Chris Brown's 'Zero' Artwork Sure Looks Familiar

Chris Brown's 'Zero' Artwork Sure Looks Familiar

Especially if you're familiar with the manga City Hunter. Compare for yourself!

Twitter user Gregoire Hellot pointed out that "Zero" single's cover looks like it could be a City Hunter knock-off, adding that on the upside, this was proof of how international the manga has become. Heh.

City Hunter ran from 1985-1991 and followed the exploits of Ryo and his crime-fighting team. Ryo is infamous for his love of ladies.

It's unclear if Brown or his record label licensed the City Hunter art. As of posting, the single's artwork does not appear to be credited to one specific artist (though, Wiki credits Brown with the "Liquor" single artwork for whatever that's worth). Kotaku reached out to City Hunter creator Tsukasa Hojo as well as to Brown's management, but did not hear back before publication.

Let's see how the two images compare.

Chris Brown's 'Zero' Artwork Sure Looks Familiar

The original City Hunter panel is slightly longer than the "Zero" art.

Chris Brown's 'Zero' Artwork Sure Looks Familiar

But if you overlay the images, many of the details, including the shadowing appear to overlap.

Chris Brown's 'Zero' Artwork Sure Looks Familiar

Some of them seem to match closely.

Chris Brown's 'Zero' Artwork Sure Looks Familiar

There are slight differences in the lines, but less so for the shading.

Chris Brown's 'Zero' Artwork Sure Looks Familiar

"Zero" will appear on Brown's forthcoming album Royalty. Top image: RCA [Shueisha]


    Wow, that is so obviously ripped off, i really hope the original creator sues.

    I think it's different enough to be considered an original work, although it is quite clearly derivative and transformative.


    For those interested in doing some reading:

    The argument would come down to whether the portion of the original work 'reproduced' by Brown was substantial or not, in a qualitative sense. On the one hand, the focal point of the original work (the face) is completely different. On the other hand, the composition of the work (character poses) is almost identical.

    My personal view is that I wouldn't like to try suing over it. You'd have a reasonable chance at getting a settlement though: the case is not clear-cut.

    Last edited 03/11/15 9:19 am

      ...except it isnt. Pose, actual drawing, shading all line up almost 100%. Its blatantly copied but the question is: was it licensed and permitted?

      Agreed, however it's always best policy to credit the original artists work or note the inspiration. I remember a similar controversy with the Groovin The Moo concert a few years back with an image another person had adjusted for a competition. It was deemed too close to the original and subsequently the person had the prize revoked.

      Last edited 03/11/15 10:22 am

        This isn't 'inspired', this is completely lifted. They've taken the same exact picture and just added colour. At what point do you guys actually admit it was plagiarised or is it a case of just being contrarian?

          Unless it infringes on a trademark, which I don't think it does, you'd probably find that the work has been transformed sufficiently to constitute a new artistic work. I agree that it is a little shameless of the artist to present it as his original work, but this sort of thing happens all the time.

            Asides his face wheres the transformation? Colouring isnt considered transforming.

              I may be wrong but it looks like he has 'drawn over' the lines of the original, with subtle variations. In law there's no such thing as 100% certainty of a result, but I'd give defending a claim of breach of copyright in this case a good chance.

                In the American court you never know, buy I assume this CD is in some of the countries with more sane laws like the UK and Australia, in which case it is very likely to be found infringing.

            Copyright is automatic, and protects the creator's right to create derivative works. Transformation is only relevant in deciding if a work is derivative or a copy, it's not relevant here because both copies and derivative works are protected by copyright law. The only exception in the United States is the fair use doctrine, which definitely does not apply here.

          Because the question of direct reference is raised and you ignore it, continue using an identical argument after an additional perspective is given and then you ignore it again. I do think it's cheap and I wouldn't give Brown the credit to directly reference something with taste but that doesn't mean direct references haven't been used in other forms of media as well as this one with both original and new artist being mutually respectful of eachother. There are many precedents for this and you're ignoring it because you're unaware of phenomenon apparently. Songs have contained direct quotes and samples, many unlicensed but prove no issue. Parody has literally used the lifting technique in question without issue and considering the media conventions of "parody", it's unclear whether it is or not but a clear case could be made by Brown that he's appropriating the City Hunter themes to his life as parody.

          I don't believe any of these but it doesn't mean they aren't perspectives that can be argued. Maybe we need less of "i think" being a prevailing argument and maybe inform ourselves by consideration. I think he stole it but that's because I simply don't think he's talented or intelligent enough to consider the actual implication of reference or parody - which doesn't really hold up in a realm like this. Like I said, I agree, it just doesn't mean you can persuade people who present an argument with no argument.

          Brown sucks and is stupid. Not sure that means just dismissing everything and saying "Come oooonnn!" We have more we can *%&^ on him with.

          Last edited 03/11/15 11:01 am

            Uh huh... so what you're saying is essentially dont argue unless you're practically lawyers? Kidding. I've seen some contrarianism on this site, hell I've been guilty of it in the past, however in this case, no, that's blatantly plagiarised.

            Art theft is defined as blatantly stealing a piece of artwork and posting it as your own. This includes, but is not limited to:
            Posting screencaptures saying that you "took them yourself" as though they were photographs, when in fact, those still images already existed--it's called a FRAME.
            Adding text, clip art or other images to a piece. Putting a witty word bubble or a sprite on something doesn't make it yours.
            Piecing together multiple images. No matter how cool it looks, Frankensteining multiple sprites together to make one sprite is direct art theft.
            Drawing on top of someone else's already existing image.
            Applying filters to an image, changing colors, or inverting its colors.

            That pic definitely falls into at least two of those categories.

            Last edited 03/11/15 11:12 am

              Ah, I do like it when an argument ends with one party presenting actual evidence. Would be nice if there was a citation but whatever, I'm satisfied haha.

              Last edited 03/11/15 1:02 pm

            Mate I don't know what you've been told, but this is a complete RIP, even the shading lines line up perfectly! Whoever did this started with the original manga art and changed the face and one line of the left leg and then slapped some colour over it. This isn't a reference, or an homage, it's a rip. If you are using someone else artwork and changing one part but still claiming it's all original (and getting paid as it it was original) is art theft and copyright infringement. An homage or reference usually uses the same basic idea/composition but is re-done (usually in the artist who is creating the works own style, so it's quite obviously created by someone else) in a way that pays tribute, it doesn't mean you get to use 95% of the artwork and change something small.

            You brought up samples and how songs use them and it's ok, but that is incredibly FALSE. ALL samples have to be cleared with the original creator and licensing/royalty fees have to be paid. In some cases whole albums have been shelved and never released because samples couldn't get cleared and in Pharaoh Monch's case the sale of his album was blocked and he was sued heavily.

            "...the song caused controversy when Monch was later sued for the song's use of a sample from Akira Ifukube's Gojira Tai Mosura in the hook. The uncleared sample use caused a halting in his album's distribution."

        I remember that, it was a straight up rip case, the only exception was they deleted some bits and added in some crappy clip art. The contestent was then stripped of the win and they found someone else who actually created their own work.

        So even in that case what that person did was considered wrong, this chris brown thing is no different.

      It is a straight out rip-off. The changes amount to around 5% of "new art", some of which are but a slight change in female curvature to make it more, how to say this, Chris-Brown-like. The difference in the style of the shading can easily be attained with a Photoshop filter and it's clear that the overall shapes are the same.

      I don't think 'derivative' is actually a copyright exception.
      Transformative definitely is, but it heavily relies on a transformation of purpose. They've tested this pretty comprehensively with art and music. Sampling gets real interesting.

      A picture is a picture. They're both for looking at. So we've gotta rely on intent. The original work isn't sufficiently well-known enough for it to count as being a parody or commentary.

      Now, if you take a picture and make a sculpture out of it, or a performance piece, that's transformative. If you take an interactive video game and turn the focus of it into a personality-based examination of reactions in a non-interactive video, that's pretty damn transformative.

      But a picture traced over and altered a little, because you liked the form and composition? I'd have a real hard time buying that as sufficiently transformative in purpose or form.

        You might be right. I'd still think twice before suing him though. If that picture of his started making lots of cash for him then maybe. You might get some exemplary damages out of it, but it would be risky to go to court over.

      Are you serious? It's a fucking trace, with just a few details adjusted around the face and the bandanna over the hair!

    Well, he steals a lot of his music so it makes sense he should steal artwork too

      Well yeah, they say his biggest hits were Rhiannas....

      Last edited 03/11/15 10:31 am

    Probably come down to which artist can afford the more expensive lawyer. Chris Brown wins by default.

    P.S. if he wins its still bad to pirate music btw; manga is fine though.

    Thankfully we have those in-dept analysis images with the overlapping, otherwise there's no way I could tell this was copied...

    With his history with women abuse. Plenty of Women still go gaga for him.

    So it's okay for Marvel to do hip hop variant covers paying homage to classic albums but Chris Brown can't do an homage to a comic? LMAO you guys are moronic hypocrites.

      Marvel either get permission or the article is current/public enough to be classed as a parody...

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