Fair Play – Part II

Our Fair Play post from yesterday, highlighting the fact that The Awesome LEGO Systems A/S had sent their legal teams to Red Bubble with a set of claimed IP infringements on regular LEGO pieces created quite some reactions here, on IG, on bricked forums and reddit alike. Reactions covering the full spectrum ranging from great sympathy and annoyance with LEGO over the more neutral business as usual to the defenders of the right to protect ones IP. One recurring observation coming back was that sharing was not an issue, and that the problem was only with selling the art or as someone called it purchasable goods.

If you look back at yesterdays post we believe that it is not just about someone selling merchandise, and that the discussion goes much deeper on who owns the rights and that LEGO seems to be making a shift in their IP protecting policies here.

LEGO is only after those who sell their pictures.

While Red Bubble core business is indeed the sales of art and craft, they follow a similar user community model as Flickr and DeviantArt and actually Red Bubble does not force you to sell your work. You can perfectly share your work without the option of making postcards or poster prints available for purchase. And this happened to quite a few people on Red Bubble when Lucasfilm went after all the Star Wars fan art and sent notices to sellers and sharers alike, not making any difference between those who just shared their fan art (derivative works) and those who tried to sell it.

Red Bubble user Byron explains it pretty clear in his beginners guide to copyright and dmca :

” … It is a misconception that it is ok to upload derivative works without permission – so long as you don’t offer them for sale. The real issue is with the act of publishing the derivative works … and in this day and age “publishing = uploading to a website”

And Helen mentions exactly that, her work was taken down while it was just being shared, and not up for sale.

Screenshot 2015-01-21 23.34.08

So this really brings us to the bone of the meat.

Is original classic LEGO copyrighted as a whole and using any brick or figure is violating the copyright of Big Inc. and anything we dream or imagine and build with LEGO is actually owned by LEGO Systems A/S and is to be considered derivative fan art of the brick company ?

Is a classic LEGO brick or mini-figure equally protected by the copyright laws dream makers like Marvel, Disney and Lucasfilms  enforce when they take down fan art of Spiderman or Darth as they vigorously protect their creative IP (and they do, they are in the first place dream makers, while LEGO was up to now a toy maker) ?

Can one imagine and make a unique piece of “art” (and then photograph it) of some classic LEGO bricks, studs or minifigures that is not subject to be considered derivative fan art of LEGO Systems A/S ?

So when Mark created his own LEGO fantasy character Goovy with a few LEGO pieces as an homage to Ash Williams (a series never licensed by LEGO as most probably to violent) and put this on Red Bubble after a retweet by the original actor did he then truly violate the copyrights of the LEGO Systems A/S ?

goovy

Is every mini me or alter ego actually owned by LEGO because this iconic piece of toys (the mini-figure) is trademarked and copyright protected and any derivative work is owned by LEGO. If you follow the letter of the claims that is what LEGO lawyers are enforcing here when they invoke the IP infringement letter against Mark at RB.

And here is another victim of yesterdays take down.
A bunch of pirates in a pool.
A photo taken by the fantastic storyteller bricksailboat called the Party Pool.

bricksailboat

I can only see a creative mind taking a cool pirate picture that wants me to join the pool party and I would happily buy this postcard on RB to invite my friends over for a party in the weekend.

So, this whole take down is hopefully just a storm in a glass of water and will not go any further as the few cases we saw (and they should not ruin the fun, Big Companies may have a bad hairday as well) but we should not shy away from the discussion and push back to our beloved childhood toy manufacturer that we do want to continue to play with the toys and soup cans alike, and use them in our creative work and maybe even sell some of it on the way.

Me2

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.

Got hit by it too! xxsjc _me2_ #legodoesalucasltd ...

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Big Inc™

LEGO Systems A/S did a George Lucas today and used the power of the DMCA to take down the creative work from quite a few of our friends on Red Bubble. @smokebelch2 @dannyboyh and @bricksailboat to just name a few. If your work has also been taken down by LEGO with no clear reason then there was some LEGO in your photo, then please join us in posting your legal notice and tag it to #legodoesalucasltd more details can be found on our blog www.stuckinplastic.com or over at @xxsjc feed ! Do spread the word ...
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Well hello Big Inc...#legodoesalucasltd...Check out www.stuckinplastic.com for the story🌴😧 ...

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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.