Spector Creative Toy Controversy

Photo of the Palace Guard figure with Scott Neitlich’s face. Photo by Cora Buhlert.

By Cora Buhlert:

INTRODUCTION: A current controversy in the toy collector world revolves around toy industry insider Scott Neitlich who worked for various companies and is now an independent consultant. He has a YouTube channel named Spector Creative and makes videos offering an inside look into the toy industry. He’s long been something of a controversial figure and his videos gradually tipped from interesting insights to increasingly bad takes and things which were just plain wrong. Then one day, the channel was suddenly gone from YouTube. Turned out he had been using random photos he found on the internet without permission, including stock photos which were watermarked. 

Ethan Wilson, who runs an action figure review blog named The Figure in Question, found that Neitlich had been using his photos without permission or credit and submitted some copyright complaints to YouTube, who removed the entire channel. Neitlich contacted Wilson and begged for him to retract the copyright claims and promised to remove all photos once he regained access to his channel. So Ethan Wilson retracted his copyright complaints, whereupon Neitlich did not remove the photos and started badmouthing Wilson and sending his followers after him. It’s gotten steadily uglier and weirder since then.

SCOTT NEITLICH AND SPECTOR CREATIVE. Protagonist No. 1 is Scott Neitlich who runs a YouTube channel called Spector Creative. Neitlich is a toy industry insider who used to work for various toy companies, most notably Mattel. He was the Mattel brand manager in charge of the Masters of the Universe Classics and DC Universe Classics collector toy lines from 2008 to 2016. Neitlich championed Masters of the Universe at Mattel, when no one else did, and many of the names he gave to characters who never had any are still used in the various cartoons, comics, etc… to this day. However, Neitlich was a controversial figure among Masters of the Universe fans, because of quality control issues with some of the figures (one figure’s hips infamously shattered straight out of the packaging) and questionable decisions such as using the name a fan had given an obscure character for an action figure without crediting that fan, asking the design team to give a palace guard action figure his face and – most notably – inserting a Mary Sue character named the Mighty Spector that he had created as a kid into the Masters of the Universe line. That figure is so disliked you can still find it in stock at most collectible shops more than ten years later. Recently, a German collectible shop couldn’t even sell their leftover stock of Mighty Spector figures at fifty percent off.  

After leaving Mattel (and there is some debate going on whether he left voluntarily or was asked to leave), Neitlich worked at a couple of other toy and merchandise companies and eventually started a consulting business for the toy and entertainment industry called Spector Creative as well as a YouTube channel. The YouTube channel offers an insider look at the toy industry and lots of background information on the Masters of the Universe and DC toy lines Neitlich worked on, which is how I came across his channel. The channel claims to be educational, but Neitlich also uses it to advertise his consulting business. One thing I noticed immediately is that the videos occasionally contained watermarked stock images, i.e. he had just grabbed those images without paying for the license which is a huge no no for anything you post in public. If you actually use your videos to advertise your business, it’s an even bigger no-no.

Neitlich also posted increasingly bad takes and flat out wrong claims. He claimed that Mattel was about to lose the Masters of the Universe license, even though Mattel actually owns the brand – the only rights issues involve some characters created for the 1980s He-Man and She-Ra cartoons. Neitlich seems to be quite bitter that the current Masters of the Universe toy lines are getting more corporate support than his Classics line did and keeps claiming these toy lines are about to be cancelled and doubled down on his claims, even after people told him that new toys were shipping and sold in stores. I think the thing which convinced me that nothing this guy said should be taken seriously was when he called the Nuremberg toy fair, which is only the biggest and most important toy industry trade fair in the world, “some obscure German con”. Because how can someone work in an industry for twenty years and not know the most important industry event?

In early February, the Spector Creative YouTube channel was suddenly gone. Neitlich posted on Twitter that he had no idea what happened.

Ten days later or so, the channel returned and Neitlich posted a video explaining that his channel had received more than thirty copyright complaints in the span of a week or so, which is why YouTube terminated it. He also claimed that YouTube found those complaints unjustified and that his channel and his livelihood, since he uses his channel to advertise his business, had been held hostage. (The video formerly could be viewed at this link, however, Neitlich recently set the entire channel to private, not just the contested videos.)

The Spector Creative channel never completely disappeared again, but there would be no new videos for a while and then Neitlich popped up again and said he had been getting more copyright strikes. He also claimed that the person submitting the copyright complaints, one Ethan Wilson, who runs a toy review blog called The Figure in Question, was blackmailing him.

(Two follow-up videos could formerly be viewed here and here.)

THAT JUNKMAN. Another toy and pop culture YouTube channel called That Junkman also got involved. I’d never heard of that channel before, but he posts a lot of right-wing culture war stuff along with talking about toys, which tells you everything you need to know about this person. He posted several videos directly attacking Ethan Wilson.

ETHAN WILSON. On March 8, Ethan Wilson posted his side of the story on his blog, complete with screenshots of his e-mail exchanges with Scott Neitlich: “About This Spector Creative Thing”.

Basically, Wilson ran across Neitlich’s YouTube channel and saw that Neitlich had been using toy photos from Ethan’s review blog The Figure in Question without permission or attribution and complained to YouTube. Wilson also went through the videos and found lots and lots of instances of his photos being used, not just one or two. There’s a screenshot of the initial thirty-two copyright complaints here.

The weirdest bit is that at least one of the figures, Hydron, is a Masters of the Universe Classics figure, i.e. a figure Neitlich worked on and that he owns, so he could just have photographed his own figure.

Anyway, Scott Neitlich e-mailed Ethan Wilson and begged him to retract his copyright complaints, so he could regain access to his channel. He also promised to remove the photos in question or credit Wilson. So Wilson retracted the claims and Neitlich got his channel back, only to do absolutely nothing of what he promised. He neither removed the photos nor credited Ethan Wilson. Instead, Neitlich claims fair use, because his channel is informational and educational (even though he is using it to advertise his business). He also claims that Ethan Wilson does not actually own the copyright to his own photos, because he did not register copyright. However, according to current US law, copyright is granted automatically from the moment of creation. Neitlich also claimed that Wilson couldn’t copyright the photos, because they were generic photos of licensed products trademarked by somebody else. Again, this is not how copyright works. And the fact that someone who spent years working in an industry where copyright and trademark law are very important, doesn’t have even a basic knowledge of how these things work, is very telling.

Ethan Wilson was interviewed twice on the Dad-at-Arms YouTube channel, which is a Masters of the Universe fan channel, focusing on interviewing people involved with Masters of the Universe, mostly with the cartoons and comics. Colt, who runs the channel, is a former journalist and another toy collector alerted him to the issue.

In the meantime, several other people have also come forward and said that Neitlich has used their photos, fan art, graphics, etc… without permission or credit, but they just didn’t bother complaining to YouTube. He’s never used one of my photos so far, though I’m not sure whether I should feel glad or insulted.

Neitlich once again lost access to his channel and posted a dramatic, “I’m losing my channel for good” post on the Community tab of his channel (which he apparently could access). (The post is no longer online, but was formerly available close to the top of the Community tab.

A bit later, he posted this tweet:

Note that the Ace of Spades is both the logo of his company as well as of his Mighty Spector character.

Pretty much the first response to that tweet came from the Twitter account of Griffin Newman, toy collector and the voice actor who plays Orko in Masters of the Universe: Revelation and Revolution:

Eventually, Neitlich regained control of his channel and posted yet another video complaining about copyright trolls blackmailing him and proved once again that he has no idea how copyright and trademark law work in the US. Neitlich also claims he got a lawyer, though Ethan Wilson claims he never received any letters from any lawyers.

CLOWNFISH TV VS. DAD-AT-ARMS. Meanwhile, Clownfish TV, a culture war focused YouTube channel also got in on the action. Clownfish TV has a long-running feud with Dad-at-Arms, because DAA called them out for blatantly untrue claims about Masters of the Universe: Revelation and for attacks on the creators of the show. As a result, the Clownfish TV people are angry that Dad-at-Arms got interviews with various people involved with the Masters of the Universe: Revelation and Revolution (producers, directors, writers and even a voice actor), while they didn’t get these interviews, even though they have more followers than he does. Gee, I wonder why people don’t want to talk to a YouTube channel that insulted and badmouthed them. Anyway, Clownfish TV interviewed Scott Neitlich, who professed to be a big fan of their channel:

On a side note, Scott Neitlich also recently self-published a Greek mythology based graphic novel named Myth War that he’s written. Neitlich does have some experience with writing comics, since he wrote some of the Masters of the Universe pack-in mini-comics. However – and here is the kicker – Neitlich used AI generated art for his graphic novel:

CONCLUSION. This is where things stand now: Scott Neitlich and Ethan Wilson are still feuding, Neitlich still uses other people’s work without permission and is slowly but steadily losing whatever credibility he still had.   

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17 thoughts on “Spector Creative Toy Controversy

  1. Thanks again for posting this story, Mike.

    The latest state of this ongoing story is that Scott Neitlich has given in and set his entire channel to private, all videos, not just the contested ones. As of today, some videos were up again, so maybe he is gradually removing the contested photos.

  2. I wonder if he really doesn’t know the law, or thinks he can bluff his way through it. Hopefully he really is cleaning up his videos to eliminate the copyright violations.

  3. I haven’t checked any of the videos which are back up to see if there’s anything problematic in there.

    However, I recall that one of his videos had some images of Masters of the Universe concept characters removed and replaced with “Removed by request of [name of artist who created those concept characters]”, which always struck me as petty. We’ll see if he does something similar in this case.

  4. I think one lesson to be learned here is to never retract copyright claims.

  5. Ah, it was clownfish. Thank you, I couldn’t remembered who had interviewed him but I wanted to review it for what’s probably going to be more libel.

    Two things: one, I have screenshots of the community post you cited (and the others which mentioned this whole thing) if you’d like to add any. Two, I may have missed it, but did you mention anywhere that Scott deliberately removed/obscured Ethan’s watermarks? I still can’t believe the audacity of trying to claim fair use when he doesn’t even know the difference between copyright and trademark. Some brand manager he must have made.

    Thank you for documenting everything! And thank you Mike for posting!

  6. Thanks for mentioning that Scott obscured/removed Ethan’s watermarks. I forgot to mention this in the post, though it is mentioned in Ethan’s post and also his interviews with Dad-at-Arms. The audacity is really something else.

    In retrospect, I probably should have taken screenshots of Scott’s posts on the community tab myself, once he set his videos to private.

    The Clownfish interview isn’t that terrible, considering the participants. Though the Clownfish are very mad at me now, since a 131 word paragraph introducing their interview with Scott is apparently now a “hit piece”.

  7. The Spector Creative channel just released a new Masters of the Universe Classics director’s commentary video about the Classics figures and it had some very obvious and clumsy edits. The video was also a lot shorter than these videos used to be.

  8. He also spells Chooblah’s name as “Choboola” despite having like 10 pictures with the correct spelling in the video and claiming to have come up with the name. “Where did Chalooba–Chooba–Choobala come from?”

  9. Yeah, I noticed that as well. Especially since I have the figure at home and immediately thought, “But he’s called Chooblah.”

    If he really did come up with the name, he’s not very good at remembering.

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  11. I must object to your claim that Clownfish TV made “blatantly untrue claims about Masters of the Universe: Revelation and for attacks on the creators of the show.”

    I was following their videos during the time period in question. An insider source gave them a summary of the basic plot outline for the show about a year before it came out and they reported on it, noting that they could not confirm. Once the show came out, it was clear that their information was 95% correct.

    They did not attack any of the creators or crew working on the show, but Kevin Smith personally attacked them for reporting what turned out to be accurate information.

    I have no opinion on their interview with Scott or feud with any other youtuber, but the statement you made is objectively false

  12. They did not attack any of the creators or crew working on the show, but Kevin Smith personally attacked them for reporting what turned out to be accurate information.

    I wasn’t around for this, but a cursory google search is showing that he (Kevin Smith) retweeted them and just said basically, “No, that’s not what’s going to happen”. How is that a personal attack? Moreover, what was the information they gave that was “95% correct”?

    And they did attack him–I had to dig to find the tweet in question because most of the top results are their videos and articles calling him names and claiming no one cares about “his” show anymore.

    I don’t know anything about Kevin Smith and while Clownfish TV seem to be pretty terrible people, it’s easy enough to block them so they’re not my problem unless they start committing crimes. BUT, the statement you made is not “objective”, it’s your opinion–and a very biased one at that. If it’s objective, show us the evidence and let it speak for itself.

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