IntroductionThis page is kind of a capstone page which I can link to instead of giving myself carpal tunnel typing the same things over and over again, and I don't clutter up my blog which is actually supposed to be for writing about games. This page will occasionally get updated with new information if it becomes available. Page last updated 02/27/2013 10:10pm - added "Other Endeavors" section.
What are we dealing with here? Dark Phoenix Publishing is a company that is trying to market a line of roleplaying games. Specifically, modern horror roleplaying games: vampires, werewolves, faeries, mages, etc. They are headed by one Paul Michael Cape, aka Mykal Lakim. Here are links to their pages:
Who Am I?
- This blog
- Vampire Undeath?: RPGNet LARP Forum
- Vampire MET Heartbreaker Kickstarter: White Wolf Forum
- Holy White Wolf Ripoff Batman!: RPGNet Tabletop Roleplaying Open Forum
- Infraction for Mykal Lakim 17) Permanent-Ban": RPGNet Infractions Forum
- Not Seeing "Announcements": Shows the original RPGNet announcement of Mr. Cape's threat to sue
- Dark Phoenix Issues: RPGNet Trouble Tickets Forum
- [Dark Phoenix Lawsuit] What To Do About It (no really, I'm serious): RPGNet Tangency Forum
- Dark Phoenix Thread II: Realistic Fiction(TM): RPGNet Tangency Forum
- Dark Phoenix Thread III: We Do Not Like The Ash: RPGNet Tangency Forum
- Dark Phoenix Thread IV The Torso in the Trunk has no Nads: RPGNet Tangency Forum
- Dark Phoenix Thread V: The Silence of the Socks: RPGNet Tangency Forum
- Vampire Undeath Review: RPGNet Reviews
- Vampire: Undeath: Giant In The Playground Forum
- Something Awful: The source of the comment comparing Vampire: Undeath to Pathfinder.
- More Something Awful
- My post to SA (related: I don't "get" SA in terms of what can be posted where)\
- Penny Arcade: An alleged imposter posted as Mykal Lakim asking for advice.
- Vampire: Undeath: 4Chan
- Dark Phoenix Publishing?: 4Chan
- Dark Phoenix Publishing: 4Chan
- Awesome new vampire game: 4Chan
- Help me save my company: 4Chan
- User Contributions For Mykal Lakim: Wikipedia
- Wank Report: Livejournal
- The Michiana Gamers Guild: Claim of having a $15 million book deal.
- T.B.A. - A Game of Werewolves: Discussing Dark Phoenix Publishing
- Your Dungeon Is Suck: Comments on the RPG.Net thread
Dark Phoenix Publishing and Copyright
- Playtesting FAQ: 43% of the text taken from Wizards of the Coast when run through Copyscape
- Submission Guidelines: 76% lifted from Image comics when run through Copyscape.
- Popular FAQ (since removed): 73% lifted from Image comics when run through Copyscape.
- "Eternal Midnight" video game page (since removed): Over 50% total lifted from a Vampire: Bloodlines Review, a Saints Row page and Wikipedia.
- The excerpt from their Fae book: 25% (out of 33 words) from this Myspace page and another 15 % lifted from a website.
- "Sneak peek" at Shapeshifters (part 1 and part 2, now removed): Taken from this Native American website.
- The Vampire: Undeath free preview had text which as copied from a White Wolf book. This review has since been pulled because of "issues".
- Stardust Publications noticed similarities between Dark Phoenix Publishing's Thralls page and their own content, after Bree Orlock had reached out to Mr. Cape and had shared some of her material as examples. Stardust posted about the infringement and Dark Phoenix Publishing changed the page so it no longer contained the potentially infringing content. Public discussion of it can be found here.
Validity of Plagiarism Detection
The tools used for generating the citation audits are Grammarly and Copyscape, which are professional paid tools as opposed to free ones. The difference with running one of these texts through a free tool can be seen here. They typically only have access to web sources and are not as good at detecting copied text, whereas Grammarly has academic sources to check against. The free versions are really just teasers with limited functionality intended on enticing users to sign up for the more expensive paid version.
Grammarly is used by educational institutions so teachers can identify plagiarism and its results are thoroughly vetted. Students' academic careers are at stake. Like anything of this nature, interpreting the results requires context. A few words picked up as possible plagiarism is likely a coincidence. Entire sentences or blocks of text, not so much. In fact, you can see the effectiveness from my running Strands of Flesh and Spirit through Grammarly. All three parts came back at 1% potentially copied text. Part 1 and Part 3 are very short phrases and coincidences. Part 2 is interesting though, because it cites a phrase detected from the Strands of Fate Core Rules. That shows Grammarly is very accurate in finding its sources - Strands of Flesh and Spirit is a Strands of Fate conversion, and the phrase did come from Strands of Fate's standardized language for describing powers. Strands of Fate is also referenced in the introduction.
Lack of Copyright Claims
The Dark Phoenix Publishing logoAs mentioned in the linked blog posts above, the original Dark Phoenix Publishing logo was swiped from the DeviantArt user WildSpiritWolf, who denied any knowledge that the company was using the logo. Mr. Cape's stated the logo was "used in a lot of places on the internet" (in case that disappears, you can view the image here) and eventually "we've come to an agreement with the artist to not use the logo".
The logo has since been removed from nearly all of Dark Phoenix Publishing's official pages, after he was contacted by WildSpiritWolf. Recently the logo was replaced with a new one, likewise with no attribution to the source. WildSpiritWolf has contacted me and indicated that Mr. Cape never followed up with her on drafting a new logo, and therefore the new one is not hers. You can do the comparison below to see whether the two logos are merely similar or if one is direct copy of the other.
The Gen13 Swipe
So judge for yourself. You can go back to the blog posts listed above as well as go to where Bleeding Cool picked up on the swipe. You can also follow the entirety of the discussion on Facebook (now deleted) to see what Mykal Lakim's responses to the criticism were:
- Lilliana swipe, Part 1
- Lilliana swipe, part 1a
- Lilliana swipe, part 1b
- Lilliana swipe, part 3
- Lilliana swipe, part 4
- Lilliana swipe, part 5
Mr. Cape eventually responded to the allegations by posting a black and white original of the Lilliana image with explanation. Steve Trustrum ran a comparison against the color version and the Gen13 cover, and this was the result. After stretching back to the original proportions, the black and white version still matches the Gen13 cover exactly.
The Paul Mudie Swipe
The "you used Photoshop on that" claim
There are a number of odd things about each of the accounts listed below. Posting style, common "turns of phrase", the focus of the subject matter, timing of when they began posting, and other elements such as personal relationships - or lack thereof - with others on the social network (and who with) all point to these accounts having, at the very least, personal relationships with Michael Cape. At the worse, they are actually "sockpuppet" accounts.
Mr. Cape has made the statement that several people may be using the same computer, implying one or more of these accounts are people close to him. Even if this is not the case, all of these commenters display an astute understanding of the current issues and situation regarding Dark Phoenix Publishing, They also parrot many of Mr. Cape's statements regarding White Wolf's theft of Dark Phoenix Publishing's material, calling critics "trolls", making accusations of defamation or conspiracy, and threatening legal action against detractors.
James Pendragon is the earliest of these. A James Pendragon account was likewise the one which caused Mr. Cape to be banned from the White Wolf forums for sock puppeting. His Facebook posts on the White Wolf page appear here:
Iblis Eterna appears in one of the Facebook threads as a cheerleader for James Pendragon, who is tied back to the Mykal Lakim as well as James Pendragon.
Sarah Anderson likewise turns up to support Mr. Cape, and is apparently the only time she has ever posted on Facebook.
There is also a Pendragon James (or James Smith) who is tied to a curious effort to reprint Vampire The Masquerade and has a rather specific interpretation of "fair use" which is not generally shared by the courts. Again, there are links tying the account back to Mykal Lakim's account. Although Pendragon James has not commented on any of the past or current Dark Phoenix Publishing controversies, he does show that there is a pattern of accounts (James Pendragon, Pendragon James) which are connected to Mykal Lakim's Facebook accounts.
Mark Smith is a newcomer. He began posting on Google+ and set up a review blog which was originally called Vampire Undeath Review (it's still in the URL, even if the title of the blog changed), which only has reviews of Dark Phoenix Publishing products. You can read his posts to see what makes up the majority of their content, but I will point out a few things.
Mark Smith has taken up the bulk of the aggressive posting since Mr. Cape's official accounts have gone mostly "dark". Mark Smith carries the torch for James Pendragon's claims that White Wolf stole Dark Phoenix Publishing's ideas, accusing game designers of conspiracy and trying to accuse critics of slander.
Mr. Cape made the same claim on his Facebook page, the Dark Phoenix Publishing webpage and an interview with "Midnight Design Digital Media".
Nicole Johnson appeared as an interested party in Dark Phoenix Publishing's products, specifically engaging Mark Smith without only a couple of unsubstantial posts beforehand. There is no history to her account, only celebrities and pages are Circled, and her questions to Mark Smith appear very directed and leading. She is yet another poster who has a very astute understanding of Mr. Cape's comments.
Raven Tibby, like the others, has no known posting history except for to comment or +1 Dark Phoenix Publishing related posts. She uses the same profile photo as the DeviantArt user who defended Mr. Cape's actions in relation to WildSpiritWolf's artwork. Her posting history is similar to Nicole Johnson's in terms of it being unsubstantial.
Other EndeavorsMykal Lakim has circumstantial links to a number of Facebook pages, usually via secondary accounts such as Iblis Eterna or James Pendragon. It should be noted for all of these "businesses", the only business record associated to Paul Michael Cape is a DBA for Dark Phoenix Publishing. All a DBA does is allow him to cash checks made out to Dark Phoenix Publishing. There are no records of incorporation, no business licenses, no anything.
- White Entertainment - Iblis Eterna comments on this page. The page's mission is "To provide entertainment to each White teen and young adult to give back to their culture in an equal and fair world."
- The Inner Court: Soliciting for fetish modeling and advertising a gentleman's club, this is linked back to Iblis Eterna. The page advertises membership fees and the general manager is listed as "Mike." It is allegedly located in South Bend, Indiana.
- Needful Things Electronics and Gaming: Apparently defunct/nonfunctional business (second hand store? Online store?) tied to Mr. Cape.
- Midnight Design Digital Media: Alleged digital design studio.
- Dragon's Eye Design Studio: Alleged modeling/photography studio.
Accusations and Threats of LawsuitsMr. Cape and his associates have a long history of threatening legal action, as well as accusing others of defamation, harassment, theft, and conspiracy. Many of these threats are embedded within the links above, but they are brought together here as one section.
- Not Seeing "Announcements": Notification to RPGNet users of Mr. Cape's threat to sue.
- File copyright problem with File:Vampirecover.jpg: Threat to sue Wikipedia.
- misunderstood: Accusing Wikipedia of bullying.
- Nishkid: Accusation Wikipedia of discrimination.
- Wikipedia talk:Articles for deletion/Dark Phoenix Publishing, Inc.: Veiled threats of legal action against Wikipedia.
- Wikipedia talk: Articles for deletion/G.A.M.E.: Accusations of Wikipedia accepting bribes from White Wolf.
- Wikipedia Nishkid64 User Talk: Example of how Mr. Cape deals with not getting his way.
- Wikipedia UKexpat User Talk: Exchange with another Wikipedia editor.
- James Pendragon: Accusation of White Wolf stealing material #1.
- James Pendragon: Accusation of White Wolf stealing material #2.
- Interview Concerning The Future: Accusation of White Wolf infringing Dark Phoenix Publishing's copyright.
- Interview With Mykal Lakim: Explicit accusation, with a name, of White Wolf stealing Dark Phoenix Publishing's material.
- Mark Smith: Thinly veiled accusation of conspiracy and slander.
- Mark Smith: Threat of lawsuit for slander.
- Mark Smith: Thinly veiled accusation of theft by CCP.
- Mark Smith: More accusations of harassment, theft and copyright infringement.
- @DarkPublishing: Tweeting about sending cease and desist letters.
- Mykal Lakim: Threatening DMCA notices and an attorney.
- Mykal Lakim: Threatening me with legal action.
I have posted a response to Mr. Cape's threats of legal action and a rebuttal of his statements.