1. #1

    Copyright: Pets/Mounts

    Just wondering if anyone can help me out. I'm a crochet designer and long time wow player and I'm currently working on a couple of designs for patterns to make wow inspired toys. I plan to sell pdfs of the patterns online (not the final pieces) but have no idea what the legality of it is. For example, a couple I'm working on are a murloc and Egbert.

    I've been on the Blizzard legal FAQs and they only mention copyright of the games/names, not characters within the games.

    For what its worth, they patterns are sold at a small price (~$5) and there are other designers selling wow inspired patterns including murlocs.

  2. #2
    The Insane Val the Moofia Boss's Avatar
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    As far as American law goes, the company owns the character designs, so selling (for example) Murloc plushies would be copyright infringement. That being said, people sell rip off merch all of the time, ie their homemade Pikachu T-shirts or Millennium Falcon model kits or Mickey Mouse plushies or whatever. It's a cottage industry here in the US, stuff sold in small online stores or at fan conventions, etc. Depending on where you are selling your merch, if you're small enough to notice then Blizzard's lawyers probably won't come after you. If you want to be on the safe side, then don't call your merch "Murloc", and maybe tweak the design a little bit to give you plausible deniability. If you're just making a few hundred bucks off of this stuff and you don't gain much attention, then Blizzard probably won't think it's worth the bother to sue you.

    This is not legal advice. You should probably consult a forum dedicated to this kind of stuff.

  3. #3
    It's quite easy, they most likely won't care if offer them for free, particularily in such a niche market. They probably rather embrace the additional exposure.

    But if you actually profit from their IPs it's only a question of time until they come down hard on you.

  4. #4
    First off, it probably doesn't matter whether or not you're selling the actual toys or just the designs - it's the designs that are protected after all, in whatever form they may end up appearing. That being said, people do this all the time, even in the US. It's usually not legal, especially if sold for profit (rather than, say, given away as a prize or whatever). If they decided to take legal action, you'd likely have to forfeit all proceeds plus pay penalties.

    As long as the operation is very small, they're unlikely to come after you. But that's never a guarantee, since there's often a "use it or lose it" situation in copyright that forces them to protect their IP or be at risk of forfeiting the copyright. Cease and desist letters from lawyers are not uncommon.

    The safest way would be to just not do this. You can try skirting the fringes with deniable designs (as suggested above) but that's by no means a surefire way of avoiding legal trouble. If they want to go after you for it, they can; and they'll win. Heck this thread could well turn into "Exhibit A" during a trial, demonstrating you knew this was potentially illegal

    It's probably not worth the risk, considering even a small legal problem can balloon into epic costs in many legal systems (especially the US). Even without a trial, just engaging a lawyer to communicate with them can easily ruin your day.

    [this is not legal advice, just friendly advice]

  5. #5
    You can potentially change it enough to fall under fair use...that's generally how a lot of people get away with selling unofficial tshirts and stuff

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Mysterymask View Post
    You can potentially change it enough to fall under fair use...that's generally how a lot of people get away with selling unofficial tshirts and stuff
    While that's true in theory, fair use is VERY complicated.

    Fair use works (fairly) well on platform-backed content, because they act as a buffer. If this was e.g. about YouTube videos that's a different situation, because YT has a vested interest in content creators and things play out very differently.

    But some rando commando selling designs on the internet? That's about as vulnerable as it gets, fair use or not.

    If they want to shut you down, they'll send you a C&D letter, demand that you repay all profits, and you'll do it. Because good luck trying to argue your $200 fair use case against a corporation like Blizzard. Just making a phone call to your lawyer will cost you more than that.

    [this is not legal advice, just friendly advice]

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Biomega View Post
    But some rando commando selling designs on the internet? That's about as vulnerable as it gets, fair use or not.
    Completely agreed. Without a buffer you will be fish food for copyright claims. And remember that an increasing amount of copyright is automatic and triggered by AIs. A ton of artists online are facing claims from estates of famous artists for using similar COLOR SCHEMES as established design (Lisa Frank is notorious for going after artists simply for using rainbow colors in their art). It's the Wild West out there.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Biomega View Post
    First off, it probably doesn't matter whether or not you're selling the actual toys or just the designs - it's the designs that are protected after all, in whatever form they may end up appearing. That being said, people do this all the time, even in the US. It's usually not legal, especially if sold for profit (rather than, say, given away as a prize or whatever). If they decided to take legal action, you'd likely have to forfeit all proceeds plus pay penalties.

    As long as the operation is very small, they're unlikely to come after you. But that's never a guarantee, since there's often a "use it or lose it" situation in copyright that forces them to protect their IP or be at risk of forfeiting the copyright. Cease and desist letters from lawyers are not uncommon.

    The safest way would be to just not do this. You can try skirting the fringes with deniable designs (as suggested above) but that's by no means a surefire way of avoiding legal trouble. If they want to go after you for it, they can; and they'll win. Heck this thread could well turn into "Exhibit A" during a trial, demonstrating you knew this was potentially illegal

    It's probably not worth the risk, considering even a small legal problem can balloon into epic costs in many legal systems (especially the US). Even without a trial, just engaging a lawyer to communicate with them can easily ruin your day.

    [this is not legal advice, just friendly advice]
    You've all made excellent points. Its just so frustrating that these big companies come after small independent crafters who are making a few hundred quid here and there. I suppose the smartest thing to do is to offer these patterns for free.

    Thank you all for your input, greatly appreciated

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Kamilah View Post
    Just wondering if anyone can help me out. I'm a crochet designer and long time wow player and I'm currently working on a couple of designs for patterns to make wow inspired toys. I plan to sell pdfs of the patterns online (not the final pieces) but have no idea what the legality of it is. For example, a couple I'm working on are a murloc and Egbert.

    I've been on the Blizzard legal FAQs and they only mention copyright of the games/names, not characters within the games.

    For what its worth, they patterns are sold at a small price (~$5) and there are other designers selling wow inspired patterns including murlocs.
    Copyright is inherently applied to whoever initially created the artwork. They don't need to file anything to make it theirs. But, the likelihood of them coming after you is very low. Worst case, they send you an email asking you to stop, or have whichever shop you post it on take it down. I know a lot of people who sell fan art of all different characters and the worst that ever happened was someone got a T-shirt design taken down by a copyright bot on Redbubble I think it was. Once, a company even asked my wife if they could use her fan art of their own character in a promotion. I'm pretty sure you'll be totally fine.
    Last edited by dwarven; 2022-05-20 at 08:34 AM.

  10. #10
    Brewmaster Pakheth's Avatar
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    If I'm gonna give advice it would be to keep the sales to a small limited number and don't directly use Blizzard's own art. Fanart/creations are often accepted because the numbers are small and it's the artist's own rendition of the character/creature. The moment you go mass producing is usually when they come knocking. Also doing it in "your style" helps a lot. Also stay faaaar away from logos and try to avoid mentioning the IP.

    This is also not legal advice, just my experiences in general making and selling fan made stuff.

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