Friday, January 26, 2018

Copyright traps

So in the intervening week I have hired an artist to help with some of the game. Even though I can passably draw, I am not commercial level good. One of the issues I have run into is that I can't draw attractive looking human faces. When I was drawing the characters, I was relying on a cute little face maker I found online to help with the heads. It was fun and free and made great looking heads to put on my body...

The website was

It bugged me that there was no terms of service on the website. It was just "Make a head" and then "download SVG" when done. Now I know that art does not magically appear out of thin air, and artists like to eat. So this had to come from somewhere. I couldn't believe that this was being released out of the kindness of someone's heart. I decided to see if I could maybe contact the author of the site. First thing was to do a whois to see who owned the domain.

Well, that was fruitless. They have protected their contact info behind a spam shield. This was odd though, because this is a service used mostly by companies. Ok, in this case I decided to dig into the code of the face maker itself.

BINGO! found it, turns out that the program is a demo for SVGAvatars. However, it seems really strange to have the info buried in one of the page's javascript dependencies. I mean, why wasn't there a banner or something letting a prospective user know that this was a demo for a commercial product? It seemed more like a watermark than something you would use to track down the original developer. Following the link the, things went down an even stranger path...

Turns out Svgavatar is a web plugin that's for sale for $30... but the terms are weird. It says that if I want to use the plugin beyond the scope the the price tag that I need an "extended license", but was unable to find any contact or purchase info on what this included. There was a link to the developer so, as any rational person, decided to try and contact this person directly.

It turns out that in order for you to contact Mr. or Ms. DeeThemes, you have to have a CodeCanyon account, which for $22 a month, which  "allows you to download free themes, plugins and other media"

I was increasingly believing that this avatar maker was a copyright trap.

There has been a growing trend of copyright holders putting "freebies" content on the internet for people to download and put into their works. The terms are usually hidden but has some banner about it being free and all. If you use the content in your work, the trap is sprung. A lawyer will spring into action asking to settle for a few grand for copyright infringement. Because of the small scale, it's profitable to the lawyer to do this for little work. Then the content creator gets everything above the lawyers frees, which is about a billiable hour.

Newp! Not having any of that! I decided to ditch the heads and to have someone give me hand. Wasn't worth the possible infringement, not matter how "Free" it was.

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