Monday, January 9, 2012

So riddle me this Batman Pacman


Sometime about a year ago, I was doing lots of sketching and drawing for my next range of pouches and cushions, and I drew this Pacman illustration.


I really liked it, so I digitally coloured it and had a sample printed, and it looked fabulous.... but then I started to question it.

Some corporation somewhere in the world owns the Intellectual Property rights to Pacman.

I don't think I have the right to use their intellectual property (even if it is my own hand drawn illustration) and I certainly don't have their permission.

So, over the holidays, I was reading blogs and the Spoonflower Top Ten Indie Fabric Designers  and Top Fifty Fabric Designs for 2011 were announced....

Mock Pacman 2.0 fabric by pixeldust

.....and this was the 7th most popular fabric!

So... in your opinion - do you think I should be able to print my drawing and sell pouches and cushions with my design, or do you think I'm stepping over the Intellectual Property boundaries?

16 comments:

Makeminemidcentury said...

I have no answer for you, Creative One.

But kudos to you for caring. I've heard of a whole lot of designers ripping people off regardless ... not that you're ripping people off.

But you have a conscience.

And Intellectual Property lawyer would be able to help you. I'm not an intellectual property lawyer (but I could pretend to be!)

Fiona said...

I don't know the answer, but it feels wrong to me. Especially selling anything using these images...

Sarah said...

What does you gut say?

It is a hard one... I t hin you could actually get away with it...

Cathy {tinniegirl} said...

Wow, that is a tough one. I don't have an answer for you either. It's disappointing though that someone else has gone ahead while you have held yourself back.

Cat from Raspberry Rainbow said...

That is a tricky one. It all depends on the type of copyright they/someone holds over it, and some times after many years the copyright no longer exists (with some media, like old photos and even books) I dont know about computer games, and I only know a little about the rest to be honest (personal interest from my photographic background - copyright is very important to some some photographers making a living)
You might have to keep asking the interwebs to find the answer........good luck. Let us know if you find out too, I will be very interested to know.
And BTW, it is lovely you care.

Sally said...

Personally I think its ok. Your drawing, your artwork, your interpretation. Ok so you used a commercial game for inspiration - it is natural to use aspects of our lives in our art.

willywagtail said...

I think I agree with Sally. Pacman is iconic just as vegemite and and the eiffel tower are. I would say it was more like good advertising for them in that it revisits memories for many who have played the game. Cherrie

Michelle said...

I am also thinking it's ok. You are drawing something using inspiration but you aren't copying. Just as another artist might draw a tube of Colgate toothpaste, a bottle of Asahi beer, a tub of Vegimite, or anything else they see that only just happens to have a brand attached. Your image is along the same concept. I think that makes sense?!

Merry-Go-Round Handmade said...

OMG... You have open up a 'can of worms', hmmm.... what to do.
As you well know, copyright is an issue we have both dealt with before. Before writing this, my mind raced then pondered the answers that could be.
Coming from a graphic design background protecting copyright is very important but having studied modern art, I know artists constantly mock, copy, existing trademarked products, etc.
Plagiarism in the information/digital age is not always a cut and dry issue as you know.
To me, creating art & playing homage to a retro icon does not worry me (or most people).
Conceptually I did something like this at Uni but a added a 'social comment' in the artwork, maybe you could consider that????
Anyway, I like your art & thanks for a thoughtful (& sometimes awkward) topic to discuss.

Liam's Mummy said...

This is one of those grey areas....

I think the right thing to do is to find the owner of the copyright and ask for permission. When we were chatting about this before, I suggested you contact Atari. I have since had a bit of a browse around, and I believe the owner of the copyright may be Namco Bandai Holdings.

One example that I think about a lot is the situation with Men at Work's Downunder and Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree. Men at Work had to pay a whole heap of royalties to the copyright owner.

If I wanted to sell something on-line, using someone else's pattern, I would ask the person whose pattern it was. We have a lot of copyright discussion in this house. My partner is a bit of a fanatic about the topic, and I have seen countless examples of independent artists being ripped off by big corporations around the blogosphere.

I wouldn't want to be the little guy if the big guy decided to take legal action.

Missymaomao said...

Pacman the word is trademarked, you can not use it. I think you might find that it is owned by Nintendo but I'm not sure.

Doing art of something which has an iconic image in it is different from using the art to print fabric to sell. Making the art isn't a commercial act but using a service to print the images for resale is. I think this process would change the copyright issue. So I think it may be okay for you to use the images as your personal art work but not to then sell fabric made from that artwork.

The person who made the fabric that got all the votes on Spoonflower could find themselves in trouble.

Don't forget to listen to your own inner voice because it is very wise. You have so many great ideas that you don't even need to make pacman fabric.

Julie said...

No idea on this one but it would be interesting to know the answer. I had a lady query me last year as to whether I was allowed to sell boys library bags made from John Deere tractor fabric? If you made something from the Spoonflower packman fabric then sold it would you also be in trouble?

Liam's Mummy said...

Thinking about it further, the example with the Kookaburra song is EXACTLY the reason why you need to get permission. In that case, the owners of the copyright became the owners of the copyright more than ten years after the "infringement" occurred. So copyright seems to work retrospectively. You never know who might own that copyright in the future, or for what purpose they may obtain it. At least if someone came after you, years down the track, you can prove that you got permission.

NessaKnits said...

I'm a bit with Liam's Mummy on this .... I wouldn't, but having said that ... is there anything new under the sun?

Mon Alisa Design said...

Hmmm, I don't know either toots. Pacman is part of pop culture which I personally feel makes it o.k to incorporate as part of your design/interpretation. Liam's mummy makes a good point though. I'd leave it alone as far as selling goes. The fact that you are putting it out there shows the strength of your character Cam. Lovely gal that you are! x

beebeeoko said...

I don't know about the legal side but the ethical side has me saying don't do it. Where would you draw the line? Is it ok because it's a big business that owns the image? Would it be ok to copy a Cath Kidston design as that's a pretty big business now? If that's ok, can you copy a home crafter like yourself?
That being said, I do like your Pacman design!