Anita Sarkeesian Publicly Addresses FanArt Controversy

Anita Sarkeesian addresses her use of fanart in the Women vs. Tropes series.

Last week, artist Tammy Smith wrote an open letter to Anita Sarkeesian, accusing the Feminist Frequency founder of stealing artwork--specifically a picture of Princess Daphne from Dragon's Lair that Smith had created as fanart. 

 While there was no official word from Anita Sarkeesian regarding the discussions, Tammy posted a follow-up via her Twitter and Tumblr letting the general public know that she and Anita were in discussions regarding the image. 

Without an official statement from Anita Sarkeesian, it was left to internet spectators (such as myself) to try and understand the event, and demonstrated how certain segments of the internet still despise her.

Finally, 10 days after the original post Sarkeesian publicly responds. 

First, we would like to offer our sincerest apologies to Tammy for mistaking her Dragon’s Lair fan art for official promotional material two years ago when we created this remix collage. 

...Feminist Frequency makes a point to try to not use fan art. Many fan artists are so talented that their creative works can look as good, if not better than the official versions. So we try our best to be diligent and make sure all media used is from the publishers and developers of the games discussed but occasionally we do make an honest mistake.

The official response apologizes to Tammy and explains how the mistake happened. Looking at the image itself, it is easy to understand how this mistake could be made - the quality and style of the image nail that which is used in official Dragon's Lair artwork. 

Sarkeesian has also removed the image from the Tropves vs. Women in Video games collage out of respect: 

We believe that our transformative use of Tammy’s fan art is a fair use under the law. However, since we honestly did not intend to use fan art in this case, we have voluntarily gone ahead and replaced the fan art in our old collage as a gesture of goodwill.

Both the clarification of Fair Use law and the removal of the Princess Daphne image addresses the concerns that Tammy listed in her open address and her follow-up. 

However, considering how often the Troves vs. Women in Video Games logo has already been spread across the internet, it is unclear if the new image will ever overtake the original.

Sarkeesian goes on to explain why it has taken so long for this public announcement to be made: 

We did not feel it would be appropriate or professional to publicly discuss this incident until a resolution could be reached.

Complicating matters was the fact that Tammy had recently been in direct social media communication with at least one individual who has participated in the doxxing of me, my team and my family. We do not believe Tammy had any knowledge of this person’s actions, but it necessitated additional caution on our part in dealing with this situation.

We did not feel it would be appropriate or professional to publicly discuss this incident until a resolution could be reached.

For someone who has received hundreds if not thousands of threats about rape and death, it makes sense that Sarkeesian would deal with cases like with deliberate caution. Unfortunately, that means that it is sometimes necessary for Sarkeesian to let gossip fester for a few days instead of responding with a knee-jerk reaction. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm impressed with the civility on both sides of this public disagreement, and Sarkeesian's response only reinforces my opinion that both parties have acted professionally during this controversy. 

I'm completely satisfied with this apology. 

 For me, this public statement addresses all of the questions I had regarding the issue, and seems to address all of the problems that Tammy had with Sarkeesian in the first place. She even goes so far as to make sure the world knows that Feminist Frequency is registered as a non-profit--which feels akin to asking President Obama to show his birth certificate. 

I know that, at this point, people who already despise Sarkeesian and Feminist Frequency will not be swayed by this apology nor the information she cites in it. For those of us on the other side of the spectrum, we can resume sending Anita happy thoughts; she probably desperately needs them desperately. 

Published Mar. 17th 2014
  • Beancord
    Just a couple of reminders for the editor:
    Cowkitty would have allowed the use of her image if Sarkeesian would have provided her with proof of her business being non-profit. As far as I know Feminist Frequency is registered as non-profit public benefit but can't be found on the list of California state non-profits. Also Feminist Frequency has been non-profit since 07/05/2013 (C3587383) sources: and . Way after she collected ~$160k-KS-fee for her video series of 12 videos of which she has only managed to make 4 in about 20 months.(FYI: People make better videos with sources and citations many times that amount/month for FREE.)

    She keeps repeating how her video series is a non-profit, repeating is how you shape the public view about an issue. Tell a lie enough times and it becomes the truth (in the public eye). First of all, who can call $150k non-profit? Also the babble how she never puts adds to her videos, of course she don't she'd be in knee deep legal crap if she monetised them. Also the public benefit claim is outrageous, 4 videos in 20 months and not a sign of any public data of her actual tremendous amount of work and research.

    Whenever Sarkeesian is facing publicity problems she troll baits with playing her victim card. She has said in a speech prior to her KS-campaign that she has ways to handle harassment and knows 4chan is following her. Then why did she open comments and leave them unmoderated for her kickstarter campaign video? Also she or somebody close to her baited 4chan by spamming her kickstarter campaign links on 4chan forums. The picture used in that posting profile is not found anywhere else from the internet, so it only leaves it being very personal photo. And by the looks of it it looks like a selfie.

    I'm glad you didn't mention her telling how she's a MEMBER of the Organization for Transformative Works. You gain the membership by donating $10 or more to the organization.

    PS. Anita's "a gesture of goodwill" is just worded so that Sarkeesian's camp would look like the good Samaritan(s). What I think of is they thought they could face legal actions and would have had to provide non-profit information and they didn't like that idea. Anita Sarkeesian is just a hack who abuses gullible people to send her "compassion" dollars.
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    This is more of an opinion than an actual note to editors.
  • Beancord
    Yes, there is some opinionated statements, but also facts. Facts have funny properties, they don't change whether you believe them or not.
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    So it's more of a note to the author than to an editor, correct? They are not one and the same.
  • Beancord
    Yes, I thought the author is an editor for GameSkinny. Sorry, my confusion.
  • Mansplainer
    On the face of the tumblr post, it would appear to be a fairly decent mea culpa. It does appear a little "boilerplate" in that it's very much a set template which has been amended to suit the case at hand. Heck, it even features "I've been a big fan of fan art" which would be the artist equivalent of "Hey, i have plenty of (minority) friends"

    So, Anita has changed the logo out of respect to the original artist. Fair enough, you might say. However, from what I understand, Cowkitty was only requesting proof of their non-profit status and was pursuing the C&D path until evidence was provided. Had FF provided that proof, perhaps the original logo could've stayed?

    The pursuing mob did discover that Feminist Frequency was registered as a corporation in CA, however Anita has reinforced that they are a non-profit, and I have noted that there is one database that details FF as a non-profit. So, does Anita and FF have this proof that Cowkitty was requesting? Where did the evidence of the corporation spring up from?

    This is where gaming journalism fails. There's little critical analysis of the situation and very few questions asked.

    Was Cowkitty only seeking proof of the non-profit status, or was she after some other agreement?
    Can FF supply this proof of non-profit status?
    Why did Jonathon McIntosh get so defensive on twitter about Fair Use and claim that borrowed art could be used for commercial means?

    So, gaming journalism swallows the story and moves on, where there could be some extra analysis going on here.

    Now some might think that I'm some kind of Anti-Anita "truther", as some journalists are likening dissenters. No, I am not against Anita's work. I think it's an important conversation for games to have as they mature. Heck, even movies should try a lot harder in this area too.

    However, too much air has been given to the "haters" of her project and now they're fueling the attention she's receiving, which puts her at a very prominent position in where she can get money by peddling victimhood. My questions to Feminist Frequency have nothing to do with her work, but for the opportunistic hoovering of money from people who have been victims of cyber bullying and feel they should contribute to her cause.

    With $160,000, you'd think that she could do better than 4 videos over 18 months. Her whole notoriety is built around her Kickstarter, so maybe she should put her speaking obligations aside and focus on her work.
  • Throwaway_2480
    "I know that, at this point, people who already despise Sarkeesian and Feminist Frequency will not be swayed by this apology nor the information she cites in it."

    I would have, had Anita not attempted to play the victim one more time with, "Tammy had recently been in direct social media communication with at least one individual who has participated in the doxxing of me, my team and my family." That has zero relevance to the subject whatsoever, so why mention it?

    An apology for a misdemeanour is *not* the time to complain about how everyone is against you. Let Anita do that the other 364 days of the year, on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, her college talks and her magazine interviews ... but, as predicted, she can't put her self-involvement to one side for the length of a blog post to apologise for taking someone else's fanart without permission and erasing the watermark.

    Also no mention of the artist who created the "Superclaire" picture, which she also took, or the videos that she used without permission of the original uploaders.

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