Heroes of IP Theft

A slightly amusing and sad situation has popped up surrounding Syfy’s new series Heroes of Cosplay (see above trailer), mostly due to a misunderstanding of copyright law on the parts of several parties.

It seems that the show contains numerous still shots of the cosplayers mixed in with the video, and this is a bit of an issue since those shots are legally owned by the photographers of those shots, who were neither paid nor credited for them. The producers of the show acquired these shots from the cosplayers, who it seems were under the mistaken assumption that because they’re the stars of the pictures they have co-ownership rights. However, unless releases are specificically signed saying so, or the pictures are commissioned and paid for by the cosplayers, this isn’t true at all.

So, the owners of at least one set of pictures are demanding payment from the show’s producers, who are reasonably freaking out. According to the linked article, they’re trying to blame the cosplayers, but the cosplayers did give them the contact information for the photographers in question as well, it was the producer’s fault for not actually following up on things.

I said I find this sad and amusing. It’s sad because with a little bit of homework and effort, this whole mess could have been avoided. (I see someone getting fired in the near future…) It’s amusing because Cosplay itself is a giant exercise in intellectual property theft, and technically the rights holders to the original characters being cosplayed would be within their rights to demand similar payments from not just Syfy, but also the cosplayers and the photographers (should these photographers actually get the money they’re demanding). Anyone making money from their intellectual property should be giving them a cut, and all these people are. Luckily the rights holders seem to still see this as free PR, so they’re letting it slide- for now.

It’s also amusing because apparently cosplayers regularly get mad about the idea of photographers selling images of them without giving them some payment, but don’t seem to feel the need to pay the original IP owners a penny for the property they’re borrowing themselves.

Then again, if you read the comments under that article, it seems that the one thing most people seem to agree on is that the photographer has no rights to demand payment for their works, and that the corporations and cosplayers do. Sigh.

Rob