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Trademarked character as own logo


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If this has been done already, I couldn't find it and Google wasn't any help either.


I have a question for the artists here, who have had any experience with this.


My name and avatar are from the Happy Tree Friends series. I've been thinking about making a website and/or YouTube channel for fun and I would like to know how much do I have to alter the character so I don't infringe any copyright or trademarkt laws?


Thing is, a generic figure like a bunny or dragon aren't protected by such a law only when you've added certain things that make it special and stand out. So what does make something like Yoshi or Cuddles special that I can make generic enough to use it as a logo/avatar?



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It's not any one thing that makes it "special". It's just as an overall work of art, it's unique and copyrighted by whoever owns it. If you were to use a "generic" rabbit picture, it still wouldn't be your work unless you draw it. Artistic copyright is a very tricky thing.

That being said, if you're just going to make some Youtube videos for fun, you should be fine with using whatever avatar you want. There are thousands of people who just upload some stuff while using something like Nathan Drake as their avatar. That's fine, Naughty Dog isn't going after them. Once you get into the territory of making money off your videos and using the avatar/logo to represent that channel, that's when you'll have copyright issues.

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^This is correct. Copyright belongs to whoever created the image. So if you chose a drawing of a bunny, copyright belongs to the artist who drew it (or his employer if it was created in the course of his employment). Same goes for photographers - they took the snap, it belongs to them (or their employer). 


There are plenty of places on the internet where you can download images to use on a licence which is "royalty free", so you shouldn't be pursued for money if you later use the image in monetised content. 


The safest thing to do though would be to either create your own art or commission some art (on terms where the artist grants you the copyright in the completed work). Then you'd own the image and could do what you liked with it. 


Don't draw a copy of the Happy Tree Friends bunny though. While you'd own the specific image that you drew or commissioned, you'd then be wading into trademark issues if you attempted to use it, and could face a claim if you damaged the brand or monetised the use of your copy of a trademarked character. 

Edited by StrickenBiged
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I'm going to draw it myself I just didn't know how much I could copy without it being problematic.


The own website is more what worries me. There have been tons of lawsuits in Germany in the recent years because of copyright claims and I'd rather avoid having to pay a large fine because of a silly picture like that.


Thanks for your replies :)

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Not sure how the law in germany will be different from here in the UK, but IP laws are pretty standard globally. The differences come around enforcement and whether one party will have a claim against another.


I'd stay away from trademarked characters in general, but if its just for fun, it's unlikely they'll care unless you hurt the trademarked brand.


I'd start to worry if your site attracts a larger following, and especially so if you're going to try and monetise it. 

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