There's a similar advice post that went up recently I think, however, I felt it best to ask since I'm seeking some further advice.
Back in June I was approached by a user who wanted to get a couple adult sketch commissions of his character and his girlfriend/pet's character. All went well and they were both completed without much issue.
Everything was fine until earlier this week I receive a comment from a third user on one of the commissions stating the female character (the girlfriend's) was ripped off/stolen from them.
I reached out to the original owner to get a feel for what was going on from their side and identify what their wishes were before I went to the commissioner and asked him for his side and an explanation.
The story seems to be that the girlfriend found the character on E621 and asked "someone" on the site if she could use the art as a reference for her character and they gave permission. She's been apologetic and so far cooperative with the original owner, however, the whole reason they got on the original owner's radar was the girlfriend watched her a while back. So I question as to how she would not have realized she was using the original owner's character as her own and stopped once she realized it...
I can confirm the commissioner/master/boyfriend provided me one of the original owner's commissioned pieces as a reference for the stolen character. He also reacted aggressively toward the owner when she confronted them about it this week, claiming the owner gave the girlfriend permission to use the art and character design?
Now I need help in determining what I do next.
First, I've asked the original owner if she'd like me to remove the first two commissions. She said she felt it a shame to remove the art and suggested maybe removing the commissioner and girlfriend's names in the credits. However, I feel like the best (and right) thing to do would be to request the commissioner and girlfriend remove the art on their end and then take it down on mine too. Any advice or suggestions?
Second, last weekend, just before all of this came to light, I accepted a third sketch commission from this commissioner featuring the same two characters. The same day he was confronted by the owner he did send me a note that briefly said he'd be getting with me on the design for the female character but didn't elaborate on anything else.
Today I sent a note to him simply acknowledging that I had received a comment from the owner, I was aware there was an issue, and asked if he could explain his/their side of the story to me.
He replied back stating that it would take a lot of effort to explain, they were making a couple changes, and that the change in design was mostly all I needed to be concerned about.
I'm not sure how I feel about that response, I feel like he's not being honest with me and some of his behavior is starting to make me leery. I was hoping to offer him an opportunity to be straight with me, explain their side since I've got the original owner's side, but it seems that he's not interested or willing to disclose anything further to me.
I want to do right by the original owner in all of this too. She's really kind and I feel bad that I've contributed to this mess even unknowingly.
Thank you in advance for any advice y'all might have! I appreciate it!