No point in apologizing for getting off track now, as this thread seems to be slowly heading where all KO threads go, given enough time (although no one's gotten THAT bitter or personal yet). But in light of the usual debate over the ethics of KOing, whether the rightful owners are really being hurt, and what we collectors deserve, I feel the need to weigh in with an argument no one's raised to my knowledge. I do apologize for this post being long.
Transformers IS the intellectual property of Hasbro and Takara, regardless of which individual toy designers and comic writers see any residuals from the use of characters they created. While we should all agree that IP deserves protection so creators profit from it, the recent dust up over SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA (that last one is international, and far from dead; Transfans in the EU, GIVE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES S#!T UNTIL THEY KILL IT!) got us all talking about what's a punishable violation vs. fair use. I'll admit that I buy bootlegs of older movies all the time, once I'm sure there's been no official DVD release due to irresolvable lawsuits, or more often obscurity. Once there's an official release, I get it ('4 Flies on Grey Velvet' and 'Cat in the Brain'), but usually they stay unreleased due to perceived lack of interest. I've realized that my reason for doing this is precisely BECAUSE I do care about intellectual property. There's just one aspect of it I care about more than who profits: making sure as much of it is preserved as possible. If descendants of some bootlegger of yore produced an illegal copy of Thomas Edison's Frankenstein or that one Hitchcock movie that there's no known copy of, would film buffs call his ancestor a pirate, or a hero for saving those priceless works of art?
Now, obviously the TF franchise is recent enough that different rules apply. Can a toy mold ever become public domain like a movie, given time? That doesn't sound right, but Hasbro HAS lost the rights to character NAMES they don't use often enough. Could a long-unused mold suffer the same fate? One assumes the "distinctive likenesses of characters" clause in most copyright statements would prevent that, but that old Batman serial and at least half of the Max Fleisher Superman cartoons seem to be Public Domain. Or could Time Warner crack down if they cared?
But getting back to preservation. I've seen a bit of the usual bashing of Has-blow for not reissuing or repainting every single toy each of us wants for our collection because they "hate their fans", but obviously catering to fan demand makes money. It's just a question of what makes economic sense; any of Hasbro's defenders here will tell you that.
Unless they consider one other unpleasant factor: what if Hasbro can't, because they can't find the molds? I'm afraid this is a bigger problem than even a lot of HasTakomy employees know. A lot of basic Beast Wars molds are apparently gone for good, and I recall Aaron Archer(?) once telling Toyfare that we'd have gotten an Aerialbots reissue long ago if it weren't for some of their molds going missing. We're starting to see mold degradation rearing its head too, perhaps the most famous evidence being 25th Anniversary Optimus Prime. I didn't buy that one to see for myself, but my Classics Soundwave's Laserbeak and Sundor both have the same leg bent out, so that can't be a coincidence. Given his snapability, I'd hazard a guess that that's why Mirage hasn't been reissued.
The logical solution would seem to be reverse molding, but I heard Takara won't do that because it would make reissues too expensive to bother with. But most KOs are made that way. So while I do feel a moral obligation to support the real deal over knock-offs, if KOs are the only way certain molds can be preserved to reproduce our beloved toys for future generations, that whole argument gets turned on its head, and I feel an even stronger moral obligation to support a vibrant KO industry alongside all legal TF products.
Now before you counter that with the argument that every TF in collectors' hands simply becomes more valuable and no one is entitled to anything so reissues of everything is hardly necessary, I'll counter that no TF toy has stood a test of time even 3 decades long. While I was disappointed that the crackdown on KOTOYS came before they could do any nutty repaints of the combiner cassette teams that would never have been done officially (I had some great ideas for Slamdance, my all time favorite TF), I was also disappointed that we never got some bigger KOs they promised down the road, like Computron, Abominus, Fort Max (though thankfully we might get the real deal now!), and Scorpinok. Had that last one come to be KOed, this debate would be a bit different due to one remolded factor: Black Zarack, the first, biggest, and most infamous victim of Gold Plastic Syndrome. If GPS gets even worse over time, and it turns out Takara can't get the molds to do a reissue, then perhaps NO ONE, no matter how much they paid or how well they take care of their collection, will be able to own a complete Black Zarack. Maybe no one collector is entitled to own any toy, but isn't each toy entitled to exist?
But BZ probably will get reissued if Fort Max is, so what about the big European GPS sufferers? Most of them will never be remade due to obscurity and allegedly unsafe missiles, so KOs with better plastic choices could be the only way for those figures to exist in any form before long.
As I said, I really hope these Dino Cassettes lead to official reissues. Yet given how obscure these guys are, that they've hardly had any attention for 25 years, and that every cassette up through Overkill and Slugfest have been reissued, I'm not all that confident that Takara still has the original molds. If that's the case, our only hope is for them to acquire the reverse molds used for this batch, assuming they weren't destroyed as part of the crackdown. While HasTak has every right to crack down, is that what we really want if KO molds are the only chance for certain toys to be reissued? I'm not suggesting that they pay for molds which are illegal copies of their property, as that would look terrible and set a bad precedent. But since reverse molding is technically a service which HasTak can't seem to do for themselves profitably, maybe some sort of deal can be made where KO companies are granted amnesty in exchange for handing over any molds Hasbro or Takara need for an upcoming reissue.
Hasbro and Takara have a LOT of intellectual property, and it's theirs to use as they see fit. But maintaining all of it is difficult, and if despite their best efforts they fail to do so for any piece of it, then I feel a moral obligation to support anyone who can maintain said piece. When I first saw those exact repros on KOTOYS' menu, my first feeling was disbelief that someone wasn't being sued over it. But after that, it gave me a feeling of hope that the capacity to reproduce all the Transformers that break and yellow over time will always live on, even if it must be in illegal hands for a time. I WANT my collecting habit to support Hasbro and Takara, but I want to be absolutely sure that future generations will be able to enjoy any toy and character that's given me so much joy in life even more. As long as some KO-meister out there is practicing reverse molding skills that might someday serve the official companies, that hope remains alive.
I don't expect any collector here to feel the same obligation I do to support Knock Offs to an extent, but that's why I feel it and stand by it. Preservation trumps all.