Disney Sued For Copyright Infringement

from the but-is-it? dept

A few folks sent over the following story of how Disney is being sued for copyright infringement. Seems a bit ironic, given just how strict Disney has been over the years in enforcing its copyright and being at the forefront of efforts to expand copyright law -- even as it tend to build some of its greatest works by copying works in the public domain. In this case, a design company produced a graphic that consists of drawings of dozens of dogs, each with a little signature under their names:
Disney then introduced a teen fashion line called "D-Signed." However, some noticed that one of the t-shirts had a design quite reminiscent of the original dog artwork.
Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't see where those particular images were directly copied from the original. As fun as it would be to catch Disney in a clear copyright violation, the dogs on the t-shirt don't appear to be the same. And, we're always told that there's an "idea/expression" dichotomy in copyright law, which is supposed to mean that you only protect the specific and defined expression -- not the general idea. So I'm just not sure I see how this is infringing, even if the idea was taken from their poster. Obviously I can understand the creators' frustration, but that hardly means there's a legal claim. Update: On closer inspection, as pointed out in the comments with a handy illustration, it turns out the copying was more direct than we thought.


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    weneedhelp (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:29pm

    Brat kid

    Its like watching a bratty kid get beat for something he did not do. Did he deserve it? Not in that instance, but for many other bratty things he has done in the past.

     

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      Mormolyke (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:59pm

      Re: Brat kid

      Just curious, if I were to show you how nearly all of the pictures on the Disney shirt have nearly exact analogs in the original work, would you say they have a case?

      http://i.imgur.com/oOQaQ.jpg

      I'm confused as to why everyone's saying that Disney doesn't deserve it, or that it's just the concept that was copied and not the drawings, when this is clearly not true. There's no way that many dogs look that similar by coincidence. It's amazing to me that their artists didn't bother to trace different dog faces.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 4:03pm

        Re: Re: Brat kid

        Just curious, if I were to show you how nearly all of the pictures on the Disney shirt have nearly exact analogs in the original work, would you say they have a case?


        If they are only nearly exact, and not actually exact, then no, they shouldn't have a case. Copyright covers the expression, not the idea. If the expression differs, there's no violation.

        But courts have found a gray area in prior cases. I suppose that if the expression is close enough, they might find a sympathetic judge. But since this is against Disney, that seems unlikely.

         

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          Scott Yates (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 5:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: Brat kid

          Agreed, in this case they are ALL different. Even if only in small ways, it seems obvious that they were re-drawn.

          I don't see ANY that are exact copies.

           

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            nasch (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 8:47pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Brat kid

            I don't see ANY that are exact copies.

            This doctrine that only 100% precise copies can be copyright infringement has no basis in US copyright law. You cannot just make a miniscule change to a work and then use it however you want.

             

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          dennis deems (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 6:58am

          Re: Re: Re: Brat kid

          So according to you, I could make a copy of Fantasia, change the order of the scenes, flip the frame 180 degrees and maybe change the color balance, and that's a different expression with no violation.

           

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        Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 2:34am

        Re: Re: Brat kid

        There's no way that many dogs look that similar by coincidence.
        To be fair to Disney (and ****-knows why the hell I should be), the illustrations are of fairly distinctive breeds of dog done in what is essentially a black and white line-art pencil sketch, exactly how different could they look? I make no claims of being an artist, but that style would seem to reduce the image somewhat to key distinctive features so how many ways are there to sketch a chihauhau face for example?

        On the other hand, there have been many more equally silly claims for this sort of thing so if even one of those succeeded, the balance of the universe would suggest that Disney ought to lose their shirt over this. If only the universe worked like that...

         

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:32pm

    The deep pockets aspect comes into play.

    Disney has bucks + lawyers (do I need say avarice?) = lawsuit.

    Nothing to do with copyright as such. No wider significance. I'm ready for your next re-write.

     

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      Ruben, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:47pm

      Re: The deep pockets aspect comes into play.

      I'm gonna make a book of your posts.

      Working title: The taming of a shill.

       

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        Zakida Paul (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:50pm

        Re: Re: The deep pockets aspect comes into play.

        I'm not sure shills can be tamed. They seem go keep going from strength to strength, spouting bigger and better bollocks. If I weren't such a hard ass I would be scared shitless.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: The deep pockets aspect comes into play.

          I haven't read the original Shakespeare play, but don't they usually end in tragedy? I can only imagine that the taming of the shill ends likewise.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 10:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The deep pockets aspect comes into play.

            From the title and the obvious parallel I would think this is more of a comical farce.

             

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        Alana (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 3:12pm

        Re: Re: The deep pockets aspect comes into play.

        Actually, he's more of a self-admitted troll.

         

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        btrussell (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 7:41pm

        Re: Re: The deep pockets aspect comes into play.

        Working title:In to the Black

         

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      Logan2057 (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:16pm

      Re: The deep pockets aspect comes into play.

      Big mouth - no thought- no brains = moronic troll.
      My word, o_o_t_b, can't you do anything but pick on people. You constantly whine and carp at Mike no matter what he does or doesn't write. According to you it's, "All Mike's Fault" and you won't rest till you get a rise out of him. Well, he ain't baked bread so that day will be long coming. I'm sure that like the majority of us Mike is getting more than a little tired of your self-serving, MAFFIA spouting, moronic drivel. Or to put it a bit more succinctly, "CRAWL BACK UNDER THE BRIDGE FROM WHENCE YOU CAME, HOSER!!" You ain't wanted or needed here.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:33pm

    Speculation (magic 8-ball) says that the original company may have 'proposed' an idea to Disney, which was rejected, then suddenly produced without the original companies authorization or any compensation....

    Big companies take, little companies get taken....

    It's a dog eat dog business....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:38pm

    It a derivative work, at least thats what Disney would say if the positions were reversed.

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:40pm

    I find it impossible to have any sympathy for Disney here, considering their past activities.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    Copyright probably won't get them anywhere. If only they'd patented selling dog shirts with little signatures ON THE INTERNET they'd be raking in millions of settlement dollars right now.

     

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    Forest_GS (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    There's at least one that is exactly the same(haven't looked at it long). The dog with large ears pointing out in the middle of the heart is exactly the same as the one in the other image, 'cept its flipped horizontally.

     

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      Forest_GS (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:46pm

      Re:

      Upon zooming in, they aren't exact copies...but it's kinda odd that one dog image has an ear bent in the exact way.

      Its not looking like a solid case, anyways.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:52pm

        Re: Re:

        They're not exact photocopies, but they're definitely the same dogs. I've picked 6 or 7 of the more unique looking dogs in the shirt, and they've all been in the poster. Same type, same pose, identifiably the same. It looks like they were traced over, flipped in some cases, and rearranged.

         

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        jt, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:57pm

        Re: Re:

        I actually see four or five that are almost identical.

         

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        crade (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:55pm

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, at first I thought they were photocopies too, that one with the big bat ears spread out fooled me, but it looks like they are manual copies, not machine ones.

         

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    Mike C. (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    Important to remember

    The deeper point here that gets lost in the lack of merit in this suit is that if the copyright maximalists succeed, this will become a very common occurrence. For every suit the entertainment conglomerates file, they'll be defending a dozen as more and more people subscribe to their version of "copyright". Makes you wonder if they'll go screaming to Congress to get the changes backed out at that point. I doubt it, but you never know.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:36pm

      Re: Important to remember

      If the maximalists have their way, and all books end up scanned, think how much fun the lawyers would have chasing down money for every little quote, and finding every instance of derivative works.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:02pm

    So if I make a dog T-shirt like that and try to sell it, who would sue me? Oh right, Disney...

     

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    Mormolyke (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:04pm

    Things I do when I'm procrastinating...

    Here you go. I spent a while finding the very very similar ones. Some of them have been horizontally flipped, and all of them look like they were drawn by an idiot child, but they are clearly copying http://imgur.com/oOQaQ

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:14pm

      Re: Things I do when I'm procrastinating...

      Just had issues getting to the Images, Well done for a /.!!!

       

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      Atkray (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 3:09pm

      Re: Things I do when I'm procrastinating...

      If the Disney lawyers see that they would have to be idiots not settle.

      This is going to drag on until Modern Dog Design goes bankrupt. Maybe longer.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:12pm

    there most definitely would have been had the positions been reversed and Disney had done the first design

     

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    OldMugwump (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:26pm

    Did they try to settle it out of court?

    I'd like to know if they tried to settle this out of court before filing the lawsuit.

    I don't seen any mention of it on their web page.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:29pm

    OOTB, do us all a favor and do what you threatened to do...that is if you have the balls to live up to your supposed threats of leaving and do so.

    You've had more than enough time to contribute to the community but instead you wanna troll. The community has given you more than enough rope to jump and and actually put some brain power into your objections and all that comes out of your mouth is spittle and slobber. That is why your posts disappear. The few and rare where you have actually contributed to the community have remained up and visible.

    Get a clue troll. Buy one if you have to. I saw a tee shirt the other day asking if you would like to buy a vowel that was appropriate for your condition.

     

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    Wally (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:30pm

    Interesting...

    I guess that for every aggressor, there's a money grubbing gold digger just to ride on the cash cow of another. The RIAA would know all about that. Also, the artwork from Disney looks like concept art for "Lady and The Tramp". As much as I have a love/hate relationship with Disney, this is something you just don't do. Just because you're an underdog doesn't mean you have the right to ride a cash cow through litigation. Karma be DAMNED, nomatter what, big or small, no individual or company should be allowed to claim rights to works it doesn't own.

     

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      Nico, Aug 12th, 2013 @ 11:36pm

      Re: Interesting...

      ...http://mynorthwest.com/646/738676/Small-Seattle-design-firm-takes-on-Disney
      ...they are exact copies...and Mad dog even has the reference pictures they used...can't believe Disney does this kind of shit

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:32pm

    Let's suppose that this suit actually represents a legitimate copyright claim; if it does, remind me never to risk drawing a picture of a dog's head.
    Let's also suppose, when it eventually gets to court, that the judge-turned-art-critic determines that the shirt is infringing and orders Disney to pay damages.

    Then let's realise that the creator of the shirt had to sell her house and continues to risk bankruptcy in order to fight this case.

    Can we please free ourselves from the delusion that copyright (and patents) exists to protect small creators from big, mean corporations?

     

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    crade (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 2:46pm

    Some of those look like they could be photocopied from the original, but it's possible they were just traced or re-drawn by intentionally copying each line from the original as I used to do with comics when I was a kid..

    Pretty blatantly direct copies though, whether they used a photocopier or a hand. The heads are moved around, but each one certainly isn't changed noticably from the originals.

    Even if it's not illegal it's good enough to show Disney is being hypocritical anyway by copying someone else's work without giving them even credit.

     

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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 3:04pm

    Where's Waldo(g)

    The dog with the ears out, just below the centre of the tee shirt, is clearly a direct mirror image of the dog with the ears out one-fifth of the way in from the left and one row up from the bottom in the poster. I can't be bothered looking for the others, but that should be enough to substantiate the claim.

     

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    gorehound (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 3:05pm

    Same kind of behavior that MAFIAA does so my opinion is to Sue Disney for whatever you possibly can.

     

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    Anonymous, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 4:18pm

    Samsung v Apple

    If Apple can argue that Samsung's icons were to round, then this guy can argue that his design has been ripped off.

     

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      Wally (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 4:56pm

      Re: Samsung v Apple

      The agressor asserting claims to age old Disney art. As karma ridden as this is, I can't help but notice that the people making the shirt failed to realize that their product is completly different.

      I'm sure some of you will expect me to "defend Apple" But I'm not going to. The newest litigation against Apple by Samsung alleges a few ridiculous patents, and now in retaliation, Apple filed more ridiculous patent suits against Samsung...next bloody annoying war is scheduled for 2014.

       

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    Kevin, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 7:39pm

    Dogs

    I hate to say it... But the lawsuit has no merit. If you we're to ask me to draw 30 different dogs... they would only look marginally different from each of these. Nothing here is a direct copy or even a unique property. If it was a really obscure design with original concepts... the designers would have a lot more weight in their corner.

     

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    Kevin, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 7:39pm

    Dogs

    I hate to say it... But the lawsuit has no merit. If you we're to ask me to draw 30 different dogs... they would only look marginally different from each of these. Nothing here is a direct copy or even a unique property. If it was a really obscure design with original concepts... the designers would have a lot more weight in their corner.

     

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    Kevin, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 7:39pm

    Dogs

    I hate to say it... But the lawsuit has no merit. If you we're to ask me to draw 30 different dogs... they would only look marginally different from each of these. Nothing here is a direct copy or even a unique property. If it was a really obscure design with original concepts... the designers would have a lot more weight in their corner.

     

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    Kevin, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 7:39pm

    Dogs

    I hate to say it... But the lawsuit has no merit. If you we're to ask me to draw 30 different dogs... they would only look marginally different from each of these. Nothing here is a direct copy or even a unique property. If it was a really obscure design with original concepts... the designers would have a lot more weight in their corner.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Kevin, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 7:39pm

    Dogs

    I hate to say it... But the lawsuit has no merit. If you we're to ask me to draw 30 different dogs... they would only look marginally different from each of these. Nothing here is a direct copy or even a unique property. If it was a really obscure design with original concepts... the designers would have a lot more weight in their corner.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Kevin, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 7:39pm

    Dogs

    I hate to say it... But the lawsuit has no merit. If you we're to ask me to draw 30 different dogs... they would only look marginally different from each of these. Nothing here is a direct copy or even a unique property. If it was a really obscure design with original concepts... the designers would have a lot more weight in their corner.

     

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      nasch (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 8:51pm

      Re: Dogs

      Are you copying your comment over and over as some kind of meta-commentary?

       

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      Wally (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 5:28am

      Re: Dogs

      Every time you hit your web browser's back button after submitting a comment, it gets resubmitted. Also, Google+ has submission issues.

       

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      nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 10:31am

      Re: Dogs

      ˙ɹǝuɹoɔ ɹıǝɥʇ uı ʇɥƃıǝʍ ǝɹoɯ ʇol ɐ ǝʌɐɥ plnoʍ sɹǝuƃısǝp ǝɥʇ ˙˙˙sʇdǝɔuoɔ lɐuıƃıɹo ɥʇıʍ uƃısǝp ǝɹnɔsqo ʎllɐǝɹ ɐ sɐʍ ʇı ɟI ˙ʎʇɹǝdoɹd ǝnbıun ɐ uǝʌǝ ɹo ʎdoɔ ʇɔǝɹıp ɐ sı ǝɹǝɥ ƃuıɥʇoN ˙ǝsǝɥʇ ɟo ɥɔɐǝ ɯoɹɟ ʇuǝɹǝɟɟıp ʎllɐuıƃɹɐɯ ʞool ʎluo plnoʍ ʎǝɥʇ ˙˙˙sƃop ʇuǝɹǝɟɟıp 0Ɛ ʍɐɹp oʇ ǝɯ ʞsɐ oʇ ǝɹ,ǝʍ noʎ ɟI ˙ʇıɹǝɯ ou sɐɥ ʇınsʍɐl ǝɥʇ ʇnq ˙˙˙ʇı ʎɐs oʇ ǝʇɐɥ I

       

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    Manok, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 3:17am

    Why is no-one mentioning they both are violating our publicity right?
    WOOF !!

     

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    JustMe (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 4:16am

    Now now

    Some of the dog images were clearly flipped so they face the other direction. That's transformative, right? Right?
    \sarc
    #DisneySteals
    #woof

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 28th, 2012 @ 10:22am

    Disney hypocrisy.

     

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    Disney, Nov 28th, 2012 @ 10:24am

    It's not copyright infringement when we do it!

    Suck it pirates.

     

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    Locutus, Dec 8th, 2012 @ 9:21pm

    Disney is satan, pure and simple.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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