In my time spent cruising lead listings on eBay, I've come across more than one seller peddling what appears to be cheap recasts of miniatures that are no longer in production. I use "cheap recasts" to describe the quality as viewed from the pics in the listings, which is not the same as holding one in my own hand, of course. Still, from what I can see in the pics, the level of detail looks anywhere from middling to downright shoddy.
Now, to be fair, the sellers are not attempting to pass off their versions as authentic, or even use the manufacturer's name or product lines or proper miniature name/ID. I'm just going to guess that they saw a mini they liked and started making copies of it.
What I think I'm getting at here is this: What are the legal and moral/ethical implications of making copies of miniatures that (again, I'm assuming) aren't their own or they are not the holder of the master molds or casting rights?
I'll be the first to admit that I have ZERO knowledge of how the miniatures industry functions from a business and legal standpoint. And I suppose when we are dealing with companies long since out of business (such as Superior Models, Inc.), and unknowns such as there whereabouts of master molds and who may or may not own the casting rights to any given line of miniatures, the waters become even muddier and more turbulent.
Perhaps it is just me, but selling copies of someone else's work just rubs me the wrong way. Or maybe since they don't even bother to give credit to the original artist or company, I suppose that chaps my hide too. Even if there is some sort of law that allows one to make copies of someone else's work, it still strikes me as lazy or cheap.
Case in point: I have seen this listing on ebay before, which is of course a copy of Superior Model's WL-006 Magic Master. The seller has over 17,000 transactions and a 99.6% feedback rating, so it's not some one-hit wonder. (Sidebar: if you read the negative and neutral feedback, the seller comes across as rather...rude?)
I contacted the seller via eBay Messaging and asked them this question: "I was just curious if these were made using the original Superior master molds, or are they cast from molds that you created? I can't tell from the photos if they have the same level of detail as the originals or not. Thank you!" to which they replied "as you know. molds burn out."
Hmm. OK. Thank you for NOT directly answering my question. So I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume this seller does not have the master molds or casting rights to WL-006, and is casting with his/her own homemade molds. Maybe it is of little or no concern because we are dealing with long-OOP miniatures from a defunct company. But if someone were to make cheap casts of something from Reaper, Iron Wind Metals, or Games Workshop, I don't think that would go over so well.
I guess it just really bothers me that people copy the work of others for their own personal profit.