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Can you legally make and sell sculptures which resemble famous cartoon characters?

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by RoanokeVaGuy, Jul 24, 2012.

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  1. RoanokeVaGuy

    RoanokeVaGuy Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hello,

    I like to create sculptures out of foam, wood, cardboard and such and I wanted to see if I could legally start taking orders for and making ones which resemble famous cartoon characters and sell them. It seems like I would have to get rights to do this, but I wanted to find out what all would be involved with doing this as a side business legally.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    It depends upon whether the famous cartoon characters are no longer protected by copyright. If they are not protected by copyright, you might be free to do what you want.

    Mickey Mouse: Thanks to the late Sonny Bono, the US government has made it a priority to extend copyright as long as possible for the benefit of corporate ownership. For example, the copyright on Disney's Mickey Mouse character was to expire in 1999. But thanks to Sonny, Disney received corporate protection through 2019 via the Sonny Bono Act or the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. There is another interesting question - whether these characters can be trademarked - an intellectual property right which does not expire such as copyright. I won't get into that. Let's talk about licensing.

    From my experience, getting rights legally from companies like Disney and Marvell is not easy. Unless you have enough of a sales volume potential, they may not want to waste time with even speaking to you. Seems harsh but from their perspective it costs them more money to have their business people and lawyers spend time speaking to you for what may amount to a loss or marginal earnings for them.

    Don't let my words stop you from trying - I hope you are successful! You can certainly try to navigate your way to the right person and you can probably find information online. But don't be surprised if you see barriers to entry and possibly up front payments they may expect from you before you've even sold one sculpture.

    Some people do sell these items on an individual basis. Technically it's not kosher from a legal perspective but these companies also can't be bothered to prosecute someone for a couple of items made by request here and there. If the numbers do grow or a sculpture becomes well know, it could attract attention. I'm not telling you what to do, just telling you what the landscape looks like.

    I love the creative element. I wish you great success in your endeavors in craftsmanship. Let us know if you've got any follow up questions.
     

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