Is this copyright infringement?

Asked almost 3 years ago - El Toro, CA

Is it copyright infringement to start an educational website that teaches people how to draw popular cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny? I can draw many characters from scratch by memory, so would it be ok to post step-by-step tutorials of how I draw characters that aren’t mine?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Steven Grant Hill

    Contributor Level 7

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    Answered . Stay away from mentioning any specific characters. Keep the focus of the website on how to draw characters from memory, without needing to copy from any fixed tangible medium. Use more generic characters that are not the work of others if at all possible in your tutorials. All of these things will help you to steer clear of becoming the target of a copyright suit. Remember, it is not just about avoiding liability. It is about avoiding a lawsuit and the legal expenses associated with having to defend yourself against an aggressive copyright owner who perhaps has more financial resources than you do.

  2. Jingming Cai

    Pro

    Contributor Level 11

    Answered . Based on what you mentioned, I think your reproducion maybe qualified as "fair use" of the copyrighted materials, hence, non-infringement. The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

    Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

    The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    The nature of the copyrighted work
    The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

    This answer does not constitute legal advice or form any attorney-client relationship. This is a general legal... more
  3. John E. Whitaker

    Contributor Level 16

    Answered . I tend to agree with the answer above. So by the numbers, the fact that you are selling a service that tangentially makes use of copyrighted characters would, likely, constitute copyright infringement. However, the fair use doctrine is a defense to certain conduct which would otherwise be copyright infringement. Assuming that your website focuses solely on how to draw cartoon characters *generally* as opposed to how to draw Bugs Bunny *specifically*, you would likely enjoy a fair use defense.
    With that in mind, you would be well advised to include lots of instruction (perhaps even the majority) on how to draw non-copyrighted cartoon characters.

  4. John William Nelson

    Contributor Level 9

    Answered . I do not agree with the fair use analysis of some on this matter. Mr. Hill's suggestions are the best.

    Not only do I see copyright infringement issues, but I also see trademark issues. How would you advertise the site? If you do so by using ad copy like "Learn how to draw Bugs Bunny!" then you also have a trademark issue on your hand.

    Stay away from characters created by others. You might be able to convince a judge or jury of a fair use defense, but it will cost a lot of money to get there–and I don't see it being a strong defense in this case.

    This information DOES NOT create an attorney/client relationship. I only represent clients after I've entered... more

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