Disney must be really desperate for money. Desperate enough to go after not only large sellers of IP infringing merchandise but it’s now rumored they’re going after smaller sellers on places like Etsy and eBay as well.
Recently a lawsuit was filed by Disney Enterprises and Lucasfilm LTD. against Kissimmee online sellers that allegedly continued to sell unauthorized Disney merchandise, even after they were given Cease and Desist documents more than once.
According to the lawsuit Disney is going after The Secret Disney Group and Popsella Marketplace. They are both run by the same people.
Disney officials said that the site managers have continued to trade in unauthorized Disney merchandise and so far the items have been removed from Etsy.
However, I’m starting to see other sellers discussing how they also had items removed or were told to remove items that featured Disney or Lucasfilm characters.
If this is true could Disney go after the artists at conventions next?
With the exception of approved artists, that usually have deals with Disney to sell prints or art, most of the art you see in Artist’s Alley is unauthorized. Some sellers are making a lot of money selling art of characters they don’t own the rights to.
Which makes me wonder how far Disney will go?
Is it going to be a pick-and-choose type situation where they go after some people but not others?
Does Disney really want to do this? It might hurt “development” of some of their popular “authorized” merchandise.
Why do I say this?
Because Disney artists have seemingly taken designs from sellers on places like Etsy before. It’s been claimed that some popular shirt designs on Etsy have ended up as eerily similar designs in the Disney stores. I myself can think of a couple cases where that seemed to be the case.
Then there’s the incident where one of the Disney merchandise artists was accused of stealing his design for an Enchanted Tiki Room Drummer from an artist on TikTok who had created a 3D printable version. The similarities were undeniable, down to the same markings the artist left in his design.
Now this being said, it could all be Disney freelancers or artists taking designs without Disney knowing they did. It happens all the time. It’s how they handle it after knowing that matters. In the case of the Tiki Room Drummer they must have reached some kind of agreement as the videos have since been removed.
When it comes to Disney cracking down on IP theft they legally have the right to do it.
You really shouldn’t be using a company’s IP without permission and I’ve seen the artists who used “unauthorized” Disney IP get angry when someone steals their art without permission, that they created without permission. However Disney has the right to crack down on unauthorized merchandise. It seems like they offered chances for at least the Kissimmee sellers to comply before jumping to a lawsuit.
I have to wonder if they are making an example of these companies hoping that other artists will willingly take down their items to avoid legal troubles themselves. Etsy seems to be pushing to remove potential copyright infringing items on their own. But that is so they are liable.
However, sites like Etsy have been known to go too far, taking down items that aren’t related to an IP based on part of a name.
Innocent people using Public Domain characters, that Disney also uses, could inadvertently get flagged by Etsy. Redbubble came under fire for pulling down someone’s Loki shirt design that said “Low Key.” It seems Disney tried to file for a violation of copyright but it was questioned over the character being a Norse God and not something they exclusively own. However they do own their character design.
It’s an uphill battle and sometimes the claims aren’t valid but companies comply without investigating, to avoid threats and potential legal issues themselves. Sometimes it’s a clear violation and sometimes it’s not. But corporations have lawyers that will claim anything knowing the sites will comply first and ask questions later. Often, pieces that are not infringing get caught up.
My recommendation is if you are not sure if your items are infringing you should check with a lawyer. Be prepared for a possible removal from sites like Etsy, Ebay or RedBubble.
What do you think? Comment and let us know!
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.