Legal considerations of Brickfilms

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    Profile photo of 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.

    Profile photo of Jason


    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.


    Profile photo of eventide

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

    Profile photo of ferret


    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 — 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)

    Profile photo of 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,


    Profile photo of jay

    As an addendum to that, I’ll distill a bit of my reply from Tony (of Spite Your Face):

    TLG doesn’t care until they get some inclination that you’re making a lot of money using their products – then they get antsy.

    So… what I take from all this is that I will NEVER get a straight answer from TLG because of a safe corporate policy of fence-sitting, but as long as things stay relatively minor league it won’t matter anyway. I’ll just make the movie and see what happens.

    Thanks for the help everyone,


    Profile photo of Holgor

    May I ask how you plan to publish your film, zirkusaffe? Just to a small group, or in a cinema, or what…?

    Just interested ;)

    Profile photo of timdrage

    Apologies for not replying to your email zirkusaffe, been busy and/or in Japan recently! I was going to reply just now, but I appear to have lost the message, doh!
    Anyway, looks like you’ve got some useful advice from others, probably anything I would have told you has been said here… If you need to know any more feel free to email me again…

    Not sure if Lego Studio’s demise will make Lego more or less strict on distribution/screening of Lego movies…?

    Profile photo of Leftfielder

    Last November I attended the Navy-Notre Dame football game at Ravens Stadium. Shortly before halftime Navy (to my complete suprise :o ) showed a short film made with Legos on the big screen promoting Navy and Navy Football. I doubt this will help much but I thought it worth mentioning.

    Profile photo of The Janitor
    The Janitor

    That’s pretty sweet, Leftfielder. But you know, even if Lego did have a problem with it, I don’t think they would mess with the Navy.

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