Teacup plagiarism in a fandom within a fandom

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Title: Teacup plagiarism in a fandom within a fandom
Creator: KatiaSwift
Date(s): 2021
Medium: Reddit
Fandom: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
External Links: Teacup plagiarism in a fandom within a fandom; archive link
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Teacup plagiarism in a fandom within a fandom is a 2021 essay by KatiaSwift on Reddit.

"This incident happened in 2014 and was the biggest-ever drama in this ridiculously niche little fandom. Though I check in on it every so often, I have yet to see anything big happen since, and the fandom itself is mostly dead at this point."

Some Topics Discussed

From the Essay


One of Deep Space Nine’s “holodeck episodes” was “Take Me Out To The Holosuite”, which was essentially just an episode where the main cast played holodeck baseball against a team of Vulcans.

One Deep Space Nine fan, known as ladyyatexel on Tumblr, posted screencaps from that episode in 2013, commenting that the characters “look like pizza delivery people”. And so Deep Dish Nine, the pizza shop alternate universe (AU), was born. The general idea followed similar coffee shop AU-style plots, in which all the Deep Space Nine characters were human, lived in an unspecified location on Earth, and worked at (and around) a pizza shop. This fandom within a fandom grew pretty quickly and had a small but devoted following by 2014, with a few notable members (including fandom founder ladyyatexel) creating the bulk of the backstory, fanfiction, and fanart while other smaller creators dabbled in the background. All in all, it was an enjoyable little fandom, if rather weird in concept.

TheFandomTeapot and KatiaSwift

Enter our “villains”. Though the blog has since been deleted and I’ve been able to find fewer traces of it than of the others in this story, I’ll do my best to put together the pieces. The Tumblr blog thefandomteapot was run by two women named Ashley and Aubree, whose specialty was creating and selling fandom-themed pottery. Some of their sets, including a Sherlock-themed teacup set, went somewhat viral on Tumblr and Pinterest and were the likely source for their popularity at the time. There was even an article written about thefandomteapot, which is probably the best remaining source of info on them at this point and has images of their work.

At some point in late 2013, thefandomteapot posted a giveaway on their blog, likely celebrating a follower count milestone (as was common on Tumblr at the time). Though I can’t find the post itself anymore, from what I remember and can piece together, the creators were giving away a custom piece of fandom pottery, winner’s choice. The winner of the giveaway was Tumblr user katiaswift (now inactive), a teenager who was a part of the Deep Dish Nine fandom at the time. As katiaswift stated up front in her first email to thefandomteapot, she was inexperienced with commissions but excited. She was interested in a Deep Dish Nine-themed teacup and saucer, and provided references for the characters using art from some of the aforementioned big name fans, including ladyyatexel. Due to her lack of commission experience, katiaswift gave very little guidance about what she wanted from the art on the teacup, suggesting a few possible poses for the characters and asking for the fandom’s logo to be incorporated, but otherwise giving thefandomteapot creative license. She received no photos of the upcoming work until the commission was finished, more than six months later.

The Incident

The teacup and saucer for the giveaway were finished in late June of 2014, presumably pushed to the back burner to make room for paying commissions. An ask was sent to katiaswift to notify her that her prize was finished, and she immediately emailed thefandomteapot about shipping details and photos of the cup. They provided photos, which were the first time that anyone had seen the cup since its initial commissioning, and if you’ve been following along with this closely you might notice that the art on the cup is extremely similar to the art references given to thefandomteapot in the first place. Unfortunately, more than six months after the initial emails, katiaswift did not notice these similarities. She was no longer an active part of the fandom and hadn’t even thought about the cup in a while, and was also a bit of an idiot – and if you’ll note my own username, I know these things because katiaswift is me. :) Regardless of her lack of recent involvement in Deep Dish Nine, katiaswift posted a (blurry, awful) photo of her new teacup and made sure to tag it so the fandom would see. Immediately, things went bad.

Big name fan ladyyatexel, creator of Deep Dish Nine, saw the post in the tag and immediately recognized their art. Livid, they composed an (understandably) upset reply. Other fans replied with similar sentiments. Panicking, katiaswift consulted close friends still within the fandom and wrote a response of her own, apologizing for what had happened and explaining that she had not requested a direct copy of ladyyatexel’s art. This appeared to clear the air between katiaswift and ladyyatexel, who appreciated the explanation of the issue but noted that they still needed to reach out to thefandomteapot.

By this point, thefandomteapot had been notified that katiaswift had received her commission, and posted their (much better) photos of the teacup and saucer, also tagging them with “deep dish nine”. Ladyyatexel saw these as well, and replied with a lengthy post of their own to express their displeasure with the obvious plagiarism and request credit for the art on the cup.

The reply from thefandomteapot was, in my opinion, less than satisfactory. Contradicting screenshots of emails later posted on Tumblr by katiaswift, thefandomteapot told ladyyatexel that katiaswift had “asked for her favorite fan art on a cup” and “gave us your exact pictures”. Though it was an understandable misunderstanding and the reply appeased ladyyatexel, it appeared (to katiaswift) as though thefandomteapot had thrown her under the bus in the plagiarism case. Ladyyatexel noted this discrepancy in their post, but said that they would “like to just be done with all of this” and asked for credit on the original post. I cannot actually recall if credit was given or if the post was just deleted outright, but either way the problem had been solved.


After all that, I unfortunately have to admit that there is no further conclusion to this drama. The Deep Dish Nine fandom fell to the wayside, and katiaswift was not courageous enough to approach thefandomteapot or ladyyatexel about the teacup misunderstanding. In fact, katiaswift never touched the Deep Dish Nine (or even Deep Space Nine) fandom again, and swore to (but never actually did) destroy the troublesome teacup. Even though the issue was resolved for ladyyatexel, the plagiarism accusation affected thefandomteapot’s reputation in fan communities and they quickly fell out of popularity. They shut down and have nearly disappeared from the internet.

All in all, it was a ridiculous little spot of brief but intense drama in an already incredibly niche fan community, and after reading through this sub I just knew I had to share.

And yes. I still own, and still hate, that stupid fucking teacup.

Fan Comments

I'm not sure (because I've not been here long), but could this be the first time someone responsible for drama, directly or indirectly, has posted a story here?

Regardless, it was well told. A shame that things fell out the way they did, but it was an honest mistake on your part. And maybe the creators? - KBKarma

What an adorable little story! Sounds like it was all a storm in a teacup in the end... - Zeromone

Thank you for sharing your own personal hobby drama. I’m sorry you were thrown under the bus, and I don’t blame you for wanting to destroy the teacup (nor for keeping it as hate fuel). - mlledufarge

I feel bad for the cup-making person, like I feel like it'd be super hard to create art for a sub-fandom you're not part of.

What I mean is if it was regular star trek, you'd be able to reference pictures from the show to get an idea of what to draw, but with a fanfiction like that? You don't have a lot of options, it's not like you want to spend time reading the fic just to get to know what you're supposed to be painting lol.

Like, I'm looking at the art and at the cup, and I don't find them that similar. Like the clothes are the same, but in a lot of fandoms that's perfectly normal. For example, a lot of disney characters only have one outfit, so it's expected for them to be clothed the same in most fanworks without a risk of being accused of plagiarism.

You shouldn't destroy the cup imo, it has an interesting and unique story haha - jellyka

They were given a reference and drew a picture based on that reference. Maybe they could have given a different pose but they were asked to have them together with arms around each other. So... a generic interpretation of that pose with clothes based off the reference in a completely different art style.

I find it bizarre how overly protective of their work some fandom artists can be. - PaperStew

This is very much how building a house on someone else’s foundations can tear fandoms down. Young artists complaining about how their art is plagiarised when their entire portfolio is a year of art school away from a cease and desist from Paramount.

I love me some fandom, and plenty of creatives use it as a learning experience to figure out how to write and draw, but there comes a point when fighting over who came up with something can tear everything down from the inside unless there’s some acknowledgement that none of these characters or settings belong to you.

And yet, we’re all here for the drama, so it can create original conflicts and storylines, even if they’re a little trope-rich. - jaredearle

As an artist that takes commissions, this was an interesting write up, so thank you!

In my experience it’s on the artist to ensure that they aren’t creating artwork that’s based on someone else’s work. However, I can totally see how it went this way as you mentioned the teacup artist was inexperienced with taking commissions, and she probably just used the art as a reference without thinking about it. Hopefully this was a good lesson not to copy other artwork when it’s given as inspiration for an original design. - modest tomato

And yet, that artwork they’re plagiarising is based on characters and designs that were copied in the first place. It’s hard to defend cries of plagiarism when the source is plagiarised. - jaredearle
Yeah, I always find it incredibly funny when fanfiction writers or fanart artists complain about other people using their work without asking. Cause you definitely got permission for using all these characters, right? - Kujaichi
I think there's a difference between drawing copyrighted characters in one's own style and directly copying a picture. I can't speak to the legalities, but I don't see them as morally equivalent.- BetterKev
It reminds of an old Harry Potter pen and paper RP site I belonged to that, when it invariably became inactive, had all the posts put behind an admin wall so no one could 'steal' their stories/characters. - deleted user

If this were AITA I would say NAH. I don’t think anyone intended harm here but this all played out on tumblr when it could have been addressed through private conversation. A whole lot of online drama is like that. Props to you for being willing to share a story in which you were a player <3 - stayonthecloud

LOL hilarious, and while the creators were a bit daft to just put someone else's art on a teacup and not expect anything to happen (especially since they specialized in fandom-themed things), it's a harsh sign, as others have noted, about how a fandom and reputations can be ruined over these weird slights. - Jabroniville2

No fucking way, I didn't think there would be something about Deep Dish Nine! I sent in the name for that on anon because that idea reminded me of the Pigs in Space sequel from Muppets Tonight. I followed ladyyatexel in like 2010 when the Two/Jamie fandom was still happening but I don't know anything about Star Trek so I was just scrolling empty-brained when that AU was starting and forgot about it all after I stopped using Tumblr. Good grief. - mosumosuka

While not directly getting a commission, the teacup creators ran the event for publicity and indirect profit. They surely used photos on it on their site as a result of the give away. They should (get permission and) credit the original artist if directly using something for publicity. - ZoiSarah

If you hate [the teacup], you could offer it to ladyyatexel? Personally, I'd toss it, if it annoyed me. Sorry you had to deal with this mess. Ugh!! - doctorwhatdoctor

[Can you own derivative work?] It really depends on who the copyright holder is. For instance, Welcome to Nightvale is okay with fanworks but not okay with people selling fanworks. But they are relatively small creators.

Often larger companies kinda don’t care. Star Wars, Star Trek, and Harry Potter fanworks get sold all the time with little to no interference from their copyright holders. Hell, in light of JKR being total trash there’s been a call to fans to ONLY buy fan made works.

I think in this case it was more about them using her specific art without credit. - CelebrityTakeDown

These odd AU fandoms are fairly unique in that it is probably OK from a copyright perspective. There's literally nothing relating these to DS9 other than names and their general character traits. Copyright doesn't protect abstract ideas. It's much different from other fanworks which make derivatives of complete settings, original artwork, and so on. Even assuming it is derivative, from a fair use perspective, the D[S]9 elements are so heavily transformed from the source that they very likely would be found to fulfill the four fair use factors. - garfipus

Honestly? I don’t think there was any plagiarism there. I’m fairly certain no one owns a damn blue scarf or green belt jacket. Like. Huh? It’s like if someone got on me for writing a fan fiction that has one of the same elements as their story but everything else is different. Which, fun fact, actually happened to me and the other author was like “hey, cool story! I can’t wait to see your take on the idea!” - Silverfire12

That last line threw me for a loop. Congratulations, that was really well told. - TerrorBite

I'm cracking up at the "...and that little girl was me!" style post ending. Solid writeup, OP. - LumiSpeirling