Disney Sending Out DMCA Notices Over Pictures Fans Took Of Their Legally Purchased Star Wars Toy

from the the-dark-side dept

We see abuse in the way some companies and people use the DMCA takedown process all the time. Those stories typically range from anywhere between mildly frustrating to truly infuriating. But to really abuse the DMCA process in the most heartless, idiotic, disingenuous and fan-hating manner, we of course must bow before the masters over at Disney.

All of this started not that long ago, in a Walmart not particularly far away, when someone with a Facebook Star Wars fan group walked into a store and legally purchased a Star Wars figurine and then uploaded a photo of it to the Facebook group. Turns out the figurine contains a sort of spoiler within it or something. As such, plenty of other websites, such as Star Wars Unity, linked to it, embedded the photo of the figure, and discussed its implications. You know, like Star Wars fans do on all kinds of sites all the time. Well, that’s when the DMCA notices began rolling in and the images started coming down.

This morning I woke up to numerous DMCA takedown notices on the @starwarsunity Twitter account, the Facebook account, the Google+ Page, and my personal Twitter for posting the image of an action figure that was legally purchased at Walmart. My webhost also received a takedown email from them with a threat of a lawsuit of the image wasn’t removed. I of course removed the image because I can’t afford to be sued by a toy company who likes to bully Star Wars fans.

The exact wording of the “infringement” is:

“Description of infringement: A screen shot of an unreleased figurine for Star Wars: Force Awakens”

Except, of course, the figurine wasn’t “unreleased,” it was very much released at a Walmart where it was legally purchased. If the Walmart made a mistake in putting it out on the shelves too early, that doesn’t suddenly make it copyright infringement for someone who bought it in good faith to take a picture of it. And, taking a step back, even if the figurine had not been released by the Walmart, how is taking a picture of it copyright infringement? It isn’t, by any sane reading of copyright law. Because it was a picture of a Star Wars toy made by Hasbro, most people logically assumed the takedowns were coming from the toy company.

This wasn’t a figure that was stolen off the back of a truck or stolen out from behind closed doors at Hasbro. It was legally purchased in a store by a fan and they posted a picture of their purchase on the internet. But because Hasbro is terrified of pissing off Disney and losing the Star Wars license early, they’re threatening and bullying fans online with legal action for sharing pictures of their purchases. Due to this I urge all Star Wars fans to avoid Hasbro product and not purchase any of their Star Wars releases. Until Hasbro grows a brain and stops bullying fans online, they do not deserve any of our money.

Except it doesn’t appear that this was Hasbro at all. Turns out the DMCA notices are coming from Irdeto, an anti-piracy outfit we’ve discussed before, and are being sent on behalf of Lucasfilm, which is, of course, Disney. And those DMCA notices are going out not only to the original uploader of the picture, but even to those using the picture in a discussion or news capacity, and even those retweeting the picture.

So, let’s recap. Hasbro made a toy that was released by a Walmart and bought legally by a fan, who uploaded a photo of the toy. Disney/Lucasfilm, which does not have a copyright on that photo, is having a third party, Irdeto, send out DMCA notices for the uploading of a picture, or a retweeting/reposting of the picture, which is not copyright infringement. And this gross abuse of the DMCA process is being done simply to stifle the speech of Star Wars fans and save them from a spoiler that apparently is coming from the depiction of this toy.

If that isn’t the kind of DMCA abuse that results in some kind of punishment, nothing is.

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Companies: disney, hasbro, irdeto, lucasfilm, walmart

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Comments on “Disney Sending Out DMCA Notices Over Pictures Fans Took Of Their Legally Purchased Star Wars Toy”

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73 Comments
David says:

DMCA abuse that results in some kind of punishment?

If that isn’t the kind of DMCA abuse that results in some kind of punishment, nothing is.

Uh, since when is there a punishment for DMCA abuse, let alone for Disney? I mean, sure it’s in the letter of the law. But that’s like suing a king over rape of a commoner based on common law. In the Middle Ages.

Yes, those are the words of the law. But you cannot interpret them like that in court. Not against Disney sued by some peon.

That’s just against the natural order of the classes.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: DMCA abuse that results in some kind of punishment?

I think that was just a rhetorical way of saying that virtually nothing is abuse resulting in punishment.

Yes, there was rhetoric in there, but I think there’s more literal truth than rhetoric:

Yes, those are the words of the law. But you cannot interpret them like that in court. Not against Disney sued by some peon.

The MafiAA have been beating the crap out of everyone (see WordPress’s Rogue’s Gallery for instance, or what Google has to put up with) in their witch hunting attempts to protect their Imaginary Property. Courts so far have cared very little about their excesses. They appear so far to just wave them away with “boys will be boys” and “good faith exception”, because copyright. Bad DMCA takedowns are perjury, but you wouldn’t know that by watching court decisions.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Even if they did

No one will be arrested.

No fine for DMCA abuse will be large enough to not be considered a ‘cost of doing business’.

No prosecutor will put their re-election in jeopardy.

No CEO will be willing to take the market hit that doing battle with Disney will cost.

Any attempt to flood the Interwebs with millions of images at a rate far greater than any bot can issue takedowns, will be met with those takedowns inevitably arriving and ISP’s will dirty their underwear in the process of tripping over each other to implement those takedowns.

Theater goers will be asked if they have been to Walmart recently, and will be denied entrance for yes responses (them told to come back in a few months after all the spoilers have been spoiled).

Man, Disney sure buys good laws.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Even if they did

Exactly so, and that’s why companies continue to employ other companies with laughable accuracy to do their takedown requests, because all that matters is volume, not accuracy.

Say you’ve got two companies. Company A sends out 100 requests, and every last one of them is legitimate, but those requests cost $1,000 total. Company B on the other hand sends out 200 requests, but only 100 of them are accurate, however they only charge $500 for their services.

Take a wild guess which one most companies will hire.

Given there’s no penalty whatsoever for bogus claims, it makes perfect sense that if you’re looking to hire someone to send out DMCA claims on your behalf you’re going to go with the cheapest option, because it doesn’t matter how accurate they are, all that matters is sending out the most claims for the least amount of money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nice example of the Streisand effect at work. I’d largely avoided all news of the next Star Wars movie. Partly not being that excited about it, and partly a desire to avoid spoilers. However reading that DMCA takedowns were being issued to censor pictures of a Star Wars toy due to it containing spoilers made me curious enough to spend the five or so minutes needed to seek out the pictures – spoilers be damned – just to see what the fuck had their panties in such a twist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

…But why would Disney have a claim to the copyright on a figurine that Hasbro produced?…

Hasbro will have a license from Lucasfilm/Disney to even produce the figurine; otherwise that would be a clear copyright issue. The license agreement will include provisions for copyright enforcement; usually such agreements puts the enforcement responsibility with the copyright owner, Lucasfilm/Disney in this case. Lucasfilm/Disney would have to assign legal rights to Hasbro for any copyright enforcement as part of the licensing agreement or else any claim by Hasbro would have no legal standing.

AJ says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Most picture have clothing in them, I don’t see clothing manufactures going after people taking pictures.

Most pictures have back drops, aside from gov restricted areas, I don’t see land owners going after people.

The list goes on. How can they possibly have any standing at all? If they do, can in turn anyone with a picture of anything that they didn’t manufacture get sued?

David says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Most picture have clothing in them, I don’t see clothing manufactures going after people taking pictures.

Most pictures have back drops, aside from gov restricted areas, I don’t see land owners going after people.

You are not looking close enough. For example, you need to license images of nighttime Paris with the company responsible for the Eiffel Tower lighting.

I’m not bullshitting you. And i’m pretty sure you’ll find the same with branded clothes.

The list goes on. How can they possibly have any standing at all? If they do, can in turn anyone with a picture of anything that they didn’t manufacture get sued?

Even if you show a picture of something entirely manufactured by yourself, you’ll get sued for child porn.

Give up. You are owned.

Socrates says:

Re: Re: Re: The actual DMCA headline

Anonymous Coward: Supposedly the image on the card behind the figurine is what they’re claiming as infringement…

Anonymous Coward: Shh! You’ll spoil another brainless rant with facts.

“Description of infringement: A screen shot of an unreleased figurine for Star Wars: Force Awakens”.
It seams Hollywood “facts” is like Hollywood “accounting”, somewhat disconnected from reality.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They might be, but that flies in the face of the similar claims being made against people in other cases where the subject is public domain but the photographer claims their copyright status trumps that of the subject. They can’t have it both ways.

That’s part of why this stuff desperately needs to be fixed, especially since it’s the same organisations involved on both sides on many occasions.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“If it’s illegal to snap a picture of a Disney movie screen, then why would it not be equally illegal to snap a picture of a Disney toy?”

Presumably, by buying a ticket you’re agreeing to defacto rules with the venue, which likely includes no photography. it may not be on the ticket, but there’s usually some blurb on the website. You’re a captive audience at the time in a place where this can be enforced.

But, to the best of my knowledge, no such licences exist when buying a toy. In fact, can you imagine the mess if it did? People could be sued for having toys in the same photos as their kids, eBay could be attacked because people take photos of the product they’re selling, etc. it’s not unlikely given the current idiot mindset, but there’s a limit.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That depends on the licencing involved. You’d likely still be infringing by taking a photo of a pirate or unreleased copy, if you’re an employee of the cinema you’d be bound by your employment contract and if you’re a guest that would probably count as a free ticket under the same T&Cs. there’s always going to be a clause that “protects” them at your expense.

Hey, it’s dumb but I don’t make the rules, only try to interpret the broken mindset behind them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Presumably so, although I’d like to know under which circumstances you would have gained entrance to the screening without buying a ticket, being gifted a ticket or being an employee of the theatre. If you’re an employee of the studio or the original copyright holder, you can’t violate the licence because you’re authorised, but other than that I can’t think of many exception.

Even so, you’d still be breaking some kind of licence the moment you shared whatever photo you took, unless you’re an authorised party to the original copyright. Even if you managed to take it without violating such a licence.

Anyway, the specifics are a little pointless at the juncture. It was asked why it would be illegal to take a photo of a screen but not a toy, and that’s the answer no matter how deep you want to go to find a specific rare exception.

Nate (profile) says:

The same thing apparently happened a couple weeks ago with a Star Wars kid’s book which was shipped to a bookstore early and then bought by an employee. He posted images to Imgur which were later removed.

The guy was too intimidated by Disney’s legal threats to talk about it, but I think from the way the images were pulled from Imgur suggests the use of bogus DMCA notices.

Ryunosuke says:

To the Movie Studio/Toy Studio execs (Hasbro)

You REALLY REALLY need to curb who you source your copyright enforcement to. This is making YOU look bad, thus it’s gonna affect YOUR bottom line when YOU are pissing on all the fans, even though you aren’t.

As a side note, copyright SERIOUSLY needs looked at when the 1st amendment is being pissed on to such an extent.

Ryunosuke says:

Re: a side note that just occured to me

TO all the lawyers (particularly constitutional lawyers) Could the DMCA be construed as a 1st amendment violation? That whole bit about “The govt shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech..” bit. The reason I ask, is that the DMCA is a govt law, and it IS abridging our freedom of speech”.

David says:

Re: Re: a side note that just occured to me

You can make your own speech without using third-party content. That’s the underpinning of copyright itself and the DMCA does not touch it. It’s just an enforcement mechanism. So I don’t see the DMCA being contrary to the 1st Amendment. The current execution of the DMCA paints quite a different picture.

That means that the DMCA and DoJ are lousy at doing their respective purported jobs. Lousy job performance is not illegal, but both should get a performance review, a serious warning, and get fired if they don’t improve.

That this doesn’t happen reeks of intent.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: a side note that just occured to me

“You can make your own speech without using third-party content”

Define “third party content”. Define “speech”. Then, you can have fun defining all sorts of legitimate speech where third party content is desirable or even necessary to use in many situations. That’s the reason for fair use and other protections that allow limited use of third party content without prior specified consent.

“So I don’t see the DMCA being contrary to the 1st Amendment. The current execution of the DMCA paints quite a different picture.”

Well, here’s the problem – the DMCA as it stands allows, or even encourages, the bad execution. So, in its current form, it is indeed contrary to the spirit of free speech.

“That this doesn’t happen reeks of intent.”

Indeed. The DMCA contains clauses that allow for punishment in the case of abuse. This is rarely, if ever, applied. Even when innocent people have their free speech rights violated, which is why it’s regularly abused. This is either through negligence or intent, or possibly both.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 a side note that just occured to me

Drive-in movie theaters are indeed rare these days, but considering that their giant screens are often visible to the public, and the movie’s audio is transmitted over AM/FM radio, it would not be hard for a bystander to record a film this way. But the fact that a hollywood film was recorded by someone from a public road or sidewalk (or perhaps even their own bedroom window) does not necessarily make the sharing of that recording over the internet any less illegal.

In much the same way, people who have a satellite dish in their backyard and watch pay-channels for free are breaking the law, despite that they’re doing it completely within their own property, and for personal use only. Fortunately, such conduct in most any country outside the USA is perfectly legal.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: a side note that just occured to me

TO all the lawyers (particularly constitutional lawyers) Could the DMCA be construed as a 1st amendment violation? That whole bit about “The govt shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech..” bit. The reason I ask, is that the DMCA is a govt law, and it IS abridging our freedom of speech”.

That argument has been made in an academic setting:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1577785

I do not believe it’s ever been tested.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: a side note that just occured to me

Could the DMCA be construed as a 1st amendment violation? That whole bit about “The govt shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech..” bit.

That argument could be used for death threats, fraud, perjury, etc. too—banning those things is a restriction on speech, and unlike almost all other countries, the USA has no exception for “reasonable” restrictions. The problem with using this argument for copyright, though, is that copyright is explicitly allowed by the constitution. So instead of declaring it a straightforward violation the court will have to balance these constitutional provisions.

Loki says:

“It isn’t, by any sane reading of copyright law.”

There is no longer such a thing as a sane reading of copyright law.

Copyright has become little more than a cult now, and like most cults the adherents of whatever philosophy or ideological belief a cult represents cannot be dealt with in a rational or reasonable manners in regards to those beliefs.

Nomad of Norad says:

Thing is...

Thing is… it isn’t going to remain like this forever. People are getting fed up with this sort of abuse of copyright law, with the giant corporations getting away scott free with trampling all over common people’s legally provided rights. Right now, they get away with it because of corruption at the top in our government… but there is reform coming, driven by grass roots organizations like Wolf PAC and Represent.Us, and it is only a matter of time before the tide turns and these sorts of shenanigans wind up with people in deep trouble, possibly even in jail, over big corporations’ abuse of copyright law. One outcome of this I’d like to see is that once a wrongful DMCA takedown such as this one is discovered, that the content becomes legally protected against ANY further action on the part of the party issuing the takedown request. That is to say, the material would now be EXEMPT from any request that it be pulled down, and if the party issuing the takedown persists it might actually result in JAIL TIME.

Locutus (profile) says:

Whaddaya expect?

What will it take for the masses to realize that Disney is nothing but a bunch of abusive, angry Nazi bastards? I never fail to marvel (pun intended) at how many Amerikans bow down to worship everything Disney, all the while pouring buckets of dollars down the Maus’ throat with great glee. Hell, there’s even a dating site now, for Disney disciples! And on the inner-business side, just ask former longtime, productive employees of ABC and Marvel what it was like to suddenly become “cast members”, informed by stiff-white-shirted corporate 22 year old boys that they were now considered on the same level as those picking up cigarette butts at Disneyland for $8 an hour. Disney truly embodies everything that is wrong with capitalism.

JonC (profile) says:

Here’s my suggested punishment:

No more copyrights for anyone ever. All the existing copyrights: null and void retroactive to the beginning of time. If it exists it’s public domain.

Disney (and all the other fear mongers) can feel free to shout about the end of creativity and how they’re going to shut down and go out of business. If that actually happens, they will be replaced.

Copyright is not being used for its legitimate purpose, so let’s get rid of it and see what happens. It really can’t be worse that what we currently have.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“After reading this there is no way I will pay to see the upcoming Star Wars movie. if the movie is good then I will wait until it comes out on DVD”

A decade ago, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith was available on Bittorrent even before it’s first showing in theaters. Those kind of surprise pre-release leaks are much rarer these days, however.

StreisandEffect says:

From the Internet Archive

Star Wars Action News added 2 new photos.
2 hrs ·

Have we known this figure was coming? I just found her at Walmart – no other new figures… Justin

Star Wars Action News’s photo.
Facebook.com

Star Wars Action News’s photo.
Facebook.com

https://web.archive.org/web/20151208214034/https://www.facebook.com/SWActionNews/posts/10153388820497153
Update: Disney Threatening Fans With Lawsuits for Legally Buying Star Wars Figures

December 11, 2015

UPDATE 2:

Our pals over at Yakface determined the origin of these takedowns is Disney/Lucasfilm and not Hasbro.
http://yakfaceforums.com/main/2015/12/09/disney-lucasfilm-threatens-legal-action-over-rey-figure-leak/
UPDATE:

SWAN (who originate the image) has had their Facebook hit with a DMCA takedown:

“(NOTE: These pictures were removed from the post. Facebook notified us they deleted the photos after someone reported them for copyright infringement.
Those photos have gone viral–they’re out there. But they aren’t here. And we will not be posting them again as we consider Hasbro a valuable partner in our coverage of Star Wars toys. –Arnie )”

I also posted a takedown a Twitter user received here.

Yesterday Star Wars Action News on Facebook went into their local Walmart and legally purchased a new Star Wars figure featuring Rey in her Resistance Base outfit. The image is still up on Facebook and you can view it right here.

This morning I woke up to numerous DMCA takedown notices on the @starwarsunity Twitter account, the Facebook account, the Google+ Page, and my personal Twitter for posting the image of an action figure that was legally purchased at Walmart. My webhost also received a takedown email from them with a threat of a lawsuit of the image wasn’t removed. I of course removed the image because I can’t afford to be sued by a toy company who likes to bully Star Wars fans.

The exact wording of the “infringement” is:

“Description of infringement: A screen shot of an unreleased figurine for Star Wars: Force Awakens”

It’s not unreleased if you can walk into Walmart and buy the damn toy!

This wasn’t a figure that was stolen off the back of a truck or stolen out from behind closed doors at Hasbro. It was legally purchased in a store by a fan and they posted a picture of their purchase on the internet. But because Hasbro is terrified of pissing off Disney and losing the Star Wars license early, they’re threatening and bullying fans online with legal action for sharing pictures of their purchases.

Due to this I urge all Star Wars fans to avoid Hasbro product and not purchase any of their Star Wars releases. Until Hasbro grows a brain and stops bullying fans online, they do not deserve any of our money.
https://web.archive.org/web/20151211125540/http://starwarsunity.net/2015/12/hasbro-threatening-fans-with-lawsuits-for-buying-star-wars-figures/

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Is It a Copyright Violation?

Well, it is a picture of a p[resumably licensed toy. We need look no farther than Ringgold v. Black Entertainment Television, Inc., 126 F.3d 70 (US 2d Cir., 1997) to think there may be infringement.

Not what is claimed in the bogus DMCA notices, but still there may be infringement. The fact that the above-cited case is a plausible reading of the law does suggest that the law, or the courts interpreting it, or both, have suffered from some severe brain damage.

Such a reading of copyright law does warn us about all those pictures of items for sale on various web sites. If that were the only problem, we might hand-wave it. You can eliminate the various internet classified sale sites and much of life would continue.

But if we consider the right to publicly display a work, it does not stop at classified advertising sites. That star wars fan could get tired of the toy. If he puts it on a table in front of his house as part of a yard sale, he may be publicly displaying it, contrary to the form of 17 U.S.C. 106(5). Such public display is for monetary gain, which will weigh against fair use.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Is It a Copyright Violation?

Because it’s not ‘your’ poster/toy of course. All you bought were a limited set of rights that allow you to hang it up in a private setting(hanging it where others can see it is considered a public performance, and will require additional payments). If you desire to do anything else with it, it’s up to you to contact the relevant parties and work out an agreement with them regarding your desired actions, unless you feel like breaking the law by displaying and/or using it in an unauthorized manner.

/poe

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Is It a Copyright Violation?

I must have missed the EULA on the package then. Silly me.

Even if I was to accept what you said as non-poe (which I’m sure is exactly how Disney and crazy-poster-lady actually think), my counter-argument would be that in the absence of a EULA, my purchase of the poster/toy granted me an implied license to do stuff like hang the poster in public, post a photo of the toy, make a video of the toy engaging in lewd activity in front of the poster, etc….

Radu (profile) says:

Star Wars figurines display in public

I own a collection of 200 pieces consisting in figurines and vehicles from Star Wars Universe. They range from 1980 up to 2016 and are made by various companies. My question is it will be legal to have a small public exibit (only ~ 50 pieces at a time)? The pieces will be NOT for sale and I want to display them at some events and fares.

Any feedback is appreciated.

Thanks.

Radu (profile) says:

Star Wars figurines display in public

I own a collection of 200 pieces consisting in figurines and vehicles from Star Wars Universe. They range from 1980 up to 2016 and are made by various companies. My question is it will be legal to have a small public exibit (only ~ 50 pieces at a time)? The pieces will be NOT for sale and I want to display them at some events and fares.

Any feedback is appreciated.

Thanks.

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