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Using copyrighted characters in advertising...

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by Banners Signs Etc., Nov 8, 2012.

  1. Banners Signs Etc.

    Banners Signs Etc. Active Member

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    On Tuesday we visited a very big (by my standards) sign shop several hours away from us. We came looking at a piece of equipment but learned a lot from their operation.

    The thing that troubled me was the use of well known movie characters on their advertising...(troubled me in the fact that I didn't think we could do that lol) On the front door and window Shrek is contour cut proudly telling people to make the big step and visit their shop.

    Spider man is crawling on the wall etc...they were both on promotional flyers

    So would you think they bought the rights, have a client that did, or they don't care and would rather use it and wait for the letter to peel it off?

    Or is it a grey area?
     
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  2. CanuckSigns

    CanuckSigns Very Active Member

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    I doubt they had the rights, as I'm pretty sure when you get the rights, it's for a certain application, and i doubt shrek guiding you into their shop is one of them
     
  3. Banners Signs Etc.

    Banners Signs Etc. Active Member

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    But is it a case of who cares until they send a cease and desist letter? I mean are they going to try to take your shop or monetary damages for a contour cut character?

    I'm talking legalities not morality and ethics here.
     
  4. Matt-Tastic

    Matt-Tastic Member

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    many of those images could be said to be "fair use copies", similar to the graphics you see on Brands of the world. Most of those graphics are remade to look exactly like the original, but they aren't the original, so it's a gray area. Most of the time, if you're not using Mickey Mouse to front a porn store, they won't care (unless you live in Orlando, nothing Disney goes in there).

    Copyright is meant for 2 purposes: to prevent profiting on another person's work, and to prevent unlicensed use of a character. You're not breaking the first rule, and the second is a grey area, depending on usage.

    Now, if you were selling Donald Duck fatheads, you'd clearly be breaking copyright.
     
  5. genericname

    genericname Active Member

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    Disney once sued a preschool for having crappy, hand painted characters on the walls facing their playground. It's not a "fine until a cease and desist shows up" situation; it's a "Playing with fire, and hoping the offended party isn't out to make an example" situation. Those guys are stupid.
     
  6. Banners Signs Etc.

    Banners Signs Etc. Active Member

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    Well we all know not to f**8 with disney
     
  7. genericname

    genericname Active Member

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    Except that by having Shrek welcoming people inside, it's placing the role of endorsement on their copyrighted character. That is a copyright infringement, and even the worst copyright lawyer could nail someone to the wall over that one.
     
  8. Matt-Tastic

    Matt-Tastic Member

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    Agreed. I wasn't very clear in my previous post. Having known images (movie posters, advertisements, etc) on your walls without change to show your shops abilities is one thing (and commonly accepted), abusing a licensed image or trademark for your own uses without permission is not.
     
  9. Salmoneye

    Salmoneye Very Active Member

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    There is no fair use of Shrek, if you can tell it's him, it's him. My buddy had a print shop 25 years ago in CA, on his late invoices he would use a rubber stamp of Bart Simpson that said in the dialogue bubble "Pay your bill Dude!" It was cute and only got used a few times a week; It landed him in court. It's all fun and games until someone looses a business.
     
  10. synergy_jim

    synergy_jim Very Active Member

    Why risk it?
     
  11. Matt-Tastic

    Matt-Tastic Member

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    excellent point.
     
  12. ucmj22

    ucmj22 Very Active Member

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    Just an FYI, the files on BOTW are not considered fair use. they can not be used for any purposes other than mockup and it expressly states this in the box you have to check each time you download one.

    "The above logo design and the artwork you are about to download is the intellectual property of the copyright and/or trademark holder and is offered to you as a convenience for lawful use with proper permission from the copyright and/or trademark holder only."
     
  13. CS-SignSupply-TT

    CS-SignSupply-TT Very Active Member

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    Dave! What about the Gandi 1224 you went to see for less than $30,000?
     
  14. Banners Signs Etc.

    Banners Signs Etc. Active Member

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    Bought it...transformer, onyx 10, and a vent fan included...hating on my fishing eh...print tested and test printed great! Installing it next Friday. Filling up the dumpster to make room is my priority now.
     
  15. Techman

    Techman Major Contributor

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    Gray Area? Show me a link to something that show this statement is true.

    The test is:
    If a reasonable person could be confused or mistake that for the original.
    There is no percentage of change. There is no such thing as look alike but different etc that will make it safe to use unauthorized art..
     
  16. Matt-Tastic

    Matt-Tastic Member

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    I'm not a lawyer, but "different" is a very soft meaning. Coming from a computer science background, i've worked with programmers who had code rewritten in another language, so the functionality is identical, but since the source was completely different, they lost their case.

    You could make a logo with the same design, and argue that yours has "more points" in the vector, or the DeltaE of the colors was > 5, which is commonly understood as visibly different.

    I'm not saying it's a good idea, but a lot of people do it. There is a law of averages saying that a good portion will get away with it, while a few vocal people will get caught.
     
  17. Techman

    Techman Major Contributor

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    Bullscat..
     
  18. synergy_jim

    synergy_jim Very Active Member

    the only reason people use this stuff is because its recognizable..... case and point...

    So, if being recognizable is the litmus test for violations, you are breaking the law....
     
  19. SignProPlus-Chip

    SignProPlus-Chip Premium Subscriber

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    Seriously,

    Unless you know facts about copyright/Trademark, please do not spread misinformation like this.

    I worked alongside lawyers that specialized in the area for a number of years. I know way more than any non-lawyer should on the matter, and even successfully won a court case in which my intellectual property was infringed upon while representing myself.

    Your quote below, total and utterly false. Trademark also includes something known as "trade dress"...to put it simply if it looks like a duck, nad quacks like a duck, it's a freakin' duck.

    You cannot compare writing computer code to graphic design. Code can be Copyrighted. A program or app may be Patented and the software name could be Trademarked.

    It doesn't matter how to get to the end result of creating an infringing work, raster, vector (no matter how many nodes) etc...the point is the end result, that specific graphic is the same. A graphic has no functionality at all, so it doesn't matter what was used to construct it.

    With a program, it perform a task or function, so it could be patented. And the mean as to how it was constructed can be copyrighted.




     
  20. jhanson

    jhanson Member

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    Put frankly, this is more a case of trademark infringement than copyright infringement. If they were printing Shrek and Spider-Man posters or T-shirts and selling those, it would be copyright. Since they used them in their own advertising (and they aren't actually selling licensed products) it falls under trademark infringement.

    Shrek is a trademarked character; so is Spider-Man. So are all the Disney characters. If you use them for any commercial purposes without written authorization, you are infringing on their trademark. Fair use for trademarks is more limited than copyright (but trademarks are also more limited than copyright) and basically falls into two categories: non-commercial personal use, and nominative or comparative use.
     
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