Copyright and Trademark Law Questions Answered

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Back in 2018, we hosted Mr. Firemark for an inspiring discussion on Copyright and Trademark Law. He answered a ton of questions for us and dispelled a lot of myths. Gordon is coming back to help us wade through the confusion once more. We will put as many questions in front of Gordon as we can and he will share with us as an attorney what the law really is when it comes to copyrights and trademarks.

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Copyright and Trademark Law

Terry: Gordon, let’s start with one that I hear regularly. Someone will see a decorator printing Disney, or DC Comics, or Harley Davidson and say, “You know, that’s copyrighted artwork.” Could you explain to our listeners the difference between copyright and trademark?

Listener questions:
Aaron: If people see copyright violations and wish to report it, is there a central location or do they need to find the licensee info?

Terry: We see this with equipment sales too. A company either has end-of-life with a product or stops selling a product, and says there’s no more support.

Aaron: “How does everyone find if an image used is copyrighted or not? For example, Renaissance Art or famous old masterpieces, are they somehow copyrighted?”

Terry: 

  1. If you buy artwork from someone who claims to have the rights to it do you automatically get the rights because of purchasing the art?
  2. Similarly a listener asked, what if I buy a trademarked image, as sublimation transfers for instance, and the seller infers they are licensed, could I be liable for trademark infringement for selling the image on products?

Aaron:

  1. What action can we actually take in the event someone steals our design…? How do we protect our design? How much will it all cost? Often the thieves rely on the fact people will not take action because of cost so…
  2. What’s the best way to protect our own original artwork?

Terry:

  1. My question. Why do all the local schools get by with using NFL logos for their school logo? I was told by a coach that they have permission to use the Atlanta Falcons bird. I still refuse to do it for them but they just have it done by someone else.
  2. What about school logos in general (especially high school)…can we print apparel, etc. using their logos, whether they are using an NFL logo or one of their own design without permission? If we need permission, do we get it from the school?
  3. How do high schools get away with using college football team logos? Are there repercussions for a decorator using said logo to make apparel for the high school?

Aaron:

  1. I have seen designs that are changed a little to mimic popular copyrighted designs. For example, it might be called Ice Princess and have no facial features. Is it legal to purchase slightly changed designs?
  2. What about parody? We see this all the time too.
  3. What about mashups?

Terry:

  1. How does just about every large company at a convention print out TM or Copyrighted material and show or give it it away? Why don’t they get into trouble? Check out any SGIA, ISA, ISS, NBM, etc show. 
  2. Not my question. But I see it aaaalll the time on other groups “I know it’s a copyright item but it’s for personal use only…”.

Aaron: Are auto logos licensed the same as everything else? For example, I have a couple of antique cars. Would love to make items for sale for car shows.

Terry: If I take a picture of a well-known person or place, can I create something with it as an artist?

Gordon Firemark has practiced media and entertainment law since 1992. He is often referred to as The Podcast Lawyer™, and is himself a podcaster, producing and hosting the Entertainment Law Update podcast (since 2009), and the newer More, Better, Faster podcast which offers insights and advice to creative professionals and businesses who want to achieve more, better, faster. Gordon is the author of the Podcast, Blog & New Media Producer’’s Legal Survival Guide and creator of several online courses for creatives.

His undergraduate degree in radio, television and film and experience in live theatre production informs his thinking about all things legal. In addition to his busy law practice, He teaches Entertainment Law at Columbia College Hollywood, Intellectual Property and Media Law at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and Contract law at Pepperdine Law School.

Find him online at gordonfiremark.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Be sure to check out Digital Entrepreneur’s Legal & Business Toolkit – http://DIYbizlaw.com)

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