Tuesday, 11 January 2022 13:14

The Crux of Fate Plagiarism: Stolen Art, Missing Fingers, and NFTs

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Artwork for the Mystical Archive version of the MTG card Crux of Fate. Artwork for the Mystical Archive version of the MTG card Crux of Fate. WOTC/JASON FELIX/KITT LAPEÑA

In early 2021, Magic: the Gathering experienced a plagiarism scandal that nobody saw coming.

In March of 2021, the upcoming expansion set, Strixhaven: School of Mages, had a bunch of new, alternative artwork coming out and Wizards of the Coast was proudly showing off what was in store in the weeks leading up to the release. After a really weird year, and in-person events returning soon after the COVID-19 pandemic, WotC was giving Magic back a little bit of normalcy and getting players excited about a new set that they didn't have to play remotely.

But then things took a turn. Many fans began noticing that one of those upcoming cards shared a similarity with a piece of Nicol Bolas fanart drawn in 2016 and shown off on Deviantart.

We're not embedding the artwork here, but for those who don't want to click the Deviantart link, let's just say that it looked a lot like artwork on the new Crux of Fate Mystical Archive card done by Jason Felix, a longtime Magic artist with some 130 or more MTG cards in his portfolio.

The Philippines artist who drew the 2016 piece, Kitt Lapena, aka scarypet, soon saw comments on Deviantart comparing the two and began posting about just how much of a carbon copy his was of her piece. She even made a video where she lined up the pieces, making his look like a tracing of hers. He had even included her mistake of giving Bolas in the art 5 fingers instead of 4.

Wizards of the Coast soon became aware of the growing scandal and, within a few days announced, that they agreed that it was an obvious bit of plagiarism, suspended all future work with Felix that had not been commissioned, and that through a tweet with Lapena, something was being worked out.

“It has come to our attention that the card Crux of Fate from the Strixhaven: School of Mages Mystical Archive may overtly feature Magic: the Gathering fan art and the contracted artist did not receive permission for this incorporation,” said WotC in a statement. “These actions do not reflect the values of Wizards, and, as a result, we will be suspending future work with Jason Felix until we have been able to bring this matter to successful conclusion.”

With the deceit found out and Felix cut off from Magic, he soon came clean in a series of Twitter posts, where he promised compensation and would try to get them credit. While Magic has dropped artists before, ranging from being a sexual predator to being racist, plagiarism never really came up before, and so they went their separate ways.

Lapena hasn't said too much since the incident, with many noting that she was likely compensated behind the scenes. But she continues to keep making fantasy art today, showing that the whole incident didn't hurt her longterm.

Felix, meanwhile, finished up outstanding Magic artwork by June 2021, and to date, has not made anymore. However, in January 2020, he himself has been plagiarized by others turning his artwork into NFTs, with Felix now having to manage plagiarism from the other side of things.

If there was any lesson from this debacle, it's don't steal work that isn't yours. If you do, bad things will happen.