29th maj, 2009

How to handle copyright as a designer

Jon is running a clothing company and has posted a fantastic piece on his site about the IP trouble you face as a designer.

In the text Jon tells about two examples where he got letters from rightholders because he came to close to move characters. in one case he settled by removing the infringing designs in the other case he had to pay up.

Jon says “I know what you’re thinking…you have an awesome idea for a shirt, but it’s using a well known, copyrighted character.

“Hmm,” you say, “I could probably get away with it, right? I mean, it’s not like [insert major corporation here] own every aspect of the character. Besides, what I’m really doing is a parody and hardly looks like it…yeah, it’ll be ok…right?” and continues “The fact is: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and even quacks like a duck…it’s copyright infringement. That means that the little “personal flair” you add to the design idea isn’t enough to keep you off the radar of any major company protecting their intellectual property rights. Make any excuse you want, but you know what? You’ll have to prove it in court…and do you have enough money to do that? “

So his advice is to stop gambling since you will get caught eventually (and face damages even after the designs are taken off the shelves). Jon uses Wikipedia, licensing.com and IMDB to track down IP owners.

A funny story connected to the duck analogy he makes, is the swedish “Arne And” or case (the swedes get all the tricky IP cases it seems). I am reading the complete works of Arne And at the moment and it includes a description of the legal trouble with Disney. The case involves the cartoon character called Arne And after being published in a swedish magazine the cartoonist recived a letter from Disnet demanding that the character could not be used. In the ensuing legal scuffle the cartoonist Charlie Christensen refused to back down and his comment was to give the infringing character a beak transplant…changing his looks. The original beak returned later on and Charlie later got Disney to accept that Arne is not an infringing character. Anyone having read the series will see that even if there is some visual resemblance the characters are widely different.


Leave a response

Your response: