Little Heroes Book under IP dispute



  • @Lee-White said in Little Heroes Book under IP dispute:

    For example, I can make a balloon for political reasons using trumps likeness. But if I start selling balloon's with Trumps likeness, that may be a whole different level and maybe I'd get into trouble. Again, I'm not totally sure of the nuance there.

    Based on my understanding of "parody" and the "fair use defense" your instinct is spot on.
    Parody is one of the multiple factors considered when determining if something falls under the fair use defense. A factor that can weigh against a parody defense is if the infringing use is for monetary gain. As you can imagine this is not a binary question of "Did this use generate money -- yes or no?" but rather "How much did the goal of making money factor in the the creation of the parody?"



  • @davidhohn Can we just set up a hotline- red phone and everything- to call you in case we ever run into copyright issues? Please and thank you.



  • @AnnaDaviscourt Clearly I enjoy talking about this stuff. And posting on these forums seems to draw me out of my painting cave. But really the best place for questions like:
    "Is this an infringement?"
    ""How liable will I be if I go ahead and infringe on this artist/company's IP?"
    "Someone infringed on my work -- what do I do now?"

    should be directed to an IP attorney.

    I am a huge fan of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts https://vlaa.org
    I have a project that I'm working on that I know will require multiple infringements. I believe that it will fall under the Fair Use Defense -- but I don't KNOW that it will. So I'm going to talk to an Intellectual Property attorney here in Portland who is part of the VLA.



  • @davidhohn
    Haha!
    'Requiring multiple infringements' sounds like you're a rogue artist- dodging the copyright cops by day, drawing adorable characters all night.
    Do the VLA work Pro Bono? I haven't heard of them before.



  • @AnnaDaviscourt I know you are kidding but, no -- definitely not dodging copyright cops. The Fair Use Defense is outlined in Title 17 of the US Copyright code for a very real, and necessary reason.

    The project I have in mind is something I hope will be valuable to a large swath of the illustration community. But to do it I will have to infringe on the copyright of others. I'm simply trying to extend the same courtesy to the copyrights of others that I would want shown to my work.

    My experience with the VLA is that they have a sliding payment scale. The less income you make the less their legal services cost. At some income level it is free. You should definitely investigate them.

    First time I used the VLA here in Portland was on my first book contract when I went in and got every clause of the contract explained to me. Most valuable hour of my life!





  • @davidhohn @Lee-White Thanks for both of your replies! That's really interesting from the IP attorney quote that you found Lee, obviously Disney (or other companies) don't have time to run around after each and every person illustrating their characters unless they're selling a crazy amount of them, it's not worth their time like you say.
    A few UK illustrators that I follow do seem to sell prints/merchandise of Harry Potter (and other tv, films etc), they're illustrated in their own style though and have put their own stamp on the location etc, so does that fall within the parody category? Or is that infringement too?

    I'm learning so much in this 😃



  • @hannahmccaffery said in Little Heroes Book under IP dispute:

    That's really interesting from the IP attorney quote that you found Lee, obviously Disney (or other companies) don't have time to run around after each and every person illustrating their characters unless they're selling a crazy amount of them, it's not worth their time like you say.

    I wonder how many people read that quote Lee posted and think:
    "Ah! So as long as I don't sell more than 6 figures worth of infringing products Disney won't bother with me!"

    Or even more dangerously:
    "Ah! So as long as I don't sell more than 6 figures worth of infringing products it's legal to sell my infringing fan art"

    I understand how this thinking happens. Unfortunately it is usually based on an ignorance of copyright law. And as we all know, ignorance is not an excuse. Especially among professionals.

    A few UK illustrators that I follow do seem to sell prints/merchandise of Harry Potter (and other tv, films etc), they're illustrated in their own style though and have put their own stamp on the location etc, so does that fall within the parody category? Or is that infringement too?

    The answer to this is not cut and dry. It really depends.
    The best way to offer an opinion on the example you cite is to see the actual work.

    In my opinion and understanding of copyright law here's why:
    If the prints look significantly similar to any of the various editions of Harry Potter published by any of the various publishers around the world then yes, they are an infringement. The copyright to those depictions belong to the illustrators who created them.

    If the prints look significantly similar to the movie versions of Harry Potter created by Warner Bros, then yes they are an infringement. In that case Warner Bros has Trademarked their version of Harry Potter.

    Now, if the prints are uniquely different from all those multiple versions and only rely on the original text written by JK Rowling, then it is NOT a copyright infringement. This is because the copyright to a written description of a character and the copyright to a visual depiction of that same character are two completely separate pieces of intellectual property.

    The downside to Harry Potter is that it has been trademarked. The bar for infringing on a trademark is much lower than the bar for infringing on a copyright.

    But before that makes a whole bunch of people really pissed off -- the other side of trademarks is that they can be lost much more easily if the company does not actively use the trademark. This is as compared to copyright which is automatic and lasts for your life +70 no matter if you are actively using/enforcing your copyright or not.

    What does this mean for your average Harry Potter fan art? -- Because there are so many legally licensed versions saturating the popular culture right now it is highly likely to be deemed either an copyright infringement or a trademark infringement.

    So, if we start from a position that Harry Potter fan art is technically an infringement, then you need to determine if it falls under the Fair Use Defense.

    You mention "parody". A parody exists when an illustrator imitates a serious piece of work for a humorous or satirical effect. But for a successful Fair Use Defense numerous other factors are taken into consideraton.

    I did a quick search and came across this article. It goes into parody specifically, fair use in general and then does on in depth discussion of a rap song/remix that utilized parody as the crux of a fair use defense.

    https://corporate.findlaw.com/intellectual-property/parody-fair-use-or-copyright-infringement.html



  • @davidhohn I don't think I was coming across as ignorant, I was merely repeating what was said in the reply to my previous post, not that I agree with it in any way and I can also see why people may be NAIVE (not ignorant) to think that that means they can go ahead and sell Disney fan art. I don't, and probably never will, get into fan art or sell it because I'm not that interested in it.

    Thank you for your detailed reply to the second part of my question though, I think the few illustrators I was talking about having used the books to inspire their pieces of art rather than using the film 🙂



  • @hannahmccaffery I am so sorry!
    I did not mean to insinuate you are ignorant! I would never purposely insult someone on public boards, and I try quite hard not to do it by accident.

    But despite my best intentions, it can still clearly happen sometimes.

    Your reply merely made me re-read Lee's original post from the point of view of someone who fundamentally believes that Fan Art is "legal". And I was mentally exploring how they might read that information.

    And I'm glad to know I did't put my foot in my mouth on the second part of my reply! But keep in mind, mine is just an opinion. I am not trained in intellectual property law. For information you should actually act on, please consult an attorney.



  • @davidhohn Haha it's okay, sometimes things come across different in text form don't they - plus I'm a sensitive sally and all this copyright stuff confuses me!
    Yes it can happen sometimes, I've definitely seen evidence of it myself from people I know or people on social media who blatantly just sell fan art without a second thought!
    Well you seem to be VERY clued up on the subject and you've definitely provided a lot of useful information, so you've been extremely helpful to us all by telling us everything you know 😃


  • SVS OG

    Hey @Lee-White , I think having a class on SVS for copyright and trademarks would be pretty awesome. Can you guys hire an attorney like you can another artist. At least so we all understand how to deal with our own IPs? I know that if you have serious issues or specific questions hiring your own attorney or using the place @davidhohn would be the best thing to do.



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  • @sigross Hmmm... Interesting...



  • Wondering if this will effect Will Terry selling his prints at conventions? Or is that a silly question?



  • @avfarrar I don't think it's a silly question 🙂 I guess it all depends on whether Marvel is interested only in the book, or if they take a closer look at what Will's selling at conventions and whether they'll care or not. It's gonna be interesting to see what happens!



  • A victory for fan art Tiger Woods loses appeal in "right of publicity" case. QUOTE: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the work was an “informational and creative” form of “expression which is entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment.”



  • Another article about winning this Tiger Woods trademark case Artist wins right to distribute work bearing golfer’s image



  • These powerful people are blocking others from creating art from what they see and are influenced by in pop culture. To me drawing and taking pictures is the same expression as speaking words from my mouth. They are twisting the law to their ends. Laws are malleable and can be viewed from both sides. DISCLAIMER: I'm not a legal expert and not offering legal advice. Seek out a real lawyer if you get a nasty letter through the post or email box Just my opinion after being financially bullied into not taking action in the past.

    This is an important statement for artists to remember:

    Professor Diane Zimmerman, one of the nation’s (USA) experts on free expression and intellectual property law, pleased with the appellate court’s decision, said Woods’ suit is an example of recent efforts by celebrities to “expand the reach” of their rights to control and profit from their images. The brief she authored had argued that “overly protectionistic and unduly broad property claims can thwart the creation of new works and damage important First Amendment values.”



  • It's interesting that I saw this post on the same day that I read another news story about fair use. There has been an ongoing lawsuit about the book "Oh, the Places You'll Boldly Go!" which is a Star Trek themed book that mimics the style of "Oh, the Places You'll Go" and other Dr. Seuss books. Just the other day the judge dismissed the lawsuit and said that the book was a fair use. As has been said in this thread, fair use is complex (the judge wrote 33 pages explaining why she decided it was a fair use).

    The court decision is a good example of how courts decide whether some is a fair use or not. The decision can be found here if you are super interested: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5766629-Seuss.html. The most important points were that the Star Trek book was "transformative" because all the writing and illustrations that were copied from Dr. Seuss were always changed to be Star Trek-centric; and the judge found that the Star Trek book would not likely harm the market for Dr. Seuss books. Those are just two of the four factors in the fair use analysis; the court said that the other two didn't weigh heavily in either direction.

    As far as the Little Heroes book, it seems like it is definitely transformative, since the characters have all been creatively modified. So that would likely weigh in favor of fair use. But the market harm factor could weigh in the other direction if there are already Marvel publications with child versions of their heroes.


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