Legal considerations of Brickfilms

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March 29, 2003 at 3:14 pm #124
Avatar of jay
jay

Let me first apologize for dragging this issue up again and be clear that I am not looking for opinions on the issue, but rather for any facts or evidence of The Lego Company’s stance on brickfilms.

I have tried writing to Tony of Spite Your Face about their experience and to The Lego Company in hope of some official word (beyond the brief copyright section on their web page) but I’ve had no response from either.

So,

1. Do any of the older members recall the details of the One debacle?

2. Has anyone been in direct contact with the Lego company about the legalities of making, distributing and possibly even selling brickfilms?

3. Does anyone know anyone else who has had any positive or negative feedback from The Lego Comany regarding a brickfilm?

The reason I ask is that I’ve guessed at how long my pirate movie is going to take to complete (not to mention cost) and I don’t want to put that much work into something if I am seriously restricted as to what I can do with it later. I would much rather make it with Lego bricks, but I’m still at a point where I could switch to real puppets if I had to, although the cost and time involved will both increase dramatically.

Any help would be appreciated.

-j

March 29, 2003 at 8:37 pm #128
Avatar of Drunken Farmer Ben
Drunken Farmer Ben

I’ve tried contacting Lego several times with legal regards, with no success. With copyright law, they could probably nab you if they wanted. I’ll take a look at some copyright law and see if I can find anything, and try to contact lego again. May have to send a real letter. And I’m researching US copyright. It is probably different for Canada, and international is most likley different too, but similar.

LEGO Systems, Inc.
555 Taylor Road
P.O. Box 1600
Enfield, CT 06083-1600
U.S.A.
(Just for my own refrence, so I know where I put it)

And Jay, if you want to also contact them, here is the Canada address:

LEGO Canada Inc.
380 Markland Street
Markham, Ontario
Canada L6C 1T6

UPDATE:
Boy, I forgot how much I hate going trough code. I found one thing that we have all pretty much agreed on.

US Code Title 17 Chapter 1 Sec. 106A:

a) Rights of Attribution and Integrity. –

Subject to section 107 and independent of the exclusive rights provided in section 106, the author of a work of visual art –

(1)

shall have the right –

(A)

to claim authorship of that work, and

(B)

to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of any work of visual art which he or she did not create;

So, pretty much, don’t use the word Lego in any movies, names, or show it anywhere. We all knew that, but here is the backing. Havent found any more so far.

March 29, 2003 at 9:02 pm #129
Avatar of applepieandcoffee
applepieandcoffee

I can’t answer any of those questions, but if there were lego DVDs I’d probably buy them.

March 30, 2003 at 11:50 am #134
Avatar of Holgor
Holgor

“zirkusaffe” wrote:
I have tried writing to Tony of Spite Your Face about their experience and to The Lego Company in hope of some official word (beyond the brief copyright section on their web page) but I’ve had no response from either.

So, you actually tried to contact the Lego company. If you now would write a second email, that you didn’t receive an answer and that you now think that using Lego bricks in your movies (even for commercial purposes) is legal – then they have to answer. If they still don’t answer, safe your mails so that you can prove that you tried to contact them for that legal/illegal reason.
Danger: I have no idea of the law in the US / Canada, but I can’t see anything wrong about the above.

Isn’t there some kind of FAQ on the Lego site?
Keep us informed!

March 30, 2003 at 2:10 pm #136
Avatar of jay
jay

For certain, I can assume that no response does not imply that it’s okay to just go ahead.

At the From Bricks to Bothans forum they have an Ask Lego section, in which users post questions and an actual Lego representative replies at his discretion. He’s from Lego Direct, he may be a shortcut to getting a contact elsewhere who can give me an answer.

I’m also going to try writing a real letter to the address for Lego Canada above and see what that gets me.

I’d still love to hear what happened to SYF, if only to be aware of what exactly TLC was concerned about before I start talking to them.

-j

March 31, 2003 at 12:30 am #139
Avatar of

Seeing as how they have a Steven Spielberg filmmaker kit, one would assume that the LEGO company would have anticipated that, at some point, a film using lego bricks and minifigs would eventually make its way onto the net.

Now, whether or not you can actually make money from a brickfilm without incuring the legal wrath of LEGO :o is a different matter. As long as it is a hobby, I’m sure they have no problem with it.

But if you are trying to make money by selling brickfilms, I offer this small piece of advice: get a job, it pays better. Leave brickfilming as a hobby!

March 31, 2003 at 12:46 am #140
Avatar of Yolegoman
Yolegoman

“4096″ wrote: Seeing as how they have a Steven Spielberg filmmaker kit, one would assume that the LEGO company would have anticipated that, at some point, a film using lego bricks and minifigs would eventually make its way onto the net.

Now, whether or not you can actually make money from a brickfilm without incuring the legal wrath of LEGO :o is a different matter. As long as it is a hobby, I’m sure they have no problem with it.

But if you are trying to make money by selling brickfilms, I offer this small piece of advice: get a job, it pays better. Leave brickfilming as a hobby!

Amen to that Brother!

This is a Hobby Zirkusaffe, don’t even bother making your film if you just want money off it! Panhandling pays better!

Just ask yourself this: R U making Pirates so that you can get some extra cash, or are you making it because you have a story to tell and want to tell it!

Yolegoman

March 31, 2003 at 2:55 am #143
Avatar of Brian of Gep
Brian of Gep

Maybe we could exchange our animating services for legal representation?

:P

March 31, 2003 at 3:39 am #145
Avatar of Drunken Farmer Ben
Drunken Farmer Ben

“Brian of Gep” wrote: Maybe we could exchange our animating services for legal representation?

:P

I work at a law office. Only about $150/hour at the cheapest :D

March 31, 2003 at 12:04 pm #148
Avatar of jay
jay

On that whole selling issue; the idea isn’t to make millions and retire. I’m considering only a very modest fee to cover web hosting, CDs/DVDs and basic production costs.

Of course, from the legal perspective the amount doesn’t matter. Once you start generating any sort of income it becomes an entirely different situation.

I’ll let you know if I find out anything. Thanks for the input, guys.

-j

March 31, 2003 at 12:12 pm #149
Avatar of Buxton
Buxton

More uninformed speculation, I’m afraid, but those two artist guys who made and sold mock art made from LEGO didn’t have any problem that I’m aware of.

Also, you can buy an unofficial LEGO holy trinity (not unlike the one in the Mollusk video) online someplace.

I don’t think either of these operations has been shut down. Yet.

March 31, 2003 at 6:19 pm #150
Avatar of Jason
Jason

Jay,

I have talked to LEGO legal before, one of their top guys. Feel free to contact me via email to hear what they had to say.

Jason

March 31, 2003 at 7:43 pm #155
Avatar of eventide
eventide

Jason, could you summarize what the Lego legal rep. said and post here? Inquiring minds want to know.

April 2, 2003 at 9:04 pm #183
Avatar of ferret
ferret

Hi

I’ve been reading these forums for a while and I find them really great and useful.

I’m prompted to post because of Jason’s mention that he has talked to LEGO legal before.

I have bunches of ideas for stuff but rather limited time to explore them.

I’d really like to hear any information Jason can shed on legal issues — even if it’s only a starting point for thinking up more questions.

Despite the existence of the Lego Studios set — which is some sort of tacit approval for people to make movies with Lego parts — it does seem to me that beyond a certain point even the simplest movie endeavors go beyond “home use.”

I first found movies with Legos on ifilm.com — that’s how I got all interested in them. The TOS for ifilm states:

“To show your film on our site, you must own or hold the rights to the film and have all the rights and clearances (music, etc.).”

Two things this makes me wonder about right off are:
1. Do the folks with Lego films on ifilm *really* have all their rights and clearances to use Legos or not? As in — did a Lego lawyer sign off on it?
2. Even if the filmmakers claim that they personally did the films for fun and not for profit, by being shown on ifilm the films are now part of someone’s for-profit commercial endeavor. Is this technically stepping over the line?

Lego Corp’s position on this is really important. My non-legalese description of this would be “It’s all a lot of fun until someone pokes an eye out.”

I know that my company is super happy when our product is featured *anywhere*. (It is totally unrelated to Legos.) But we go out of our way to try to get exposure — even if it’s talk show hosts making fun of our product.

However, Lego’s point of view is going to be whatever their point of view is. I don’t know how comfortable I’d be working on something while always have a nagging legal question hanging over it.

If Jason has some reason why he doesn’t want to post the info publicly, I’ll be glad to email him privately (or he is welcome to email me).

If Jason can post what he has learned from Lego Legal here publicy, I think it would be much appreciated by both the regulars on the board as well as by the “lurkers” like me who have been reading for a while but have not posted. Although every person with questions could probably contact Lego, I think it would be more efficient for the results to be shared.

Thanks for all the help (as I’ve said I’ve been reading these boards for a while and have really learned a lot here).

- Eric (ferret)

April 3, 2003 at 5:40 am #191
Avatar of Jason
Jason

This is probably going to end up as one of those “infamous” internet posts where someone inserts foot into mouth or head into ass. I’m sure the AFOL community in general is interested about this, and this might be a bit awkward, but I’ll spill the beans anyway.

Names omitted to protect the innocent (or guilty).

A while back (maybe two years ago) I was approached to do a commercial using plastic bricks for one of the largest (say, top 50) companies in the world. Actually, it was their marketing/ad department (and ad agency). They wanted me to do an in house commercial promoting a certain product that they would give to their sales reps. Basically, it was something they would show at meetings, etc. and not to my knowledge for broadcast use. But since this was a huge company, they wanted their ad and use of it to be airtight. We were all set to go and had negotiated a price (one of the last things you do in a contract) , when I received a cautionary call from my contact there. She wanted to know if LEGO (TLC or TLG, whatever they are going by) was ok with this. I told her my stance, which was that LEGOs were like any other medium, like clay or dolls. There were numerous competitors to LEGO, and since I had bought the toys, what right did they have to say what I could or could not do with them? If I wanted to make an art exhibt out of them, and sell it, so be it. If I wanted to make a film, and sell it, so be it.

Anyway, she said that was well and good, but they still wanted “permission” from LEGO. So I emailed a general contact, was refered to a higher contact, then a higher one, until I had an email discussion with what I supposed was a definative source, a higher up general council at LEGO. He expressed that LEGO could not GIVE me explict permission to make this film. I expressed back that LEGO was a cultural phenonemon, and companies such as Hypnotic (producers of Rick and Steve), AT&T (who had a commercial featuring brick animation), etc. had all made films with what LOOKED like LEGOS. He said that was well and good, but they still could not give me permission.

To be clear here, they did NOT say I could not make the film or that there would be legal action. If you read between the lines, as I did, they did not want to open themselves to any liability by “endorsing” my commercial.

This is the stance I have taken in all future projects. I was also contacted by the fine people from the former members of Public Enemy to do a rock video for them. That was greenlighted until I found out they had no budget for a video, and I was not willing to work for free. But at no time did the producers there ask whether they needed or requested any kind of permission. In fact, that video (if we had made it .. we just made test clips and animatics for them) would have been the first “LEGO” music video on MTV. But because they did not pay up, the White Stripes beat us to it.

I can name several other cases and instances were toys have been used by performers and artists. All of these fall into the realm of “cultural icon”. One instance in particular is the Barbie case, where Mattel sued the makers of “It’s a Barbie World” and lost. The judge in that case ruled that the Barbie figures were a cultural icon and essentially public domain.

I have no beef with LEGO, or TLG or TLC. They make a wonderful product and I give them lots of money every year buying it. But I also buy from their competitors, Best Lock, Tyco Mega Blocks, etc. I would LOVE to work for LEGO making films, but it seems that job is already filled (thanks, Spite Your Face … just kidding big guys .. congrats). But because I do not have, and none of us have, “official” endorsement from LEGO does not mean we cannto make and sell films using similar products. 80% or more of the sets I build involve other brands of plastic building bricks, which is why I call my films (and encourage you to) Brick Films.

Hope all is clear and understood,

Jason

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