Another Case of Asset Piracy Exposed
May 9, 2023
A new suspected asset pirate has been brought to light on Reddit, continuing a concerning trend within the flight simulation developer community. In a recent Reddit post, user Clunkiestpage8 has exposed another developer accused of stealing assets from their peers to cut corners and reduce their workload. This type of plagiarism is not new; we have previously reported cases involving stolen assets from ToLiss and FlightFactor.
In this latest incident, the alleged perpetrator has copied assets from Felis 747, a popular aircraft in the flight simulation community. The aircraft featuring the pirated assets is currently being sold on Simmarket for $44.00 USD.
“Today, a payware E-4B, priced at € 40, was released on SimMarket.com. Throughout the aircraft's development process, the author posted a large number of screenshots of the aircraft on the X-Plane.org forum, and it became immediately apparent to a number of developers who worked on both 3D models and textures for the Felis 747-200 that the developer was utilizing a number of these assets without permission.”
The Reddit user, Clunkiestpage8, who brought this issue to light, is not one of the affected developers but has a personal connection to the case. The author created a livery pack for the E-4B visual mod, designed specifically for the Felis 747. Upon examining the product, Clunkiestpage8 quickly identified that the external textures used were strikingly similar to their work, albeit poorly adapted to fit the fuselage model.
To protect their intellectual property, the Reddit author had previously contacted the developer in question and requested that their livery not be used. It appears that the developer made some modifications to the livery before releasing the product, but Clunkiestpage8 claims that traces of their original work and elements from the base Felis textures can still be found on the aircraft in question.
To further support these allegations, Clunkiestpage8 plans to provide side-by-side comparisons of the original E-4B mod and the accused product once they have reinstalled the E-4B mod. These comparisons will help to shed light on the extent of the plagiarism and validate the author's claims.
In the meantime, the Reddit author has already shared a comprehensive 23-page PDF that contains comparison images and detailed findings. Clunkiestpage8's analysis points to several key product similarities, including distinguishable polycounts, bevels, and chamfering. Moreover, the cockpit textures appear to share striking similarities regarding scratch marks, wear and tear, colouring, and AO bakes from previous geometry.
The extensive documentation provided by Clunkiestpage8 serves as compelling evidence to support their accusations, raising significant concerns about the integrity of the developer in question and emphasising the need to tackle asset piracy head-on. As the community awaits the side-by-side comparisons, it is clear that ensuring a fair and thriving development environment is crucial.
Neither the redditor nor the documentation exposes who the developer is. But it is not hard to find considering there is only one E-B4 for X-Plane in Simmarket and it was uploaded only hours before the reddit post was published. QINGFENG KONG does not have any other products and their "home page link" points to a removed topic on x-plane.org.
The uncertain future of this addon, even if it were made of original assets were original is exacerbated by its questionable quality and price point. The fact that it has been published and made available for purchase brings to light a larger issue within the flight simulation community: the need for more stringent quality control and improved management of flight sim addon stores. Addressing these concerns will protect developers and guarantee that customers receive top-notch and in this case, evidently problematic; original products.
EDIT 5/9 2023 17:17
We received a message from the group of people that are investigating this case:
We see the growing discussion taking place between the Felis 742 vs QingFeng Kong E-4B, and thought it was best to clear a few things up. Firstly, yes we are highly confident that there has been some IP theft ongoing. The document published by Clunkiestpage8 is actually a culmination of multiple people trying to identify the work, including:
Felis : Creator of the 747-200 who can identify mesh and textures
Delta_Who : Partial texture artist for the 747-200, who can identify textures
Fidi : Texturer for the LTN and can identify his work
Clunkiestpage8 : Livery artist who can identify his textures
Josd777 and Dyno744 : Technical and Modelling experts who have been assisting us
For the sake of transparency, it is important to note that that there are alot of aspects of the E-4B in its published state that are original. It's also important to point out that the current state of the project does appear drastically different to what was shown in the development thread (for which a good chunk of our claims are based on).
Nevertheless, no permission for derivative/reproductive works were authorized at any point, and it is a shame the basis of our hard work (both payware and freeware) used commercially without our consent or consultation. We will continue pursue rectificaiton, and hope we illuminate the growing concerns of copyright in our community.
Threshold doesn't have any contact with QuingFeng Kong at the time of writing this.
Threshold encourages informed discussion and debate - though this can only happen if all commenters remain civil when voicing their opinions.