Copyright Infringement: How to avoid a lawsuit with Disney

Are you familiar with copyright infringement laws? If not, you should be!

When Disney+ first announced its launch, the internet went WILD, especially the millennial-turned-mom generation. Disney gained lots of attention by offering all of the classic favorites for parents to share with their kids. And on top of that, they gave us new originals when they launched, like The Mandalorian, a Star Wars spinoff show. 

Viewers particularly like The Mandalorian for its incredibly cute, yet somewhat deadly character, baby Yoda. Baby Yoda has captured the hearts of kids and grown men alike, so it's no wonder that several Etsy sellers decided to jump on that train and make baby Yoda products Of their own.

Disney, however, made it clear that this their ride, and their ride alone. 

Disney noticed these products popping up and made a complaint to Etsy, who deactivated the listings, causing page views for shops to plummet. According to Now This

"The owner of YourStuffedMemories on Etsy said that the complaint was about the listing’s use of words like 'Star Wars,' 'The Mandalorian,' and 'Yoda,' which are all owned by Disney. When asked to comment on the complaints, Etsy referenced their Intellectual Property Policy in terms of deactivating listings."

Disney has made it clear that if Etsy sellers don't start voluntarily removing Disney-inspired products from their shops, they will eventually resort to legal action. *Cue gasp.*

So, what counts as copyright infringement anyway?

Copyright infringement is the use of work or the creation of something inspired by work that is protected by a copyright or trademark without the owner's permission.

For example, several years ago I sold scarves for the "Elf on the Shelf" dolls, and I was flagged for copyright infringement. Etsy sited their copyright policy, explaining that I was violating intellectual property simply for using the name.

Also, I want to note that you may not get a notice immediately. The second (and last) copyright infringement notice I received was on a Cabbage Patch shirt that I had been selling for almost two years.

Just because you haven't been caught so far, doesn't mean you won't. Be careful when taking the risk to make "inspired" work to sell on your shop.

Big companies like Disney and Cabbage Patch Kids aren't the only ones claiming copyright violations. Other sellers may contact you and say you are using their trademarked design, slogan, or phrase.

Side note: You cannot trademark a slogan. You can trademark in the way that it's used, like on a t-shirt or a mug, but someone can use that slogan in a different way. 

What all can be trademarked?

Did you know that sports teams colors used together on a product that supports that team is also copyright infringement? A knew a girl who had her Etsy shop shut down because of this!

My quick tip is to look at the logo and see if there is a (™) next to the name. If yes, don't use it as inspiration!

Want to check if something is trademarked before using it? Check here.

And really, just stay away from all things Disney.

But, my niche is Disney, and I need to give the people what they want!

In this case, buy the license! You'd be able to make your money back very quickly as you'd corner the market with Disney-inspired products. And you'll be able to rest easy knowing that everything is above board.


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