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Regarding The Witcher Plagiarism controversy

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  • Regarding The Witcher Plagiarism controversy

    Edit: The issue has now been resolved for me where in Moorcock stated the following:

    Bastards. You try to create something original and a bunch of people rip it off and make millions. I'm glad Tolkien never lived to see what HE spawned. I've contacted my lawyer, but haven't heard back yet. It's a 'passing off' situation rather than a copyright one. Trademarks, too, are involved. Copyright infringement is usually to do with text (or clearly copied drawings in the case of comics). Source: http://www.multiverse.org/fora/showp...04&postcount=4
    So apparently the language was a bit too ambiguous here. So thank you all for letting me know about this and I appreciate everyone's patients, I also apologize if I was a bit annoying. :End Edit

    Edit 2:
    There never was a lawsuit. Those narratives waste time...
    To me an elf is a kind of pixie. http://www.multiverse.org/fora/showp...6&postcount=22
    So, Moorcock has spoken, there never was a lawsuit. Thank you my friend. :End Edit:

    I know that this topic was posted somewhere else in fact but I am somewhat curious here to hear Michael Moorcock sort of give me his definitive word on this because all I have ever heard of this tends to come from second or third hand accounts giving their view on why it's plagiarism or not

    For the record here, this is the video that turned me on to this controversy in the first place:

    Now at first I didn't pay it much mind because a lot of people and fans of fantasy novel's appear to make claims about how all kinds of fantasy author's plagiarise one another's work and usually this doesn't go anywhere beyond the forums of the fans arguing about it and I wrote it off as just that.

    But one day I got curious and decided to see if this was the case with Razorfist. Apparently he wasn't aware of Moorcock until he stumbled upon the forum post. This became apparent to me as I came upon some of his tumblr posts that he was reserved to call The Witcher plagiarism on the grounds that the game developers were not the ones plagiarizing Moorcock's work but Andrzej Sapkowski was the one who is supposed the one doing it here and making money off the game.

    After he began reading the books he came to the conclusion that they were and made this video as a result of his final word on the video. After which a bunch of individuals started making lists of differences that result in no plagiarism involved while Razorfist and his camp provide striking similarities that make a stronger case for plagiarism. The stronger case being thematic themes, reverse contextualization of characters, tone of conflict both characters endure and the like. Just as an example of what I am talking about to give you a gist here, here are the lists the naysayers tend to provide:

    Elric of Melnibone:

    Rightful emperor of Melnibone, and thus most powerful individual in all the Young Kingdoms.
    Elven.
    Albino.
    Weakling who needs to sustain himself with either drugs or stolen souls.
    Mightiest mage in all of the young kingdoms.
    Worshipper of the chaos gods.
    Frequently stupid.
    Bound symbiotically to a soul eating sentient sword.
    One aspect of the champion eternal, a multiversal hero.
    His people have ruled the world for ten millenia.
    Rides Dragons and sometimes even weirder craft.
    Has few friends or acquaintances, mainly Dyvim and Moonglum.

    Geralt of Rivia:

    Orphaned child without family or fortune.
    Human.
    White haired and cat eyed due to witcher mutations.
    Superhuman, immune to disease and the ravages of time.
    Knows a few witcher tricks, the signs.
    Agnostic, with a certain distaste for fate.
    Clever, know his craft like the back of his hand.
    Bear two mundane sword, one silver and one steel.
    Is not sure whether fate exists, certainly does not like to think of himself as a pawn of it.
    Witchers are few and rapidly dying out, at their height they were reviled freaks.
    Rides a horse that he calls Roach.
    Has many friends.
    And here is what Razorfist retorts with:

    They are, physically, and for all intents and purposes identical. Right down to the glowy, abnormal eyes. Elric's as a result of being an albino. And Geralt's as a result of the hackneyed 'Derp, medieval genetic engineering' premise. They do have the same 'nick'name. Even the way their real names are pronounced. (Geralt... of Rivia. Elric... of Melniboné) is similar. This is true. And, on its own, would be enough for a plagiarism suit to go forward.

    Witcher 2 opens up with Geralt struggling with amnesia subsequent to a traumatic event, besieged in a fortress, fighting in service of his king. Sound familiar? At least one Elric book opens up in nearly identical fashion. Hell, the more down-to-earth, 'low fantasy' approach of the vast majority of the Elric series is mirrored in many ways by the narrative approach of The Witcher.

    To which, most fanboys fall back into the standard 'nothing is new under the sun' argument which is unmitigated horseshit! Because when Elric was envisioned, in the 1960s, that was NOT THE CASE! Hell, it wasn't even the case when The Witcher was written in 1986! The invention of the 'fantasy antihero in a low-fantasy world, rife with classism, racism, and political maneuvering'... was one of the many innovations of the Elric series.

    Both characters are outcasts.
    I've noted Witcher fans - like Art Skye for example - repeatedly fall back on the 'Geralt is a normal guy / Elric is an emperor' defense - but that is INCORRECT. It's indicative of the fact that VERY FEW Witcher fanboys have ever read Elric!

    Elric is an Emperor... for HALF of one book in the entire series! He's an outcast! He's despised due to his race and class, and later for the curse that his weapon brings. In other words... he's despised due to his abilities.

    I hate to break it to you, but that's the IDENTICAL reason why Geralt (and all witchers) are despised.

    Both characters rely on the use of herbs to sustain them, in Geralt's case to a lesser degree (often plagiarists will soften one element or another in order to negate any prospective parallels the discerning fan might generate. The Lion King/Kimba the White Lion controversy has numerous cases of this) In Elric's case, he replaces that reliance on drugs... with a parasitic relationship with his sword. Even the basic, personal dynamic is the same.
    I don't want to document a flame war here, but seeing as I have neither read Moorcock's or Sapkowski's novels it's hard to say for sure. Now for some background on me, I study ancient history texts, specifically those regarding the forgeries in ancient religions, so I have a good grasp on how ideas get transferred from culture to another, how authors can come up with the same ideas independently of one another and forgeries, counter-forgeries and plagiarism in the ancient world works. So I have a good basis to judge from it and without reading the books themselves, I can't determine indefinitely if it is.

    But here is the thing though, Razorfist made an interesting comment regarding Moorcock's conclusion which was the following:

    Michael Moorcock did not 'drop' the issue. He actually concluded by stating that Sapkowski was 'passing off' his character as a sort of Elric-lite.

    Here's the thing: The Witcher is now a franchise. And it's distributed in the states by Warner Bros., a powerful conglomerate. Putting aside what a legal snafu it would be to extradite a Polish author for plagiarism proceedings (and Poland's likely reticence to do so, given how important a national export the series has become) he also just plain doesn't have the money to fight with WB. It's true Elric is owned by Universal, but it's also a dormant property. Universal isn't likely to take The Witcher to court for lifting elements of a property they have yet to monetize in filmic form.

    Hence Moorcock leaving the matter to rest. 
    Now, is there any truth to this bottom quote here? And before anyone accuses me of starting a flame thread between Sapkowski's fans and Moorcock's allow me to say that I am not. It really does concern me that this is an issue right now and I want to know because while I find the games to be fun in their own right, I don't want my money to support a media empire that was established as such via plagiarism. So if Moorcock could answer the simple question of if it is plagiarism and if he came to that conclusion based on reading Sapkowski's work, I would greatly appreciate it and if anything quoted above by Razorfist here is true.
    Last edited by voiceofreason467; 07-19-2014, 11:47 PM.

  • #2
    I don't see the point in getting pissed-off about it, but doing something, that's a different story...is there a petition that could be put forth to expedite legal action from Universal? any other suggestions?
    sigpic

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    • #3
      Originally posted by SeeDoubleYou View Post
      I don't see the point in getting pissed-off about it, but doing something, that's a different story...is there a petition that could be put forth to expedite legal action from Universal? any other suggestions?
      I am not pissed about it at all. I am just worried that by purchasing The Witcher 3, I would be abetting and even condoning plagiarism. I could try to set up a petition regarding this if this is the case, but I am really just not familiar with why Moorcock decided to go ahead and drop the subject altogether. Is it because he concluded that it wasn't plagiarism after reading The Witcher novels or is it because he sees a lawsuit on plagiarism against an international franchise wherein Sapkowski has the backing of Warner Bros., an exercise in futility because it won't go anywhere and he's content to let it go because of how great his other influences have leaked into society and he's happy with that legacy?

      I have been fed both sides on this in a convincing manner wherein the only way I know who I can trust is the man Michael Moorcock himself to give me his side of the story. I am not pissed or losing any sleep over it, I just don't want to play a potentially great game while at the same time sacrificing it for abetting plagiarism. I hope you understand that.

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      • #4
        I'd say being worried is just another side of being pissed
        You care about this decision and it is important to you...I understand.
        I suppose just wait and see what Mike has to say
        Last edited by SeeDoubleYou; 07-16-2014, 01:26 AM.
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        • #5
          It has indeed been discussed at some length. To summarise: it has similarities (such that everyone's initial reaction is to think plagiarism) but, when considered with more detailed information, it is its own work (in as much as anything is).

          See here.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Rothgo View Post
            It has indeed been discussed at some length. To summarise: it has similarities (such that everyone's initial reaction is to think plagiarism) but, when considered with more detailed information, it is its own work (in as much as anything is).

            See here.
            Yes I saw that thread, it was the one I was referring too, but I am just not familiar with the way of communication so I was somewhat struck by the fact that Moorcock just dropped the manner after a fan interjected as a result.

            My question is, do you know specifically if this is Michael Moorcock's own opinion on the issue for a fact or are you concluding this based on your own interpretations? I ask this because it would be greatly appreciated knowing that you personally interacted with Moorcock on this issue and know about his feelings on the matter. I just want to be 100% sure that this is the case when I would post your own response to RazorFist and see what he has to say on the issue in response.

            If not, I'll just occasionally see if Michael Moorcock comes to answer this thread or not. If he doesn't, I'll just conclude that it's an issue he doesn't deem worthy of his time and as a result, just put it off to the side and say I will probably never know the issue and just proceed to purchase the game anyway.

            So if nothing else, this search for the truth about the plagiarism issue has gotten me more interested in fantasy than I was previously, if for any other reason that engaging in the historical origins of religions is starting to get boring.

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            • #7
              little passive-aggressive?
              sounds like you wanna pick a fight to get an answer or so that you can choose a side...you get more bees with honey
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              • #8
                FWIW I've played the first Witcher game and at such time as the second drops to about £5 I'll probably play that as well. Of course, I'd much rather play a (good) Elric CRPG eventually (hint, hint ) but at no time playing The Witcher did I think, 'Ooh, this is really an Elric-lite game' or anything. It's an entirely different milieu and quite different character* afaic.

                Again, fwiw, the console game - The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf - that was the focus of the initial thread never appeared, though whether that was due to Mike's intervention or not idk.** The released PC games don't, afaict, use any of Mike's trademarks in their titles and/or general content.

                It may be beneficial taking a look at the situation concerning Mike's issues with Chaosium and their various Stormbringer/Elric! RPGs. Mike had very significant disagreements with Chaosium but I believe you will find him on record here saying that he didn't have problems with fans (who'd bought into the games in good faith) playing them. I can probably find you a reference to that effect given enough time.

                *In the game; I can't speak for the books or what liberties Andrzej Sapkowski may have taken in writing them as I've never read them.
                **The Witcher Wiki suggests disagreements with the game developer lead to the console version's eventual cancellation.
                _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SeeDoubleYou View Post
                  little passive-aggressive?
                  sounds like you wanna pick a fight to get an answer or so that you can choose a side...you get more bees with honey
                  I do apologize if I sounded passive aggressive, it's not my intention to come across that way. I just wanted to be absolutely clear that the person providing the forum post hasn't just given me his interpretation as opposed Moorcock's actual view on the situation is all.

                  That and if I were too communicate this to Razorfist, I don't want him winding me up where I come back and start flinging accusations of propaganda and get banned as a result, I am attempting to avoid such a scenario altogether and don't want any ambiguity to be left on this issue. And for the record, I don't he would do that in an intentional manner, but you know how the internet tends to get when someone is involved in an accusation that they find to be really important to them of finding out the truth of it all.

                  I am also not trying to pick a fight or choose a side, I am trying to find the truth, that is my only intention on the matter and that's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by David Mosley View Post
                    FWIW I've played the first Witcher game and at such time as the second drops to about £5 I'll probably play that as well. Of course, I'd much rather play a (good) Elric CRPG eventually (hint, hint ) but at no time playing The Witcher did I think, 'Ooh, this is really an Elric-lite game' or anything. It's an entirely different milieu and quite different character* afaic.

                    Again, fwiw, the console game - The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf - that was the focus of the initial thread never appeared, though whether that was due to Mike's intervention or not idk.** The released PC games don't, afaict, use any of Mike's trademarks in their titles and/or general content.

                    It may be beneficial taking a look at the situation concerning Mike's issues with Chaosium and their various Stormbringer/Elric! RPGs. Mike had very significant disagreements with Chaosium but I believe you will find him on record here saying that he didn't have problems with fans (who'd bought into the games in good faith) playing them. I can probably find you a reference to that effect given enough time.

                    *In the game; I can't speak for the books or what liberties Andrzej Sapkowski may have taken in writing them as I've never read them.
                    **The Witcher Wiki suggests disagreements with the game developer lead to the console version's eventual cancellation.
                    I appreciate your insight and it does give me some contexts for the games, however... I was referring to The Witcher novel's being plagiarised from Moorcock's work regarding the protagonist that Andrzej Sapkowski created for his novel series.

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Witcher

                    Hence the list that Razorfist is giving is from the novels and not from the video game. I apologize for the confusion about that... can you tell me where I miscommunicated it so I can go back and put an edit to it so it is more clear?

                    Also, if you're wondering what this has to do with the games, its the worry that if his novel's (The Witcher novels) are plagiarised from Moorcock's work on Elric, then Sapkowski is more than likely receiving payment from the games I purchased and as a result, ill-gotten gain.

                    Note that I am not flinging the accusation around as a matter of fact, I am just trying to find out that if Moorcock dropped the lawsuit because of a) he found out that the Witcher novel's were not works of plagiarism through reading them or b) engaging in a lawsuit with a multinational franchise and the backing of Warner Bros. would just be too much of a headache and would lead to nowhere (as Razorfist contends). That's all I am trying to figure out here.

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                    • #11
                      Regarding The Witcher Plagiarism controversy

                      I just want to comment on a few things attributed to Razorfist in the OP:

                      Elric of Melnibone:
                      Elven.
                      No, he's Melnibonéan; Mike has been very clear on the fact that he's not 'Elven'. Which you might call 'semantic nit-picking' but as far as his creator is concerned Elric is *not* an elf.

                      Even the way their real names are pronounced. (Geralt... of Rivia. Elric... of Melniboné) is similar.
                      I think they were both beaten to the line by John of Gaunt. In fact, in days before surnames were common place (ie Middle Ages) everyone was Someone of Somewhere - if they weren't Someone the Whatever.

                      It's true Elric is owned by Universal
                      Ahem, *Mike* owns Elric; Universal 'merely' licenced the character to make a film (which they've so far singularly failed to do). They no more 'own' Elric than DC comics do for having published some Elric comics (despite what the copyright notice in the trade collection of "Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer" says).

                      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                      _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                      _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                      _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                      _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by David Mosley View Post
                        I just want to comment on a few things attributed to Razorfist in the OP:

                        Elric of Melnibone:
                        Elven.
                        No, he's Melnibonéan; Mike has been very clear on the fact that he's not 'Elven'. Which you might call 'semantic nit-picking' but as far as his creator is concerned Elric is *not* an elf.

                        Even the way their real names are pronounced. (Geralt... of Rivia. Elric... of Melniboné) is similar.
                        I think they were both beaten to the line by John of Gaunt. In fact, in days before surnames were common place (ie Middle Ages) everyone was Someone of Somewhere - if they weren't Someone the Whatever.

                        It's true Elric is owned by Universal
                        Ahem, *Mike* owns Elric; Universal 'merely' licenced the character to make a film (which they've so far singularly failed to do). They no more 'own' Elric than DC comics do for having published some Elric comics (despite what the copyright notice in the trade collection of "Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer" says).

                        Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                        For the record, the attributions are direct quotations from one of Razorfists posts on facebook, just thought you might want to know this in case you think I was misrepresenting him by mistake.

                        Also, can you clarify what you mean by the John Gaunt reference? Sorry, but I am for all intents and purposes in new waters when it comes to fantasy, being that the only fantasy books I've read are The Hobbit in high school and the Harry Potter series right up to the fifth book.

                        Also, very much appreciate the insight regarding the issue of universal. That actually has got me thinking now that he might be wrong on this by jumping the wrong conclusion as to who owns what. Now I am kind of wondering if Warner Bros. even owns the rights to The Witcher franchise in America or not... gonna do a little search after I eat my bowl of cereal here.

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                        • #13
                          @voiceofreason467,

                          Hi there. Do you really need an official proclamation from Mike in order to make a decision? Why not evaluate the situation for yourself? This legal stuff take decades to sort out. After like 40 years of Chaosium abusing what was lent them, they were resolved thanks to Universal. On 12-11-08 Mike said:

                          I guess nothing's more flattering. Buggers! We're currently talking to Universal about this. But Uni are probably distracted by the cuts there! Maybe we should just spread the news of the rip. Maybe I should write something about it somewhere. You do your best to make something as original as possible and one day the world is covered by xeroxes...
                          Does anyone need anything more to make a decision about what to buy? Do you really need a legal authority to make a judgement in order to play a game?
                          Infinite complexity according to simple rules.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I can't disagree with the video there. I don't know if plagiarism is the right word, but there's certainly some kind of appropriation. It doesn't even have to be identical, all you need is an albino swordsman called 'The White Wolf' and there you have it. Without the 'white wolf' bit it might be fair game, but it would still be really disingenuous of Sapkowski to not even acknowledge Mike's influence, it's like Carter saying he didn't know who Howard was and Thongor just came out of nowhere. And it's really unnecessary, too, it's not like people wouldn't buy the game anyway if he fessed up.

                            I played the game and in my opinion, like pretty much every CRPG, the plot is stuff tacked on to the running, hunting and gathering, no matter how well finessed the cut scenes are.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Regarding The Witcher Plagiarism controversy

                              @voiceofreason467:
                              No, I understood they were quotes from RazorFist's own FB page which you were just reporting. I had no doubt you'd cited them fully and accurately; but as you said (iirc) you've not read any of Mike's books Elric's ancestry may well have been something you're unfamiliar with.

                              (There are some superficial similarities between the Tolkien-esque fantasy elves and Melnibonéans & Vadhagh (what Corum is the last of) - such as pointy ears - but I believe Mike at least is clear on the differences.)

                              'John of Gaunt' is (was) a historical real person - see Wikipedia - b. 6 March 1340 d. 3 February 1399. He was the son of King Edward III, brother of Edward, the Black Prince and father of King Henry IV. He was called 'of Gaunt' because he was born in Ghent (now in Belgium), "Gaunt" being the English form. This form of naming people after where they were from, or what job they did (ie baker, smith, carpenter, butcher, miller, etc.) or who they were the son (or daughter) of (William's son, Richard's son, etc.) is how we get most surnames.

                              To give another literary precedent to The Witcher, the main characters in Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" (set in the Middle Ages) are William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk. The suggestion therefore that the Witcher ripped off Elric because they're both X of Y isn't that compelling (imo) given the historical antecedence. (I appreciate that's not the core of RazorFist's argument; I'm just pointing out that this is over egging the pudding unnecessarily.)


                              Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                              _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                              _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                              _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                              _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                              Comment

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