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==Artist making MATRIX like art/video - is this breaking copyright? Copyright

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by suntzu, Aug 26, 2016.

  1. suntzu

    suntzu Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    California
    hi,

    I'm creating video and canvas for sale which has a look of movie MATRIX

    digital rain

    i didn't take material from original movie

    background is public domain, katana done by me and quote from Lao Tzu

    Am I breaking copyright law ?

    Below is 30 sec sample - this is for sale plus physical canvas


    Thanks
    Mike
     
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    When it comes to issues that concern arbitrary decisions, you're breaking the law once a court rules that you are - or you aren't. Without any investigation and just gut feeling, I'd find it a difficult case to make that you are in violation of any copyright or trademark associated with the movie "The Matrix." Note that I haven't reviewed any current filings by the owners of "The Matrix" nor anything else. My gut feeling tells me that it would be a very difficult case to make, especially since you seem not to be using any part of the actual visuals from the movie. There is a resemblance but that doesn't mean you've infringed upon copyright. That said, some rights holders with deep pockets will sue in order to defend their creation, even if they know that there is a marginal case. Obviously the only way to get the best opinion is to retain an intellectual property attorney to perform the research.
     
  3. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Respectfully disagree, Mike.

    I'm a devout fan of The Matrix, have all three movies and the documentary.

    OP's use of the cascading green stuff and the word MAITRIX (misspelled) is easily recognized by just about everybody and is an obvious and blatant attempt to capitalize on the movie franchise. :mad:

    Worse, he's posted that video on youtube for the world (and the movie producers) to see.:eek:

    I think he's got trouble coming if he tries to make money off that ad.

    Even with the remote chance that a court might find no infringement, a lawsuit will drive him back into the financial stone age. :D
     
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  4. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    LOL... yes you're *definitely* a *devout* fan (although I did get to see The Animatrix.)

    I was only referring to the overall impression of the video alone, which may steer clear of copyright or trademark law even though it might approach the blurred line. But as I mentioned, I completely agree with you with the real world issue - if it's close enough, don't be surprised if the giant with deep pockets may invite you to duke it out in court. These types of lawsuits are usually prohibitive and only affordable by those who are extremely well financed..

    The title - which I didn't touch upon or see (good catch) as I only viewed the video - is a completely different issue. Combine the title with the image and you're likely to attract attention, create a bona fide question of infringement, and probably see a letter generated along with a decision to make.

    These days almost anything is possible. I thought the jury decision finding "Blurred Lines" infringing upon "Got to Give It Up" to be a major stretch and a chilling decision upon musical creativity. Even many who can't stand Thicke and the very crude video and lyrics believe that the "overall feel" is an non-protectable element (a true "blurred line"). And I think it's comparable here.
     
  5. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    On youtube, just under the video, the OP has this:

    "Mike Cecotka - maitrixvideo2water"

    Making the connection quite obvious to the general public.
     
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  6. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Yep - I saw that after you pointed it out. The similarity of both the words and the art clearly presents a question because of the likelihood of a connection / confusion.
     
  7. suntzu

    suntzu Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hi,
    Thanks for answers
    youtube is unlisted link - not public video - and embeding is disabled
    name of the video/file is internal use only until i get answers

    is changing color to blue will help or idea of Digital Rain is owned by franchise no matter what the color?

    if i give this video for free - no commercial use is this OK?
    mike
     
  8. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    No one can give you the answer you're looking for, mate.
    If you persist, there will be a legal risk.
    Paraphrasing our adjusterjack, a lawsuit will cause you great financial pain, even if you prevail.

    I'd stop, but I'm risk averse.

    You may be more prone to risk taking, no two of us are the same.

    It all boils down to some trademark or license holders are more aggressive at defending their trademarks, than are others. A certain tissue maker, a movie studio/amusement park owner, and a cola bottler are very aggressive in defending their properties.

    Good luck.
     
  9. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    OK, so now you want to go from sticking your foot in the bear trap (guaranteed to tear your leg off) to just poking it with your finger, thinking it might not snap shut and take your arm off.

    Then why do it at all?

    You were obviously trying to sell something, with the something samurai something motif.

    You're obviously a creative guy. Create something unique for yourself that doesn't poach elements of somebody else's creation.

    Heed us well or you may someday be back here sobbing "I'm being sued, what are my rights?"
     
  10. suntzu

    suntzu Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you all - I contacted licencing at Warner with samples
     
  11. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Good move. It would be appreciated by all if you report back with the results.
     
  12. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    The "Fair Use Doctrine" is better viewed as a defense to a copyright infringement action. I say this because there are no absolute safe harbors even though certain actions will likely be presumed to fall under the Fair Use Doctrine. Intellectual property owners may refrain from filing a copyright infringement lawsuit when the costs don't seem worth the effort, such as when there is a small/uncertain likelihood of success and recovery is small from shallow pockets. An activity is deemed "Fair Use" after a court concludes that an activity constitutes Fair Use. And what @adjusterjack alludes to is that you might buy yourself a lawsuit by waking the bear.

    I don't know that the green rain would be something that would raise the alarm, especially it doesn't reach any scale and if it's just artistic impression without a clear profit motive. But don't take what I'm saying as any representation of what will happen or legal advice. It isn't. This is just what I have seen in the past. When the infringement is at least on the side of borderline, they may send out takedown notices and that's the extent of it unless a bona fide issue exists and/or there may be financial consequences. Using the name as the title certainly puts you into question. For example, companies like Disney and sports enterprises (for example, Manchester United) will be extremely vigilant when any of their characters, logos or properties are identified.

    I too would be interested in hearing how they respond.

    Can't say for sure about your chances. But you may not receive permission/licensing and it will likely be more unlikely that you'll receive an absolute clearance that what you're doing is not infringing. The issue regarding providing licensing to those requesting is that the cost-benefit usually isn't worth their time unless the potential revenues are large. There is a cost to investigate the usage, how it might impact the brand, the cost of attorney and other professional review, etc. But you never know and at least you're not buying yourself a lawsuit. Good luck.
     
  13. suntzu

    suntzu Law Topic Starter New Member

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    still waiting - bumped to other department

    this is my limited understanding

    if there is zero commercial activity you can do whatever you want - fan art - with few companies not beeing cool about

    but once i start asking for email address to download free gift - digital rain package with idea that maybe you join my art collectors club and buy in the future - this is where they can come

    selling straight from my website looks like 99% no no

    mike
     
  14. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Negative. This implies you can make copies of copyrighted works and just give them away for free. "Fan art" is usually a derivative work that doesn't cost the company in sales and which may even benefit them. Some car companies (I believe Ford and Shelby) have sued fan forums to recover their names, remove fan photos of cars - you wouldn't believe the extent. They sued under copyright and trademark law for a variety of violations, all of which you may have felt were de minimis and potentially beneficial. Be careful.
     

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