Is it illegal to use copyrighted materials to decorate a themed restaurant or hotel?

For example: using various artworks or merchandise of comic book characters as decoration or having an artist do a mural of a TV show character, provided that the restaurant or hotel does not use the name of the copyrighted characters in it’s name or advertising.

Asked on August 4, 2015 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the image is copyrighted, as it almost certainly is, then yes, it is illegal: to draw a mural or otherwise reproduce it copyright is protection for original graphic works (i.e. images) as well as for words; therefore, it would be a violation of copyright to use the image in any way (e.g. as decoration) even if the character is not named, IF you are having someone reproduce the image for you. If you buy a licenced image (e.g. a framed poster or comic-book cover; or even licensed sculptural images, like a statute of Batman or Captain America), you can use that licensed product as decoration, because the creater of the licensed product has obtained permission to adapt, reproduce, copy, etc. the image or character. So if you buy products from the comic book companies or from reputable vendors who would only be selling licensed products, you can use those products for decoration--just don't draw or create any new images yourself.


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