We print many types of items for a varied client base. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with it all.
Occasionally, we hit a gray area…copyright infringement.
Here’s an example: Your friend asks you to print her son’s birthday invitation. He’s a huge fan of Maui from the movie Moana. She searched Etsy and found the PERFECT invitation and purchased the high resolution print files from the seller. She was also offered the release forms from the designer to bring to the printer, allowing us to print the invitations.
There is one small problem here…the seller doesn’t own the rights to Maui or Moana. Disney does. The seller does not have the authorization from Disney to use their characters. If they did, they would offer that authorization. Therefore, you haven’t bought the rights to the design at all.
Your friend was probably told that they had the right to reproduce them once, without making changes, for personal use. This isn’t true. Copyright infringement is copyright infringement. If she wants an invitation with a Disney theme or any copy-written character, she will need to request authorization to reproduce from the copyright holder…Disney. Currently, Disney takes approximately 8 weeks turnaround for permission to use their assets. I checked.
As printers, we are legally bound by copyright laws. We print for companies and individuals who hold copyrights. As a business, we appreciate their hard work and it is our obligation to protect their property. This is why we don’t send logos and photos from one client to another without express written (or emailed) permission.
Fines can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars for printing copy-written materials. Those fines can be imposed on your friend, as well as Knight Abbey, for printing the material without proper consent.
Children’s cartoon characters aren’t the only images that require permission to print: the NFL, NBA and MLB insignia; collegiate logos and any graphic design on the Internet that isn’t in the public domain. You even have to be careful what words and color combinations you use. “Roll Tide”, “Just Do It”, “Geaux Tigers”, and “Who Dat” are all copy-written. PMS “Tiffany” blue is copy-written. You must even be careful using green and yellow tractors to prevent copyright infringement with John Deere.
You cannot Google an image, download and use it free and clear. Unless the image is public domain, or you have permission from the website owner to use it, this is theft of intellectual property.
If the company wants to push it, even a hand-drawn, well-recognized character or logo would be considered copyright infringement.
Requesting permission is easy and can usually be done via the company’s website. Do remember that it can take weeks to get a response. When permission is granted, it must be in writing, and a copy will need to be kept with the job.
Alternately, we have some very talented people who can design something for your friend that will be 100% their own!