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    Product use rules in film
    #1
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    Hoping someone here can help. I need to use a doll in a short film and was wondering if there are copyright rules for something like a barbie or a cabbage patch doll? Is it fair game as long as the name/logo of the company isn't clearly visible?


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    I'm not a lawyer, so consult one if you really want to know.

    In a for-profit setting, you might be better off making your own doll just for the production. The manufacturers can claim the rights to the likenesses of their trademarked and copyrighted designs. Fair Use says that if you are doing a direct parody of Barbie and you use Barbie for it, then it is legal (although you could still be sued and have to fight in court).

    For a short film, it might not matter if no one notices. (Does anyone watch them?). Some contests might want clearance of all rights, but they are most paranoid about music, and might no notice the doll thing.

    If the manufacturer threatens you, you may have to eventually pull the film, so in the words of Gozer the Gozarien: "Choose and Perish."


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    Senior Member Andrius Simutis's Avatar
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    Don't mess with BarbieŽ. I hear she's a rather litigious little doll. You may want to find a local doll maker and borrow one of theirs if they'd like the promotional exposure. Cash in on those product placement deals!


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    #4
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    Thanks to both of you for the advice!


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    #5
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    What about Chinese Barbie knockoffs? Can you use those? Or what if you use a song that is a parody of a more famous one?


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    Senior Member clang's Avatar
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    Presuming the Barbie knockoff doesn't look just like a real one, and the film doesn't refer to it as a Barbie, then yes that's probably the simplest safe way to use such a doll without being sued by Mattel.

    Parody is a whole can of worms of its own - even shows like Robot Chicken, that are pretty much pure parody, still have a very busy legal department to keep them out of trouble. You probably don't.


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    Senior Member Andrius Simutis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by clang View Post
    Presuming the Barbie knockoff doesn't look just like a real one, and the film doesn't refer to it as a Barbie, then yes that's probably the simplest safe way to use such a doll without being sued by Mattel.
    Not quite.
    Though I'm not a lawyer, from what I understand is that if a person could reasonably confuse the fake for the real one then it's the same thing as using the real one. The part that you get in trouble with is if you imply endorsement or if you defame the brand. If you pan across a child's room and there's a Barbie there, no problem. If you make a movie called "Barbie in Playland" featuring the doll, then you'll get a call from Mattel's lawyers. If you make a porn starring a Barbie doll doing it with Ken, then Mattel would have grounds to sue for damages. Now, if you did either of those things with a doll that isn't made by Mattel, but looks enough like a Barbie that your average viewer could confuse it for a Barbie, then to Mattel it's the same thing as using their IP and they'll be all over you.
    You should really talk to a real entertainment lawyer if you have concerns.


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    Remember also that "fair use" and "parody" are not EXCEPTIONS to copyright protection. They are only legal DEFENSE against conviction of copyright infringement. Even if the legal system finds that the "fair use" or "parody" was legal, you still have to go through the time, expense and hassle of a legal suit to defend yourself. And, as others have already observed, certain companies who own intellectual properties are aggressively litigious. The possibility of going through all that may make the risk unsuitable unless you have deep pockets and a lot of spare time.


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    Senior Member cyclone's Avatar
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    It sometimes comes down to something called "Implied Endorsement". The trademark/copyright holder will often claim that by their product being in your film, there is an implication that they support your film's message or vision (for example, if your film encourages violence or drug use, etc.).


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    Senior Member Patryk_Rebisz's Avatar
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    Real advice i got from real entertainment layer: unless you are trying to do something evil with the object - it's all ok. Just be smart about it. There are thousands of dolls out there so don't automatically go for the most recognizable.
    Patryk Rebisz
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    www.ShoulderTheLion.com - my feature-length documentary
    www.TupeloProductions.com - my production company
    www.PatrykRebisz.com - my directing/DP work
    gear, gear, gear for rent in NYC area!!! >>> www.PatrykRebisz.com/lights.html
    (917) 291-2565


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