DeviantArts (DA) is probably unique in several ways, but the thing that I've found strangest and have had the most difficulty with grappling with is their tolerance(?) of "rips". Which is why I think this could be an interesting discussion.
"Rips" are models taken from commercial computer and video games and used for "something else". Make no mistakes about it, probably 99.99% of rips are illegal in the sense that they were "stolen" from something else. Which, given the existence of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), makes it kind of strange that DA tolerates any rips on their servers at all. May be they really do deserve the kind of reputation that they receive on other forums on the Internet, or they just aren't making enough money to be worth the bother to sue. Who knows? The fact remains is that at the moment DA seems to be a safe haven for rippers and nowhere are they perhaps more visible than in the MMD field.
Then again, there's another side to this coin. Or more specifically other sides, so we will briefly look at some of these. However, before we continue further, I think that it is important for me to state clearly my own position on ripping as in fact I am of two minds on this subject.
First off, I do use ripped models. A browse through my gallery will show this as fact. Specifically, those of dinosaurs in particular as I like dinosaurs. But I don't support all rippers. In fact I divide them into two distinct groups.
There are those who rip models, actually I'll use the word "steal" models from others or other sources, do very little work on them and then distribute them in an attempt, I believe, to drive up their page views. Which is why you may find certain models made by well known MMD modelers whose work have been "lifted", slightly rehashed such as being converted from x-files into PMD files and then re-released for downloads without either permission or acknowledgement. This is plain stealing and I do not approve or it and will not support those who engage with such practices. Yet, many in the MMD community don't have any hesitation to do so, which kind of makes you wonder sometimes as to the moral standards prevalent these days. Do we really need to "collect them all" so badly that in the process we are willing to damage the goodwill that our Japanese counterparts have been so willing to show us in the past?
This type of ripping, and the support, thereof, can be extremely harmful to our hobby. First off, it damages our relationship with our Japanese counterparts. Just as we tend to think of the Japanese as an aggregate group (which we really shouldn't), they tend to see us, those of us "Overseas", as an aggregate group (which they really shouldn't either). So when someone does something bad over here, there is the tendency for the Japanese MMDers to find us all guilty. Especially when we rip their work, redistribute them and don't even acknowledge that it was their work to begin with. Yet, these items still exist on the DA servers.
Why do you think that is the case?
In a nutshell, it's not that DA doesn't care. Their policy is very simple, for the most part they don't police what's put on to their servers. It's an almost impossible task anyway. And don't go around reporting a work as stolen, they won't do anything unless you happen to be the copyright holder or they receive a DMCA takedown order (which can only be taken out by the legal copyright owner).
So this brings us back to game rippers. Here's a tricky one. The game companies themselves may not actually frown on rippers. They won't say it out loud but; unlike their music industry counterparts; they may have realized that game rips are beneficial in at least three ways:
[ 1 ] It indirectly promotes their games, especially if the ripper does the right thing by acknowledging the source of the models. Rips can be pushed into other areas where the game company's original promotions never reached.
[ 2 ] They recognize them as "fan art" and how can this not be a good thing?In fact some game developers have actually contacted rippers to praise them or even encourage them ... tacit consent at the very least don't you think?
[ 3 ] By tolerating rippers, they're protecting their industry's future. Sound strange? How do you think many computer game modelers started? Probably by looking at models that they like and seeing how they were built perhaps? Artists through out history have learnt by looking at, copying, or otherwise examining the works of their peers. How is ripping in this context any different?
So let's look at the T-Rex model again (image at top of page). It's one that I've used in several of my skits. The model's copyrights belong to Universal Pictures, it being of the T-Rex from the movie. It's from the game Jurassic Park (which I do not own and do not intend to as I don't play much by way of computer games). The model was ripped by Valforwing, one of the more prolific and respectful of the DA MMD rippers (which is why I support his work). Not only does he acknowledge his sources, he takes pains to ensure that the rips are trouble free and properly rigged. If you think rigging a 3D model from scratch using PMD is easy, I suggest you try it. Take it from me, it's real work.
Game rippers also take models from games that people have long since stopped playing. In this context, they breathe new life into old models that have long become digital dust. Some of these models were "state-of-the-art" in their time, and might still be good in ours. It's nice to see these works still around, and for some people, their manifestation in ripped form might be the only way that these models would ever be seen anyway. So in this context, rippers function as digital preservationists.
But game rippers can also do a lot of harm to MMD, and I've notice this. Those rippers who steal work and those who are just too lazy to develop real skills have a tendency to stifle the efforts of original model makers. Which is why probably the Japanese MMDers have (possibly) hundreds of original model makers and those of us "overseas" have very few in comparison. We have a lot of people very talented with editing existing models, but how often do we as a community actually generate "original" content?
Personally, I will continue to support rippers like Valforwing as those like him actually do bring real benefits to the community (besides being respectful in their activities). As for those who rip willy-nilly just to increase their page views, I suspect they will eventually go away anyway. "Attention-whores" usually do as they are forever going to go where they feel they're going to get the most attention.
Overall I see the future of MMD "Overseas" in a positive light. It might have taken awhile, and the community seems definitely to have shrunk, but at the same time, I've seen the quality of work go up. This can only bode well for the future