[Clipart] Copyright: fictional or real characters to clipart?

chovynz chovynz at gmail.com
Wed Mar 25 01:45:19 PDT 2009

I split this from the Quick Stat Thread as that's a different topic.

On Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 8:22 PM, Nicu Buculei <nicu_gfx at nicubunu.ro> wrote:

> chovynz wrote:
> >
> > Sorry Nicu. However it is important to raise this issue. This precident
> > means we can't have famous characters (Donald Duck, MickeyMouse, Bambi,
> > Darkwing Duck, DragonballZ, James Bond, Starwars, etc) with their
> > EXPRESS PERMISSION. This has always been a bane of Clipart, I feel,
> > however there's nothing to be done about it.
> There are some things to note:
> - the character is not called Darth Vader, is just Darth and his name
> can be changed to Masked Villain or something
> - it is not a depiction of the Star Wars character but a caricature
> - how about this? http://openclipart.org/media/files/rejon/11042
> - but those? http://browse.deviantart.com/?qh=&section=&q=vader

I can't comment on Obama as I dont know US Govt rules on PD and presidential

I'm not an expert on copyright, and I am not a lawyer, however I did study
copyright in University on my Advanced Diploma in Design and Multimedia.
About the other Darth Vader pictures, after reading Lucasfilms copyright
statement I can tell you that unless they got permission to use him, then
they probably are breaking copyright.


I feel that maybe some of my comments are or might be taken the wrong way,
so I'll clarify that now. What I'm doing is being a "devil's advocate." I'm
being hard-nosed about it because, especially in America, I've seen people
get sued over the stupidest little thing. That's one reason why I am so
passionate about "free-as in information" and "Open" projects. These terms
protect everyone, including the author and any end user, from silly sue-age.
All I'm doing now is raising my voice so that my understanding of copyright
is understood, so that persons who I see walking into a landmine, might be
aware of that fact and either dismantle the landmine or avoid it. Once I've
said my bit, once I've delivered my message it's out of my hand's and I wont
lose any sleep over the result. If I didnt say something I would bottle up
inside and always have a question, "could I have improved that person's life
by saying something?" I'm trying to help you be "safe" now, than it blow up
in your's or all of our faces at a later date.


All this being said is my personal viewpoint, mixed with 2+ years of running
my own graphic design business. I like to play legal. It brings some safety,
and as I also like to be lazy, and safe, I figure, to go to extra length to
secure myself at the beginning of a project by being totally legal (and
usually ethical) is better than to finish something, be proud of it, then
find out the original author of the work I copied...excuse me...got
inspiration from... is suing me for more money than I can afford to pay,
then I end up with nothing AND a damaged reputation. My home, New Zealand,
is small, so perhaps that influences me more than most other designers in
terms of copyright. However, it's been drilled into me; "Respect Copyright".
That is why I love CopyLeft. Because with no restrictions you can do so much
more. Who has time to look into the copyright of every single image you use?
I'd much rather be making money.

"You're only as good as your last job." If your last job gets revealed as
copyright theft, that black mark will stay on your record forever.
Especially in word of mouth, and in these day of Internet/Global Community.
It might not reach the national news, but it will effect you, your business,
any people you associate with, and past clients, and possible future clients
and any possible future employers too. A big name *might* be able to pass it
off, get away with it, or plain pay the suing and court fees. I doubt a
Volunteer run project like OCAL would survive if it got stung badly.


Personally, I like the entire Starwars universe and in particular Darth
Vader and couldn't care less if he's been used in films or pictures, used
for who knows what, to what purpose. I'd love to be able to sell Darth Vader
and get some money. But I dont own the copyright. It does not come into the
issue, what I feel about it or what I want to do (or that fact that I love
Nicu's drawing of him and want him to continue being on our site!).

Hard-nose follows:

Darth Vader is a fictional character
George Lucas made him.
George gave over his copyright to Lucasfilm Ltd.
Lucasfilm Ltd owns copyright over Darth Vader
OCAL now have a Darth Comic character (which I love btw!), made by a
contributor to OCAL.
The Darth has it's license in Public Domain.

That means anyone, at anytime, can download Darth and sell him. Including
using him in a derogatory way against Lucasflim, George Lucas or someone
else. Lucasfinds out. At best, they send a C&D and you have to take down the
image. At worst they close OCAL with a lawsuit and the "Chiefs" of OCAL have
a black mark on their reputation.


Am I being paranoid? Perhaps. Do I think LucasFilm would actually sue? No I
dont think so, but if they choose to, we, an open source - voluntarily run
organisation - are not covered legally. Do I think LucasFilm actually care
about one insignificant little cute comic cartoon, hand darwn - not even
traced? Not in that sense, but if they got wind of someone else making money
off it, or defaming, they might. Do I think this could close OCAL. Not
likely, but the possibilty is there. Strange things happen to men when it
involves money.


All this is moot if you gain permission from LucasFilm to make a public
domain comic character, based on Darth Vader. At least then they'll be aware
of it and (hopefully) approve. It's not about what other people are doing on
other websites, its about what WE (OCAL, you and I, and they and them) have
to potential to do. Is there any possibilty of copyright infringment? If
yes, then dont. If no, then full throttle go for it. All my speech boils
down to is, "It's better to be safe than Sorry."

This goes for your Borg, and Stormtrooper character as well. In fact it goes
for any clipart image we have. If there's a hint of legal-hound possibilty
then we should avoid it.

As I said, I'm saying this with passion for OCAL. I can see what it could
be! It's exciting! But this is a issue that needs serious consideration,
because the risk is great. I've said my bit, explained my PoV as best I can,
I'll be quiet now. I'll put my back to the stone and help push this OCAL
boulder into the main public use, the best I can.
Your Sincerly
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