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Soooo . . . the PonyStars virtual pony-pet game is using art from a different pony game, PonyIsland.net. PonyIsland has been around since 2003, players pay for accounts (it's not free), and it's based in Sweden, although most players are American.
Examples of copied artwork:
Those are pretty obvious, but others are more subtle examples of tracing, with more alterations. From the pose and to some extent the hair I can tell these are copied, even though changes have been made:
There is also a website called Poney Vallee. Poney Vallee appears to be identical to Acclaim's PonyStars (down to the background) which makes me think that Acclaim worked out a deal with Poney Vallee or bought the rights to Poney Vallee, or something like that. So Acclaim may have no idea that PonyStars' pictures are traced/copied.
My question is . . . is it considered copyright infringement even though some of the pictures have been altered slightly (the dragon pony and the butterfly pony)? How about the pictures that have been altered more, like the pony with translucent wings turned into a pegasus?
If it is copyright infringement, what would you suggest the owners of PonyIsland and/or the person who drew the artwork for them do? Do you think a simple letter to Acclaim would clear this up, or not?
I am neither an owner of PonyIsland nor the artist, but I know them and would be happy to pass advice along to them. I know it's just a game, but . . . it's a game that the creators worked long and hard to create. This bothers me, especially since a real game company like Acclaim is involved.