Winged Rodent Man, you're my hero!
February 23, 2012 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of making custom costumes to sell. I have an opportunity to advertise through a local comic shop and I suspect many clients will be looking for replicas of existing heros/heroines. What legalities do I need to be aware of in terms of copyright infringement?

I'm looking to create high-quality investment pieces for serious geeks, not just cheap polyester Halloween wear. Ideally I would make some samples and sketches of popular characters costumes as Batman will doubtless be more popular than Winged Rodent Man. Not all work would be knock-offs, it's all custom. Once in discussion with a client I don't think it'll be a problem as I will be commissioned to create something to their specifications, but I could be wrong there.

Any thoughts?
posted by Carlotta Bananas to Law & Government (6 answers total)
I'd suspect that this issue has been discussed pretty extensively by some people who do commissioned cosplay costumes, and it might give you a place to start looking.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 2:31 PM on February 23, 2012

I'm on my phone & can't google it, but there was a kerfluffle a few years ago about a business selling reproduction Storm Trooper helmets that got hit by George Lucas lawyers. IIRC the company is still operating in the UK but can no longer sell in the US. Regardless, I would steer clear of Lucasfilm properties, as they are notoriously litigious.

IIRC there are some cosplay contests at cons that require entrants to have made their own costumes, or at least some percentage of it. That's not really your problem, just something to be aware that exists (especially if someone buys a costume and then claims they made it).
posted by nicebookrack at 4:06 PM on February 23, 2012

AHA, found the Star Wars thing:
posted by nicebookrack at 4:08 PM on February 23, 2012

There's also a pending case against a costume shop that sold or rented costumes of Disney Pooh characters--Disney vs. Marchena.

What I have seen other costume makers do is to avoid using photos of costumes inspired by the works for which US companies are rights holders on their flyers and public material, as most Japanese rights holders are better disposed to cosplay.

I've never heard of an individual cosplayer being approached by agents of a rights holder for violations, but advertising products that are arguably infringing on the IP rights of US companies seems to be risky.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:55 PM on February 23, 2012

While I am a lawyer, I am not your lawyer.

If you are making costumes of existing characters and selling them, there is no gray area. You are violating the law. The only questions are whether you'd get caught, and if so, whether the offended party would require only that you cease and desist.
posted by starkraven at 4:25 AM on February 24, 2012

IANAL, but I think your issues are not only copyright, but also Trademark.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:23 AM on February 24, 2012

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