Sunday, May 9, 2010

Miserable Recasting Bastards

Someone has finally ripped off one of my prop replicas. Read on for more details...

Every once in a while, I sell some of my prop or costume replicas. The object is to occasionally let go of one or two pieces in order to help pay for the materials to make more stuff.

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you would've read about the weeks-long processes involved in building the prototype versions of my pieces as well as the days and dollars spent making the molds and castings. By the time it's done, the few dollars I make selling copies is barely enough to cover the costs involved in making them. Mostly I'm just trying to fund my projects while sharing the hobby with someone who perhaps doesn't have the time or the space to build their own prop or costume replicas on the same scale as I do.

Unfortunately, someone who knows how to make molds could very well take one of my pieces, make a mold of their own, and sell copies for profit. I've been lucky in that it hasn't happened to any of my work. Until now.

Back in March I sold one of my HALO helmets on eBay to a woman in Guadalajara, Spain by the name of Beatriz Alvarez de Lucas. Less than a month after buying my helmet, she had built a mold and started selling knock-offs. So far you can see her recasts of my work for sale under her ebay username "beamoviesculpt" as well as the name "etexillo." Click here for an example.
While recasting things like this may not be strictly illegal, it is definitely unsavory. I sent her a message asking her to stop selling copies of my work. The reply she sent me included thinly-veiled, vague legal threats, but the most offensive part was as follows:

"...I don´t need your permission to sell a helmet that I buy on Ebay. If
you are sculptor, you have to know that anyone can buy this helmet and
casting after. Many of my sculpts are casted after selling and relist too.
But I can´t do anything. If you are not in agreement, I´ll ask to Ebay for
a solution.

In essence, this woman has taken my work and started selling copies of it without asking permission or giving me credit of any kind. When I asked her to stop she said, in essence, that people steal her work all the time, so it's okay for her to steal my work as well. Now she's trying to flood the market with cheap copies of my helmets. That's why it's bad for me.

Here's why it's bad for you: If you decide to start a project like this, you may choose to get yourself a raw cast replica to paint up and display in your game room or office. When you start looking around for a suitable piece to start with, you find two listings of seemingly comparable helmets; mine and hers. You can buy hers for ten dollars less after shipping, but that's where the good deal ends.

When you buy from a hobbyist like me, you get a product from someone who cares about what they're doing, someone who is genuinely concerned about the quality and appearance of the finished product, someone making something because they love it. Conversely, when you buy from a recaster, you're buying from someone motivated solely by profit. What you'll be getting is going to be a lightweight, fragile casting made with the bare minimum of materials. The mold will have been made by cutting corners and skimping on materials too, leaving dents or waves in the surface of the copies.

It's worth mentioning that there are plenty of capable, competent makers out there who are making high-quality replicas. If you decide to buy from me, great, but if not, try to find one of those folks who is making things for the joy of making things and not simply trying to make a fast buck. If you can't tell the difference, ask a potential supplier to show you progress pictures of the original build or explain the provenance of the part they're replicating. You'll be glad you took a moment to find out who you're dealing with.

In short: boycott recasters, stick to folks who build things they'd want to own.


  1. Lame. Sucks when someone steals you stuff or your hard work. Is there any action you can take or any way to black list this person so someone else doesn't get ripped off as well?

  2. I've added her name and her ebay username(s) to the recaster lists on several prop and costuming forums where the community members know me and my work. In essence, it saves anyone else from selling things to her, which will hopefully prevent her from copying their work as well.

    In the process, it also means that any other hobbyist who knows what they're looking at is much less likely to buy one of her knock-offs. All that's left are folks who don't know any better. Fortunately, they'll likely just go ahead and buy the cheaper, costume-grade, licensed helmets from Rubies Costume Company.

  3. Can I play devil's advocate here for a second? I understand you are upset that someone is stealing your work and selling an inferior product for less money by copying your helmet. My question is this: How much are YOU paying in licensing fees for the Halo gear? Since you are creating and marketing your items as Halo replica prop helmets, shouldn't you be paying licensing fees to the owners of Halo? I hope I am wrong, and I have missed something. I am all for what you are doing, but I would be hesitant about calling someone out for this type of activity when I might be in the wrong as well.

    In other news, you missed a great chili cookoff on Saturday. Great chili, great beer, bad weather. Rock on.


  4. You've got a valid point, Joe, and it's an aspect of the hobby that bears explaining.

    Most of the work I do on my projects is for the sake of doing the projects themselves. When I'm selling things, it's to buy more materials to make more things. The materials are fairly expensive, so most hobbyists are limited by their budget. Selling parts to offset costs is pretty commonplace.

    Now you're right in that there's no legal difference between what I'm selling and what she's selling. Most of the time, studios that own the intellectual properties are willing to look the other way as hobbyists like me will end up being free advertising for their products.

    The most notable case of this is Lucasfilm's acceptance of the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers (you may have seen the very small percentage of those guys when they marched in the Rose Parade a couple of years ago). Folks like that (like me) are more interested in homage than profit and end up losing money in the pursuit of their hobby.

    Folks who sell unlicensed replica props and costumes might possibly be using someone else's intellectual properties, but they have a sort of "honor among thieves" concept. Recasting another maker's work for profit is basically THE cardinal sin within the replica prop hobby. All I've done in response here is the best I can do to make sure she won't do it to some other maker. With a little bit of luck, it will also be harder for her to profit from ripping off direct copies of my work.

    Enough about that though. Bummer about the weather Saturday. It was gorgeous at the car show.