Copyright Maximalist Disney Accused Of Copying Artist's Painting On Cosmetic Bag

from the copyright-is-for-me,-not-for-thee dept

It is always interesting to see how the strongest defenders of copyright can often be found infringing -- sometimes in the most obvious ways imaginable. A bunch of folks have sent in variations on this story, concerning Katie Woodger, an artist who did a painting of Alice in Wonderland a few years ago, and later discovered that the same image was clearly copied onto a cosmetic bag that Disney is selling. Woodger also claims that a similar work is used on a t-shirt. Here's the graphic comparison she put together.
This is complicated on a variety of levels. I don't find the final image to be problematic at all, because (at best) you could argue that Disney copied the idea. But copyright is about expression, not the idea. As for the bag, it's clear that Disney copied Woodger's image, but even that raises some interesting questions. The original Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) has long since passed into the public domain. The original illustrations by John Tenniel have also gone into the public domain. However, the popular Disney movie is still covered by copyright. You could ask a question as to whether or not Woodger's image draws on any of the copyright protected elements of the Disney movie, in which case her own copyright claims on her image may be limited. Still, even in that case, it would seem that there could be some copyright claims in parts of her creation and that certainly would not allow Disney to wholesale copy the image.

That said, it does feel a little bit shady for Woodger to complain about someone else using her image, when her image is clearly based on the work of others as well. That's how creativity works. Still, given Disney's general maximalist tendencies, it's telling that even it can be found to copy the work of others without permission. For what it's worth, there are lots of stories of companies pulling random designs and artwork that they find on the internet and placing it on t-shirts and bags and other products. It's just somewhat ironic to see it being done by Disney in particular.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Jessie (profile), 9 Apr 2013 @ 1:36pm


    Given her recent responses on her tumblr account, I'm more inclined to want to see her get some credit and compensation. She is stressing that she doesn't want Disney or the media contacted, and that she feels uncomfortable with the attention. Even though it is based on a classic character, in the painting she is painting the roses white according to her, as part of a different story she was trying to tell.

    Either way, the idea may not be 100% original, but the work itself was. Just because she has stood on the shoulders of giants does not make her contribution worthless and open to theft.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.