Can I use photos of items purchased to make another product to sell for my business if it has a copyright but I use my own photo of it?

UPDATED: Feb 10, 2012

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Can I use photos of items purchased to make another product to sell for my business if it has a copyright but I use my own photo of it?

I recently opened a small home-run business and customize and personalize paper products for people. I have had some requests for things like Mickey Mouse or American Girl Dolls. I know they are copyrighted, but if I take a photo of some of my children’s toys, books, etc that I have paid for (just the image of these items) and place them in a calendar or on stationary, is this illegal?

Asked on February 10, 2012 under Business Law, Minnesota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, that is not legal. Regardless of the mechanism you use to reproduce another's copyrighted or trademarked property--that is, whether you use a downloaded a file of the artwork which you obtained somehow, use a screen capture of a image from their website, take a photograph, or even reproduce it by drawing it by hand, it is still a violation of the intellectual property. What you describe has no ambiguity or shades of grey--it is illegal.

If you do this to aggressively litiguous companies, such as Disney, if they notice what you are doing, you can expect a significant lawsuit.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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