Olivia R. March 31, 2020
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive fans are not happy with a new weapon skin in PUBG Mobile.
Developers recently introduced an M16A4 skin called Psycho Savage, which is almost an exact copy of CSGO's AK47 skin, Neon Revolution. The only notable differences are the white stripes PUBG added on top of the original design. Everything else is disturblingly similar.
While this latest skin has definitely riled the CSGO community up, it's apparently nothing new. On Reddit, a few fans pointed out other skins that PUBG Mobile has recently copied. This included PUBG's Field Commander AWM being a carbon copy of CSGO's AWP Phobos skin. A skin for PUBG's QBZ95, Phantom, took heavy inspiration from CSGO's Neo Noir skin.
Is PUBG Mobile copying CSGO's weapon skins?
While the designs are arguably nearly identical, some PUBG fans noted that it could just be a coincidence. CSGO's Neon Savage skin is five years old. Is it possible that after some time, game developers will run into the same shades of color or design?
But CSGO fans weren't having it.
PUBG Mobile sympathizers also brought up Fortnite, stating that every single dance is "ripped off" or "inspired" by an existing move or video. This also didn't fly with CSGO players, who stated that it doesn't make it right to "rip someone else's work, claim it as your own, then profit off of it."
But it wasn't only CSGO fans that have to worry about PUBG Mobile stealing their skins. Apparently, PUBG Mobile took skins from Rules of Survival, a free-to-play battle royale game developed and published by NetEase Games. A skin for PUBG's AKM, called Ashes, was also supposedly stolen from Grand Theft Auto mods.
Basically, nothing is off limits for PUBG Mobile.
Is copying CSGO weapon skins illegal?
Weapon skins in video games are considered original art, and original art is often copyrighted. When something is copyrighted, it means that you can't reproduce and distribute that artwork without permision from the copyright owner. This means that unless PUBG Mobile developers asked Valve if they could use the weapon skins in their own game, it's illegal.
But what about the white stripes? What about the different shade of pink? Some PUBG Mobile players are saying that it's not an exact copy of the original artwork and therefore it shouldn't run into any copyright infringement isues.
According to Artquest London, if you say an image is your own but it's derived from someone else's earlier work and "mainly looks like it," it's still a violation of copyright.
So is the altered color enough despite PUBG's skins maintaining a lot of the original elements? That would probably be up to a court to decide.
Weapon skins are covered by the Digital Medium Copyright Act, something that actually made headlines a few years ago.
In 2014, Valve received a DMCA notice regarding copyright infringement "with respect to the M3A4 Howl and community sticker, Howling Dawn," Steam said in a statement. The artwork was apparently not originally created by the contributors.
"This matter is extremely serious, and we have taken appropriate action to resolve it," Valve said at the time.
Steam launched the CSGO Items Workshop in order to allow artists and designers to share their creative ideas. While the weapon skins do not require Valve's review or approval, artists must sign a legal document that confirms their contributions are original. The community can also monitor the Workshop and alert Steam of any plagiarism.
While this isn't the exact same situation, it's abundantly clear that weapon skins are forms of art protected by DMCA. Therefore, what PUBG Mobile has done in copying the work of others and distributing it for potential profit is clearly copyright infringement.
Could Valve sue? Sure. Will they? Probably not.