Could The Enterprise D Replica In Minecraft Be A Copyright Minefield?
from the isn't-copyright-law-great? dept
We've written a few times about the game Minecraft lately, including a post about the guy building a working computer in the game. Around the same time, a bunch of people were talking about the guy who built a full 1:1 scale model of the USS Enterprise D (from Star Trek: The Next Generation) in Minecraft:
This is, indeed, quite cool, and it's inspiring other creations as well. Just recently we heard about a giant Bender from Futurama:
Why? Under US copyright law, a replica of a fictional design like a spaceship could be considered a "derivative work," meaning it is protected by the same copyright that protects Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Viacom owns the Star Trek copyright. If they decide to sue Halkun, the fact that he spent 10 (or 100) hours making his replica, that it's made out of digital blocks, or that he doesn't plan to make money on it may or may not protect him. Either way, in order to find out, he would have to hire a legal team to go up against Viacom. That's a hard (not to mention expensive) way to find out that your USS Enterprise model does not infringe on anyone's copyright.
Who else might be in hot water? The way Minecraft works, if you want to play the game with a group of your friends (or strangers), you have to set up your own server. Let's say Halkun builds a replica of Hogwarts from Harry Potter (which, by the way, would be awesome) on your server. In that case, you could be sued for secondary infringement just for running the server that contains this "infringing" content.
If you think that media lawyers have better things to do than sue you for modeling an imaginary magical castle, you're (unfortunately) mistaken. In 2007, J.K. Rowling sued for $50,000 because someone made a papier-mache replica of Hogwarts' exterior. At a religious festival in India.
When do we realize that copyright law simply isn't designed to handle today's digital age?