Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bizz Buzz - First Sale Doctrine and Copyright Infringement

This is not definitive information, just a lively conversation of what you might consider in the subject of copyright laws.


What with all the Buzz lately about SOPA and the possibly of sites getting shut down in the event of any mention of any copyrighted materials. I thought it would be good to have a discussion about the harm it potentially could have. I do agree that someone shouldn't profit from the sale of another's copyrighted material... to a point. (I'll explain in a bit).


 I do not think, however, that a theoretical discussion of say, a Disney Movie, or Dr Seuss' impact on society, or even an analysis of a piece of music or art, with examples, would be copyright infringement. This is how the law is written and there has been created a thin line between freedom of speech and copyright infringement.


In receiving a comment on one of my Bizz Buzz posts - Handling Buyers Requests, there was an unrelated comment about My Star Wars Apron as copyright infringement of the Entire Lucasfilm industry and that I should "thank my lucky stars" that George doesn't sue me. Well the very mention of the Star Wars franchise could get the blog shut down under SOPA.


I'd like to explain to you exactly why George Lucas wouldn't have a leg to stand on in court. It's called the First Sale Doctrine, and I will explain it shortly. This pertains to US copyright laws only.


I will, however, mention that may people do infringe on the Star Wars Franchise, from most of the over 5000 items listed on Etsy to the yodabot on twitter. A copyright in most cases lasts 70 years after the author's death. If you are copying the copyrighted name, image, logo created by someone else, you are infringing. There are 2 exceptions that I am aware of. And both are tricky in a court of law.


The first exception to copyright is parody. I am not going into this, but you are permitted by law to make a parody of copyrighted or licensed material. That's how shows like Saturday Night Live can do it and not get sued. Generally things like that are considered good publicity anyhow. Like I said, tricky, because some artwork could be considered parody too. But don't try to make a parody of Dr Suess or dare I use the word TWILIGHT!


Now to First Sale Doctrine


There is a nice little explanation of some DIY and Copyright laws on the "What the Craft" Blog.


Do not confuse First Sale Doctrine with Fair Use, which is the use of a trademark or copyrighted material for educational, news reporting and parody, but not for profit. 


Basically, when you buy something, you are the owner and can do whatever you want with it. You can take a Star Wars bed sheet and resell it on eBay, you can buy it again and cut it up and make Star Wars bags, hats, t-shirts, or even Aprons, and use the name Star Wars to resell them. You can even buy licensed Mickey Mouse charms, or Hello Kitty charms, put them on bracelets and perfectly legally sell them. You cannot take the charm, or a Lego and make a mold for soap or resin. That is not legal. You can't take the fabric and scan it in your computer and print the pattern on fabric. 


You see, I told you it was a thin line. For those of you who think My aprons are copyright infringement, how do you think that SOPA law will affect you, when you use your Robert Kaufman fabrics, or jewelry with your Herkimer Diamonds? And all those members of Congress that said they need a nerd to understand what SOPA meant? Well I think the makers of "Revenge of the Nerds" might have something to say about that.


And does anyone remember who wrote the Disney Classics, like The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Anderson), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Victor Hugo), and Snow White (Brothers Grimm)? Even Micky Mouse wasn't Walt Disney's sole creation. I could go on, but you know, Disney is great at defending their rights to licensed works created by deceased authors. I've also found other examples of Disney Studio Plagiarism: Finding Nemo and The Lion King


So what do you think? I don't want anyone to steal my designs (although I have) I've had a few of my original designs stolen when I was designing lighting. But I don't mind if someone pins my work or blogs about it. Where do we draw the line?

3 comments:

Jane Skoch said...

This is such an interesting topic. I've read lots and still find it confusing. But I agree with the First Sale Doctrine. I like to make things out of old t shirts and sweatshirts. However, I'm scared to put the items on Etsy if they have a college or NFL franchise.

akaCINDERS said...

You are well within your rights to use the T-shirts, but it can be a pain to get the organization to yield, and Etsy is not supportive.

akaCINDERS said...

I you are using another person's licensed image, it is theft. The same way it would be if someone used your images to steal and sell your product. I know it's hard to get the traffic you need to sell, but without upcycling licensed materials, you would not have a legal foot to stand on.

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