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Lego's legal complaints against Lego Artists.


RedBubble have recently taken down a host of Lego images after Lego filed a complaint against them.

Details/commentary here

stuckinplastic.com/2015/01/fair-play/

What are your thoughts, and in which direction do you think this will lead us?

Mike.

Comments

  • ShibShib UKMember Posts: 5,477
    I kind of see why any company would target redbubble - as it's a site for selling, TLG could see people's own images of Lego products being sold as a threat on officially licensed merchandise.

    I think the far bigger story would be if TLG were going after people freely sharing images of their own creations etc - which they don't seem to being at all. I see a few comments on that article that seem to show people thinking that's what is going to happen. To be honest it's pretty unlikely that Lego would want to (as it's free advertising) and they'd have a hell of a time going after flickr Facebook instagram and twitter.
    Aanchir
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,332
    Its just non news, and a terribly bad article making a mountain out of a mole hill. Lego trawled spoonflower about a year ago, if not longer, removing any LEGO based designs that were being sold and understandably so. There is a huge distance between selling stuff that uses LEGOs IP and taking down shared photographs.

    What it does suggest is that over the last few years LEGO have been tightening up on this which makes me surprised at some of the businesses that they've seemingly let carry on.
    beemo
  • monkey_roomonkey_roo Member Posts: 1,411
    This is pretty standard stuff now. I think all big companies want to ensures others aren't profiting from their brand or IP irrespective of the whether they are or aren't. Part of the issue is if they allow the little guys to trade it opens the door for big guys to do so and they really could damage a brand or profit vastly from it.

    I think in reality it is a lot greyer than that, what about companies like TeeFuries? For that matter what about companies that create custome figures like and prints, it is all a slippery slope.

    That said I doubt they care about people showing off their creations, all that ever does is inspire people to build more and that is good business.

    Sad really as a lot of fan art is fun and some really good. I hope common sense prevails and these smaller guys can continue creating stuff. But I do see the need to prevent big companies cashing in.
  • graphitegraphite USMember Posts: 3,271
    That link didn't really seem to give enough information about what was targeted by the take down request or whatever. It sounded like images that were originally created for LEGO at LEGO's request for a marketing campaign were then being used on products by a third party which they definitely have the right to go after.

    Images that just contain things made from LEGO whether for sale or just posted there shouldn't be a problem with unless the LEGO logo is being used without permission. I don't think LEGO owns the rights to "things built out of bricks that look like LEGO" or at least I would hope not.

    I do believe there may be issue with the likeness of the minifig so teefury shirts where other IP are created in LEGO form and sold on a shirt may be in violation of something but my guess is they are covered by some sort of artistic freedom thing. Or I'd hope so as I love my collection of LEGO shirts.
  • binaryeyebinaryeye USMember Posts: 1,750
    The relevant question in this situation is whether the use of the minifigure (or another LEGO copyright or trademark) is fair use. The are several factors to be considered in fair use, but the key in most of these cases is the purpose and character of the use, specifically whether or not it is "transformative". Some cases are more clear-cut and are determined by the effect on the original's value.

    This is clearly copyright infringement. Someone has simply re-created the M-Tron logo and put it on a t-shirt. Were LEGO to produce their own M-Tron t-shirt, this would compete with it.

    Similarly, this is copyright infringement. LEGO owns the copyright to the design of Wyldestyle's torso printing. If LEGO were to license this design to an apparel company to produce, this unlicensed product would create unfair competition.

    Those three are pretty obvious. Whether fair use is "transformative" is less clear.

    This is not fair use. The concept of Indiana Jones running away from a boulder while carrying treasure is intrinsic to Indiana Jones itself, and thus the original work. There is no new idea here.

    Another example is this. Aquaman in the water is not a transformative idea.

    Again, this is not a new idea. Zombies say "brains". Depicting a LEGO zombie with a caption of "brains" is not a new idea. It's simply capitalizing on LEGO's design of a zombie. If the caption were instead "bricks", the case would be altogether different.

    This might seem like fair use but is probably not. There is nothing in the design to suggest an artistic reason for the letter being constructed from bricks. The bricks are the main attraction here, and their design is trademarked.

    This is more clearly fair use. To portray LEGO is not the purpose of the creation, here; it's simply used as a medium. The concept is the robot dreaming of being a man, which is not intrinsic to the original works.
    drdavewatfordBuriedinBrickssnowhitieLegoKip
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 20,298
    The M built out of bricks - whose trademark does it infringe? Given that the shape of the brick cannot be trademarked.
  • AanchirAanchir United StatesMember Posts: 2,979
    I agree with the people who have pointed out that LEGO is generally within their rights to do this kind of thing when people are profiting off of their brand.

    At the same time, the LEGO Group does not produce a whole lot of clothing aimed at AFOLs, hence why there is such a large niche for fan-created designs. What I'd like to see the LEGO Group do is partner with a company like WeLoveFine that allows fans to submit their designs to become officially licensed merchandise, so both the creator of the design and the owner of the brand being used receive royalties for the designs that are sold.
  • PhoneboothPhonebooth USMember Posts: 1,430
    The Lego Group. Its their brand, their reputation, their livelihood. It's the thousands of employees working for them.

    Anyone else who's invested their sweat equity into a business isn't going to turn a blind eye to others trying to capitalize on it *cough, resellers, copyright infringers, cough*.

    This shouldn't be news.
    drdavewatford
  • minifignickminifignick UKMember Posts: 109
    I have many photographs on Redbubble using Lego which of course I have paid my hard earned money for I've made a little money from them but not enough to retire on In fact any of the money gets reinvested into back into Lego I know I'm a tiny tiny fish in a very large pond But the amount of Minifigure copies I've seen on Fleabay over the last few months is incredible maybe Lego should be putting their efforts into stopping these Chinese copies than "fans" like myself enjoying the brand and spreading the word and making pennies
  • binaryeyebinaryeye USMember Posts: 1,750
    edited January 2015
    CCC said:

    The M built out of bricks - whose trademark does it infringe? Given that the shape of the brick cannot be trademarked.

    You're most likely correct. In the Fair Play document, LEGO claims the 2x4 brick is a trademark in some countries. This article suggests that the US is not one of them (at least as of 2010). It wouldn't surprise me if LEGO is intentionally unclear on this point.

    I do wonder, though, if something with "LEGO" more visible on the studs (e.g. this one) would be an infringement. Probably not in this case because you can't discern what is on top of the studs, but it would be interesting to see what would happen with something where "LEGO" on the studs is clearly readable.
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 20,298
    Yes, if the logo is visible on the studs then it is a different matter. But in that picture they just look like generic bricks.
  • ChrisHallbeckChrisHallbeck Member Posts: 11
    In some situations these things will get shutdown because they are using the word "LEGO" in the title and description of the product. You can't use their name to sell something else. This is the same reason all our favorite LEGO fan websites use the word "brick" in their name.
    Aanchir
  • CrowkillersCrowkillers Member Posts: 757
    I've been having issues with Lego's legal team for a few years...
  • CrowkillersCrowkillers Member Posts: 757
    edited January 2015
    binaryeye said:

    CCC said:

    The M built out of bricks - whose trademark does it infringe? Given that the shape of the brick cannot be trademarked.


    I do wonder, though, if something with "LEGO" more visible on the studs (e.g. this one) would be an infringement. Probably not in this case because you can't discern what is on top of the studs, but it would be interesting to see what would happen with something where "LEGO" on the studs is clearly readable.
    A few years ago my wife had made shirts on Zazzle and one of them had just my crowkillers.com logo on it and Lego had it removed claiming that image was their property... The other shirts that got pulled had pictures of some of my cars on them but NONE had LEGO or their Logo on them anywhere at all...

    I don't even want to get into detail over the hassle that I had over instructions...

    The only response that I ever got from anyone from Lego's legal department was one time they said that they didn't want people confusing my work with their product and then told me to contact an attorney if I wanted to discuss it any further...

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