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The Legality of 'character' Minimees

Sep 4, 2008

    1. I think it's fair to say that it's become a pretty accepted practice within the hobby over the last six months or so to commission DIM Minimees of celebs, computer game, anime, manga and tv/movie characters.

      Putting the Celebs aside for the moment though:

      What do you think about the fact DIM are making money from other people's original works?
      Just as an example, there have been several minimee heads of characters from the Final Fantasy games, Square-Enix owns the copyright to these characters so is it permissible for DIM to be making money from the sculpting of doll heads based off those designs?

      Legally speaking there is no law that states something must be a certain % different from the original to not be considered a copy if it's clearly based on something, so does DIMs practice of only doing up an 80% likeness excuse the breech of copyright? And if a head's referred too as 'So-and-So from whatever' wouldn't that make it pretty obvious in the eyes of the law that that's whom it's supposed to be regardless of if it's a 20% or 80% likeness?

      I think it would be fair to say that if DIM where basing their sculpts off existing dolls there would be a lot of outcry here on DoA but Minimee's of copyrighted characters are happily tolerated. Could this be considered hypocritical on our part?
    2. To be honest I've never been fond of mini me's for that very reason. To me I alwas felt that it wasn't right to pay another company to make a product of copywritten characters and then also gain profit from it. Then again, I have been a victim of character theft before, so I know how hutful it can be for someone to take your beloved characters, redraw them and then say 'look what I made'.

      If people get Mini me's made of people they know like friends and children thats fine, if they get mini me's of their own characters then thats fine too. But the Anime/manga/game characters and stuff really irks me.

      I'm not sure what to think about the celeb ones though.
    3. Putting aside the fact that folks can request a character, didn't DiM start off with a Cloud head for one of their first event heads to be included with the Minimee body?

      I don't know, it might count as something of a derivative work. Squeenix has put out action figures, yes, but certainly nothing on the skill level of a BJD. It doesn't make it perfectly alright, but if you squint and turn your head, you might be able to see where it fits within the grey area. Of course, Squeenix has the right to challenge if they feel that they should.
    4. I'm not a lawyer, but I think the fact that the likeness is not exact (80% or less) allows for the Minimee heads to be made.

      The bolded statement above is a little misleading as DiM is not recasting anything, nor using specifications (measurements) from other companies.
    5. But they do take reference pictures of existing copyrighted images/characters and recreate them. I'd say that amounts to more or less the same thing.

      ETA: As for a certain percent change making it legal, I'm afraid that's a complete myth.
    6. Not a lawyer - but the way I see it, any culpability for a potential copyright infringement lies not with the manufacturer, but with the individual(s) commissioning the Minimee. DIM simply offers the service, it is up to the users whose image they are ganking.

      To put it another way, photocopying a book is copyright infringement - but Xerox, or the copy machine, is not at fault when this happens. iirc, there is a place in copyright law for 'unique use not for pecuniary gain' - which is why they still have photocopiers in libraries. Also, the Minimee is not replacing or emulating an existing product - it is is own unique thing.

      Now, is someone commissions a Minimee, then sets up shop selling the results on the market? That might be a problem.
    7. This has been debated over and over and over again and I really think it'd be better just to let sleeping dogs lie. There are some people out there who can't be happy with a good thing and thus, need to find fault with it. To be very honest, it's probably not legal. Then again, I'm not a lawyer and I highly doubt the users who debate the topic time and time again are -- 15 minutes of internet research does not a copyright lawyer make.

      Denny Kim is well aware of the concerns that a few people have voiced about the project, as well as the pending legality. In fact, on the second page of the debate that Cynthia in FlintHills posted a link to he displays a rather nice explanation/understanding of the whole situation.

      If you don’t agree with the practice or if your moral and ethical standards are so high that your afraid you wouldn’t be able to enjoy a doll of your favorite character - let alone sleep at night. Or perhaps you’re concerned that Square-Enix, Clamp or Gainax (All 3 of which I love) are going to stop creating and go belly-up -- don’t order one.

      As always, this is only my opinion.
    8. Wait... You're taking this 'people who dislike this are just snobs who aren't happy with anything' attitude. So you're fine with other illegal things, such as fencing stolen goods? According to your logic, you think that people who KNOW for a fact that someone is doing something illegal should just step aside and let it happen. What about drug dealing? Should they ignore that because, hey! The people who buy the drugs know what they're getting?

      I'm afraid I don't see why people should stand aside and let obvious copywrite infringement happen. It is against. The. Law. I think that clearly you're not an artist of any type, or else you would know that it is very hurtful to have put years of effort into a character or design, and have someone walk by and claim it's their own and if you don't like it? Too bad!
    9. Technically speaking, it falls under the same 'grey area' as any fanart, any fan work based on existent characters. If those who hold the copyright choose to take issue with it, the law is more than likely to be on their side...but like with any other fan-based or fan-made product, the copyright owners taking action just isn't likely when it's something like anime, game, tv, movie, or book characters being used. Some copyright holders are more strict than others, but most let fan-based works slide unless it starts to actually hurt the original (in reputation or in money loss).

      So in the end...it'll only be a legal question when/if the copyright holders take issue.
    10. Copyright infringement is very difficult to litigate internationally - expensive and time consuming. Given that, I doubt that most companies would pursue copyright infringement charges against the limited number of any one style of minimee heads. They would be spending significant amounts of money on something that was not losing them business, unless, of course, the company involved also made doll heads. I am not saying this is not a concern, but given the companies that have been legimately run out of business by individuals or entities stealing trade secrets, production methods, etc. or legitimately copyrighted technological advances, this pales in comparison.
    11. Some holders will protect their image/work no matter what. Especially companies like Disney where they have a lot of $$ and a big legal department (not doll related but JML found this out even though his Dawn cards were parody, they were still pulled)

      While it might be similar to fan art in some ways, its not the same. Fan art is normally individuals making art for fun, where DIM is a company making the heads for profit, I think should one of the rights holders get upset it could cost DIM because they are knowingly using copyrighted characters in their design.
    12. i agree it's like fanart. and poeple do sell fanart. go to an artist alley at a con you see tons for sale.

      also copyright laws are different in every country.

      but on the squarenix ones, it's not squarenix who you should be worried about. sony on the other hand is very defensive of their copyrights in the u.s.a even if something of that nature is not being produced by them. because here the law is on there side. and if anyone is collect of anime or video game replica swords knows this very well.

      but i believe the company isn't in any wrong till one of the creators of said work is being made from complains. and again must find legal standing in that country. i'm betting it's 80% to cover their butts in korean copy right laws. like someone else said 15min of internet search doesn't make you a copyright right lawyer nor an international copyright lawyer.
    13. I think it would fall under the same category as fan art as well. In conventions they have rules that you can only sell a certain percentage of fan art. The fact is you can STILL sell fan art. Even so, I seriously doubt D.I.M. is even posing a threat to Square Enix's profit or any other for that matter. I know there is still the "principal" of it.
      It could also fall under parody? Robot chicken and other shows like it have celebrity and video games characters present, and make a profit...With a disclaimer of course..
      Anyway, most arguments for and against have been said~
    14. Character wise, yes it is infringement. However I don't think its really hurting Squeenix to have a few FF based dolls out there, much like fan fiction/fan art a lot of companies will turn a blind eye to such things because its not hurting their profits and it keeps the fan base happy and generates a little publicity

      if the companies complained and they continued to make the heads I would have an issue, but as it is the heads are relatively small runs and to my knowledge (please correct me if I'm wrong) no company has complained as of yet
    15. whoa. Might be somethin' of a plummet offa that high horse you are riding.

      I am an artist, and I don't give much of a tiny rat's heiney if someone tries to 'copy' my work. I believe what I do is special and unique enough -in it's odd little way- that I'd love to see them try. If someone tries to 'steal' my idea, that's perfectly fine - I have about a hundred a day and there are plenty more where that came from - the next one up out of the bubble machine might even be a good one.

      Ideas and images should be free, I think - the current mania for copyright comes down to pure greed and ultimately destroys the creativity that it purports to protect.
      Every work of art refers to something, even more so in this po-pomo day and age of 'nostalgia and paperwork' as Frank Zappa said. I'm so afraid that one day, the copyright thot-police will be forcing me to pay royalties on my dreams.

      Minimee offers a service, pure and simple. That there are people out there who would use it to slavishly copy a mass-media image, instead of a loved one or (so-called) 'original' character is simply a statement on our society and the role such images play in it. Is cosplay an infringement on copyright, too?
      (oh, lordy. I would truly love to one day see even a bad cosplay of one of my characters! what a hoot that would be)

      Yes, I would stand idly by on an instance of copyright infringement. I choose to tilt at other windmills, like racism, homophobia, poverty, and homelessness.

    16. The key issue in terms of whether things like this will ever come to a crux -- whether it will ever be sued over -- is whether the copyright holder (the person who created the original work) will be damaged financially in any way. Fan art does not usually create a negative effect on the income of the person who did the creative work. The creator can go ahead and get a ruling that "yes, my copyright was violated," but if there was no *financial* loss to the creator, all the ruling will amount to is a "feel-good" piece of paper. It's not what we would like to see if we care about artists' and authors' rights, but for all intents and purposes it's all about the money.

      On the other hand, Minimee heads are made for the purposes of income. Are they taking anything away from the original creator? That's the issue -- at least, the practical issue (not the ethical one, which I refuse to get involved with). I suspect that if it came down to it, a U.S. court would say that the copyright holder did have the right to license these derivative works (in other words, a fee) or to block their manufacture altogether. But would the original copyright holder have enough time, money for legal fees, or interest to go after the fan artist? Sometimes yes; often, no.

      You can always ASK PERMISSION, and that is quite often a successful way to go about it. "Do you mind if we use photos from your collection/the chart you made in your book/the test you designed in our ... [insert use here]." It's boggling how often it works. If it doesn't, well, you move on. If you don't get a response, you *document* the fact that you asked.

      The argument about conventions carries no weight because convention organizers aren't copyright lawyers, they're just trying to figure out a happy balance the same as all the rest of us. In lots of cases, they're just fellow fans. TECHNICALLY SPEAKING, fan art IS copyright infrigement, regardless. In practical terms, though, it comes down to "are you taking money or potential money out of the creator's pockets?"

      Basically, I can see the potential for the Minimee "celebrity" service to be shut down at some point. We shall have to wait and see.

      WOOT! May I take you out to dinner? ;)
    17. I don't think that this could legaly be argueable. I mean different countries have different copyright laws. It would be very hard to charge the company. BTW where is DIM located anyways? If the game creators (or whatever, I'm just using game characters as an example) and DIM were in the same country, it might happen. But I don't know. Good question though...

      ~Chaos :daisy
    18. I’m afraid you’re oversimplifying alot of things. First off, we're not talking about anything overly life changing. This isn't a debate about drug dealing, murder, rape or anything of that nature. The thread is simply a place for us nerds and pretend copy write lawyers to debate an issue. Lines of ownership/copy write law certainly blur when it comes to anime and the sort. If they didn't and ownership was strictly enforced like you'd like then there would be no fan art, fan fiction, cosplay costume, or anything of that sort. The only things that would exist were those release officially by the owner of said rights.

      I never said I think someone who knows something is illegally done should just stand aside and let it go on. I’m not saying, with-in this hobby and the hobbies indirectly attached to it, there is and has for a long time been wiggle room when it comes to copy write law. If you don’t agree that’s fine, if you want to do something about it -- wonderful. However, if you start policing DoA and the BJD world, you’d better start policing all Anime/Manga forums too.

      You’re right, I’m don’t consider myself an artist - I dabble in this and that but I am no artist. That being said, I’d like to point out since we’re discussing the Minimee project that Denny Kim and the D.I.M have NEVER laid claim to the creation or rights of any of the celebrity/anime/game Minimees they have created.
      I’m sure it’s a horrible feeling for someone to steal something you’ve put a lot of hard work into. I never said I agreed with stealing another person’s work - but I don’t considering creating something in the likeness of an existing character stealing -- I consider it fan service or homage. If it really is stealing, than it is logical that all fan made dolls based on the appearance or idea of an existing character should be reported to those who own the rights to that character.

      Finally, I’ll thank you not to attack me personally again. After all, I was only voicing my opinion on a topic that is up for debate. I’m allowed to do that as far as I’m aware. I didn’t attack you, or anyone else directly in my first post.
    19. Like many before have said; SE would probably lose money trying to sue DiM rather than just letting them make their heads. Now, DC or Marvel might have more of a problem with it seeing as you can't even make a character in City of Heroes that resembles one of their characters or you get booted right away. Much like doujinshi(which isn't legal in Japan or anywhere else) I think the copyright holders are just turning a blind eye because getting a head of their favourite final fantasy character likely isn't going to make the person stop buying SE games and they're not likely to try to pass a Cloud mnm off as their own character(unless it's less than 80% likeness and is just more of some of Cloud's features rather than his entire face). *shrug* so, while I likely wouldn't get one(I like the thrill of finding a mold) I don't have a problem with mnms based on characters. Though I'm sure say Johnny Depp would kinda be like "wtf?!" if he saw he had a doll head based on his appearance ^^;