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Is it illegal to reproduce a recognisable character illustrated as a silhouette?

Say f.ex a custom drawn silhouette of R2-D2 with the roman letters "IV" printed on it, would that be a copyright issue of Lucas Film? I’m not talking about using copyrighted logotypes, images etc. All art would be original but the motives are very familiar (f.ex batman, superman etc).

If I was to sell a poster with such motive, would that be a copyright issue?

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    Just an opinion. There is a diference between "fan art" which is ok and comercial product. The second part is the one you will have trouble with. – Rafael May 20 '15 at 13:24
  • Hey David, welcome to GDSE and thanks for your question. If you want to know more about the site, please see the help center or ping one of us in Graphic Design Chat once your reputation is sufficient (20). Keep contributing and enjoy the site! – Zach Saucier May 20 '15 at 13:24
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    avvo.com/legal-answers/… has some comments. The first one even mentions Disney as an example. – Michael Schumacher May 20 '15 at 13:28
  • It all boils down to whether the IP holder wants to sue you or not. Disney is big on suing, and they are big, so odds aren't necessarily in your favor. That said, there's actually quite a bit of 'fan art' being sold with star-wars themes etsy.com/search?q=star%20wars so there's an extremely fuzzy line between 'appropriate cultural appropriation for the sake of art' vs. 'making a buck off of someone else's IP' – DA01 May 20 '15 at 15:01
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I'm not a lawyer, however to my knowledge... Yes that is illegal and a copyright issue, thats why copyright includes the word, "Likeness."

Trademark Protection for Cartoon Characters by Tonya Gisselberg, http://www.gisselberglawfirm.com/downloads/trademark-cartoon2.pdf

The court applied the likelihood of confusion factors used by the Third Circuit, summarized as follows:

  1. similarity between the marks;
  2. strength of the owner’s mark;
  3. price of the goods;
  4. length of time defendant has used the mark;
  5. intent of the defendant;
  6. actual confusion;
  7. channels of distribution;
  8. sales targets;
  9. relationship of the goods in the minds of consumers; and
  10. market expansion.

The court did not perform a detailed analysis of the individual factors, but instead focused on similarity and actual confusion.

Again, not a lawyer but the Lanham Act states:

is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or

Now how far reaching this applies, I'm not sure, courts have considered what actual economic impact any infringement has. This is where an actual lawyer would be better service to you.

Hope this helps you at least get some basic knowledge on the topic.

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    Some sort of resource supporting this claim would be useful – Zach Saucier May 20 '15 at 13:22
  • I was under the impression that only humans can sue for unlawful use of "likeness" – David Hellsing May 20 '15 at 13:31
  • @David updated my answer – Ryan May 20 '15 at 13:53

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