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“Original character, do not steal” is an expression originally used on the art sharing site deviantART. While sometimes used literally to discourage fellow artists from stealing an artist’s original character idea, it is more often used ironically to caption a picture of a character either obviously copied directly from an existing piece of pop culture or so sloppily rendered no one would want to steal it. The phrase is commonly used by Sonic fan artists.
On March 18th, 2008, DeviantART user Kurobon uploaded a piece of art titled “LOL PENIS THE HEDGEHOG,” parodying Sonic the Hedgehog fan art, with a caption that read “original character do not steal.”
As of March 2014, the art has over 300 views.
On December 3rd, 2011, YouTuber Ukinojoe uploaded a video titled "Blonic’ which poked fun at users calling their artwork “original characters” by including “blonic”, who was original, not a rip off of Sonic. The video description simply reads “do not steal.” As of March 2014, the video has gained over 1.3 million views.
On May 17th, 2012, Urban Dictionary user Mjfan13298 submitted an entry for “original character” which defined it as:
“A character in a major franchise created by a fan of something, and self inserted into that franchise usually via art and fanfics.”
On September 13th, 2013, College Humor published a comic strip titled “If Characters Acted Like Their Nerdy Fans” which featured a panel with Sonic holding a picture of a human explaining it was his “original human character” and urging others not to steal it.
As of March 2014, there are over 29,000 DeviantART submissions tagged “original character do not steal.”