Chris and copyright
|“||...anyone using my characters and all Without My Consent are Criminals, and such people should be reported to the Police immediately.||”|
|Chris, CWCipedia's Copyright page|
As with many things, Chris has a very limited understanding of copyright and how it's enforced. He is vaguely aware of what it is: some sort of a legal right that creators of things have that lets these creators to tell others what they can and can't do – a very naïve view, though not entirely incorrect.
Sonichu as a copyrightable work
Chris really only had one real firsthand experience on the copyright questions that formed the basis of everything that followed. While working on a school project that required making a CD cover, his teacher successfully explained to him that Sonic the Hedgehog and Pikachu are characters created by others, and he has no right to use them and has to create something original instead. Chris reacted to this by creating an "original" combination of the two characters, and thus Sonichu was born. In the Father Call, he also says the teacher told him he had been in the clear with the beginning as far as copyright is concerned. However, the fact that the teacher (unwisely) accepted Sonichu as original cemented Chris's vague understanding of the law, and now Chris is simply unwilling to learn the truth. In his mind, mashing together two different characters and "[putting] a little C-In-A-Circle and [his] John Hancock" creates completely new intellectual property that is his and his alone.
In reality, any work that uses previously copyrighted work as a basis is a derivative work. This means that while it may have substantial original elements that the creator definitely holds a copyright on, it cannot be published or distributed without permission of the original copyright holders. The reality isn't entirely clear-cut, however, and there are several exceptions to this rule, both well-understood (Fair Use doctrine, which allows limited use of copyrighted material for journalistic and scholarly purposes) and less well understood (there's an ongoing debate about the emerging copyright issues like digital rights and the remixing arts).
Unfortunately for Chris, Sonichu is a fairly clear-cut case of a derivative work. While the character design itself has some originality despite its blatantly derivative style (and as such might have passed the teacher's inspection), as far as backstory is concerned, Sonichu explicitly said to be a fusion of two existing characters - by Chris as its creator and in the comic story itself.
Fundamentally, Chris wanted Electric Hedgehog Pokémon; if they are just some made-up characters and not Pokémon, they just aren't true enough for him. Unfortunately, Chris doesn't understand that such "made-up" characters are how people define creativity. If Chris had elected to merely ape Sonic art style and plot elements from video games, he might have something that is borderline acceptable, and could avoid legal prosecution. However, the Sonichu comic makes copious usage of things from the Sonic and Pokemon franchises (as well as myriad others), meaning anything Chris does to profit from Sonichu renders him liable to be sued.
This would be harmless enough if he weren't actually profiting from it, but for two years he was, and if any of the franchises he has plagiarized from had decided to pursue legal action, Chris would have been torn to shreds in court. Fortunately for Chris, an autistic moron hocking products on Etsy was unlikely to incur the wrath of a major multinational company; the worst he's likely to receive is a cessation demand.
Ban from Lulu
Chris was banned from self-publishing site Lulu in December 2015 since the staff recognized that Sonichu is a piece of fan-fiction. The sting of an actual business calling him out on the truth seemed to finally impress upon him the impossibility of defending Sonichu as an original work.
More than a year after the ban, Chris continued to scapegoat Lulu to explain why he was unwilling to work on the comic he had been paid over $1,000 to do, saying in January 2017 that "the pester of "legality" questions and disputings in my creations and work" is the biggest reason that caused him to have an "inability to feel like drawing and writing the stories."
Chris as an enforcer of rights
Chris is very paranoid regarding his copyright, and will frequently hand out all of his personal information to complete strangers if he thinks it is being contested. This has backfired in a number of ways.
Chris has encouraged people to report copyright infringements to the police. The police, unfortunately, can't do much when random citizens report civil offenses such as copyright infringement. Even if Chris had the rights to the works in question, suing people for copyright infringement would be Chris's job and his job alone, or that of a representative whom he has specifically appointed to that specific task.
Unsurprisingly, Chris is a total hypocrite when it comes to abusing the work of other creators. In the space of 13½ issues, Chris pulled characters and concepts from innumerable franchises and even went so far as to steal "original" characters from fans and sweethearts with little respect shown to their creators. He's even had the balls to take another creator's characters, alter them and demand that thenceforth they be portrayed the way he has made them in the original material. Despite how firmly Chris holds on to his views of copyright, when directly challenged on why it's okay for him to rip things off but not for other people to do the same to Sonichu, he's unable to think of a response.
Furthermore, Chris refuses to listen to the original creators of these "original" characters when they ask to have their characters removed. The best example would be the fight between Evan and Chris over the character Simonla Rosechu, a ripoff of Evan's original character Simonchu. When Evan demanded that Chris remove Simonla from the comics in an on-page death, Chris refused because it would take Wild Sonichu's girlfriend away. As time went on, Chris fought tooth and nail to keep Simonla in, going so far as to write out a scenario where Simonchu is told to tell Evan that Simonla likes CWCville. In the end, it took two shut downs of the CWCipedia for Chris to finally surrender and kill off Simonla, and he just resurrected her a few years later anyway.
The MediaWiki software used on CWCipedia had various built-in settings for content licensing. During installation, MediaWiki defaults to GNU Free Documentation License, which states that the content can be reused elsewhere for any purpose, as long as proper copyright holder attribution and license references are given.
On 6 September 2009, a fan wrote to Chris and thanked him for allowing this reuse, which provoked an uncharacteristically swift response from Chris, demanding WikiSysop not-so-politely to remove the obviously erroneous "GDU FDL" license.
- "Any and All Visually Grotesque, Shocking and Offensive works will be Immediately Deleted and NOT be uploaded, or seen ever again; NO RESUBMISSIONS ALLOWED of such pieces."
- ALL letters addressed to any NAME other than "Christian Weston Chandler" or "Christopher Weston Chandler", will be Immediately disposed of with Paper Recyling, or be "Returned to Sender" with a frown face on it. ALL Visually Grotesque, Shocking and Offensive art works and letters will be disposed of properly as well."
- Fan sites should be pre-approved by Chris.
It appears that Chris has actually paid US$45, and somehow got Sonichu approved by the United States Copyright Office. On 12 November 2009, he also posted a scan of the confirmation letter he received to CWCipedia and posted a highly predictable my-Heart-Level-just-went-to-100%-again video.
Psychologically, this copyright registration represents a big win for Chris, because it gives him what he thinks are bragging rights, even though he has no idea what the copyright registration actually means. Copyright registration isn't an official recognition of copyright, however. Copyrights are granted automatically, and copyright registrations are only an official assertion that a specific work has been created at a specific date by the registrant; the registrations are only needed when suing another party for copyright infringement. It is also not registration of a trademark; Chris has no special rights for the name "Sonichu" itself. Finally, Chris made a critical mistake in filing the registration application: he described Sonichu as a "work for hire" in the apparent belief that this meant that the comic was his primary occupation, when it really means that he created it on behalf of someone else, who is considered the creator for legal purposes. It should also be noted that the United States Copyright Office does not check whether or not a registrant's work is infringing.
If Nintendo or Sega were to sue Chris they would easily win; it's clear that they hold the rights to original characters like Sonic and Pikachu and Chris's work is derivative thereof.
IN SHORT: Chris's copyright registration doesn't mean his comics aren't non-infringing, nor does it effectively protect his own intellectual property.
Use of copyright notices
The way Chris maintains his so-called copyrights within his works is also baffling. It's possible he goes by the assumption that almost everything he draws must contain copious copyright notices, usually in a large disclaimer:
|“||© Christian Weston Chandler, March 2000-????||”|
It's worth noting that Chris obsessively includes copyright symbols in pictures he draws of Sonichu, including a picture he drew in the snow in his Holiday Greetings video and a doodle he drew on his ticket to the 2005 Anime Mid-Atlantic convention.
However, only daily newspaper comic strips have constant notices reminding about copyright due to their daily nature. In most forms of media throughout the world, one copyright notice at the beginning of the work is enough to assert rights, and only the year is noted in a copyright notice.
Finally, the year of the creation of the specific work in question should be noted in the copyright notice; for example Sonichu #10 should be "© 2009-2010 CWC". If Chris would want to specifically emphasize that Sonichu, in general, has existed since March 2000, he'd need to do so in an additional copyright notice (e.g. "Sonichu #10 © 2009-2010 CWC. Sonichu character © CWC, March 2000.")
Christian's On the Lookout!
Long before his discovery by the trolls, Chris created a webpage called Christian's On the Lookout! which linked to his main Sonichu site. Chris made the site no later than May 2006. Exactly how he used the site is not clear, especially since his main site did not link to this page. Chris's paranoia and arrogance regarding his copyright are on full display here.
A Message for all who are out to use the Sonichu Name!
From Christian Weston Chandler,
Original Creator of Sonichu, and related characters and materials.
I just want to inform all persons, fans of Sonichu or otherwise, that Sonichu was originally Created on March 17, 2000, and I have a copyright on my faithful Electric-Hedgehog Pokemon. I am very proud to share my Sonichu with the people who appreciate my creativity in Sonichu's world.
I often do a "Search" of "Sonichu," and, currently, and I only want to see links to my Sonichu Site, or related sites. If I see links to websites with any person who has used his name, I will view it. If I should see the "Sonichu" name used to describe any character, other than my original Electric-Hedgehog Pokemon, I will send you an E-Mail to inform you if you have intruded into Copyrighted territory, and request that you remove the name from your website, or forum entry, and change it to something else. If, however, you do not abide to the request, or not reply to the E-mail within 14 days, I may take legal action against you.
I am not a mean person, and I am not out to start any trouble, so please do not use the Sonichu name in vain. If, however, you would like to create a fan website to describe my Electric-Hedgehog Pokemon, please send me an E-Mail to CWCSonichu@aol.com with information, and link, about your fan site. I will view your fan site, and if I like it, I, Christian Weston Chandler, will send you an approval E-Mail. And you may keep your website up on the web. If I find it offensive, I, Christian Weston Chandler, will send you an E-mail asking you to either change the content to something else, or remove the website from the web.
Also, if you would like to see Sonichu as a real video game, or catch him in a Pokemon title, please send your request to Nintendo of America, inc., or Nintendo Power magazine; please raise the hype on Sonichu so that I will be able to legally talk to the people of Nintendo of America, inc., and make a deal.
Sonichu and I, Christian Weston Chandler, thank you for following the Legal Guidelines expressed here. I sincerely hope that you enjoy the stories of my Electric-Hedgehog Pokemon. And I also hope that you will voice your hype and interest about Sonichu, and my world of Cwcville, to Nintendo of America, inc., so Sonichu can become a video game, cartoon (or anime), and all that other neat stuff.
Have a Zappin' Day!
This has been a message from Christian Weston Chandler, Original Creator of Sonichu.
All Sonichu Material is Copyrighted, March 2000-2005 by Christian Weston Chandler
In any case, Chris doesn't really care so much what his copyright registration means and what it might or might not be good for, practically speaking. To him, it's mainly just a crutch for his ego. In the aftermath of his feud with Liquid Chris, he sees it as the final and clinching proof that he himself is the TRUE and ORIGINAL creator of Sonichu. On 26 November 2009, he posted the following as part of an announcement on CWCipedia, which is quite illuminating:
|Also, I have been thinking, although all Sonichu "Merchandise" sold online in the past I have labeled false; I did that, because it came as a surprise to me then, I felt outraged appropriately (most everyone can relate to that; it's comparable to if Godzilla or Clover [the Cloverfield monster] came to YOUR Metropolis and suddenly attacked your city). I realize now that even though it is still considerably Not Official, it all still is an homage to my creation. So I will make it clear to ALL those Vendors.
As long as it is NOT printed copies of my books' pages, or bootlegged copies of my "Christian Weston Chandler, Yep, I'm On T.V." DVD, AND As Long As I am quoted on ALL websites' and vendors' locations as Original Creator of Sonichu, Rosechu, Cwcville and all of such, I, Christian Weston Chandler, approve of such merchandise from Day Forward. At least to give you all, my patient, loyal Fans and Trolls, something to quell your pallets [sic] until Official Merchandise is sold in Official Stores such as Toys 'R' Us, GameStop, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etcetera and such.
I have spoken, and I wish everyone a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving.
--ChrisChanSonichu 02:17, 26 November 2009 (CET)
In other words, Chris doesn't really care if other people use his supposed intellectual property, so long as he's the one that gets the credit, not some impostor in brown stripes. The idea expressed here is not unlike that in the Creative Commons Attribution license.
Since Chris began using Patreon for donations in exchange for his continued work on Sonichu 11 and beyond, he has had, for the first time, an actual financial incentive to enforce copyright of his work. Chris announced that he would initially release Sonichu 11 only to Patreon supporters, and this plan seemed to go off without a hitch until several patrons leaked the exclusive pages that Chris had released so far, then notified Chris in his YouTube comments.
Chris took swift action to protect his only source of income besides his Monthly Tugboat. In CLog 06142017, Chris begins by denouncing the leakers and comparing their actions (leaking the comic pages early) to the physical theft of purses and cell phones. However, Chris's copyright continues to be completely unenforceable, and it is almost certain that future patron pages will be leaked as well.
Interestingly, Chris's intentions to keep future Sonichu pages exclusive to his patrons could be considered a form of fraud, as DStecks already paid Chris $1000 in September 2015 to make 100 pages of Sonichu, which, according to Chris's pagecount estimate in CLog 06232017, would cover the vast majority of the volume to be released.
- Main article: Parody
Chris is very protective of his characters. Chris believes that his characters are officially "parodies", thus, he is allowed to create his multimedia empire on a legal loophole. What Chris fails to realize is that parodies are essentially mockeries of something they're based on, done for laughs or as a commentary on the original work. According to the US Supreme Court, parody "is the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's works." So if Chris was, say, making commentary on commercialization by making a pastiche of what was popular at the time, it would be fine. The fact that it is parody and not plagiarism must also be made obvious.
Sonichu and Rosechu are not parodies, just shitty recolors. Chris doesn't mean to make fun of the characters they're based on, nor make commentary of them. He slavishly imitates the kind of adventures they have in an attempt to tell his own stories. Even his most original characters are either based on someone he knows or are cribbed extensively from existing characters.
Chris plans for Sonichu 13 to be a crossover between his comic universe and the characters of the popular "Planet Dolan" YouTube channel. Much like Nintendo and (formerly) Sega, the producers of the channel likely have never heard of Sonichu, much less gave Chris permission to use their characters. Assuming Chris actually makes #13, Chris will likely offer a similar "parody" defense to his direct use of someone else's intellectual property. This is no longer the case as Chris has been blocked by pretty much all of Planet Dolan Cast.
|Despite what this world's "Legalities" are, All of the events in this book HAS happened not only in in Cwcville and Equestria and Canterlot High School, BUT EVERYWHERE ELSE in that SAME Dimension where all of our "Fictional" Characters and Individuals DO Exist and Co-Exist. So, EVENTS where Bowser, Dr. Eggman, and even Voldemort WORK Together for a common goal of overtaking lands and worlds; That CAN Happen. So, in a Passive-Agressive statement, and a fair and just warning, I say to those Fat Cat Legal People of This World: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, and WHEN ALL of those evils attempt something in THIS WORLD, and someone Writes and Draws EVERY SINGLE DETAIL about it in Chronicling it all, DO NOT EVEN ENCOURAGE COPYRIGHT/TRADEMARK LAWSUITS, AT ALL.|
Many of Chris's "songs" from his old Christian and the Hedgehog Boys project have been taken down on YouTube for copyright. If Chris knew this, he would likely argue that his songs are "parodies" and thus Fair Use. The problem is that Chris's songs aren't parodies, nor they are reviewing the said songs, nor are they just covers with an instrumental version of the original song playing in the background. Just like how Sonichu and Rosechu are recolors and not parodies, Chris's songs are just rewrites of the originals with said original drowning out most of his voice.
Even if Chris's songs were legitimate parodies, he would still need to create his own instrumental since the song recording itself is copyrighted. Most professional parody artists (including Weird Al) hire backing bands. Weird Al also asks the original artists for their permission, because simply changing the words to a song doesn't make it a legitimate parody – there has to be some kind of criticism, and singing about food or boyfriend-free girls doesn't criticize the song itself. Words alone don't define copyright, and changing them will not get you out of a musical plagiarism lawsuit.
Chris believes he has the right to use any fanart depicting a Sonichu character for his own purposes. A key example is his banner for Patreon and YouTube, which uses another person's fanart of Sonichu and Rosechu, even though the accounts are meant to showcase his own work, and he has not given credit to the original artist.
When a fan pointed out that he was plagiarizing the work for himself, Chris replied:
|“||It’s a lovely piece of art, I am not stealing it, I am using it in full appreciation of the artist that drew it, as much as possible.
And, it doesn’t matter: it has Sonichu and Rosechu; they both, all the others and the city of Cwcville, are mine, regardless.
- January 2017 Facebook Posts#Inability to feel like drawing and writing the stories
- Alec Benson Leary Phone Call 9
- Chris's message to WikiSysop