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Celebrity Dolls - Are they fair/legal?

Sep 6, 2007

    1. This thread is not only about Minimee dolls and their legality, in fact, only a very small part is about that. Please focus on the entirety of the discussion. If you feel the need to give legal advice to anyone, please PM them; that is off-topic for this debate. Thank you!

      With the recent rash of celebrity dolls and MiniMees, quite a few questions have come to my mind. (Some of this also relates to pre-made characters such as anime/cartoon characters as well as real people, so feel free to give your thoughts on that as well).

      Here's the general gist of the debate: How do you feel about celebrity dolls in general? Do you think of them as respectable tributes to their namesake or are they just unoriginal? Do you doubt the creativity of people who own many, or all, celebrity dolls?

      What are the practical uses of a celebrity doll? If you have/want one, what do/would you do with it? Is it simply for your own devices (display, private collection, etc.) or do you actively make that doll into a character? If it is a character, do you keep true to the celebrity or do you bend/change characteristics to suit your preferences?

      If you like the idea of celebrity dolls, do you think that they have more value when you modify and customize them yourself or buy them pre-sculpted or as completely finished sets?

      In the case of the Minimee dolls, what are your thoughts on their change in policy when it comes to celebrity moulds? (They didn't allow them at first, but have recently allowed them in sets limited to 10, for those who don't know).

      At what point, if any, do you believe that royalties should be awarded to the celebrities? Are small quantities okay, while large aren't; or do you think that any amount is acceptable? Is a personally modified one of a kind doll more acceptable in this regard then a professionally sculpted one?

      What are your views on the popularity of professionally sculpted dolls versus the personally modified ones? Do you think that celebrity dolls being so accessible will eventually affect the amount of artists who create their own one of a kind celebrity dolls?

      Sorry for the massive hordes of questions, but these issues are very common on DoA, especially lately. I look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on the matter :3
    2. I don't have a problem with them. I don't doubt anyone's creativity because in most cases they still need a faceup and possibly some modding to either look more like the celebrity or like an original version thereof. It's not like the doll comes from Minimee all done up, wigged, faceupped, and dressed to look like the movie star of choice or whoever.

      A lot of people want a doll of a favorite celebrity, or of that person as a character from a movie. I've already seen band members and pirate captains on DoA before Minimee even offered celebrity molds. I have a celebrity doll and will probably get another. These are people I've always thought would make good and fun dolls, one of them is a guy who is semi-famous (i.e. well known in certain fan circles) and I happen to know him personally and always wanted some kind of doll or action figure of him. I'll probably goof around and play with it around my fellow fans.
      As for "keeping true to the celebrity", what I'll be keeping true to is the public image because even the guy I know, I don't know well enough to make a doll be like him underneath - plus it's just for fun, not to be an exact little carbon copy of Joe Celebrity. If I want to make him wear a silly t-shirt for example, I can do that, but it's not like I'm saying the real person would or should wear a silly t-shirt.

      I couldn't care less, I don't plan on selling my celeb dolls and don't pay much attention to the value of a doll in general unless someone is wanting me to pay them a high price to buy it.

      I don't care one way or another, except that hopefully people will be made happy by the chance to get a doll of someone they like.

      Skipping this question for personal reasons.

      If an artist wants to make a doll they will. If an artist is looking to sell a celebrity doll then maybe they'll be affected but who knows. I don't really deal with that market. Plus, from what I have seen, the Minimee sculpts often need a bit of modding once the customer gets them because they're only 80 percent likeness. I am going to have to mod my heads to get them past the 80 percent. So it's really just like modding any other head only you start from a point that looks more like your person to start with.
    3. When I was planning the Jonathan Brandis doll I realize that finding a doll that looked exactly like him was the wrong way at going about it. And the more I searched for the doll and examined my own feelings towards this celebrity and the execution of the project, I realized that having a doll that resembles the celebrity can work out too.

      However I got negative feedback from loyal fans of Jonathan saying that the doll was a good idea but being the circumstances around this celebrity that the execution was wrong.

      I learned that I have to follow my heart, take suggestions and pick whichever doll works best for me, even if the doll doesn't "look" like the celebrity. I rather get a similar looking doll and customize him myself to how that celebrity meant to me.

      Getting back to the debate, I think that royalties would bring in a different legality to dollfie making and it may not be a positive one. I like how D.I.M. has a disclaimer and will only do 80% because it makes the doll that more unique then a "spitting image". With the help of wigs, faceups and outfits you can make up for the extra 20%.
    4. A doll can only look like a celebrity if you say it does. Any mold can be a mold of a “famous” anime/person. (it’s all how it is perceived)

      Remember, BJDs are another from of art. Do celebrities get paid when people do fanart or fanfiction? Some of those things gets sold, and the celebrity has nothing to do with it. It would be ludicrous for that to even be possible because for one there is only a 80% likeness which puts DIM off the hook, and two (for all those who celebrities don’t reside in their country) the copyright laws don’t apply! :sweat

      I don’t see the difference in a “celebrity” mold versus any other mold. You know, DIM is giving away Brad Pitt heads and so many people can change it to where you wouldn’t be able to tell it was him.

      And about their personality—unless you know the person personally, you really wont be able to display your doll in their likeness. You can only do what you’ve perceived from the media and your own imagination!! (I guess that means my Kyo doll will only be what I think Kyo acts like!!)
    5. I'm kind of indifferent to celebrity dolls. I'm not interested in getting one (if my dolls are going to be based on anyone, it will be one of my characters. I don't think I love Orlando Bloom enough to make such an investment! Same with basing on anime characters, feels like extremely expensive fanart to me), but I don't have anything against someone who has one (unless they'll being mentally ill and starting to use the doll as a stand-in for a celebrity.). Though regarding creativity... Well, if someone mods a doll into a good likeness of a celebrity, of course they're creative.

      I'm not sure how many dolls should be made before it deems paying royalties to stars (unless there is some obscure law on this... but these dolls are somewhat international which just makes things more complex), but it would be a problem if some celebrity becomes very irked at the existence of these dolls even at some small number like ten (though I've got nary a clue how likely some celebrity is going to find there's a doll of them online and at the rate celebrities get stalked, they've probably seen weirder... in short, I have no idea what to say on celebrities' opinions). Someone is still making money off of their face to some degree (the minimee has 80% accuracy/likeness?) which is a bit of a legal problem, isn't it?

      I dunno why, but for some reason a personally modified doll feels more "okay" to me than a professionally made likeness... It's basically this unvalidated opinion sitting in the back of my head...
    6. What are the practical uses of a celebrity doll? If you have/want one, what do/would you do with it? Is it simply for your own devices (display, private collection, etc.) or do you actively make that doll into a character? If it is a character, do you keep true to the celebrity or do you bend/change characteristics to suit your preferences?

      I don't have one, but theres an anime character or 2 I have considered dressing a doll as. I would probably just dress them and look at them though.

      If you like the idea of celebrity dolls, do you think that they have more value when you modify and customize them yourself or buy them pre-sculpted or as completely finished sets?

      Monitarily I believe a licenced / unmodded doll will always have more value than a doll that is modded.
      Example: Chii by Volks, vs modded dolls made to look like Chii

      In the case of the Minimee dolls, what are your thoughts on their change in policy when it comes to celebrity moulds? (They didn't allow them at first, but have recently allowed them in sets limited to 10, for those who don't know).

      The whole thing is unsual to me, I could see someone wanting one yet I am surprized they do it at all due to legalities.
      At what point, if any, do you believe that royalties should be awarded to the celebrities? Are small quantities okay, while large aren't; or do you think that any amount is acceptable? Is a personally modified one of a kind doll more acceptable in this regard then a professionally sculpted one?

      I really don't know, maybe I'm wrong but I wouldn't you might need the persons permission, especially on multiple dolls? I would think 10 dolls sold and marketed as a celebrity without their permission might get you sued here in the states.

      A single doll modded to look like a celeb would be less iffy, just because money was not spent buying an unlicenced celeb doll, it was spent on a regular doll, and then modded for personal use.

      What are your views on the popularity of professionally sculpted dolls versus the personally modified ones? Do you think that celebrity dolls being so accessible will eventually affect the amount of artists who create their own one of a kind celebrity dolls?

      I think both won't compete, modding will probably be around as long as ABJD are. (not every one can afford a custom head anyways)
    7. I don't have a problem with celebrity dolls myself. Unlike others though, I sort of want to sculpt them myself, because of Minimee policies... such as only 80% likeness. Me wanting perfection, couldn't sit for a simple 80%. xD Even with face-ups, wigs, eyes and such...

      Though as I admire some of the celebrities being made... I often think negatively of what others plan to do with them, especially if they're still going to be the same person, but a good chunk of them being out of character, like setting them up with someone they clearly wouldn't be with. Maybe it's just me.

      I don't find that it's unoriginal at all. I think it's interesting what people can do with their celebrity dolls (excluding character in some cases). I, for one, wanted to reconstruct most of my future celebrity doll fashions... and come up with my own, sure why not? Since I so admired them for being such great models to be begin with. How flattering to have them display my own line... xD

      As for my celebrity dolls... Well it's strange. We sort of roleplay them, keeping them in-character and such. But it all has its own twist, which I guess you'll all eventually see. Eventually. So I guess they'll be themselves. At least, my Gackt will. Imagining what life would be with them, just having fun with them, but not changing how they would respond (based on what we know) to everything that happened. Stuff like this, I like to imagine.

      I doubt I'd sell my celebrity dolls, so I can't say much for value... besides that I think it would be higher based on true likeness... and yeah, possibly a fullset with a recognizable outfit or something of the sort.

      My thoughts on the Minimee celebrity doll policy? I just thought it was sensible, in case they were ever sued by the actual celebrities for selling 'images' of them without permission or something.

      I know I felt sort of swayed to buy a Minimee rather than make them myself... perhaps other artists would feel the same if they weren't confident in their abilities in making that perfect someone themselves.

      Sorry for the billions of edits. xD I can never word things right the first time.
    8. First of all, I can't help but notice how your massive hordes of questions seem to be a bit loaded and sway toward what is obviously your opinion on the subject. This, of course, causes me to wonder why this was put out there at all, but I shall voice my opinions in regards to this subject anyway.

      Personally, I feel that celebrity dolls are just as respectable of a tribute to their namesakes as any other medium. In art, we see paintings and sculptures of many famous people, many examples of which have gained widespread fame and much acclaim from the general public (think Andy Warhol's rendition of Marilyn Monroe, for example). To those who -truly- view dolls as works of art, this is no different.

      And as for doubting the creativity of people who own celebrity dolls -- I won't even stoop to the level of answering that one. I do not think it is right to voice a negative opinion about people who I don't even know. Questions such as this are designed to provoke negative feelings and I don't feel that we need any of that here.

      The uses of a celebrity doll are, I would imagine, much the same as any other doll that one may have. It is possible to make the doll truly reflect its namesake, but I think that most people tend to change the doll's personality to fit their own preferences.

      As for which has more value, the answer to that really depends upon the person. I respect people who have the ability to do some of the amazing customizations that I have seen, but I also know that there are some people out there who do not have this gift. Therefore, the answer lies with the individual. As for myself, I like those who are customized and do not have an off the shelf feel.

      As for the Minimee dolls, they are a company of sorts. Such organizations need to make money in order to survive, and there is a demand out there for this sort of thing, so I personally do not see an issue with this change.

      I, personally, cannot say that I think that royalties should be necessary in any form. I ESPECIALLY don't think that there should be a determined simply by quantity that determines whether or not royalties are due. As I stated before, these are works of art and because of that, royalties are not necessary seeing as all of the rights to the piece (or doll, in this case), belong to the artist or the company with which that person or those people are associated. These dolls are not nearly as widespread nor as damaging to celebrities as the celebrity photos found within tabloids at news stands everywhere. Please note that they, too, do not have to pay royalties to these celebrities despite the fact that they are making money off of them as well, AND damaging their reputations at the same time.

      For your next question, I, in turn, question your use of the word "acceptable." Seeing as there is no International Board of Doll Standards, nor a listing of criteria which all dolls must meet, I do not see one doll as being more "acceptable" than another. Once again, this is a matter of personal preference alone. Acceptability plays no role in a person falling in love with a certain doll.

      As for your question about the affect that professionally sculpted dolls may have on artists who work in limited quantities for very specific and one of a kind dolls, I am sorry to say, but it is a capitalistic society in which we live. The beauty of this system is that, if there is a market for one's trade, he or she will prosper. If one is not able to compete, it is his or her responsibility to adjust to the conditions as necessary. There are and will always be people who will only be interested in special, one of a kind dolls.

      Hope that answers some of your questions and possibly clears up any misconceptions.
    9. I disagree there. There are many questions, but I think they were all well worded enough not to call them "loaded" yet. There's a bias, but isn't there almost always some bias in any writing?

      I'm not going to answer the question systematically, but just point out some less noticed points regarding imagry and copyright, as I understand them. I am no expert, but I have looked into them a few times. Please forgive the slightly off-topic introduction here. It is here to make a point.

      Fanfiction and fanart, as has been pointed out, is often sold in the form of doujinshi and statinary. This is accepted, as in particular, Japanese copyright laws allow for it.
      American laws really don't. For example, I as a doujinshi enthusist, purchase many of them. Japanese companies turn the other cheek, and even encourage it. However, Disney (as one example) does not allow this even in Japan, so you will never find disney or Kingdom hearts doujinshi, even in Japan (unless it's a very small run and no one, including the doujin publisher, realizes it was done.) As far as Harry Potter examples go, while I'm not certain about European law, JK Rowling has made her encouraging stance clear, so doujin, fanart, fanfics, etc abound! (as long as it's not for profit. ^_~)

      American copywrite laws show that commercial uses of likeness do require compensation. This is the right of publicity.
      Some comic books change the faces on the comic-ization (not a word, but you get my meaning) of a movie, because they do not have the rights from the actor to use the original face. Those that do use the faces, DO have to compensate the actor in some way.
      News papers, no matter their quality, do not necessarily hold to the same, as those fall under freedom of press. Doll manufacturing and fan-art/fanfiction, usually do not.
      There is some freedom to artists, that has arisen only recently. While in the past, courts have favored the celebrity, at least in New York, one case ruled that:
      This is a change however, as previously this was not allowed at all. It was a fairly controvercial case over the sculpture of a model.

      As far as fan-works go, even non-profit works can be asked to remove likenesses and story/situational content from public display. Usually companies let harmless things like art, and I'm sure dolls, go. However, it is possible for someone to get a cease and desist letter requiring them to not display content that they do not hold the copyright for. This is the perogative of the copyright holder. However, I doubt anyone would get sued for this infringement, unless considerable money was made.

      In my personal oppinion, I've found celebrety minimees a little shady legaly, but I don't find them wrong. I think with the small production numbers, production only on request, and the lack of using these dolls in any public or profit manner, makes it kind of a non-issue. Much like fanworks and doujinshi. I personally find some American copyrights a little strict in general, though I do understand them.
    10. I was about to post the same reference in us copyright law. Beyond that too, some celebrities have also trademarked their names/faces so that's an additional legal violation.
      So on the basis of american legality, I tend to oppose celebrity dolls (or minimee dolls of someone other than yourself)
      Actually, it surprised me greatly to see celebrity minimees and such promoted and sold on this board.

      As for making your own, and keeping it for your own use only? legal, but not my taste.
    11. That's actually changed, as several larger circles have started doing KH doujinshi and selling them at the larger doujinshi events like SCC and Comiket. Still not as many as there would have been thanks to the intial kerfluffle, but it's nice to see them finally appearing.

      Back on OT....I obviously have no problem with character dolls. I own 5. I view them as fun, 3D fanart and no different than making a plushie of your fave character or writing a fanfic.

      I have no problem with celebrity dolls much along the same lines. I'm sure there are endless annoying copyright/trademark things to be argued, but these dolls are small enough runs to not constitute a major profit, are made in different countries, and are artsy enough to probably be protected by that.

      Besides, there have been far creepier, destructive ways to show fan love than these dolls. Why get worked up over it? I really don't care if someone else thinks that I am....gasp! unoriginal because last I knew, we weren't competing in an originality contest
    12. Yes. Thank you.
    13. actually the law (in the US at least) protects against any money-making off protected images. The scope or quantity made or amount of profit is irrelevant as far as the law is concerned. Ask any little chuch crafter who's ever tried to sell a mickey mouse handmade item - it's still illegal - $5 or $5million. Not all copyright/trademark holders are as dilligent in persuing violaters as Disney is, but just because you can "get away with it" doesn't mean it's ok.

      I guess what bothers me is folks here on DoA are sure quick to accuse conterfeiters and chinese companies of copy-catting when it comes to other doll things (sculpts, aesthetics, shoes, clothes, etc). This is in a sense another variation of that theme in my opinion. I don't think you can have it both ways - if we want to valiently uphold standards and ban the copycats and take measures to prevent copying dolls, why shouldn't we expect the same for other copyright and/or trademark infringement issues like this?

      again, what you make for yourself and private enjoyment is not the issue - but anything made for sale (or later sold) and capitalizing on someone else's image is. Now if the makers and sellers of these dolls have permission from the celebrities, that's also a different story - but so far I've not heard of anyone asking for permission or a license before marketing these.
    14. I'll keep it short...

      Me, being in possession of 4 Minimee Celebs [well 3 are almost on their way and 1 still in the begin stages], have no problem with them whatsoever.
      And I'm sure I'll order some more heads if I find the money and DIM the time ^_^

      I think this is the best that has ever happened to me, cause I love Photography, dolls and Jrock/Kpop, so being able to combine it all is in my eyes fantastic! :aheartbea

    15. I have just crammed my brain trying to find a clear cut definitive answer to the legality of these minimees!

      I hate legal documents, as they are too wordy leaving it harder to determine an answer. But this boils down to “what is art” to you?

      I have read that as long as the image is a “parody” or particularly skewed that it is only in likeness because the artist claims it to be then it is protected under the First Amendment. Now this can be appealed and in some of the cases I’ve read, the celebrity (or it’s company) won.

      So according to what I have read, it is illegal for any individual to publish art of any popular figure (regardless if profit is made) UNLESS it is a parody of such figure. That would make it almost impossible for any one individual to have any doll/art/game/hair/clothes in the likeness of the popular figure.
      I am assuming the parodies are like the ones on SNL or in the comic strips we get in newspapers. But how can one say that is alright? It’s actually not, if it appears slanderous to the popular figures name then they are allowed to sue. Odd indeed.

      I do not think it is reasonable to copyright someone’s individuality because it would be too difficult to make a clear list of what that is. Who is to say so-and-so is the only cool collective cowboy, who wears a orange straw hat, blue jean, rides a brown and white horse and name is Tim? He would, under the circumstances of what I’ve read, be able to copyright his image if he wanted to(whether famous or not); and he could sue ANYONE for mimicking his image for themselves or for any artwork they make.

      That would make this site legally.. illegal! There are numerous pictures of famous individuals that are made into avatars or banners that were not given permission from the original artist/photographer. And numerous dolls, whether minimee or not, that are not allowed to portray figures of popular individuals.

      I hope that made sense… I tried but it is an sticky subject!! :doh
    16. Hello Guys,

      Sorry for my poor English in advance.
      I am not that familiar with the copyright in making something.
      I would like to add some of my ideas about minimee.

      We only get paid for our labor force and don't use any of celebrity images on web.
      We received requests from people to make something into it but we offer 80% of likeness at most.
      I am not very sure if people aske a artist to paint an image on their wall in house, does it mean the artist sells the image ?
      I do not want to break laws and if it really matters by the law.

      There are numerous artists selling their artworks individually at ebay.
      Yes, that would be an illegal. But I think I am not selling any images or sculpts. I offer a handmade works and get paid.

      sorry If I insult anyone or anything, please forgive me.
      Please let me know If I should stop making minimees.

    17. I think celebrity dolls is a great idea, and having the chance to have a doll modelled for you from photographs like Minimee is amazing. Its not something I want to do myself, mainly because of the price for just a head and because the idea just doesn't appeal to me. I love the DoT dolls for their original sculpts so I chose to have one of those. I don't think that celebrity dolls are unoriginal at all, if you have a real thing for a certain celebrity, having a doll in their image is probably like the best thing you could get!

      I don't think its necessary to award royalties to the celebrities, because its only a likeness. If I had a celebrity doll, it would be Billie Piper I think, because I have the biggest crush on her ever. But I reckon I'd find it harder to bond with a celebrity doll than with an original sculpt for some reason. I don't know, but I imagine the doll would feel more like a collector's item than a companion :s

      I expect that this will cause a bit of an explosion in made-to-specification heads, as it seems to be getting rather popular. I bet lots of companies will consider offering it, but I expect it will stay rather expensive.

    18. Hmm I think it´s not illegal because they are not releasing these heads themselves, they get requests from us and make them just for the people that custom order them..
      Does this also mean that a tattoo artist isn´t allowed to tattoo a celeb´s face on someone's back, because he gets paid for it...or should he say to the customer "no sorry I first need to write to this celeb and ask if I can do this", because it's the same idea.

      Denny is right we pay him and the artists for the labor they put into it.

      So please Denny do NOT stop this amazing project! :aheartbea

    19. No no no no!! Denny, this is exactly what we are trying to point out.

      You are not endorsing the celebrity by saying “this is such-and-such head” and you can buy it from me.

      You are taking requests from people and are asking them for specific key points about a particular celebrity! Like, “I like the way he scowls”, or “his grin” and you emphasis that.
      Like I’ve said, most of the minimees are what you think the celebrity looks like not necessary what they look like. (hence the 80%) And you only use them for reference, that may sound like I am blanketing it but I am not. It is the truth, it is his disclaimer!

      You are not bound to stop making them; you are just using your sculpting talents to make art! Like plastic surgeons who work on individuals who want a certain celebrity lips!

      You can, if you’d like, take down that you are offering a “Brad Pitt” head and say instead that you are offering a “free head”!!

      EDIT:Sabriell is correct!!
    20. Thank you so much.

      I take down the name of B.P
      (I thought a free gift would be ok)

      Thank you for advising me. I am not very familiar with laws in person so I need always advice.
      Anyway, thanks to everyone and I will always listen and see and if necessary I will correct my mistakes.

      Thank you indeed.