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

chovynz chovynz at gmail.com
Wed Mar 25 14:26:32 PDT 2009

2009/3/26 John Olsen <johnny_automatic at mac.com>

> On Mar 25, 2009, at 2:18 AM, clipart-request at lists.freedesktop.org wrote:
> From: chovynz <chovynz at gmail.com>
> I can't comment on Obama as I dont know US Govt rules on PD and
> presidential
> figures.
> First, people's own images are not copyright issue ,but privacy issue.
>  Public figures do not have the same rights and thus images of them are
> generally protected
> 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.
> I have never heard of a case of someone being sued straight out and I work
> in a field that blatantly steals images and logos for their own purposes (
> action sports like surf and skate).  The standard procedure is to send a
> cease and desist letter requesting the immediate removal of an image.  Even
> the most rabid copyright protectors like Disney do this.  Nicu's image is a
> Nicu drawing inspired by the Star Wars world.  No one would confuse it with
> the actual Lucasfilm art.  BTW, we have actual Lucas film images here in the
> library - those images were specifically placed in the PD in the USA as
> drawings for Star Wars patented toys.  All images used to support a patent
> claim in the US must be placed in the PD.
> That brings me to the point about "especially in America" and US Govt
> rules.  In the US ANYTHING produced by the government that isn't a security
> issue is the property of the citizens of the US and is thus placed in the
> public domain.  So many of the images here were produced with our tax
> dollars and we Americans can use them as we want.  This is very different
> from countries like Australia where the govt. specifically retains copyright
> on all of its work.
> John Olsen
As I said, I'll I'm doing is raising my voice to an issue that I see, with
the viewpoints and information that I know of. Is it really an issue? That's
not up to me, but I think it is, or might be in the future. Is it my call?
No. I've said my bit, and what I see. if Darth stays up there then that's
fine. If it goes that's also fine with me.

I dont know who's call it is, I dont particularly care :-) I'm happy I said
my bit.

>Nicu's image is a Nicu drawing inspired by the Star Wars world.  No one
would confuse it with the actual Lucasfilm art

But no-one would mistake it for Ronald McDonald either. Even if the name was
changed it still resembles Darth Vader. Black, triangle, lightsaber, gloves,
helmet, gloves, boots, lights (on chest)

What happens when a fan of DragonballZ is really good at drawing and uploads
a picture? Or of Spiderman? There is nothing different to what Nicu did and
what a supergenuis in drawing might do. Anything uploaded to OCAL is placed
in the public domain. Do we draw the line (haha pun!) at "not up to
commissioned standard" drawn. Darth Vader, the character is still

I guess I'm more talking about the ethics of such a picture. This is what I
mean about the "Bane of Clipart" - being unable to upload and use pictures
of the characters that everyone loves. But that's the way Copyright is.

With the OCAL providing PD clipart to anyone for any use, what are we to do?
Get as much clipart art on as possible, even if it breaks copyright, hoping
that no-one notices the copyright infringment, allowing anyone to use it as
they see fit, including making money off the PD copyright-infringing
clipart? Does Ocal want to stay legal? or not? that's basiclaly what it
comes down to.

In my understanding, if Ocal wants to stay legal then we need to avoid
breaking copyright, while at the same time providing PD images that dont
break copyright to the public. It doesn't matter who draws famous fictional
protected characters, whether it be Nicu, me, or some 14 year old ghetto kid
with amazing drawing talent and Net access; you are'nt allowed according to
various copyright statement to make an image that has the potential to make
money off;  (LucasFilm Ltd copyright statement about Darth Vader
specifically). My raising this concern is not to disparage Nicu or anyone
else at OCAL, but it is to raise discussion. So far, no reply has satisfied
the "It's not legal" challenge. If it's not legal, OCAL is not safe.

This is not an issue that can be solved on certain business practices, or
different country copyright legal states. It can be more informed by a
copyright lawyer. It will be decided by OCAL's directors/admins. But I would
like to understand what OCAL's policy on this kind of thing is. Do we accept
any person's drawing of famous fictional characters, no matter the quality -
or potential for trouble? Or do we reject only the "better drawn ones"? Do
we make a distinction between hand-drawn or scanned? What are the limits to
Clipart? What can be drawn freehand, to what level can it be considered
Public Domain if the original character is copy protected?

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