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People are tricking bots into stealing Disney and Nintendo IP to raise awareness about design theft

Artists fed up with T-shirt vendors stealing their work tricked their automated systems into generating shirts with characters such as Mickey Mouse, Pikachu, and Bart Simpson.

People are tricking bots into stealing Disney and Nintendo IP to raise awareness about design theft
[Photo: Apic/Getty Images]

Online artists say unscrupulous T-shirt vendors are using bots to search social media for comments such as “I want that on a shirt.” When the bots find them, they quickly take images from the original posts and upload them to T-shirt marketplace sites without regard for copyright or artist credit.

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To fight back, some artists and others have started posting such phrases around images containing the intellectual property of big, sometimes litigious companies such as Disney and Nintendo, presumably hoping to draw attention to the situation from their high-powered IP lawyers.

Nintendo and Disney didn’t immediately respond to inquiries from Fast Company about tweets and shirts using such characters as Mario, Pikachu, Mickey Mouse, and meme-favorite Baby Yoda.

According to the website Waxy.org, some of those fighting back against the problem have even successfully managed to generate T-shirts that condemn the sites where they were posted for using “stolen art,” sometimes along with vulgar images.

Artists who sell or show their work online have long complained that fighting IP theft can be like playing a game of Whac-a-mole, with many marketplace sites seemingly reluctant to take steps to systematically weed out copycats that can steal customers from their small businesses. Ironically, harnessing big-name characters such as Mickey and Mario may very well help bring more attention to the issue.

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About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.

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