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Subject: anyone on BGG know anything of copyright infringement, etc? rss

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Aaron Gelb
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Just a question:

With new sites like etsy.com and other grass roots, young entrepreneurs starting small companies up via kickstarter, etc, I wonder about how artistic license works with certain brands.

For example, on Etsy.com (a handmade sell-your-art type of online community shop) or even if you were to go to your grocery store...we see items that use logos/colors of popular, and I assume, copyrighted images.

If you want to go to the market and get your child a birthday cake, and you ask the cake maker to put spiderman in frosting on top, is this technically copyright infringement?

Or if someone on etsy.com or some other fashion website knits fun little winter hats that look like yoda, or batman, or those brain sucker things from Futurama...is this not infringement?

If I wanted to design a little chotchke, and one of them was a mini spiderman based item, and I wanted to fund/and or sell it on kickstarter or here on BGG, would I be stopped or sued by marvel?

I just see SO MANY ITEMS that individual artists/creators make and sell, and can only assume they are not paying royalties.

Is it because it is so small and grass roots that Marvel (or any other company) can't/won't bother?

Like, who's going to tell on Safeway Market for making a kid a spiderman cake, or who is going to shut down a women from Portland who knits batman caps out of wool and sells them at an art fair/online?

For example, someone made some cute superhero stickers for bday parties:



they didn't use any words or logos but that is clearly batman/spiderman...is this allowed? I ask mainly because I've had some ideas that would be a hit if i could use the "likeness" of...but I don't want to break any laws.

Another example, this is sold on Etsy.com for 20 bucks:



Anyone know the logistics on this one? How come people can make and sell these items without paying royalties?
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Scott A. Reed
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The first issue you would be looking at here is trademark, not copyright, unless you were looking to produce exactly the creative work of another. The licensed characters you discuss here are trademarked properties, and are handled differently.

/I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer. I have no specialized training in intellectual property law, and this should not be taken as legal advice.
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IANAL but... - yes everyone on the geek knows about copyright infringement - and by "knows" I mean "has an opinion".

Good luck

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Tim M-L
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It is more an issue of trademark and licensing than copyright. Also, you don;t know that people are not paying royalties. The Safeway bakery probably has a book of licensed designs they have purchased the right to and if you want something beyond that then they may or may not do it, assuming they have the capability to consider doing it. Safeway probably has a policy on this.

The individual craftsman probably has not pursued a license, but also may have some more interesting options for defending themselves in the event of being sued. Various companies have different policies on what they would do in response to derivative works made by fans..

It does more or less boil down to being sued, as that is the primary (not only) mechanism for enforcement of these things. Its also worth while to consider that Marvel is not its own company. It has been owned by Disney for a while now.
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Steve Vondra
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I remember a case in Miami quite a few years back where Disney® sued some tiny day care center for painting Mickey®, Minnie® and other Disney® characters on the walls. Everything turned out OK because when it hit the papers, Warner Bros. sent an artist to repaint the walls with Bugs, Tweety and Sylvester! Thufferin' Thuccotash!
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CHAPEL
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asgelb wrote:



Anyone know the logistics on this one? How come people can make and sell these items without paying royalties?


I'm thinking that if DC pursued it with say a C&D letter they would have to stop. But if they haven't, then I see little reason to stop.

I always say, if the owner of the IP cares less than you do, then you are overthinking it.
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Aaron Gelb
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cooler king wrote:
I remember a case in Miami quite a few years back where Disney® sued some tiny day care center for painting Mickey®, Minnie® and other Disney® characters on the walls. Everything turned out OK because when it hit the papers, Warner Bros. sent an artist to repaint the walls with Bugs, Tweety and Sylvester! Thufferin' Thuccotash!


wow, that's a cool story!
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Stephen Harkleroad
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If you've been looking at the same cakes that I have seen, they most likely are paying royalties. There's a company that bundles all of the current popular characters and sells it as a "kit," so to speak. I'm sure some mom-and-pops might do it unlicensed, but I guarantee big chains like Safeway have cleared it.

As always, it's important to note that we're (for the most part) talking about trademarks here, and trademarks are a different beast than copyright, in that by law they must be defended. Even if Marvel/Disney/Other Big Evil Company didn't care if some Etsy shop owner makes a Mickey Mouse Keychain (or whatever), they *have* to defend it. Most people don't seem to differentiate between overzealous copyright defenders (which are usually more or less optional) and mass mailings of cease and desist letters (which, if the company isn't vigilant, they could lose the trademark, even if they otherwise think it's cool).

Sure, the line between trademark and copyright isn't clear, and there is a lot of room for things such as fair use, so there are some gray areas. Bottom line: if you're trying to make a buck using someone else's characters, you're probably in the wrong.

IANAL.
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Dean
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cooler king wrote:
I remember a case in Miami quite a few years back where Disney® sued some tiny day care center for painting Mickey®, Minnie® and other Disney® characters on the walls. Everything turned out OK because when it hit the papers, Warner Bros. sent an artist to repaint the walls with Bugs, Tweety and Sylvester! Thufferin' Thuccotash!


What? No Daffy? surprise
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Adrian Hague
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MWChapel wrote:
I'm thinking that if DC pursued it with say a C&D letter they would have to stop.
Indeed they would. Spiderman is a Marvel IP.
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