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Ethics of buying pirated out of print figures

Discussion in 'Report Piracy' started by Bailey, Dec 5, 2011.

  1. cinimod Active Member

    Its not often I reply to threads on forums but this one I am. I appreciate that manufactures have to protect there interests and copyrights against copies and the such, but it has to be a choice on behalf of the buyer whether they choose to buy copies (especially obvious Chinese ones) or not. This may be a bit far fetched but if I wanted a Venus De Milo statue in my garden then am I to be pilloried for buying an obvious remould from B and Q just because I can't afford an original.

    Yes piracy is a problem but I don't think people should sit in ivory towers when a lot of us probably have copies of other original everyday items aswell.

    The problem is that if there is a market for something then people will fill that gap whether by proper or illegal means. It might just be a indicator that some models are too expensive to start off with. It just relies on us to tell others if fakes are found and to inform the correct people and forums so that others don't get caught........dom

    Next thread......Fake or Not........ can you tell the difference. No I probably couldn't

    PS I don't buy obvious recasts and I don't want a Venus De Milo :)
    billyturnip, Gaudin and housecarl like this.
  2. Martin64 A Fixture

    As initially stated the problem of recasts is an ethical question and for all these questions there is no general right or wrong but only a personal one. Otherwise there would not be a discussion without common result over and over again.
    As an example the kits produced by Kirin long ago were in my eyes in many ways the peak of 1/16-scale miniatures with debuts of many top sculptors in their line. I have been fortunate to be able to buy at that time the originals that were officially produced in China (surprise, surprise). Since then the company is gone and nobody seems to consider a re-release of these classical kits. On ebay several of these kits are still available through China (no more box of course...) and while these offers decrease the financial value of my stash I do not condemn other modellers that could not buy the originals at their time and want to build and paint some of the "all-time-classic-kits" from this line like Mike Good`s Culloden-Highlander or Derek Hansen`s German Dragoon etc. The same refers to products from Warriors where original moulds and masters were destroyed and will never be re-released. But that is of course just my view and obviously there is a difference between these "recasts" and copies from a producer that is in business. In these cases only the producer can take legal action but I can support him by avoiding these products.
    My two cents.
    All the best, Martin
    Edward likes this.

    If you buy a recast of Warriors' Confederate colonel, watch out for Don Troiani, he will still sue! :D

    housecarl likes this.
  4. Babelfish A Fixture

    Always a topic that rasies emotions this one.

    And I have to wonder whether all those who self-righteously proclaim that "Oh I would never buy a recast and I think it's disgusting that people encourage pirates by buying recasts .... blah blah" can honestly say (hand on heart) that they have never in their lives borrowed a CD or an LP from a friend and copied it - for their own use - onto a cassette (in the old days) or onto a CD-R or onto their iPod.

    Or that they've never bought a cheap bootleg CD off a street vendor in somewhere like Istanbul or Bangkok.

    Or (if they're big fans of a particular artist) that they've never bought a "bootleg" live recording?

    Because isn't that basically the same thing as buying recast figures?

    If there's a figure I want I'll buy the original. Not only because I can be more sure of getting quality, but also because I don't want to see more companies go the way of Seil, Elite and others and go out of business. On the other hand, I don't buy into the "every recast sold by the pirates is a sale lost to the companies" argument either. And as Keith says higher up, most companies don't seem all that fussed about putting a stop to the recasters anyway.

    - Steve
    Redcap, captnenglish and Gaudin like this.
  5. Blue Thunder A Fixture

    Guys, if I can add another perspective: Why are many originals so expensive ... and why are some recasts so cheap

    The first thinking is: Originals have the sculpture costs ... recasts don't ... and so on.

    But ... and here comes the eternal "but": Originals move through many hands: Retailers, re sellers, transports ... and through each hand originals pass the price, with the taxes added, almost duplicate. Each hand that handles the merchandise adds a cost structure and is in the market to have profits. We, the final link, pay the final tag. Or better said, we pay the heavy tag.

    Re casters don't have none of these costs - They sell directly: Period!

    So, another way to see the fair price of a figure is to see the price of a counterfeit offer. This is highly controversial but it is somehow legitimate, specially if the development cost can be split through a large number of copies.

    This dilemma is not exclusive to the world of miniaturist: All brands suffer from this, and many literates claim a very simple thing: There is only a room for counterfeits if there are heavy prices around: In efficient markets, pirates can't come with better prices than real offers.

    So, e-commerce has broke this drama of the final link. Nowadays, people can buy directly to the producer and the paid price is strictly the right price.

    Even more, rarely the one who creates earns the most part of the profit. Things can change now: The one who has the idea, the concept and materializes his products is the one that takes the profit. No one else but him.

    Why does an original figure costs $50 and a copy costs $15? In an efficient world the original is the one that has to cost $15. And then bye bye piracy!

    I condemn the most but really the most these pirates and their counterfeits but the sole and single reason they exist is because the originals have a price quite more higher than they should have. And I really wonder if the original creators are really well satisfied with the money they bring home.

    food for debate :)

  6. theBaron A Fixture

    Sorry, but that doesn't hold water. You recognize that element that contributes to the higher cost of an original--the reward to the originator for his intellectual property. You are absolutely correct that pirates do not pay for that intellectual property, they merely copy it, and so they price accordingly. But where you fail is where you say that what the pirate charges is the true price.

    If you like, you may haggle with the original producer and offer him a far lower price for his product, but you will most likely fail to get him to accept it.

  7. Blue Thunder A Fixture


    My friend, I may have not been clear: A sculptor is one of the less well paid persons in the business ... and as a matter of fact he is the critical piece in the process: No sculpt=no pieces. The final price you see in a miniature is about 70% to 80% of "hand change" and transportation and 20%-30% the value the brand retains. In this mini value is the reward to the creator and the reward to the firm. What pirates do is to "remove those 70% to 80%. And they don't have to pay nothing to the sculptor: But that value is indeed a miniature.

    Don't be shocked by these numbers: Many activities have similar numbers but gladly the world is trying to change to bring revenues to the creative people. :) I sincerely hope so!

    Where there is inefficiency you find high prices. Where you find high prices you find counterfeits. Put the products at the right value and bye bye pirates. :)
  8. Waterman Active Member

    I am not a sculptor, I do not have that talent, but I have a number of very good friends that are, and a lot of you on this site buy their work. But quite frankly, to hear the way some of you are bleating, if it was me I would say sod the lot of you and would direct my skills in a more profitable and appreciative direction. I first started painting over 40 odd yrs ago, and recently returned to the hobby. I feel like a kid in a sweet shop, the choice of figures, and their quality are superb, compared to what was on offer when I started. I have been actively involved in Model Engineering large scale steam locos . Now if you cannot build yourself, then it's mega money even if you can get someone to do the bits you can't. £20 per hr would be a cheap quote.I recently spent a couple of days with a chap preparing to attend a show. He had paid a large sum of money to have a figure sculpted, and now was mould making, casting, printing instructions, and boxing up. On top of that he had travelling and accommodation costs, cost of table at show etc, and no guarantee he would even sell a figure. Perhaps that is the answer to the comment some make that some figures are overpriced. Afterwards we calculated that he had worked for 50p an hour.We in this hobby are so very fortunate, we are well supplied, far better than a lot of other pastimes,every week there is something new out. So take a reality check, and if you feel you are being exploited, either do the lot yourself from sculpt to paint, or get yourself another hobby, nobody forces you to buy the product. By the way have you seen the price of a humble Brittains figure??, that will bring it into perspective for you.
  9. Gaudin A Fixture

    Ah, but here lies a difference. Sculptor is really the underdog here and the most protected party at the same time- they get one off payment and thats it. They bear no risks, no costs, no management, no need to deal with accounts and constantly look for openings. Few sculptors can combine this and do well, but it can also overwhelm them - dont go further than recent fuss with Moz.
    Piracy doesnt affect the sculptor, at least directly and out of his pockets.
    If say - the system worked in a way that sculptor received royalty from figure sold - then yes. it would have been valid comment that sculptors are at risk. At the moment they are happily making average ( ? or small ? or big ? who knows for sure - depending on their status I guess) but fast and secure money

    But its the producer who takes the risk - and fries the fish ( relatively speaking - its all economy of scale) and I agree - its in their interest to stop piracy. But also I will agree with issue of added costs and chasing the profit. In my map, its similar to a design T Shirt made in Bangladesh for 3£ offered to me as a fantastic discounted price of £30-40. Its still a 3 £ shirt.

    It may open a storm of comments, but it seems greed also can be a factor ( and effort and labour needs to be adequatly rewarded, blah blah, all true)

    If figures were affordable and at reasonable price - and by default better quality than pirate copy - the issue will not be there, not in the scale it is now. Sorry - this already has been said.
    Its also supply vs demand issue.
  10. Martin64 A Fixture

    I was lucky enough to grab an original kit - "pirated by Warriors" - of Col John B Gordon before all that fuzz started but I would like to get in touch with Mr Troiani and find out about his current view on that matter and if it was worth it;).
  11. Waterman Active Member

    That did work in America, but I heard that when he tried it over here the judge through it out on the grounds that you cannot copyright art. I believe it was a case of someone copying from one of his book paintings, but there again that is a completely different kettle of fish to what we are talking about on this thread.

    I got one too and saved part of the box to prove its a real one. I will paint him one day as it is still IMO one of the most evocative ACW character figures of all time....Perhaps DT was p*ssed because the figure is a lot better than is painting!?!?!? But your comment is interesting - can you pirate something that waas already "pirated," at least in one man's opinion?

  13. Johan Kees Active Member

    As a police officer I have lead a team that amongst others specialised in tracking down counterfeit products like fashion, perfume, audio an video items. So naturally I am firmly against buying copied work. As everybody knows, behind these counterfeiters are hiding real criminal gangs who make a big profit on the backs of men and women producing the original products. A lot of people do not mind however. If they cannot afford a real and fancy Louis Vuitton handbag they very eagerly buy a copy for a fraction of the prize of the real product. In their eyes they have made a bargain while showing of with an (inferior) article of a so-called luxurious brand.

    I do not know about the raskals counterfeiting figures. These are probably loners trying to make some extra money, but I cannot imagine they are getting very rich from it considering its rather limited market. Nevertheless it keeps on being a dispicable thing to do, no matter if profits are big or small.

    But I am also convinced that the genuine manufactuers should do more to bring these law breakers to court. Strangely enough my team and I were more than once fighting against windmills because some of the fashion companies did not care about these counterfeiters or were very reluctant to go to court with it. Some of them even saw the counterfeit products as some form of 'free' advertising and product placement.

    Anyway, bottom line is that copying products is a criminal offense. We, as a customer, should never aid counterfeiters with their illegal business.

  14. Martin64 A Fixture

    Hi Colin
    my ironical comment, that my original John B Gordon-kit was "pirated by Warriors" referred to the accusation raised by Mr. Troiani back then. I agree totaly to your assessment that the sculpt even improved his painting - and the ERTL-figures that were liscensed by Mr. Trojani at the same time did in no way advertise his two dimensional "original" paintings. Therefore I would like to know if he would repeat his action.
    BTW I never heard of recasts of this iconic kit. I guess that they would sell well and that they would be a great test if everybody who over here condems buying a recast in general at all times and under all circumstances would stay firm:).
    About your question - a copy of a copy is still a pirated product of the original and therefore an infringement of copyright laws IMHO - so no legal bailout for somebody who is doing recasts.
    Cheers, Martin

    I think Troiani's case was doubtfut - he just had the $ and will to push it whereas Warriors didn't. A case of legal bullying IMHO. But then we will never know as it wasn't resolved in court. But I would NEVER buy a Troiani print or book.

  16. Gaudin A Fixture

    Hi Colin,

    Would you mind explaining a bit further, for those of us who aren't aware what this is about? I don't know the background of this story.

    As I recall, Warriors put out a very nice portrait of Col. J.B. Gordon and had to withdraw it after artist Don Troiani threatened to sue. There is no doubt the figure was inspired by his painting "Colonel of the Confederacy." But in my view a 3D rendering of a 2D object cannot be a copyright violation. I thought the threatened action petty and consider it reflects poorly on the artist's judgment. He would not have been financially damaged by sale of this figure. In fact, his sales may have been positively affected.

    There has been discussion of the topic here but I can't find it. As the result, the original figure is now very collectible. I don't know how many got into circulation but I haven't seen too many painted up.

    Here is a wonderfully painted version of the figure previously saved from vbench (can't recall the artist) and a copy of Troiani's work (I hope he doesn't sue me for posting it!).

    Colin post-149-1156950550.jpg TroianiDon-ColonelOfTheConfederacy-sj.jpg
  18. Theodoros A Fixture

    Nice topic...
    While reading the several opinions, I was wondering : do the figure companies act always properly ? Do they respect the copy-right always? What do you think about the companies that release figures, obviously "copy-paste" from cinema heroes, actors, singers, even cartoon characters and they deny to refer the name of the hero, just to avoid pay copyright fees ? (E.g a Zorro is sold as "masked avenger", the Batman is "manbat", Boromir is "medieval knight", etc). I have seen a bust of a roman centurion, released from a well known company, that is a face 100% copied from an Asterix adventure, without any mention to. We have seen as well the faces of Kevin Costner, Charlie Chuplin, Leam Neason (at least twice), Sean Connery, and so many others, but nobody had to say something about piracy...
    I do not support piracy, but we have to think further.
    Blue Thunder, Gaudin and crf like this.

    And kudos to the few companies like Knight models and Games Workshop who pay a license fee to use the images they make money from. You are right, bitching about piracy and supporting companies who commit it is completely hypocritical.

    Theodoros, Blue Thunder and housecarl like this.
  20. Gaudin A Fixture

    It becomes a complete quagmire - who's rights are violated then - its Col. J.B. Gordon, but he is dead, and relatives are dead;
    then next problem- its the magazine that publishes a picture surely holds copyright and artist cant really get involved;
    then its an artist ( I dont know if its true) may have used exact photograph - so its photographers rights ( only intellectual property wasn't protected back then ) - but if such picture exists then Trojani has no claim to uniqueness.
    and so on and so on, endless possibilities- but in the end of it - what drives it is money.

    The figure that should have been a tribute to artist became a statement of his pettiness, it seems.
    A lot of sculptors recently just copy famous old paintings that have no intellectual property attached due to age - as if they cant be bothered.

    Interestingly - as an example - if artist is not happy about their work being used by someone who inst licensed - they quite easily deal with it -

    here is Howard David Johnson/Morland studio's vs Nocturna models/ Historic Art
    http://morlandstudios.com/?page_id=144 - I absolutely love the term " confusingly similar" (y)

    I don't believe its up to consumers to fight piracy - but its up to consumer to choose not to choose it. Everyone chooses best they can from options they got.
    Theodoros and crf like this.

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