Now it seems a subsidiary company, Xingbao, is actually licensing designs from talented and highly regarded AFOLs such as CrowKillers and the Arvo Brothers and producing sets of their most popular MOCs. They've been displayed at the Guangzhou Toy & Hobby Fair that's taking place this week in China and a full gallery of pictures can be found on Customize Minifigures Intelligence's Facebook page.
I first read about this on The Brick Fan earlier in the week but there's conflicting information in the comments there as to whether the AFOLs concerned did actually license their work or whether they too were ripped off, so before reporting here I thought I'd ask Paul 'CrowKillers' Boratko and the Arvo Brothers for their side of the story.
The Arvo Brothers haven't replied, but Paul has:
"No, this company didn't rip off Myself, Firas, or the Arvo Brothers.
"Having had my designs stolen and my instructions resold on numerous Asian marketplaces for eight years, my biggest fear was always waking up one morning and getting several emails with a link to pictures of one of my models as a set without my knowledge..
"I was approached and asked if I would like to be a part of a new company that wanted to work directly with builders the right way and not only compensate them for their design, but also include their names with those designs to give them the proper credit.
"I thought long and hard about this and after seeing so many AFOL's MOCs starting to show up as sets with out their consent or knowledge, the fear of my work being stolen without my consent was growing.
"I felt like I could either get compensated for my work or decline or get nothing and possibly watch my models get stolen by someone else. But this was never about money, it was always about the theft of the designs and me not knowing about it.
"Some people will understand this decision and some will not, but the large majority will never know the experiences and frustration that I have been dealing with for nearly the last decade.
"When I was ultimately making my decision, another fellow AFOL had made the comment to me "You can do what you think is right in the name of LEGO, but when your work gets stolen and reproduced, is LEGO going to step in and defend your honor?"
It's easy to judge and to question "why on earth would anyone license their work to a Chinese clone company?", and at first I did. But having heard Paul's side of the story I think he did the right thing given the stark choices he faced: license his work and get some compensation and credit, or don't, and have his work copied anyway.
I think I would do the same under the circumstances...