Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

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Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Kisai on Sat Apr 04, 2009 1:36 am

I thought this might be somewhat on-topic and somewhat off-topic if you currently do photo comics with toys:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picture ... Bible.html

Lawyers for the firm - based in Zirndorf, southern Germany - are writing to the 38-year-old priest telling him he has no permission for the project and must no longer use the name Playmobil, dress figures in Biblical costumes or photograph them

...

But Gisela Kupiak of Playmobil said: "We've got no problem with using the figures as they are in their original costumes. What we are on about is redesigning them and changing their appearance"
Picture: http://www.playmo-bibel.de/


IMO, they would be able to get away with it if they didn't reference playmobile, but this does beg the question of why does the toy company care what you do with their toy once it's purchased? It's not like he's making counterfeit playmobile toys in bible garb and selling it.
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Dr Neo Lao on Sat Apr 04, 2009 5:10 am

This is an interesting legal grey area that I have been sort of involved in with the Lego Group with a variety of communities that make films with Lego (brickfilms.com and bricksinmotion.com, among others). There has always been this yes/no relationship with the parent company.

Most people who have an opinion seem to be broadly divided into two main groups - those that say "the items have been paid for, the company has no say in how they are used" and the others say "the company has trademark/copyright on the item and can take action against an individual when condition X is met".

Usually "condition X" is defined as "starts making money" or "presents the product in an unsavoury light".

There was some controversy a while back when the film Frankenstein was shown at BrickFest causing children watching to cry and calls from parents for the film to be banned (at least at conventions). Although there is nothing overtly violent in the film, the dark overtones along with Lego people getting knifed was enough to set the excitable off. Presumably the films shown before it were light comedies (the more common type of film made with Lego).

From the small amount of information available about this specific news item, the main problem appears to be the use of the company name, which is usually a bad idea. If the priest had used a more generic name, there might not have been as much of a problem. Or if the topic had been less hot-button it might have gone under the radar as well. Such things are usually done best with custom scratch-built models, but that is usually too expensive and difficult for the average person.

Plus it's usually something small and simple exploding that causes these big controversies. I can imagine what would happen if TLG told the other doctor to take down Legostar Galactica...
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby McDuffies on Sat Apr 04, 2009 6:11 am

Some people don't like free advertising.
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Tellurider on Sat Apr 04, 2009 7:29 am

Well those photos are kind of disturbing when you realize the expression on everyone's face (including Jesus) at the crucifixion is :)
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Bustertheclown on Sat Apr 04, 2009 11:22 am

If the guy was using the Playmobil name, then it is most certainly a trademark issue. Interestingly, it seems that changing the look of the toys might extend into trademark infringement, since that seems to be a major sticking point within the issue. Makes sense, I suppose, since the Playmobil look is a trademark. As much as it sucks for the priest, who seems to have put a lot of work into it, if he had intended to make this a widely-distributed project, he should have gone through the proper legal channels. The guy can get an O.K. from the Pope, but not from an IP lawyer?

The knee-jerk reaction that Playmobil is somehow wrong by distancing itself from this project on religious grounds is ridiculous, by the way. This isn't so much about not offending Muslims or Buddhists or Wiccans or Atheists. This is more about being branded through association as "that Christian toy," which may very well limit the brand's crossover selling capabilities. Think about it, your company name is on the work, and your company's products are not only the primary focus, but have been retooled and specially dressed for the occasion. That's going to come off as an endorsement, unless you do something to protest the work.

It doesn't seem totally out of the realm of possibility that an agreement might be reached here. I, for one, hope so. However, it does go to show that IP is the hot commodity these days. You're not even safe from it while you're playing with your toys.
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Siabur on Sat Apr 04, 2009 5:40 pm

Well Lego has a fair use policy which basically says have fun, just don't use our name or imply LEGO™ has anything to do with it.
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby MixedMyth on Sat Apr 04, 2009 8:33 pm

good question, especially since there is a huge movement to modify action figures and my Little ponies. I'm honestly not sure they could really get very far with this. Or that they should. Otherwise every time a child redresses a toy, technically they would be in violation. It might be another matter if you were doing it for profit or something.

however, it being a trademark issue does make sense.
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Rkolter on Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:50 am

Yeah, my reading of this was that the company saw this and went, "Oh wow, he's mutilating our figures and associating it with our name!" I really don't think they have a legal stand to say that you can't mutilate things you buy from them, or take pictures of them, or display those pictures. Certainly you signed no contract to that extent when you bought the toy. MixedMyth talks about kids dressing up toys - what about toddlers CHEWING on them? That's sure mutilation...

They absolutely DO have the right to protect their brand name though, and you don't purchase the right to use their name when you buy their toy, afaik.
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Kisai on Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:58 pm

Siabur wrote:Well Lego has a fair use policy which basically says have fun, just don't use our name or imply LEGO™ has anything to do with it.


Unfortunately a lot of webcomics unintentionally use 'LEGO' as part of the title, much like Playmobile brand in this story. Things get messy because "Lego{noun|verb}" and "LEGO {noun|verb}" are two different things, the latter being trademark infringement, and the former possibly being a parody. That space, and the capitals make a difference, though trademarks are case insensitive.

The LEGO brand however is always displayed as upper case and LEGO is actually one of those companies that has an official policy, http://www.lego.com/eng/info/fairplay.asp , but they will blindly ignore everything reported to them unless someone makes a business case to do the legal work. There are eBay sellers who routinely put unauthorized copies of lego instructions on eBay, and get away with it, but not when someone sells a "LEGO-like" item and mention the LEGO brand when not selling any LEGO branded item. That's just a real life example.

This is also a case where a different countries IP laws may actually make things less fair. German IP law (many international companies have their EU HQ's in Germany) is actually weaker on copyright but strong on trademarks. I'd explain it, but that goes way off into legal stuff.

Anyway, I thought this would be interesting to bring up, as it's a real world case of a webcomic getting into trademark trouble.
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Dr Neo Lao on Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:32 am

I know that if I had more space and a lot more skill I'd be doing foam-latex custom models. It'd probably take a whole load more money as well.

However, there is a strong sense of success when you can overcome the limitations of a specific product and do something that it can't do (or at least not easily). Do people have any idea how hard it is to convey tense drama when everyone is grinning ear to ear?
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Kisai on Tue Apr 07, 2009 9:18 pm

Dr Neo Lao wrote:I know that if I had more space and a lot more skill I'd be doing foam-latex custom models. It'd probably take a whole load more money as well.

However, there is a strong sense of success when you can overcome the limitations of a specific product and do something that it can't do (or at least not easily). Do people have any idea how hard it is to convey tense drama when everyone is grinning ear to ear?


If only access to a rapid prototyping machine was cheap. :p
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Dr Neo Lao on Wed Apr 08, 2009 2:40 am

lol.

I suppose $5K for a 3D printer is a lot more affordable than it used to be. Just depends on the definition of "cheap" that one is using.

Of course, if I was really serious about making "cheap" custom models, I could be making mine out of leftover screws, cardboard and string. I guess I'd have to put it down to "lazy". :shifty:
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby Rkolter on Wed Apr 08, 2009 4:16 am

Kisai wrote:
Dr Neo Lao wrote:I know that if I had more space and a lot more skill I'd be doing foam-latex custom models. It'd probably take a whole load more money as well.

However, there is a strong sense of success when you can overcome the limitations of a specific product and do something that it can't do (or at least not easily). Do people have any idea how hard it is to convey tense drama when everyone is grinning ear to ear?


If only access to a rapid prototyping machine was cheap. :p


They built one for a few hundred bucks at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. It's slow and uses epoxy, but it worked.
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Re: Thou shalt not copy Playmobil ? (It's kinda a webcomic)

Postby KWill on Wed Apr 08, 2009 6:04 am

Kisai wrote:IMO, they would be able to get away with it if they didn't reference playmobile, but this does beg the question of why does the toy company care what you do with their toy once it's purchased? It's not like he's making counterfeit playmobile toys in bible garb and selling it.

The name's been changed to "klicky-bibel.de", but they're still going after him for altering the models. Don't know much else about it. All I know is from the article on Tagesschau.de (German).
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