Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Note About Assumptions (and how a bad one doesn't invalidate the point)

So, in the verbal melee with the Dark Phoenix Publishing sock-monster which has broken out on the artist's DeviantArt account over their unauthorized use of her artwork, the point has been brought up by the sockpuppet that no one asked DPP how they came into using the logo (which is true). The sockpuppet and DPP's blog - which is being treated as a website because all of the entries are pages and not posts, which is  really weird in and of itself - have also stated this logo has been copied and used across the Internets without consent of the artist (which is true). In all, we can glean from their postings that the following are the facts:

  1. Any assumption of deliberate misuse of a copyrighted logo is false.
  2. DPP was somehow misled into believing they had license to use the logo.
  3. The logo has been copied widely against the artist's explicit consent.
  4. DPP is taking good faith measures to remove the logo from everywhere they are using it.
With these four facts, it's a slam dunk. The whole thing is a misunderstanding, right?

Not quite.

Number 3 doesn't even count, except as possible support of 1 and 2 but that's really super flimsy. "Well, the logo is everywhere so the hobo who sold it to me could have downloaded and claimed he drew it himself. He was shaking really badly and smelled like Fritos, but I trusted him anyway." 4 I'll look at in a moment. Which leaves facts 1 and 2.

Two years ago, Mykal Lakim was having issues with Wikipedia. One of those issues revolved around the DPP logo, as well as other art and logos, not conforming to Wikipedia's copyright attribution standards. Looking through the logs uncovers this (emphasis mine):

06:24, 31 October 2010 Mykal lakim (talk | contribs) uploaded "FileDarklogo2010.jpg" ({{Information |Description = |Source = I (~~~) created this work entirely by myself. |Date = ~~~~~ |Author = ~~~Mykal Lakim, Dark Phoenix Publishing, copyright 2010 |other_versions = }})
19:42, 9 May 2010 Mykal lakim (talk | contribs) uploaded "FileDarkphoenixlogo.jpg" ({{Information |Description = |Source = I (~~~) created this work entirely by myself. |Date = ~~~~~ |Author = ~~~ |other_versions = }})


That is our friend, Mykal Lakim, claiming he created the logo entirely by himself. So, even if 1 and 2 above are true, Mr. Lakim still tried to take credit for the creative work. Even if the pieces he tried to upload to Wikipedia - repeatedly, despite the fact they were deleted - were different logos entirely, it doesn't change the fact that when Wikipedia wouldn't accept "I made this by myself" as proper attribution, instead of looking into the matter:


Mykal Lakim did this:


In case you're wondering what two-year old Wikipedia edits have to with anything, it's because the logs demonstrate not only a lack of understanding about how to follow proper procedures, but an unwillingness to even try to learn what those procedures are. When those attempts to prevent his pages and files from being deleted failed, he resorted to threatening lawsuits and claiming discrimination. There's a name for this kind of behavior: entitlement. He believed he was entitled to do things his way, and everyone else be damned. This is the same behavior I've seen out of his social media outlets and sock-robots.

I suspect he will claim the logos he attempted to upload to Wikipedia were different - but the filename of the earliest use of the graphic as a logo is from the same time period and very similar (it has an "a" appended to it) and without Mykal Lakim coughing up a different logo, there's no reason to suspect that it wasn't the same graphic.

Finally we come to the fourth fact, DPP taking good faith efforts to make things right. The logo is still on their website. It is still being used on merchandise (not currently for sale, but still). It is still in PDFs which are being distributed. Sure, it was removed from the obvious places, which is a start - but it belies the attitude of  "Only doing what I have to" and "I'll do this my way". Any reputable publishing company who got themselves ensnared in some kind of bad deal involving a hobo selling them unlicensed artwork would shut their shit down. They'd remove the graphic from every easily modified place where it is displayed, and disable access to the others (such as a website) until they could fix the situation. Above all, they would apologize to their customers and potential market. Profusely. Repeatedly. Instead of apologies, we get statements like this:
After finding out part of the logo design was used in dozens of other artworks we were contacted by the original artist. After discussing the matter with the artist and how the logo came into our hands we decided the best option was for us to discontinue the use of the old logo and have the artist commissioned to draft us a new logo.
and
We won't apologize for being so tight lipped about our practices and we won't name who we do business with until things are finalized. Sorry, that's just how we (and our affiliates) do business.
"We decided". "We won't apologize." Take very careful look at the language there. The first gives the impression that DPP was contacted as part of an effort by the artist who was hunting down multiple other unlicensed uses. That's patently untrue. The artist contacted Mykal Lakim because I pointed out the plagiarized art in my review and another RPG.net user alerted the artist. The second quote pretty much sums everything up - he won't apologize. He won't own his shit. If I write bad code and it comes back to me after it's been released, I don't blame the business analysts for writing bad requirements. I don't blame QA for passing it in the first place. I say, "Wow, I'm sorry. I really screwed that up. Let me fix that. How can I prevent that from happening again?" But from Mykal Lakim there are no apologies forthcoming. Just more evasion, doubling down, excuses, sock puppets and condescension.

In the end, he set the stage for people making assumptions by coming out as condescending, combative and evasive from the very beginning. From where I'm standing even a bad assumption doesn't invalidate the facts, it just puts them in a different light. In the case that Mark Smith and BeautifulDarkness666 aren't sock puppets I apologize for the assumption but buffer it with the advice that if they aren't, they surely aren't the people Mykal Lakim wants stepping up for him. They're not making him look good. If they are sock puppets - and the evidence for it is pretty damning, even if it is circumstantial - well, regardless, that's how Mykal Lakim and his affiliates do business and I don't expect that to change.