Kuching Anime Convention Art Theft featured

Kuching anime & art events: Art theft welcomed?

“Is there a possibility that these artworks are open source? Or is there evidence to suggest otherwise?”

Those who know me personally may know of my previous affiliation with the local art scene. However, you may have also noticed that I no longer attend these art festivals, and this is purely by choice.

Because a few months ago, I felt like I was unfairly spoken to by someone whom I was no stranger to.

I noticed that one of their listed vendors at their upcoming art festival was not selling their own art – it was counterfeit or bootleg anime merchandise.

This kind of art thievery – where the thief takes official art or fanart not drawn by them and mass prints it – is not exactly uncommon in Malaysia.

Though, I believe it should have no place at an artisan market, designed to promote the local art scene.

Since I am not an artist myself, I consulted an artist friend of mine first. We compiled a document with 4 or 5 examples of the stolen artwork and links to their original sources.

Genshin Impact Raiden Shogun Official Art
Photo: Genshin Impact

One of these examples was of the official Raiden Shogun art from Genshin Impact (shown above).

Others were unauthorised reproductions of Bandai items of Chainsaw Man and Demon Slayer, while some were fanart taken from Japanese, Chinese, and Korean artists online.

I quickly sent the organiser this document of examples to quell their anxiety of a wrongful accusation.

But when they asked “Is there a possibility that these artworks are open source?” — I was baffled.

By the end of the conversation, I felt like I was treated as if I was the one in the wrong.

Providing more evidence about fake Kuching anime goods

Kuching Anime Convention Fake Anime Goods
Would you believe that one person drew all these?

In response to their question about open source artwork, I quickly linked the official Genshin Impact Overseas Fan-Made Merchandising Guide.

I cited Section IV, where it is clearly stated that official art is not allowed to be reproduced for merchandise:

IV. In view of the relationship between fan-made merchandise and official source materials, the following behaviors are not allowed:

1) Direct use, retouching, or partial modifications of official source materials used in fan-made merchandise or creation of product detail page material is strictly prohibited.

2) Commercial practices of selling products under the guise of the official name is strictly prohibited.

3) Commercial practices such as counterfeiting of official merchandise or other derivatives (identical or similar to official merchandise, etc.) is strictly prohibited.

Official source materials include original game material, official promotional material, official models, official CG, official monsters, scene elements, etc. In other words, fan-made content should be based on the creators’ own understanding of Genshin Impact when creating original secondary content. Whether it is the design of the product itself or the image showing the product details, creators should make sure not to directly use or amend the official source materials, which could lead to unnecessary misunderstandings.Genshin Impact Official

As I had enjoyed the organiser’s previous art festivals, I worried that their reputation might be negatively affected should they associate themselves with the vendor in question.

That’s why I urged them to conduct their own investigation. Especially since I had already spent a lot of time preparing the document of evidence, fueled by my passion for the art scene.

The initial examples should have been more than enough for the organiser themselves to kickstart their own investigation.

The organiser responded that they were merely trying to conduct their due diligence and hear both sides of the story – which is more than fair.

However, their next message took me by surprise.

Are fake Kuching anime goods the responsibility of a third party?

Kuching Anime Convention Bootleg Anime Merchandise

“Have you approached this person directly? If yes, what was their response? If no, why have you not messaged them?”

From the above, it seemed like they believed I should have confronted the vendor in question, instead of letting them know about the potential issue.

Again, I emphasised that it is not our event that would be affected.

But the organiser replied that we seemed to be rushing them to a judgement.

They said, “If you cannot wait for due process, then you are welcome to take justice into your own hands by pursuing this directly with them”.

Hours later, the organiser forwarded messages from a friend of theirs with anime convention experience. This friend basically agreed with all the points that I was trying to make.

However, they also mentioned that it’s a grey matter to them since it’s normalised here.

Kuching anime conventions are the same

Kuching Anime Convention Repeat Offender
Everything you see here belongs to the same merchant.

There have been many anime conventions held in Kuching since the beginning of this year. But almost every single one of them has featured booths that sell bootleg anime merchandise.

To be fair, these conventions do feature some local artists, and usually differentiate which booths are ‘commercial’ and which are ‘artists’.

Though even when there are complaints through feedback forms to these anime conventions, the notorious offenders continue to be awarded with more and more tables for their merchandise.

While I don’t expect event organisers to really care at this point, it was shocking to hear that a local artist organisation which prides itself as a creative hub would react this way.

Final takeaways to be had about Kuching anime

Kuching Anime Convention Mass Printed Stolen Images
How long does it take to click “download” and then “print”?

In the end, I received a message from the organisation that the vendor in question did not respond to the allegations and has been removed from the event.

However, I felt like the bridge had already been burned from the interrogation that I had experienced from trying to notify them of the potential issue.

The organiser did not reach out to me anymore after that, so I officially parted ways with them.

But I feel like there’s an important lesson to be learned here.

That’s why I wrote this article.

To share how one of the biggest names in the local art scene treats those who dare to speak up about this type of art theft.

When I tried to find other local groups that advocate against this issue, almost all of them are defunct or inactive.

So, unfortunately, it seems that fighting against this sort of art thievery in Kuching’s art scene is a difficult battle.

But, if you are interested in learning more about bootleg anime merchandise and art theft, here is a list of relevant articles:

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