Movies and TV shows - copyrights and unofficial merchandise

Advice for those new to the concepts of copyright
retrocausality
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Post by retrocausality » Fri Aug 30, 2013 7:22 am

Ah! Ok!

Thanks Andy!

retrocausality
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Post by retrocausality » Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:00 am

Hey guys!

I need a bit of advice, if you don't mind!

We have received a cease-and-desist letter regarding a t-shirt design we do.

The design is a 3-word slogan relating to science, nothing to do with a TV show or movie or anything.

The three words are being warped in a funny way that relates directly to the words in the slogan in a very obvious way.

The company that has sent the cease-and-desist has included a link to a t-shirt that they say has been on their site since 2007, and it is the same 3 words, warped in an almost identical way, but we hadn't seen their design when we made ours.

Now, presumably a 3-word science-based slogan is surely too short to meet the de minimis standard, right?

We actually have 3 designs that use the same kind of funny wordplay with 3 different science-based slogans, all of which have the text warped in different ways that relate directly to the associated slogans.

So, where would we stand on this?

It is a coincidence, but our design does look like theirs.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:07 am

Hi Phil,
I agree that three words would probably be de minimis, and if it's scientific 'fact', again it would not normally qualify for copyright, and finally on the words, is the other company actually the author of the words? Possibly not.
But if the warped version has any artistic element (which seems likely) then it may qualify as an artistic work, much like a logo, and so all the previous remarks fall away, assuming again that the other company is the owner of the copyright in the design. And of course, you need to make sure it isn't a trade mark like these three words.
The fact that you claim to have come to the design independently should be in your favour, but as it's difficult to prove a negative - especially when it comes to unconscious copying - it's not the strongest defence.
You may need to do a cost-benefit analysis on how to proceed.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

retrocausality
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Post by retrocausality » Mon Oct 21, 2013 12:51 pm

AndyJ wrote:Hi Phil,
I agree that three words would probably be de minimis, and if it's scientific 'fact', again it would not normally qualify for copyright, and finally on the words, is the other company actually the author of the words? Possibly not.
But if the warped version has any artistic element (which seems likely) then it may qualify as an artistic work, much like a logo, and so all the previous remarks fall away, assuming again that the other company is the owner of the copyright in the design. And of course, you need to make sure it isn't a trade mark like these three words.
The fact that you claim to have come to the design independently should be in your favour, but as it's difficult to prove a negative - especially when it comes to unconscious copying - it's not the strongest defence.
You may need to do a cost-benefit analysis on how to proceed.
Hi Andy,

I was trying to discuss it without naming the design in question, but I think I probably need to after all...

"Black Holes Suck" is the three word slogan, in plain text with the words "pinched" in the middle so that it looks like they're being sucked into a black hole.

To my mind, it's a pretty obvious slogan, designed in a pretty obvious way.

The other two designs that we do in the same range are "Friction Is A Drag", warped at the bottom to look like the words are being dragged, and "Gravity Gets Me Down", with the last few letters "falling" down the design.

Is there not some sort of "rule of genericness" for this sort of thing?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Mon Oct 21, 2013 3:02 pm

Hi Phil,
Well I see from Google this is a fairly common slogan on tee shirts, but I assume the two under discussion are:
Image and Image
If so then there is certainly a striking similarity, but I'm not sure whether this would really qualify as an artistic work, rather than the use of a font to display text, which I think we can safely say would not qualify for copyright protection, especially given the plethora of other versions, and the ubiquity of the expression in a book title and the title of a song to name but two other uses.
This would be a very weak case if they wanted to take it to litigation, which I assume was mentioned in the cease and desist letter. The cost of bringing an action would be quite high compared to the possible gains they might make if they win, especially if the court were to accept the defence of independent creation in which case no damages would be awarded against your company. The key would seem to me to be whether this is an artistic work or not: on balance I would say it's not.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

retrocausality
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Post by retrocausality » Mon Oct 21, 2013 3:11 pm

Hi Andy,

thanks for the reply.

the one on the right is their version, and ours is this one...

Image



Our other ones in the same range are...


Image


and


Image

retrocausality
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Post by retrocausality » Mon Oct 21, 2013 3:16 pm

Sorry about the size of the images. ^^^

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