To your left is the image used to sell Feminist Frequency's Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series of videos. As should be clear from the name, the series examines the recurring stereotypes of female characters in video games. As such, it should come as no surprise that the series banner features a dozen female video game characters. Now, here's a question for you:
Do you think Feminist Frequency obtained permission to use any of that character art?
You might not have thought about it before but none of those characters were drawn by Feminist Frequency; they range from official promotional art to sprites and models that were ripped directly from their individual games.
Another thing you might not have noticed is that the image of Daphne from Dragon's Lair (she's the one sitting on the 'o' in 'Women') is not official art. Damn good fan art but fan art nonetheless. That image was actually drawn by artist and animator, Tamara Gray and she was not pleased to learn that Feminist Frequency used her fan art without her permission or at the very least, crediting her.
In an open letter to Feminist Frequency, Gray said:
"Hello. I am the professional artist who painted the Princess Daphne image that Feminist Frequency/Tropes vs Women has been using as part of their logo and branding in several places online… Do you have any relevant paperwork showing that your company has legitimately licensed this image, and that this is a simple misunderstanding instead of intentional copyright infringement?
I don’t mean to be harsh, but content creation is how I make my living and professional reputation. I typically do not license my work or lend endorsement in situations where there isn’t the utmost transparency."
Feminist Frequency responded saying that a "remixed collage is transformative in nature and as such constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for under section 107 of the US Copyright law."
Gray responded, saying, "Even if this was a legal example of Fair Use (It’s not), it wouldn’t mean that the theft was ethical or moral. It’s exploitative and unfortunately marginalizes content creators." Gray has also requested proof of Feminist Frequency's claimed non-profit status. She's still waiting. In the meantime, she has requested that Feminist Frequency stop using her artwork in its marketing materials.
It's an interesting situation. Does Feminist Frequency's use of Gray's fan art constitute fair use? How about its use of official art from other games? Does the fact that Gray's art is an unlicensed reproduction of a copyrighted character factor in at all?
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Contributing Editor Andrew Eisen