Would I need a Disney license to represent a "Disney-like" character as a party entertainer?
But I'm very concerned about trademark and/or copyright laws.
The Snow White character, for example: I purchased the handmade costume online. It is not a Disney-endorsed costume, and it varies from those worn by actors at the Disney parks. Would it be legal to use this costume for a party entertainment business?
Also, would I need to obtain a Disney license before even beginning?
I am in no way interested in defaming these characters; I intend to represent these characters as respectfully as possible.
How should I go about this?
4 attorney answers
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To add to my colleagues' answers, I note that Disney owns a lot of IP and they're one of the more litigious companies around, so you're right to be concerned. They're aggressive in protecting their character rights, and if they see you advertising a party character business, expect a "cease and desist" letter from one of their army of lawyers.
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You cannot legally conduct business with a counterfeit Snow White (or other Disney character) costume. You get no more rights than the infringer that sold you that costume had to give, which is none. If you buy an officially licensed Disney costume, you still have a legal problem, although Disney is not likely to object unless you cost them money somehow. The reason is that when you put on that costume you assume the role of a Disney character and control the quality associated with that character. Disney carefully guards the quality and image of its characters to assure the quality level is high and the image wholesome, fun, entertaining, and in keeping with the image they want to present. Imagine if Disney let everyone do what you propose, and now a drunk or pervert or criminal dons one of these and does something unseemly or worse. Guess who the parents are going to sue, not you but Disney (follow the money you know)? Guess what the headline would read "Mickey Mouse molests little girl." "Pluto falls down drunk." "Ariel wets her scales." See the problem? So does Disney. Maybe you are under the radar, maybe not. If you create any news or problems, you become a blip on the radar and Disney will become not the Beauty but the Beast. So, best to contact Disney and ask permission or guidelines.
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