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Topic: Trademarked Characters, Story Themes and Commercial Use
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Aug 22, 2006 11:24PM)
One of the most wonderful things the movies have given us is a rich heritage of stories to draw from. However, you have to be careful how you use them. Here are some things that can cause problems for you.

1) Hiring yourself out as a trademarked character. Characters like Barney, Cookie Monster, Harry Potter, Superman, Darth Vader, Mickey Mouse, etc. are all trademarked. In order to perform in costumes that are close enough to their images, you must get permission and/or pay a fee. From time to time, companies that own trademarked characters will go through a phone book and you will get a call like this: "Hello, I want to have you appear as Barney the Dinosaur at my child's next birthday party." Don't do it. You can say, "Well, Barney is a trademarked character, so I can't appear as him, but I can come as 'the purple dinosaur.' "

Actually the Barney trademark covers purple dinosaurs; however, the Flintstones had a purple dinosaur long before Barney existed, so you can work around that one.

2) Manufacturing a trick or routine that uses cards, coins or other props that have the images of these characters on them. The minute that you start selling them, the movie people will come down on you like a stack of bricks -- unless you use the authorized cards, coins or other props that you buy from authorized producers of such things. And even then, they may give you some grief over it until you prove what you are doing. This is why you will see a trick called "Wizard's School," but not one called "Hogwarts."

3) Performing a trick commercially, i.e. for profit, with such characters may or may not get you into trouble. As long as you are performing in a private home, you should be safe. The rules would probably be the same as the rules for music.

4) Writing a story or a trick based on these things is perfectly okay.