Legal Questions.

There really is no forum area to place this in…(you guys need a “general help” or “other help” section :P). If there’s a better spot for this, then by all means move it, I don’t mean to cause any problems.

I’m curious about copyright, trademark, and other ect legal questions.

When I create something in blender, I want to know the legal side of the coin. Is anyone gonna complain if I make a character from a movie, like Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, or anything else?

Will someone complain if I have a logo somewhere? Like McDonalds or Nintendo?

Will someone get angry if I use something from their video game? Like steve from minecraft, or a character from skyrim?

Is it a different case for each situation?

Any advice is helpful, thanks.

everything in your examples is technically a breach of copyright. most will let it go as fan art, as long as your not trying to profit from it.
the commercial companies like macdonalds will consider your work on its merits if they decide it may be harmful to their image then they are more likely to complain. i wouldn’t use a commercial company in my works unless they actually paid for product placement. which in my case is hightly unlikely the would want to be a sponsor of my works.
just be considerate, try and gain permission to use stuff if possible. and don’t try to profit from other peoples concepts and you may be ok. Grey area though, after your months of hard work the owners may be arsey about it and sue anyway, which they have the right to
i would avoid breaching copyright issues altogether

saying that, things like Steve seem to be ok, there are plenty of minecrafty videos out there

Thanks for the tips, I’ll keep em in mind.

The following is not legal advice:

The most likely thing to happen (if anything happens, at all) when you use somebody else’s trademark is that you’ll get a Cease & Desist. If they consider you damaging them commercially, they may even sue you.

To some degree, in many jurisdictions there are laws protecting you from this (e.g. if you’re doing satire) but the exact rules are vague and have to be interpreted by a court. Even if you’re technically doing something that “sounds” legal, you can still be sued and you could still lose the case.

Some companies are more keen than others at “protecting” their brands. Some tolerate or even explicitly allow “fan art”, while others are actively going against it.

You should consider to avoid 3rd party intellectual property entirely, but even then there can’t be complete protection from copyright litigation. After all, some companies seem to be under the impression that they own certain colors

The alternative is to either 1) ask for permission and be extremely specific and honest when you describe how you’re going to use the material, or 2) buy a license (and don’t forget to read the fine print).

Once again, this is not legal advice:
I don’t think there is any benefit to asking for permission. If there’s a permissive policy at the IP holder, you wouldn’t have had to ask for permission in the first place. If there isn’t any such policy, the simple answer will be “No”, because creating such a policy is a lot of work and a legal pitfall.
They might have still ignored or tolerated your use of their IP, but now that you nailed them down, they had to refuse and your defense against potential litigation is weakened.
With any of the bigger IP holders there’s usually a history of how they handled fan-art in the past.

  1. buy a license (and don’t forget to read the fine print).

I’m just going to assume that licensing the IP is out of the question for practical reasons.

1 - in the legal field, the deepest pocket always wins, at least by litigating the other side into financial bankrupcy.
2 - if somebody else has done anything remotely similar, you can be in trouble.
3 - if you are doing fan art, check first whether the copyright owner welcomes it or not. Common sense would suggest that fandom is a great asset for a brand; managers and lawyers do not follow common sense.

What happens if you change Luke Skywalker to Luka Sillwalker?

I actually think that would be okay. I’m not up to date on all the copyright laws, but it seems a bit silly that the government would let you copyright a name. Obviously if it were a complete ripoff, your Luka Sillwalker looked similar to the original Luke Skywalker, ect, then you’d be in trouble.

Basically, if you went in front of a court, and the Judge/Jury could easily easily tell “That’s obviously a complete ripoff.”, then I’d avoid it. But then again, I’m not up to date on these laws.

But I just mean, I wanta use something you made, like a lightsaber or something. If you look at the game of Terraria, they didn’t want to use lightsaber, so they used “Phaseblade” and “Phasesaber”.

No one has whined at them, though it’s very very obvious it’s a lightsaber…this whole area just seems very fuzzy and if someone “feels like it” then you’ll get in trouble.

Here’s the best explanation of IP law and fan art I’ve ever seen. It was a presentation and Q&A done at Comic-Con 2012. It’s an hour long but worth the time if you’re interested in the subject.


Thanks a ton, this seems exactly what I’m looking for :smiley:

If you don’t like to ask for permission, you’ll find it pretty hard to make any kind of commercial production. Clearance is a substantial part of most commercial work, and it’s important to remember that your work is commercial as soon as you upload it to a monetized YouTube account.

Most people use 3rd party content for their stuff - textures, sounds, art, footage, etc. - and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we do it the right way: Ask for permission and/or pay the fee (plus read the fine print).

You can’t copyright a name but you can trademark it, and that’s often worse. Anything Starwars and Disney are good examples of that.

Even that doesn’t say it all. There is a certain amount of risk publishing anything online even if it’s legally yours. If it’s not your work/mark then the risk goes up. It costs money one way or another to defend yourself against a lawsuit. You can be sued for anything at any time.

It’s the little guy you have to be wary of more than the big boys. All it takes is one a-hole with a lawyer in the family to give you a big hurt. They don’t care about negative publicity. Legal extortion is the name of that game (give me $1000 and I’ll drop the suit… cheaper than hiring a lawyer don’t ya know).

So if you’re going to walk in the “grey” area it’s best to do it with the big boy’s stuff. Personally I wouldn’t publish any copyrighted or trademarked material whatsoever unless it’s straight up loving fan art or done as a well-calculated marketing ploy.


You don’t have to ask for permission if your work is covered e.g. by fair use. Would you expect McDonalds to give clearance to “Super Size Me”?

Most people use 3rd party content for their stuff - textures, sounds, art, footage, etc. - and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we do it the right way: Ask for permission and/or pay the fee (plus read the fine print).

Particular copyrighted works are not the topic of this thread. The question was regarding your own work that merely references brands such as McDonalds or Disney. Good luck “licensing” McDonalds or Disney IP if you’re doing something satirical or critical of them. Depending on what it is you want to do, you may have a right to use it, even commercially - because freedom of art is held higher than copyright interest.

To me it seems the whole thread ignores the difference between trademark and copyright.