Fair Play

Today we hit an all new high in the battle of Big Inc. against the small Artists™ when LEGO System A/S filed a large set of complaints against LEGO Artists™ small and big on RedBubble using the second half of the Millennium Act to enforce their powers and have the small art and craft work removed with the stroke of a legal letter on claimed ownership. Yes, you read that right, ownership of the artistic photo they took featuring LEGO in an artistic shoot.

[instagram-feed type=hashtag hashtag="#legodoesalucasltd" imageres=full]

A new high (or is it low) in the battle against Artistic Creativity because it was not George Lucas going after his iconic Stormtrooper Helmets or Darth Vader silhouettes like we have seen in the past to “protect” their merchandise market, nor Disney protecting Mickey from any mischief, but the Awesome LEGO company itself who is going after any photo using LEGO people or objects in it. So far simple bricks, age old pirates and genuine minifig series outside the licensed subsets of Disney,  StarWars or Marvel have been reported as being taken down by LEGO System A/S as they are the claimed owner of the intellectual property.

Maybe with the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney the LEGO Group took over the legal department from George instead ?

It is an interesting (and scary) development to see the European company that inspires creativity and imagination going single minded after a relatively large group of its AFOL community, hiding behind the powers of Big Inc. and DMCA to break down the creative movement of Toy Photography and try to put a stop to sharing our work.

This is not about protecting the exact replica merchandise market of iconic symbols in mass consumer goods (for example the LEGO logo, the Stormtrooper Helmet, The Statue of Liberty, …) but killing the creative use of an inspiring role model brand.

It is as if Campbell’s (the soup company) would claim intellectual ownership of Andy Warhols painting and have it confiscated because he used a soon to be iconic soup can.

Today it is not clear if LEGO Systems A/S is just dipping its feet in the legal rumble of fan art with some overeager legal team that got inspired by George in the ramp up to The Lego Movie II or is getting its chest wet to go all in and will soon  go after Flickr and other websites where LEGOgraphy is being shared and claim back all their bricks. Imagine.

In the meantime, if your work have been taken down on any site, don’t hesitate to share your legal notice take down letter and tag it with #legodoesalucasltd or let us know in the comments below.

All we ask is that their should be fair play.

To be continued …


* The original art work in the header is owned by the LEGO group and created by the artist Jung Von Matt for the minimalistic Imagine series. It has been selected for its journalistic relevance as it is unclear if LEGO claims the intellectual property on all turtles or just the Ninja ones.

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9 years ago

Confusing to me…- really thought (and felt) that I found a place and community to fit in and feel comfy with and now these news.. It is both disappointing when looking at LEGO (or is it safer to say IPOC?) as ONE company and just annoying when thinking of it as a huge building with lots and lots of people and only a very small yet mighty minority having made up their minds to making a living on behalf of LEGO A/S by starting to ‘protect legal rights’. This will probably not affect a single IG feed but…well.. What ABOUT… Read more »

Serhat T.
9 years ago

Sorry for the incoming long comment, but I couldn’t stop myself from writing this from the moment I heard the news and your blog is the place I feel free to take part in the discussion.. So here is what I think: 1) First of all, I pay to LEGO A/S, to get my LEGO. This is the most basic form of commerce:LEGO A/S & I exchange the toy with the money. This grants me the very natural right, to play with it. (including sharing the photos of my toy.) 2) I might as well pay money to grab my… Read more »

9 years ago
Reply to  Serhat T.

Serhat, as always I want to thank you for your thoughtful reply. Regarding point 3) I also wonder what they marketing arm of Lego is thinking. Maybe the legal people are not talking to the marking folks? It seems if they continue to pursue this line of thinking it will only drive a wedge between them and their most loyal and enthusiastic customers. Point number 5) is very relevant to this argument. The genie is out of the bottle. If the company was against Lego photography from the get go they should have said so. Now you have thousands of… Read more »

Sylviane Lambert
9 years ago

I love your comment Sehrat, it’s so true. To me, this news felt like if paint companies were reclaiming ownership over work/paintings/canvases done by painter artists under the pretext that they are using their product. If it is on the market and I paid for it, I believe I have the right to use it the way I want, would it be for playing or taking photo (which, as you said, is also doing a favor to Lego by promoting their product). But, as says the motto of this blog, and no matter what, we will stay stuck in plastic… Read more »

Arby - Legogirl
9 years ago

Hmmm so how does that work with those, like myself who also bookmark their images on say TLG’s own site, ReBrick?

9 years ago

Interesting point. I wonder what Lego’s position is on its own site? A little clarification is definitely needed.

9 years ago

This would seem to be an easy problem to overcome, legally speaking. Lego released a camera for sale specifically for taking photographs of Lego which could then be made into a stopmotion film. As far as I can see, this is a precedent that enables consumers to create and publish photographs and movies with the full consent of The Lego Group. I’m pretty sure this would hold up in court and it should be enough to enable websites to resist the legal threats. Photographs involving profit might be another story however.

Paul Lee
9 years ago

The sky is not falling. Have you all considered you might be overreacting? This is a scenario where people were trying to sell products with LEGO AND 3rd party IP’s. (Star Wars, Marvel, etc.) Do you think it might be possible it is the 3rd party IPs that are pursuing this through LEGO?

No one has gone after fan creations. The lesson to learn is you can’t try to profit from images of LEGO + 3rd party Intellectual Property. In that scenario, there are a lot of stakeholders with lawyers.

9 years ago
Reply to  Paul Lee

Paul we absolutely feel we could be making a mountain out of a mole hill. We have seen work in the past removed because it has a separate license, i.e. Star Wars, Marvel etc. What made this round different was that some of the work had no additional 3rd Party IP and there were fan creations removed. MinifigNick had work removed and all he does is his own MOC’s. So the question remains is Lego changing its benign attitude towards Lego photographers or are they starting to defend their copyright a la George Lucas and Disney? At this time I… Read more »

8 years ago
Reply to  Shelly

But do they remove only the sold material ? I mean, fighting against thousands of people releasing photographs and such, as long as they’re not making money with the LEGO brand ? I hardly think they would spend a single penny on that… On the other side, using the cute minifigure to sell posters, t-shirts and so on, without having the right to do that, it’s another business… It’s pretty much like I would sell 100% Stuck in Plastic T-shirts with my LEGO shots below… I’m making money on your name and link my work to your name where my… Read more »

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