Twitter RPG Stealing Copyrighted Online Art
Self-described “lazy RPG” Tweeria works by players creating new adventures, killing monsters, or winning items every time a user posts on Twitter. Recently, the game has come under fire for misappropriating original artwork and using it as part of the game, often without any sort of attribution to the artist.
By automatically moving the user forward in the game every time he or she tweets, Tweeria requires almost no direct interaction from its users, making it popular on Twitter as a social game. The role-playing game currently has 14,000 registered users and receives almost 20,000 visits per day and Tweeria creators even have a mobile version of the game in the works. However, much of the art used in the game is taken from other sources on the Internet, including World of Warcraft and DeviantArt. The art is often used and even sold as part of the game, with no recognition or profits given to the original artist, a clear violation of copyright law.
DeviantArt’s copyright policy states that copyright infringement includes “placing a photograph or creative work online without proper permission,” “using a creative work commercially,” “adapting a creative work of one medium to another…” and “modifying or editing a creative work without proper permission.” However, Tweeria’s parent company, Tweenk, may not have directly lifted artwork from online sources like DeviantArt. The game developers accept photos submitted by users, who are unlikely to check the copyright policy underlying each photo. This is a likely cause of the rampant copyright infringement on Tweeria.
After the news spread about all the copyright-infringing material related to the game, the Tweeria website was taken down. The site later returned, but this time, there was a disclaimer at the bottom of the page:
“Based on World of Warcraft image files and texts. Artworks by Blizzard, Sony Online Entertainment, Kerem Beyit, Brandon Kitkouski, Tyler Walpole, Derk Venneman, Hee Won Lee. All rights belong to their authors.”
Despite this acknowledgement of rights holders, a good deal of material still on the site is alleged to be copyright infringing. One of the game’s creators replied to these allegations by releasing the following statement:
“Up to this moment I have already deleted plenty of pieces of unauthorized art and will continue to do so. On the other hand I’ve got some permissions from authors and feel that people generally want to contribute their works into the project…It takes much time to check all the license limitations for each artwork. As the result and unfortunately for gamers, I’ve closed the option for artworks uploading and got massive delay in approval of small items.”
While the game’s creator complains of the “massive delay” in artwork approval, many of the artists whose material was stolen in blatant violation of copyright law are still waiting for their misappropriated material to be taken down or attributed to them.