Spotlight On: Artistic Freedom vs Copyright Infringement?

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From time to time we like to post important Vinylmation news straight from the source. Custom artists read this, it’s very useful to know.

“First let me introduce myself, my name is Josh Edwards a.k.a. Crazy4Vinyls
and I have been making custom vinylmations for over a year now.  I’m not
sure how many I have created since I first started but what happened to
me recently took me by surprise.  I recently finished a custom 12 piece
Simpsons set that I created for a couple of reasons.  The first was my
love of the show and second I was inspired by a recent blue sky article
on Vinylmation Kingdom. After I finished the set I listed most of the
customs on ebay and thought nothing of it.   A few days went by and I
went to check on the listings and discovered that all of them were
removed except for one.  I saw in my messages that ebay was contacted by
20th Century Fox.  This was considered a copyright infringement.  I am
not here to argue what they did was wrong because Fox does own the show
and have the right to have the items removed. I was surprised because I
have created numerous non-disney customs but this was the first time
I’ve had items removed.

So the purpose of this
article is to let other artists out there be aware that these kinds of
things could happen as you create your next work of (non-disney) art!
Paint On!
Josh”Let us know if you’ve ever had problems selling your customs, we’d love to start a conversation about this.

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About the author

Nick LoCicero

Nick LoCicero has almost 20 years experience in the media industry. He has worked on numerous Disney related media projects, most know at WDWNT for WDW News Tonight. He has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1982. After moving to Orlando in the late 90's he became a passholder, developed a fascination with the history of the vacation kingdom and has spent way too much money on park merchandise.

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  • I imagine that even creating DISNEY based customs on Vinylmation is technically Copyright infringement. While Disney is aware of it, and apparently letting it happen, it’s still infringement.

    More importantly though, is WHY this company cares about a few figures on eBay. One might think they are being greedy or just evil, but the truth is that there have been MANY cases in the past where the courts have ruled that but KNOWINGLY not claiming your copyright against some people using it means you can no longer claim your copyright against ANYONE using it.

    That means if they don’t fight even the smallest of infringements, if something larger comes up, the courts may rule that because they let one slide, they have given permission to all others to use their copywritten materials.

    In this case, even though there are NO Simpson Vinylmation, one might argue that the ability to PURCHASE such a collectible might infringe upon KidRobots ability to sell their Simpson characters. This can lead to all SORTS of issues; kidrobot might claim that the quality of this work is lesser and thus puts their collectibles in a bad light and thus they don’t want to hold up their end of the agreement to use the likeness. Furthermore Fox might claim that these characters are put into a light that they don’t agree with; being on a Mickey Mouse mold might indicate (to someone) that there is some commentary there regarding the characters and their relationship with Disney. (FOX and The Simpsons have been known to ridicule Disney)

    A way around copyrights is PARODY; A parody is an imitative work created to mock, comment on or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of satiric or ironic imitation.

    So, in some ways instead of making straight out regular figures, if they create figures that made FUN of The Simpsons, or even put them mashed up with Disney characters, they might consider that parody… but it’s a fine line.

    In short any time you are using characters that YOU didn’t come up with, you’re infringing on someone elses copyright. Whether they find out, or even care, is up to that company.

  • Technically creating and selling any copyrighted characters on Vinylmation is illegal. Disney lets it slide I suppose because it’s small potatoes and they’re aware people are probably going to do something Disney on it. But it IS illegal.

  • It makes me wonder if it was due to the Simpson vinyl figures sold by the Kidrobot production line. I know that they have a Simpsons vinyl-like series that is very popular, and I’ve seen in Barnes and Noble stores. It could just be due to the fact that they are doing well with this and don’t want others to think that it’s copying that line… although I think yours are MUCH better looking.

  • All good points! The only thing that took me by surprise with this is that every custom vinylmation is an infringement on copyrighted characters/movies. I think Disney does look the other way because Disney is the one that has created CYO so one would think they would want people to create these. I know I have seen so many other non-disney characters created as customs: Marvel, D.C., and other cartoon characters like Flintstones, Smurfs and many other 80’s cartoons. So I am left wondering if this was removed because Simpsons is a current, popular t.v. series or e-bay was tipped off by someone to remove them?

  • Keep in mind it’s only the selling of Disney properties without permission that makes it illegal. Not simply creating them.

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