Classic car in F1 2017 appears to be modder’s work

Formulaic

Get ready for a copyright-related headache, friends. One of the most iconic cars in Formula One racing sim F1 2017 appears to be the work of a modder for a completely different racing game, Assetto Corsa.

The car – Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari F2002 – was reproduced by modder Somchith Vongprachanh last year for players of the Italian-made racing sim. But in May this year he saw a trailer for Codemasters’ latest F1 racer, which featured the same iconic car, and felt that the particular 3D model shown off by the developers had some troubling similarities to his own work.

“Now I didn’t want to believe my work was stolen because Codemasters is a well renowned video game developer,” he said in the forum post where he first brought this up. “They have people to model these things for them right?”

Months later, however, he came across an Artstation page run by a senior artist at Codemasters, which he says contained some of the assets from F1 2017, including a model for the classic car. Somchith downloaded the model and compared it to his own work.

“Now looking at the wireframe was a dead giveaway that it was indeed my model F2002 that I worked on for months,” he said. “I could see all the choices this artist made that nearly matched all the same choices I made. My heart sunk and I felt disgusted.”

The Artstation entry which once housed the assets has since been taken down, he says. A purported response from the artist, however, said that the modder had “provided excellent reference for us” and allegedly offered to buy a copy of the model “as gesture of good will” from the modder’s Turbosquid page (an asset-sharing site where the model costs $159).

f1-2017-car-msg

Codemasters deny the model in the mod was directly used and tweaked by their artist.

“During the creation of the historic cars for F1 2017, we used a myriad of reference material and images,” Codemasters told us in a statement. “We would like to stress that the model used within the game is the work of our studio and fully approved by Ferrari and Formula One Management.”

However, we asked several 3D modellers whether it was possible for two artists to come up with a mesh as similar in construction as these two examples – the modder’s car model and the one by Codemaster’s artist. They all agreed it was unlikely.

“Even if you have two people who model the same vehicle they’re gonna have different approaches to it, leading to different topologies – the wireframes would never match up as well as they do in those images,” said Andreas Jörgensen, who has worked on games like The Stanley Parable and The Signal From Tolva.

f1-2017-wireframe-2

f1-2017-wireframe-1

Another 3D illustrator, AJ Jeffries, who works for professional CGI studio MDI Digital agrees.

“There are certain techniques for modelling that would result in the same topology (wireframe) but the chances of two different artists coming up with the same mesh for something as complex as a formula one car are millions to one… unless the object is incredibly simple, the chances of 2 people modelling it in the same way are essentially zero.”

We’ve asked both Codemasters and the modder for additional comment and will update the story if needs be.

18 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    Good to see that this story is getting a bit of proper press. I am a huge codies fan, but reading the story on RaceDepartment has certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.

  2. jellydonut says:

    Looks like an artist wanted to phone it in and save himself some work.

  3. Jovian09 says:

    By my understanding, the modder is entitled to compensation for the model but not the texture. Even then, would he ever get more than the $159 it’s worth on the Turbosquid page?

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Ferrari licence the shape of their cars, not just the texture – the cars year by year are subtlely different. For example, the two struts holding the front wing, on the 2002 ferrari, as yuou see above start slightly indented from the bottom of the nose cone and are absolutely straight and flat, however the 2002 Benetton had struts from the bottom corner of their more square nose that bowed out slightly at the top – meanwhile the 2002 Jaguar’s bowed out half way down. These sublte differences are in every part of the car and together add up to a unique (and to a fans eyes, distinctive) shape. Add to this that the cars change subtlely race by race, and you can have two incerdibly different cars that are both 2002 Ferraris – contrast the Monaco car to the Canada car for a fairly easy to see extreme difference. Point being, that copyright law is not on the side of the modder and it sucks.

      Even if copyright for the shape is general enough that Ferrari don’t hold it, it is most certainly held by Formula One Management

      • automatic says:

        As an artist myself I don’t see how this is not on the side of the modeler. What you’re saying is the same as saying that if I make a sculpture of the Empire State building I don’t have any rights on the sculpture because the building architect holds the rights over the original project. IP law is a pretty fucked up subject though.

        • mikepp says:

          It’s actually quite complex.

          The problem here is the commercial nature of the thing. It’s not mentioned in the article but I know well from experience that the artist would not be allowed to sell that model on Turbosquid, textured or not; if Ferrari were aware of it they’d request it be removed.

          The artist owns his ‘model’, but he doesn’t retain the right to commercially benefit from it, because he doesn’t own the design rights to what he is selling. He can distribute it for free as a mod for AC, but not sell it on a marketplace. Similar to if you took a staged photo of me, you own the photo but you need my model release to commercially benefit from it.

          In the 3D asset marketplace world this is most commonly seen with vehicles, but I’ve seen it crop up with things like coke bottles etc too. The marketplaces tend to skirt the rules a little but comply readily with rights holders when approached. Also, some companies don’t actively chase this stuff, so some brands will be more represented than others.

          Source: Used to work for a 3d asset marketplace

          So in summary it’s complicated. The modders work was taken and they should be compensated for their work, but at the same time Codemasters couldn’t have bought this from Turbosquid without it being officially licensed from Ferrari (making that part of the story a bit fishy to me), so the whole thing is a bit messy.

          • trashbat says:

            They wouldn’t need a model release for a photo of you, at least not in the UK. You don’t have any rights to your likeness. The reason UK model releases exist is to avoid the situation where e.g. your photo is used to endorse, I don’t know, some racist jam, and you then sue the publisher for defamation because you actually abhor fruit conserves.

          • automatic says:

            From what I understood F1 can sue the modeler for selling the model on Turbosquid, but the modeler can also sue Codemasters for using his modeling work without authorization. Btw, the model is not on Turbosquid anymore, the link on the article is broken, so that may be the case.

            Imo IP law is too fucked up on some subjects. F1 shouldn’t own rights on art products based on their work, because they are not artists. It’s not the same as a staged photo, because you have your image rights, your privacy, and you may aswell just work as a professional model. And it’s not the same as plagiarism, wich was what the Codemasters modeler did, copying another artist’s work. F1 works with racing cars. If someone takes that same model and produces a car based on it then there’s a violation, now If someone makes a drawing or a painting of a F1 car he is not allowed to sell it without infringing IP law? That’s pretty fucked up imo.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I couldn’t agree more with automatic! That would be Copyright working as intended.

            Sadly though, as the guy did have it for sale, royalty free at a fixed price at the time, he would never be awarded more than that in court anyway, so hopefully CM do actually pay him that much.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Yep, pretty much exactly that!

          As mikepp said, it is complex, but there are books of angles in New York that you can film at without including certain buildings, or making it look like a certain building is in shot when in fact it is not, simply because the licences to include say the Empire States Building in your film is prohibitively expensive if you have a low budget (less than a million)

          link to esbnyc.com

          (FYI, I was just correcting a little mistake – please don’t interpret this as defending Codemasters in any way what-so-ever)

          • automatic says:

            That’s so, so fucked up. The thing occupies a huge chunk of space in the real world, such that if you’re near it you can’t even avoid seeing it and you still need a licence to represent it artistically? IP law seems like orwellian stuff to me sometimes.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Fair use still applies, so if it’s incidental to your scene, then go ahead, it doesn’t matter – but if setting your scene in front of another building would change the meaning, merit or value of the scene, then yes you need that licence – example, your scene is of the two heros sharing a first kiss. The angle is tight, on their faces. The building in the background just happens to be the empire states building – that’s fine, it’s incidental.

            However, if your lovers recreate the titanic “I’m flying” scene on the roof of the Flatiron building, then it could be argued that the impact of that scene relied on the buildings shape, and can’t be considered fair use.

            And of course in between those two clear examples is a whole desert of grey area.

            Complicated!!!

          • automatic says:

            Complicated. Specially because a building is not only a property, it’s part of the culture of the people who live around that building. How can one for instance, deprive an artist of seeing a building as a boat and representing it like that? I think that kind of IP exists to regulate how cultural industry in general publish those images, but it seems to limit individual creativity so much.

        • trashbat says:

          Fun fact: The design of the Eiffel Tower was copyrighted until 1989, and you couldn’t commercially exploit photos, paintings etc of it unless it was only featured as a minor part of the work. Now… it’s only copyrighted at night.

        • jonahcutter says:

          A few years back I actually built a model of the Empire State Building for a show broadcast on network TV. Legal got nervous so I got called back in to alter key features enough to protect from the building’s copywright holder suing the studio over it.

          I was surprised because the building is part of the public space. But apparently because we were featuring the building as a key element in our scene it was a potential infringement. If we had been just showing the general New York skyline we would likely have been fine.

  4. comic knight says:

    Codemasters should have to pay him like they hired a contractor to do the model.

    • fish99 says:

      I agree, they should pay him a fee equal to what it would have cost them to do the same work. And they should take some action against the employee who did the ‘borrowing’. Ok so the modder never had the rights to sell the model for money, but they’re still benefiting commercially from his work.

      They’re not making the situation better by lying about it either.

  5. TrenchFoot says:

    Sound like theft, plain and simple.

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