Copyright on Themed Photoshoots?

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MikeHand
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Copyright on Themed Photoshoots?

Post by MikeHand » Fri Sep 11, 2015 5:55 pm

Evening All,

I have trawled the Internet with no exact answer and not much luck about my problem. I am starting a photography company that will work out of a studio taking portraits of families, children, pets, you name it!

Now one of the ideas that I have had is to do themed photoshoots. This can vary from Fairy to Wizard to Sci-fi themes.

One of the main questions I had was, if I were to do a "Star Wars Themed/Inspired" photoshoot. Would this be breaking any form of copyright or trademark? What would I need to change? What could I include? What would I not be allowed to do?

Obviously I would be selling the photographs to the family as they are the ones that are booking the experience and wanting the pictures.

I have seen many companies do "Frozen" themed photoshoots, but not Star Wars. Now as both are owned by Disney, do the same Copyright rules apply?

Thanks in advanced.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Fri Sep 11, 2015 7:38 pm

Hi Mike,
I think the major issue concerns not the theme as such but the sort of costumes you use. And copyright is fairly weak when it comes to protecting the physical appearance of characters - that's not say it can't be used, but under UK copyright law following the Lucasfilm case, a complainant would have a real challenge to show, firstly that clothing was a 'work' capable of being protected by copyright, and secondly that even if it was protected, it formed a substantial part of the original work. Trade mark protection is somewhat different and poses the greater problem here, especially if you intend to use unlicensed costumes.

If you stick to costumes which have been made under licence then ordinarily you would not be infringing the trade marks associated with, say, Star Wars or Frozen etc by photographing you clients in the costumes. However you would need to pay particular attention to how you described such shoots in advertising etc. You need to make sure that a Star Wars etc themed shoot was clearly labelled as not being officially endorsed or authorised by Lucasfilm/Disney and acknowledge their trade marks.

The fact that other photographers are doing Frozen-themed shoots is no guide to whether Disney approve of or condone such things, it could be merely that they may not have found out about them yet. By taking care over the wording of your advertising you will also remain under the radar for longer.
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MikeHand
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Post by MikeHand » Sat Sep 12, 2015 6:29 am

AndyJ,

This is incredibly informative and helpful, so really appreciate you taking your time to reply to my questions.

So basically what it boils down to is that Copyright itself isn't an issue when it comes to the Star Wars costumes being used in a photoshoot. But the main problem is Trademarking. So as long as I use official and licenced costumes and props (Lightsabers), credit the work and show no affiliation with Lucasarts, it should be okay?

Another question that was raised is that if the costumes need to be licenced and official, how do "Cosplayers" get away with attending conventions and having their photo taken for money? I know most will do it for free, but at the same token, I know there are Cosplayers that create their own costumes from scratch (including props) and will have photoshoots that they earn an income from.

Thanks again for your feedback in relation to this matter.

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Post by AndyJ » Sat Sep 12, 2015 8:42 am

Hi Mike,
With copyright infringement normally it doesn't matter if there is a commercial aspect or not, but when it comes to conventions and cosplay, I think the rights owners such as Disney realise it's not sensible to start suing the fans and so they are content to let that sort of thing go on.
However anything which looks like commercial exploitation of their intellectual property will tend to be treated differently. Warner Bros learnt this lesson the hard way some years back with their heavy handed tactics to protect the Harry Potter franchise.
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

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