Can I use “Grumpy” the dwarf image on shirts and sell them?

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Can I use “Grumpy” the dwarf image on shirts and sell them?

Asked on September 18, 2010 under Business Law, Minnesota

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Without a doubt those images are copyrighted by Disney.  Even though the story was an original Brothers Grimm fairy tale, it did not "come to life" until Walt Disney put names and faces to those little guys marching and singing along.  There is something known as the "fair use doctrine" where a portion of a persons copyrighted material may be used under certain circumstances but there is really no clearly defined line.  Here are the factors that are used to determine "fair use":

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    1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work
    3. The amount and substantially of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

Gauge yourself  Err on the side of not being sued.  Good luck.


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