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Legal Question

My wife and I work for a non-profit organization. We developed a comic book for a conference hosted by our organization. The comic featured photographed scenes featuring, among others, Marvel and DC Lego minifigs. The art was stylized to give an illustrated feel. The dialog included the names of various Marvel/DC characters. The storyline is original. We printed this and distributed it at the private conference. We would like to post it online, but we question whether we have the right to do that. Any insight would be appreciated.


  • TigerMothTigerMoth Member Posts: 2,343
    That depends on the country.

    However, typically, names and likenesses are protected.
  • cleverusernamecleverusername Member Posts: 60
    I am in the United States. I want to stay legal, but it seems like there are a lot of fan-made stop action and other projects out there.
  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 15,060
    There is a difference between fan tribute art and enfringement.  Most of the time it depends on whether you are getting direct payment for distribution of the art.

    The likeness of DC/Marvel minifigs will probably run you afoul.

    (But that is my amateur opinion, and not legally binding advice.  If you are planning to get paid directly for the work, I would consult with an Intellectual Property attorney.)
  • MattsWhatMattsWhat Studley, UKMember Posts: 1,643
    Surely the illegal stuff was already done when you used the material at a conference where (I assume) money was involved whether through cost of attending, advertising etc.
    Sharing pictures of lego minifigures online, provided they are not linked to profit making, advertising and the like is fine.  Otherwise my blog is in trouble...
    Either way, worst case would be a cease and desist to start with wouldn't it?
  • TigerMothTigerMoth Member Posts: 2,343
    Perhaps look at this a slightly different way.

    You've done what you've done. It seems likely that you shouldn't have. There's no changing that. However, posting anything on line, whether it's just odd images or the whole thing, may possibly draw attention to it and therefore not be wise.

    Something else to consider is the amount of "dubious" content. A single photograph is probably OK; a whole comic, probably not. Somewhere there's a crossover.

    Being non-profit is unlikely to buy you anything.

    Bear in mind that, seeing as you have already done this, an IP holder could come after you for damaging their brand or whatever. That depends on what you've done.
  • cleverusernamecleverusername Member Posts: 60
    Thank you for all the input. It was a fun project and I will let it be.
  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 15,060
    Please remember, anyone who has IP rights would also have to demonstrate tangible damaged for the enfringement.

    Also, there are public relations consequences for trying to squash tribute art.  Lego is going to generate far more money opening new markets, not squashing individuals.

    (China, anyone...)
  • TigerMothTigerMoth Member Posts: 2,343
    SumoLego said:
    Please remember, anyone who has IP rights would also have to demonstrate tangible damaged for the enfringement.
    Yes, I realise that. It just seemed that we were focusing on what was allowed, rather than the consequences of what already had been done, and which therefore merited a thought or two. As this very existence of this thread demonstrates, it's possible to pursue a goal, perhaps one that's all very altruistic, but still manage to step on somebody else's toes.
  • cleverusernamecleverusername Member Posts: 60
    I appreciate the comments. I am not overly concerned with what has transpired. We distributed a 16-page booklet to some people at a private event. Most of these were not familiar with Lego or Marvel/DC. We represented these licenses in a positive light and I have no doubt that sales resulted for these IP holders. I also believe that we have some degree of protection under fair use and derivative work law. That being said, I will not distribute this piece further, and I will tread carefully in the future. I am thankful for all of these comments.
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