i'm using the books as actual birdhouse components, repurposing and altering them by making t he cover the roof and some of the pages as the walls - am I in deep here....?
As far as the copyright goes, you should be OK under the first sale doctrine, which says as long as you are a legal owner of the copy that you have, you can re-sell it without infringing the copyright.
However, there is the secondary issue of whether you would have some trademark trouble. Given that you actually own authorized copies of the books, and you are only re-selling the same ones you bought, you should be OK so long as you aren't advertising the birdhouses as somehow affiliated with the Dr. Seuss enterprise. You would not be competing with that company as you would not be selling books, but you should at least investigate whether the Seuss trademarks are registered for birdhouses too. Unlikely, but who knows.
As far as copyright goes, you have created a derivative work. You own the books that you created the wallpapering from, but you are not reselling books. Instead, you're selling re-configured copyrighted pictorial images from the book. The first-sale doctrine covers the resale of the book. But, think about DJs who make unauthorized mixes of songs. Sure, they bought the record they may mix or sample from, but they aren't reselling their one copy of the original sound recording. They're creating new works of art, and those works are derivative works of the original copyrighted material. Similarly, you've created a new work of art, that can enjoy copyright protection independent of the underlying copyrighted material. HOWEVER, to use the underlying copyrighted material you need a license, unless you have a fair use defense. I haven't heard one in your question. You may if these birdhouses were strictly for art or education. You will have a copyright in the derivative work for the original elements, but you can still infringe on the underlying Dr. Seuss copyrighted images. So, see if they'll give you a license to use the pictures for the birdhouse.
As to the trademark issue, you should definitely have an attorney check to see if the Seuss brand covers bird cages.
Speak with a licensed attorney. This is not meant to be legal advice. This posting does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Alonzo M. Alston, Esq.
I think your biggest issue here would be trademark dilution; the manner in which you are using characters might make the public think that your birdhouses were authorized by the Dr. Seuss copyright owners.
Jason D. Stone
Stone Law, P.C.
Jason D. Stone 732-444-6303. This is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should speak to an attorney for further information.
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