Should Photoshop be illegal?

In recent years there has been a lot of controversy around the use of digital enhancement software: The main issue of debate tends to focus on the fashion industry, as it is argued that magazines and editorial shoots gives young people an unrealistic and, in many cases, dangerous expectation of how their bodies should look. But it does raise an important question, as to when – and if ever – digital enhancement is necessary.

Why use it?

For most people in the creative industries, photo-manipulation is a basic tool in every trade. You can use it to make photos stand out more by making certain colours pop while other colours are muted; It allows you to ‘revamp’ images over the years to keep up with the changing industries; it also allows you to perfect every image that you take by allowing you to remove blemishes, straighten out lines, level the contrast and so on. The possibilities really are rather limitless as you can essentially make any image you have into a completely new and maybe even completely different picture. Furthermore, photo-manipulation is not an easy task: Besides from needing a very steady hand and a keen eye for detail, you also need heaps of patience to be able to sit and stare at the same pixel images for many hours at a time while you work on a particular project. This means that the more you practice, the better you get, and if you are someone who wants to work in a creative industry, these skills are invaluable.

Does it really show skill?

On one hand, it does take a certain level of skill to manipulate a photo: Even if you are simply adjusting the colour ratios of a photo, you must still have at least a basic understanding of the software as well as an understanding of photo composition. However to some extent, it almost doesn’t matter if the photo you have taken is completely pants if you have the knowledge to manipulate the original into something artistic. On the other hand, can you still deem yourself an ‘artist’ or a ‘photographer’ if you need to rely on software to make your photo great?

Does it create false expectations?

One of the universal truths of modern day society is that when you compare yourself to other people, you are undoubtedly going to become sad and disappointed with what you have in life. This is made worse when the pictures you are looking at are not the entire truth of that person’s life, nor is it an accurate representation of society as a whole: As beautiful as celebrities can be and as flawless as the Victoria Secret models are, the majority of photos taken of them are then manipulated to look more appealing than they are. The time old story of ‘sex sells’ means that we are more likely to pay attention to a beautiful body than we are to the sight of your average person, even though the average person is an attainable role model to have. In recent years, fashion companies such as Dior have even banned super skinny models in their cat walks, so why are we not banning them in photographs?

The dangers?

To begin with, super skinny models only add to the stereotype that in order to be considered ‘beautiful’ you have to weigh as little as possible. This is not only bad for society, where the percentage of people with eating disorders is gradually rising every year, but it is also bad for the industries that condone them, as it almost suggest that they care about making money more than they care about the people who sell their clothes for them. It also portrays an image that the people in modelling campaigns are the ‘normal’ people of society, and it is everyone else who looks bizarre, when it reality it is the opposite way around. But not only do these people already have incredible bodies (simply because they work out, eat healthy and, mostly, because it is literally their job to look stunning) but then editors set to work to exaggerate the images more: legs get longer, skin gets smoother, lips become fuller, muscles get more defined, until we see an image that is not only a poor representation of society, but a bad representation of that model as a person, as though the hours they have spent in the gym and all that clean eating was pointless because a piece of software s what makes them look flawless in the end.

The upside?

Photo manipulation can be hours upon hours of fun and since the software is still surprisingly new, it is very hard to become a master of it. The software is constantly developing and improving and as such so are the skills that come along with it. It also is now becoming a sought after skill in the creative industry, with more and more employers wanting at least a basic understanding of photo manipulation software. It stands to reason that there is a clear need for it in society otherwise why such a high demand for the skill within the workforce? It could even be argued that photo manipulation is an art form in its own right, as it combines many different disciplines, while still requiring an in-depth knowledge of them all in order to create an image that is new and striking.

So what do you think? Is it really necessary in an artistic world, or is it doing more damage then it’s worth? Let me know 🙂

T xx

 

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Most expensive Star Wars toys

No one can deny that Star Wars is an insanely popular and well-loved franchise. The films have become a stable part of 20th Century cinema and even if you have never watched one of the films, the characters and universes are iconic: EVERYONE has made a ‘I am your father’ joke, as well as encouraged their friends to ‘trust the force’. It is also no surprise that the toys are highly sought after, and for a bit of ease of reference, here is a list of some of the most expensive Star Wars items ever created.

Rocket firing Boba Fett

Unsurprisingly, there are at least three Star Wars toys that are worth a stupid amount of money. The Rocket Firing Boba Fett toy released in 1980 currently sells for around £5,000. The toy was originally sold with a gun that shot out a small plastic rocket, but was quickly recalled when parents started to complain that this could injure their children. The toy was re-released without a firing gun, so naturally the original and almost ‘dangerous’ version is highly sought after by collectors and fans alike.

star-wars-rocket-firing-boba-fett-action-figure

LEGO Ultimate Collector’s edition Millennium Falcon

Now yes, LEGO have since made roughly 3 other versions of the Millennium Falcon, but the most sought after is the original: Made in 2007 this model consisted of roughly 5195 pieces and was the first ship to be made on ‘mini-figure scale’. Currently selling online for around £3,200.00 it is clearly even more sought after now that it is no longer being made.Image result for lego r2d2Oddly enough, any large scale LEGO Star Wars set is going to be worth big bucks after being discontinued: The large scale R2 D2 model originally sold for around £140 in stores, but now that it has been discontinued for nearly 2 years, it is worth around £450…and that’s out of box and made! Completely sealed packet, that has never before touched bricks, could sell for as much as £800.

Telescopic lightsaber Darth Vader

As with almost all toys, the first run of this toy in 1978 was recalled because the lightsaber could extend and potentially injure the children playing with it. The toy was re-released sans extending lightsaber but it happened so quickly that there are only about 200 versions of the original in existence. Selling for around £6000.00, it is one of the most sought after Star Wars toys going.

Darth Vader war helmet

Ok so technically this is not a ‘toy’ so to speak but rather the actual helmet that Darth vader’s main stunt double wore during filming for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. This is therefore more of an original film prop, which somewhat explains the £115,000.00 price tag on it currently.

real darth vader

What other Star Wars toys have you guys heard of? Or…which Star Wars toys that you currently own do you reckon will be worth big bucks in a few years time?

T xx

 

The devil is in the detail

I have commented on copyright infringement in regards to video games before in some of my previous posts, but I have been thinking lately about what this means for other creative mediums. In particular, can fashion be protected under copyright law? In this day and age, with 3D printers, online shopping and very skilled seamsters cheap knock-ff of very expensive and popular items can be found across the globe in attempt for these people to make a quick bit of easy cash. In 2015 EU’s Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market conducted a study that found that 9.7% of all items on the market were counterfeit, and as a result accounted for around €26.3 billion of revenue lost every year. While it may not be a mainstream issue, it is clearly a huge problem for those who wish to work within such an industry.

Why else does this matter?

In the 2006 movie The Devil wears Prada, Meryl Streep’s character has a little speech about why fashion matters and the end punch line is that it all matters, because you live your life in it. We spend every day wearing clothes, that while we do not think are overly important, they still say who we are: Our personal style helps to create first impressions to those we meet and how we carry ourselves through society. Trends in fashion also reflect the issues of society at any given time: punk rockers dressed the way they did to silently protest against the conformity seen throughout the rest of society, just as vegans can now wear clothing that has little to no impact on the environment and causes no harm to animals. As much as we don’t want to admit that we care about ‘fashion’, we all care about style in that we all care about how we dress ourselves, even if it is only for the feeling of power that is gives us to wear what we like, how we like and when we like.

Blair Waldorf (played by Leighton Meister) in Gossip Girl

How does the law approach it?

As with everything to do with law, interpretation is everything. Lucky for us, fashion is all about interpretation and based on the statute alone, fashion is not actually mentioned under the Copyright, Patents and Design Rights Act 1988. Under this law, a creative medium needs to fall within one of the categories within the legislation and while there is some leeway as to how the courts label fashion, it is most likely to fall within the definition of ‘artistic craftsmanship’. Now this is not really helpful, but thankfully there is a LOT of case law to refer to in order to try and make a decision.

In Hensher v Restawhile, the House of Lords stated hat a prototype for a distinctive three-piece lounge suite, which was intended for mass production, was not artistic although the Lords differed in their reasons as to why. Then there was a case about a baby’s cape which was held not to be artistic because there was no intention to create an artistic work, just as a patchwork bedspread was not deemed to be artistic because although the designs were “pleasing to the eye” they were not sufficiently creative. This has been discussed in fashion relevant case law where sweaters and cardigans were held not to be artistic. Although the items in question had been displayed in the V&A Museum, they were exhibited as examples of developments in fashion rather than as works of art. One case in recent years that has also addressed this issue was related to the storm trooper helmets from the Star Wars movies, where the High Court held that the helmets were not artistic because their purpose was not aesthetic. The Supreme Court later held that the helmets were not sculptures, and could not be protected in that way either, which brings to attention the need for aspects of fashion to be protected from copyright infringement.

The majority of cases seem to show that there is a lot of debate over whether fashion can count as ‘artistic’: as a rule of thumb it seems the work must be aesthetically appealing to the general population or must have been created as an artistic work. To me, art and an ‘artistic’ creation should make you feel something. Now this may be confusing to those who are interested in fashion: How anyone can look at Charlize Theron in that gold Dior dress, or stare at a pair of Louboutin high heel courts and not see the art in them might as well be dead inside.

Image result for j'adore gold dress                                   Charlize Theron in the Dior J’adore perfume advert

On the other hand, “craftsmanship” is potentially easier to meet. Knitting and tapestry-making have been treated as crafts, usully on the basis that they are one off creations that were intended for artistic work. In Hensher v Restawhile, Lord Reid and Viscount Dilhorne said that the requirement for craftsmanship implies that a work must be hand-made whereas Lord Simon held that “craftsmanship” cannot be limited to handicraft and that the word “artistic” in itself is incompatible with machine production. This therefore suggests that if a designer is to make a one-ff, limited edition piece of haute couture clothing that is not designed to be mass-produced, then this could potentially be protected under ‘craftsmanship’ and thus protected by copyright. But what does this mean for mass-produced clothing?

In short, the UK is still pretty slow on the protection available for fashion under copyright law. There have been many debates and papers on what can be done about this, with many of them pointing towards the European model of an open list: In France, Germany and even in the US, any work which is original can be protected by copyright. In France, the threshold for originality is a work which “bears the stamp of the author’s personality” and in Germany copyright protects “personal intellectual creations”. This allows for a much smaller threshold to be met by designers and as such less chance of them being copied without the author’s consent. It also means that there is no need for long and complex case law or debate around the issue as it is simply stated within legislation and only needs to be discussed when it needs to clarified on a large scale. This appears to be not only the simplest option for designers, but also the easiest way for the UK intellectual property offices to keep an eye on potential infringements on the open market.

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Here today, gone tomorrow

One potentially reason why there is no real need for there to be protection for fashion is because fashion is always changing: What is fashionable this week will most likely be forgotten about in a months time. Fashion is a constantly evolving aspect of society and while trends may come and go, the fashion industry is constantly in a state of innovation and trying to create pieces that have never before been seen. Trends are only meant to last a few years at the most, as anytime after that they either become iconic for the time period, or they become cringe-worthy (in some cases they can be both!).

What do you guys think? What would you want to see within the fashion industry?

T xx

 

The real OG

‘You are unique…just like everybody else.’

This simple statement is a pretty common oxymoron. While it is still true that there are no two people who are 100% identically the same, the fact that we are all different is one of the main things humanity has in common. So is there such a thing anymore as originality? No matter what we wear, how we act or what we create, there is a high chance that there is someone else out there in the world who is doing the exact same thing. But that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom…

Is originality even a thing?

Everyone is shaped by their experiences: Everything that we come into contact with over our lives shapes us into the person and the personality that we become. Due to this, inspiration is everywhere and we may even be influenced by things that we aren’t even aware we have noticed. A newspaper article from 10 years ago could be the reason you want to draw pictures, in the same way that a loud car stereo blasting 80s pop driving past you may make you want to start writing. It could be near impossible to pinpoint the exact reasons why we are all the way we are, but it doesn’t stop the fact that we have all been influenced by something else, which was no doubt influenced by something before it and so on and so forth.

Image result for originality gifsFightclub breaking all the walls

So it possible to still be original? If everything we ever create is nothing more than a step up from something we have seen, can we even say that it is our own work? From a legal standpoint, intellectual property has guides in place to ensure that no work has been intentionally copied: As long as you can prove that you created a piece of work through your own thought processes and own design plans, chances are you’re going to be fine (obviously it’s a bit more succinct than this, but I don’t think I have the time to explain it all!). But on a more philosophical level, is it possible for any of us to claim that our brand new identity or our way of dress is an original one?

Subculture symmetry

Everyone knows the old troupe: In high school you have those who follow the norms of society, and then you have the odd little groups of people who do not.

Image result for mean girls group gifs Mean Girls showcased this perfectly…

From the sociological aspect, all of these little groups within society are known as ‘subcultures’ where everyone within that subculture shares the same norms and values. However, in today’s society these  subcultures can have very blurred cut off points within them. I, for example, would not necessarily fit into one subculture alone: I may be blonde, wear a lot of pink and love pop music, but I also love video games, superheros and reading science fiction novels…I also don’t think I’m a mean enough person to have been one of the Plastics, but I digress. Subcultures by nature always include some form of similarity: members tend to dress the same, talk the same and even believe the same things. Key examples of this are the 1980s Punk, the 2000s Goth and even now the emergence of the Seapunk. They all look the same as each other, but at least they’re not mainstream. In some ways, subcultures go against originality as the entire practice seems to try and place members of society into boxes. Is this why originality is so hard to come across? The use of labels?

So what does this mean?

Today’s society is a massively innovative one with common social norms being challenged everyday from every aspect of itself. Young people are leading the gender revolution, wanting to do away with normal sexuality labels and gender stereotypes and instead move to an inclusive and free state of simply just existing: love who you love, be whatever gender you decide, believe whatever it is you wish to believe…but know that you will be accepted purely on who you are rather than how you have been socialised and labelled. For some people, especially those in a creative setting, this can be a whole new challenge, as trying to be memorable in a world where everything merges together is not an easy task. but perhaps this is where we fail.

Moving forward…

Just because something has done before does not mean that it is not original or innovative. it is common knowledge that anyone can copy something: If i can’t draw, I’ll just trace a picture, if I can’t write songs, I’ll just mash a load together. Originality comes from the little bits of you that you add to it to make it better: Five Night’s at Freddy’s fans are another key example of this as while the games they make are not, by nature, original content, the stories they create, the character interactions they add and the overall game play of said games are enough to make the new games original enough to improve and add to the existing base. Everything may not be original, but if something is added to the original to progress the entire idea forward, then that alone should be enough to be original.

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

– C.S Lewis

T xx

Cosplay or copycat?

We have seen from some of the previous blogs that copyright law steps in when there has been blatant copying of one game in creating another game, but what about taking the characters themselves out of the game and into the real world?

Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, and is usually focused on those characters from the Japanese genres of manga or anime. it is a common practice at many comicons that the vast majority of those attending take the opportunity to dress up as their favorite characters, with many conventions now holding competitions for the best look-a-likes.

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A couple cosplaying as Wonder Woman and Batman. Other examples can be seen here

But if you were to dress up as your favorite character, this is not necessarily a cheap feat. If you are really going to do the character justice you need a lot of supplies: clothing, make-up, wigs, weapons, accessories, footwear, extra padding, armour details…the list can go on and on especially if you are trying to recreate a character from comics or video games. Now in the wonderful digital age in which we live, the internet has made all of the above easily accessible. The main question however will be whether or not you can afford to buy it all: If we decided to stick it out with our Dark Knight above, this could set a person back around £250. You’ll look awesome, but probably won’t be able to afford any other clothing for the foreseeable future.

So why not make your own?

I’ll admit it right now: I love a bit of dressing up. Any chance to wear fancy dress and quite frankly I’m sold. However, I am also really, really, really tight-fisted when it comes to my money and so could never justify to myself spending a lot of money on an outfit I’ll most likely only wear once (twice if i’m really lucky!). Creating your own costume is easier and usually cheaper than buying one ready made, especially if you are dressing up for a bit of fun at a convention or as a party troupe. However some of these cosplay competitions are a big deal for those who compete: While cash prizes are rare, the opportunity to win trophies, photography sessions and even meet-and-greet passes with the convention guests, are all big prizes to those fans who compete. In order to win once in a lifetime opportunities such as those awarded at these competitions, your costume must be on point: My Wonder Woman t-shirt, blue skirt and silver bangles will not be enough.

But does making your own count as copyright infringement? In short, no. If you are creating a costume purely for your own enjoyment then it would most likely not be covered by copyright infringement, as you are not causing any financial risk to the original owners. I could take this time to try and explain the implications of design rights within the fashion industry but that would be an entirely new blog post!

What if you made one for a friend?

Now this is where things could potentially be a problem. If you enjoy making the costumes, you may have a friend who asks you to create a costume for them of a particular character as the entire feat is too complicated for them. Based on the financial risk to the original owners, whether this could be copyright infringement rests heavily on whether or not they pay you for the work, and, almost more weighty, is whether this becomes a business for you. If your friend offers to pay you for the materials and time to make the costume, then it could be seen that you are taking money away from the original owner of the character and the costume. While this is extreme, it could become a more pressing issue if you were to do this for lots of friends…so much so that you would say that it is your work and it clearly had a commercial gain to it all.

Final verdict?

When it is clear that your hobby has now become a commercial enterprise, it is probably best to seek a license to use the image from the original owner (such as DC, Marvel or Square Enix for example) in order to protect yourself from a very nasty infringement claim being brought against you. While this may seem like a bit of an effort, it is best to cover your back rather than risk bankrupting yourself over something as minor as a winged cape.

Other than that, craft to your heart’s content my fellow geeks! I shall see you at a convention near you.

T xx

 

Freddy Fazbear and his F**Kboys

One indie game of high popularity in recent years has been Five Nights at Freddy’s. This is a rather simple point and click horror game, where the player controls a night watchman with the aim of surviving numerous nights of increasing difficulty by not being killed by the animatronic machines that come ‘alive’ at night. With its use of jump scares and simple controls, this game has a very active and loyal fan following and as such there have been some fan made versions of the game.

Image result for five nights at freddy's gif

^^ Freddy Fazbear ^^

One game in particular, Five Nights at F**kboys, may not be suited to the original game’s current audience. This version of Freddy’s involves Freddy trying to have a wild night of debauchery and partying, with many of the characters wearing inappropriate clothing and one character performing inappropriate acts whenever you see him on the surveillance cameras. It is also recommended to do a shot of alcohol before each level, so that as each level gets harder, the player also gets more intoxicated, and this supposedly makes for a far more enjoyable and entertaining experience. The crude and adult themes throughout this version are obviously not suitable for the relatively younger audiences that were drawn to the original Freddy’s game and yet they can still easily access it under the impression that it is made by the same developers.

So what can developers do?

By issuing proceedings against this type of copyright infringement, it allows developers to have control over how their work is used, especially when it comes to the audiences they are trying to protect. In this sense, control is therefore maintained by the developers and their game is protected from negative infringement. In more tactful situations however, negative imaging is exactly what the copier wished to do in the hope of tainting the reputation of the original game to such an extent as to render it unappealing to consumers.

The problems?

It stands to reason that developers can not always issue proceedings against people who infringe their work: the cost alone can be substantial, and for companies and developers just starting out in the industry this cost can be crippling. However it could be argued that the main reason why the developers wouldn’t want to issue proceedings is because of the impact it would have on their overall image. If a developer does nothing but condemn those who copy their work, they are in some way dampening the appeal of their game: FNAF has bee so successful because of the massive fan base that has built around it, and this is mostly due to the ability of fans to create their own interpretations of the games which help to add story and experience to the FNAF world rather than just as one lonely game.

Most games involve some form of player communication in the form of either online multiplayer modes of gaming, or simply through the online forums that fans create in order to discuss the game, their tactics and share their own experiences of the game. These online forums create pathways through which people can gossip about the game developers and in a world as digitised as ours, news spreads very quickly: The second word gets out that there is a new upgrade, a new map or a new way of beating the game these forums are flooded with information and distributed to hundreds upon thousands of people. This clearly raises the issue of what litigation can do to a company’s public image. The main concern of any solicitor when advising a client on this issue should be ‘What would the fans make of this situation?’, since while they do not make the final decision as a legal judge would, commercially speaking the voice of the fans is the only voice that should really matter to a video game designer: If the entire fan following (or to some extent even a small majority of them) feel that the designer is ‘attacking fans’ with legal proceedings, then the entire community basis on which the game rests becomes unstable and, for the most part, will begin to falter before completely dying away. In some respects, video game fame is fleeting, since technology and software is changing so dramatically that it can almost be impossible to keep up with. As a result, it is probably better for a game developer’s brand to be left on a high rather than risking becoming labelled as ‘the company that sues its fans’.

Image result for five nights at freddy's gif

^^ One of the faster characters, Foxy ^^

What can be done?

It is clear from simply reading the comments on gaming forums that gaming fans are a loyal and fierce breed of fans. It could also be argued that people on the internet appear to have feel more confident online and as such seem more likely to speak their mind, and most certainly will not hold back on comments or remarks if they feel justified. This in a way acts as a secondary level of enforcement without the need for expensive court procedures or solicitor fees, as the fans do the hard work for the developer when it comes to protecting a game’s image and reputation. If the fans come across work that is infringed, some may flag this with the streaming service itself for breaching without consent of the author, while others may even bully the infringer until the material is taken down. From looking at fan made games as well, it would appear that most fans are happy to state that their game is a copy (even if only to a small extent) of a game already in existence. It is perhaps this admittance of copying that makes it acceptable within the eyes of the entire fan base as it shows others that they are not infringing to make a profit or for any other malicious reason, but rather to add to the experience that the original already created in order to make it a better experience for the fan base as a whole. In this sense, copyright infringement when it comes to games could be seen as an altruistic act that is done more out of love and admiration for a developer’s work than out of mere thievery and deceit. This in turn therefore means that when a person does infringe the work but tries to claim that this is all their own original creation and that people should pay them for it, the fan base may take that as a personal assault on their own gaming subculture, and as stated at the beginning of this paragraph, decide to oust the immoral infringer themselves in order to protect their own interests in the game as a fan.

The conclusion?

FNAF is an example of a game that is more or less defined by its fan base. The idea that fans can add to the FNAF experience means that the literal copyright infringement can be overlooked if the work in question still maintains its integrity. In this sense, perhaps copyright infringement is simply a fall back position: It is not a concrete law that must always be adhered to, as it is essentially up to the original author whether or not they see the infringement as damaging to their own brand. In the case of Freddy, and his many many renderings, impersonation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

 T xx

Gotta Condemn them all!

Just like every other twenty-something, I spent the majority of my spare time last year wondering around my neighborhood trying to catch Pokemon on my phone thanks to the creation of Pokemon Go!. I grew up playing these games and this mobile game allowed me a chance to achieve a dream that I have had since I was 8: To become a Pokemon master! However as I grew up, I noticed that some people had problems with Pokemon, claiming that it promoted and glorified animal cruelty to children.

Pokemon vs PETA

In 2012 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a satirical version of Pokémon titled ‘Pokémon Black and Blue’, an online game where you rescue Pokemon from real life animal abuse situations. PETA have been known for their shock tactics when it comes to animal rights, from campaigning against cosmetic testing on animals to using fur in the fashion industry. PETA have stated for some time that Pokemon, while they accept it is fictitious, creates a rosy pictures of things that are actually abusive. They have stated that confining Pokemon to their Pokeballs mirrors the housing of animals in factory farms, and the use of Pokemon to fight each other mirrors the animals used in fighting arenas for money. While this may seem a stretch to some, there are some similarities and it can be easy to see why PETA feel the way they do about Pokemon.

It is clear that the creation of the satirical Pokemon games is an infringement on Nintendo’s copyright. Yet why are PETA doing it? Copyright infringement is a crime because of the risk that the infringed work could have negative effects on the original brand itself: A cheap rip-off has none of the insurance or the quality of the original and for members of the pubic who can not tell the difference this can be highly problematic. Yet with PETA, this is exactly what they wish to do to Nintendo. It could be argued that PETA want to associate the Ninetendo company with games that glorify and promote animal cruelty in hopes that this will deter people away from the brand entirely. But does a company as large and successful as Nintendo really care?

Image result for pokemon handshake gifs

Chikorita vs Charizard….The new David and Goliath?

However, the release of the newest Pokemon game installment, Pokemon Sun and Moon, actually addresses PETA’s concerns in a subtle but effective manner. During the newest game, you are accompanied for some of the main story line by a young girl named Lillie, who states on numerous occasions that she does not wish to fight Pokemon as she doesn’t want to see them getting hurt. There is also evidence of different professions within the Pokemon world, with some scientists stating that they wish to only encounter Pokemon in order to record their discovery, and also other NPC (non playable characters) who state that they want to become a Pokemon Carer rather than a Pokemon Trainer. it would appear that Nintendo are taking heed of PETA’s campaigns and are trying to create a game that allows the player a choice of how they interact with the Pokemon rather than simply being about Trainer progression. This could be seen as an effective new step against copyright infringement, as it shows the original brand acknowledging the infringed work and, to some extent, even taking on board some of their ideas and concerns in order to produce a product that will now appeal to a wider audience than the original one did. In this sense, it is practically free labor, as the developers have had to do very little research to find out what issues the general public have with their game. It may not be much, but it is a step in the right direction for Nintendo to try and get PETA to leave them alone.

Should the law step in?

When it comes to Pokemon it would appear that a line needs to be carefully drawn: While there is no evidence to suggest that Pokemon players actually commit acts of animal cruelty, the generic theme of the game does very clearly promote using ‘animals’ as ‘weapons’. On the other hand, it could be seen as condescending to assume that players are simply going to repeat actions in a game simply because the game allows for it in the story. This issue can be linked closely to the issue discussed in the previous blog post, ‘Video game censorship’. It would appear therefore that the law should only step in with the companies involved raise the issue in a legal setting: mediation could be the future for copyright infringement of video games, as a middle ground can be agreed between the two parties.

Image result for pokemon handshake gifs

Pikachu and Eevee…they know how to reach an understanding

T xx

Video game censorship

When it comes to video games society seems to be obsessed with the content, but not necessarily whether the story is well-structured or the characters realistic. There is always a concern that any video game that hints at violence will do one thing, and one thing only: Make the people who play them violent. In today’s society, even the legal system is concerned with the question of how much government should protect its people from offensive material. According to reports, more than 85% of video games on the market contain some form of violence. The controversy surrounding topics such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Manhunt have made the games almost infamous for the violence and aggression that they show throughout game play.

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The ‘No Russian’ starting level of Cal of Duty: Modern Warfare where the player is asked to gun down an entire airport.

However there could be debate over what exactly is deemed ‘offensive’ material: Are guns necessarily offensive, when places such as America deem it a fundamental right to be allowed to own them in your home? Is violence offensive, when sport shows such as MMA and cage fighting get higher ratings when they show more bloodshed? Is sex offensive, when series such as Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight and Game of Thrones draw in huge numbers of viewers with drawn out sex scenes and naked women? It can be drawn from simple common sense that the majority of these answers are based on individual preferences, as what offends one person can be relatively innocent to another and it is this balance along the spectrum that government needs to be wary of.

Naturally, there are games that are a no-go for anyone: Games that promote rape (such as the Japanese released  Rapelay) or make a mockery out of current social tragedies (such as V-Tech Rampage) very clearly should not be allowed in the public domain as they are quite obviously only there to incite offense and upset, and not to provide a gaming experience. But with many games around today, violence is very much integral to the overall story that the game is trying to tell, with many containing an option to commit no violence throughout all of it. In the newly released Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, it is possible to simply run away from the majority of monsters and trap them in rooms so as to avoid having to shoot them point-blank with a shot gun.

The majority of games that have violent characteristics contain these features because they are based on (although admittedly they are exaggerated) real life situations: Call of Duty is a game built around war and so violence is unavoidable, while Outlast and Resident Evil are games inspired by horror and survival. In many action and adventure games such as the ones mentioned above, part of their whole appeal is the use of large guns and multiple explosive devices, if nothing else but to progress the story on with a rush of adrenaline and excitement to keep the player wanting to play more. The undeniable success of games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto show that the demand for these types of games has risen over the years, but it seems somewhat pessimistic to assume that this is because video game players are becoming more aggressive, more violent and more masochistic.

Anyone who has played a video game understands the thrill of a video game: For that time of game play, you are transported into a different world, living a different life with different goals. People who enjoy reading say that they enjoy the imagination of books and the ability of a good book to transport you to a new realm, so why can the same not apply for video games? Video games have become an integral part of our society and in 2016, the majority of people under the age of 30 were too busy running around outside trying to catch Pokemon through the Pokemon Go mobile app game to even think about violence or crimes.

Furthermore, it could be seen as condescending that the government simply assumes that video game players are mindless beings who are easily influenced: An average person won’t go out and steal a car just because they played Grand Theft Auto. If someone wants to commit violence, the fact that they play video games is irrelevant. Research has shown that while video games can increase levels of aggression, it also stated that this can only be problematic in situations of already heightened aggression due to personality type, family life, social factors and other such factors. Due to this, if a person does feel the need to express their frustrations or their fetishes in a violent manner, surely allowing them to do so in a virtual manner is a better solution than having them attack someone in real life. Perhaps that is why video games are as popular as they are, because they allow people to experience different walks of life without any consequences of their actions: Most people wonder what it would feel like to commit crime but are stopped by the fear of getting caught and, most effectively, going to prison. Therefore they play these games to see what it could be like, without having to actually step into the real world to do so.

Final thoughts?

It is clear that while video games may possess aspects that people find offensive, it is also clear that there is a huge demand for games that allow people to experience things that they never would in everyday life. Government needs to keep this all in mind when deciding just how much ‘protection’ they need to give to its people, as to some members of society these video games may be the only release they get that doesn’t involve actual harm or violence to other people.

T xx

Intellectual Property Law

This is intended to be a very brief introduction to Intellectual Property Law, so as to familiarise yourself with what my future blogs will touch on and some of the issues that they raise.

What is it?

Intellectual property law is a wide umbrella term that is used to encompass many different aspects of the creative world. In short, intellectual property law aims to protect the expression of creative work in it’s many varying forms. Many of them do overlap so that alone can raise confusion! A little bit of the basics:

Copyright Law

This area of IP is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. It is defined under Section 1, subsection 1 as being a property right which subsists in the following descriptions of work: (a)original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, (b)sound recordings, films  broadcasts, and (c)the typographical arrangement of published editions. In layman’s terms, if you have an idea and have expressed it as a book, a drawing or a song, then that is automatically protected by copyright law and as such, no one can steal your idea and pass it off as your own.

Patents

Patents relate to inventions. Anything that an inventor creates can be protected by a patent. Under Section 1, subsection 1 of the Patents Act 1977 a patent may be granted only for an invention if the following conditions are satisfied: (a) the invention is new, (b) it involves an inventive step (i.e is not simply an ‘upgrade’ on a current invention) and (c) it is capable of industrial application (i.e can the invention actually be used in everyday life). There are however some exceptions (S.2) such as a discovery, scientific theory or mathematical method; a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or any other aesthetic creation; a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for a computer; the presentation of information.

Design Rights

These are closely linked to Patents and are concerned with protecting the overall shape and appearance of a particular object. This type of protection is automatic and last for either  10 years after it was first sold or 15 years after it was created, whichever is earliest. If you wish to protect your design for longer, there is still a formal registration procedure available as long as your design meets the criteria; be new; not be offensive (such as featuring graphic images or words); be your own intellectual property; not make use of protected emblems or flags (Olympic rings, for example); and must not be an invention or how a product works (you’ll need a patent instead!). If the design meets all these criteria, then a registered design right will protect it for 25 years, with a renewal needed every 5 years.

Why is it needed?

Without getting too bugged down in the legal theory surrounding IP Law, it is needed in order to protect a persons’ creative expression. An artist can protect their paintings, a writer can protect their novel and a musician can protect their albums. Personally, I find IP Law fascinating, because it is to some extent allowing people to protect their own ideas and creative outlets in a more theological manner than strict property law. For example, if I were to write a book, and someone was to steal the physical copy of the book, that would be a crime for stealing my property. But if someone was to steal the overall story, publishing the entire story under their own authorship name, then that would be a crime for stealing my intellectual property and my creative expression. In short, it prevents someone taking credit for work that someone else has done.

Why the fascination?

I have always been surrounded by very creative people: My father is a drummer, so I was brought up surrounded by musical instruments and musical scores. My mother is a photographer and studied as a journalist, so I think that is where my love of writing stemmed from. From as long as I can remember, I have been a reader. My main goal in life is to have a personal collection of books that rivals the British Library! However, I can just about draw stick men, my photographs are always blurry and the closest I got to mastering an instrument was the recorder when I was 8. I found that my true calling was in the academics, and it was during my time at law school I discovered a way of using academic means to help protect creative outlets.

This subject is easily the marmite of the legal world: You either love IP or you hate it. And I absolutely adore it.

I hope this brief introduction has helped you understand the basics of what I will discuss throughout this blog, and I hope I can instill some of my passion in you as you read.

T xx