Can You Get Sued for Pretending to Be Your Favorite Superhero or Villian during a CamShow ? Probably so…

cropped-ablMany performers (and cam studios and camsites) do not understand that famous and popular characters from movies and comic books are copyrighted and are protected as the intellectual property of the company or person who created them.

This issue is, for the most part, ignored by performers and even producers. You couldn’t create a Darth Vader doll and sell it on your website. Most realize that would be a violation of Disney’s rights to merchandise their characters and their “Star Wars” movies. Why then is pretending to be Darth Vader (or any other character) not seen to be the same violation of intellectual property rights ?

For Disney, it is the same. And they have filed a lawsuit against a company in New York that rents out characters such as Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Iron Man and Elsa from Frozen. Disney claims that the company, Characters for Hire, LLC, has been infringing on their copyrights and trademarks in their various characters.

From The Hollywood Reporter –

“Disney alleges that Sarelli has a “knock-off business … built upon the infringement of Plaintiffs’ highly valuable intellectual property rights,” including the fictional characters Darth Vader, Iron Man and Elsa and Anna from Frozen. Disney is upset how this company “provides unlicensed and poor quality appearances and performances” by actors dressed as “iconic characters for themed events, such as children’s parties.”

The lawsuit claims that the costumed actors appearing at these events and the advertising associated with this enterprise represent a violation of both its copyrights and trademark rights.”

The same can be claimed as to anyone using a character during a camshow that is being broadcast over a camsite. It is no different than if the performer was playing a song during the camshow that was not owned by the performer. That would be an infringement on the intellectual property of the writer of the song, the performers singing/playing the song as well as the record company that owns the broadcast rights.

Appearing as your favorite superhero or villian could be considered a parody though. However, that is factual analysis and must be closely examined – after you, the studio or the camsite has been sued, for a court to determine whether the limited fair use defense would apply. There is also the issue that using the trademarked character in a pornographic performance would be considered dilution of their trademark as well as  tarnishing the their trademark. A trademark is tarnished when an infringing mark portrays the infringed mark in a negative light- usually in the context of sex, drugs, crime, etc.

The moral to the story – invent your own characters (and copyright/trademark them) instead of using your favorite superhero or villian in your camshows and clips.


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