Disney has always been extremely protective of its intellectual property. The company has been aggressively pursuing infringers who have tried to use its IP assets without authorization.
The number of suit against these infringers has increased in the recent times, with the expansion of its IP portfolio due to its acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. There have been several instances of infringement concerning Disney films, such as ‘Frozen’, ‘Star Wars’ and the Marvel movies, which it pursued aggressively.
Last week, Disney brought a lawsuit against a Venezuelan company for producing a live show with copied and bootlegged Disney characters. The said company was initially sent a cease and desist notice and later a stay order was issued against their show titled Aventura Congeladas (Translation: “Frozen Adventure”) asking them to cease all promotional/marketing activities as it infringed Disney’s rights in the aforementioned characters.
Though the company had complied with the initial notice, they resumed the show under a new name ‘Vacaciones de Aventuras’ (Translation: Adventure Holidays), for which the present lawsuit was filed.
The show features characters like Elsa from ‘Frozen’ as well as Marvel characters like Spiderman, Ironman and the Avengers. Considering the fact, the producers of the show are repeat offenders, it comes as no surprise that Disney has demanded millions of dollars for the infringement.
The following video of the show Vacacinoes de Aventures highlights how the characters like Spider man, Captain America among others were used without the permission of Disney.
However, this issue raises the question as to what extent can one use copyrighted characters. The author is of the opinion that use of such characters for non-commercial activities would not amount to copyright infringement and can be protected under the fair use and fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act. For example, if a cartoonist draws a small comic strip giving the character an Indian flavour and shares the same through any social media platform without deriving any commercial benefit out of this action, he is protected under the fair use provisions of copyright law. However, the case will be different if he starts publishing and selling comic strips using Disney characters or creates and sells any merchandise based on Disney characters.
Since, Vacacinoes de Aventures, was gaining commercial benefits from the use of Disney characters, there is a fair chance of this case going in favor of Disney.
Authored by Nithin V. Kumar.
Contributed with the support of the Entertainment Law Division of BananaIP Counsels.
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