I am interested in commissioning an artist to do a painting of Disney's Cinderella Castle, a building on the private property of Walt Disney World. The building was erected in 1971 (and is based on the castle shown in the Disney movie Cinderella from 1950). I would like to sell the original painting and prints of the painting to Disney fans. The painting would not include any Disney characters.
Probably not as the building is a rendering of the copyrighted element in the Cinderella movie, seek copyright counsel for advice on this matter.
You can speak to IP counsel if you really want to pursue this, but I expect that Disney owns the copyright in the design of the castle. To make a painting thereof would thus be a copyright infringement. The absence of characters is not relevant. It is the copyright in the building which is the issue.
In addition, the image of Cinderella's Castle is very likely trademarked by Disney. It is the image they used for their television shows and more. Any commercial use would at least imply a possible commercial connection between yourself and Disney, a misdirection which trademark law is intended to prevent.
Using it for commercial purposes is definitely a no-no.
As long as the person you hire doesn’t use a Disney-owned image of the castle as the model for his painting, I don’t see how copyright law applies.
The castle was built long before the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act granted copyright protection to buildings so the castle is not a copyrightable "architectural work."
And because the castle actually functions as a one-room hotel with a restaurant and other amenities it is, presumptively, a non-copyrightable "useful article" and not a 3D “sculptural work.” Granted, a useful article can be a sculptural work if, and to the extent that, the design incorporates features identifiably separate from, and existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article – features, in this case, such as the castle’s spire, fancy turrets, drawbridge, and clock tower. But the castle was created before the 1976 Copyright Act and so for copyright to attach Disney would have had to comply with the registration and notice requirements – which is highly doubtful.
In short, while Disney clearly owns many copyrights in its many images of its castle, the castle itself is very likely not copyright-protected. Your painter is free, at least under copyright law, to take his own photograph of the castle and use that as the model for his painting [or anyone else’s photograph with permission].
However, as my colleagues note, the image of the castle is very clearly an iconic Disney identifier – that is, it is a very FAMOUS trademark Disney uses to identify itself and its products and services. While an artist’s First Amendment right to freely express himself sometimes trumps trademark law it most certainly does not when the artist is merely accurately re-creating reality – which is your plan exactly. So, no, your plan to make and sell prints of the Disney castle is very clearly unlawful under trademark law.
The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.
17 USC § 120.(a) Scope of exclusive rights in architectural works PICTORIAL REPRESENTATIONS PERMITTED.-The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.
Is the Castle visible from a public place? Is there any Trademark Interest in the Castle? See IP Counsel
My comments have been made without discussion. An attorney client relationship has not been established. There may be conflicts which prohibit my providing you with specific legal guidance. Any contact with you beyond these few general words will start with a disclosure of opposing parties so that a conflict check can be made. You should discuss with an attorney.
There might be a way to do this without running afoul of trademark and copyright laws, but it will be difficult and likely not commercially viable. First, it is possible that the castle is protectable by copyright law as a sculptural work or architectural design. Protection in both cases is limited but theoretically possible. Also. Even if the castle design is not protectable by copyright, you would have a difficult time selling your prints without suggesting some affiliation with Disney. Particularly if you are selling to "Disney Fans." They are likely to bunk you have permission from Disney. If you don't, that is trademark infringement. Again, there might be something you could do about this to limit your risk, but I'm having trouble thinking of a way. Good Luck. Mark.
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