not useful for either of us which had been published first, as conceptual development can begin as late as four months into inception (or as early as whoever knows how long before a title has been registered, years perhaps) and as late into development as far as a couple weeks before going gold (as far as I’ve seen). Really, the only detail is if the actual artists stepped forward with their own time-stamp, and well..

    I was a bit confused for a moment on that (Hi, Josh) thing. It certainly didn’t imply that Josh was simply watching this, so I’ll clarify:

    his stuff (“riplox”?)

    My work, published not too long ago.

    But, your point still remains valid, and you’re right. I have become much too emotionally charged over this, and I apologize for that. (spend seven months over one lawsuit, and you’ll see where I’m coming from). While discussing points and citations of varying bits of intellectual freedom and international/national copyright laws makes me nostalgic, it’s become persistently beyond the concept that for some reason, someone still fails to recognize the international intellectual right to dispute a matter such as this. Just because it’s a different media, doesn’t exclude this from the matter. In fact, it’s the most common.

    Please, don’t “cherry pick”, yourself. I wanted to glaze over your invalid arguments on mutual copyrights or any of the finer points on fair use articles (which is hard to do so, since there are less than five points on fair use doctrine in the USCW. How could you screw those up?) – I’ll let you decide on which parts are incorrect or not applicable in this matter. It’s relevant that they knew. Moving on.

    The truth of the situation is I don’t see this going any further, unless a circle is any progress to you. I see a sword that not only is identical in ornate design and in both the grip and cloned hilt. On the other spectrum, you see one piece that looks completely unalike to the other, to the point it’s comical or something to that effect. It’s no fun in nerd-blurbing it up if there’s no going forward in this conversation with you. Musings indeed, eh?

  8. Well, I can agree that if we define progress as “convincing me that your point of view is correct” that we aren’t making much progress.

    You apparently see two swords that are identical. I see a sword design that’s nothing unique in the history of swords, and another similar sword. I’ve even talked with several people about this already, and all have agreed that neither sword design is unique, and that while they’re similar, they aren’t the same. I’m not really sure how you can expect to make progress given that rather substantial gap in perception.

    It doesn’t help that you seem perfectly willing to keep moving goalposts or evading real issues. I mentioned that the two works are in different mediums, and you respond by linking to a picture of a 2D piece of artwork which was copied as part of a 2D print on a shirt. Don’t play dumb. On the other hand, if you have discovered an easily accesible method whereby I can copy 2D artwork into 3D that isn’t creating it from scratch, I would definitely be interested.

    From my perspective, you just seem to be pursuing some sort of retributive agenda which has caused you to jump to untenable conclusions without any real evidence. It’s kind of puzzling to me why you seem to want to be this crusader for Josh Berens because a sword he drew is similar to a sword found in Guild Wars, but on the other hand you seem completely willing to impugn the reputations of [thus far] nameless ArenaNet artists. I don’t really get why that’s acceptable, since both “parties” here are people and artists who not only deserve credit for their works, but also deserve not to get slandered without cause.

  9. So some kid who drew fan art of Guild Wars is now claiming they ripped him off? Guild Wars, a game with some of the best art direction and artists in the industry? I can tell you that professional artist are extremely aware of the risks to their company and their entire career should they rip someone off. You will not get hired if you have a reputation or a lawsuit on you for stealing art.

    So, I see a company with some of the most talented artists you can find, who really have little reason to rip off some kid, and a lot of reasons be dissuaded from doing it.

    And I see a kid who was drawing some guild wars fan art.

    The immense burden is on him to prove that they stole a weapon that has a similar shape, in a different medium.

  10. I’m sorry but I must agree with Lutemoth. Sorry Cineris, but ALL forms of art are covered, and should be covered by copyright law. Because it is a matter of design. While I am not saying that this is actually a stolen piece of art by guild wars, I will say it is NOT UNUSUAL for concept artist to search for pictures online to draw an idea from. You need to design a sword. So, you go to google images and you search “swords”. You look at a few images, then get out sketch pad and start to draw. It’s not odd in anyway, I’d say it’s common to view “source material”. But, I’ll say again I’m not saying that is what happen, only that is does happen.

    Still, regardless of the prior fact if our Mr. Beren’s here decided to copywrite his sword, he should have every right to, and people copy write things like that all the time. For example if Street fighter tried to give Ryu the Soul Edge blade there’d be a law suit before you could blink. Why? Because, the sword is copywriten along with everything else illustrated within the Soul Edge games. The idea of lowering the copyright standards in the least, IS appalling on an American level. The Free trade of ideas in America is based on receiving proper dues and credit for those ideas. And I doubt even the markers of guild wars would agree with your stance, because they copywrite all their art too.

  11. @Sweets:

    What the heck? I don’t think I have mentioned anything about loosening copyright law, or that copyright shouldn’t apply. I’ve said that in my interpretation of copyright law, the singular fact that two similar looking objects have been created doesn’t mean a damn thing.

    So, I have to disagree with you Sweets: Legal systems with the presumption of guilt (without anything more than the most tenuous pieces of evidence) are bad. I’m not willing to go around accusing people of stealing without something a little more convincing to go on.

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