I realize it doesn't really matter, since I won't be selling this game, but
like most of us, I have grand visions of the story someday catching on and
making me tremendously rich. (Not really, but I still want it to be...
legal. Or something.)
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SF writer Cory Doctorow is writing a future-Disney novel called Magic Kingdom.
I think he might have written some short stories on it too. Might be worth
investigating. I don't know how obliquely he's dealing with the subject matter
landscape. I guess it depends on tone--if you do the wink, wink, nudge, nudge
approach (a la Shrek), then I think you are in the clear. But an exact
rendition of the park...I'm not sure about that. You're right, it would
probably fly under Disney's radar. But (at least in my experience in
publishing, when we had to get photo permissions from them, and they refused,
because the book was mildly critical about disney) they can be pretty uptight.
Yes, satire is protected speech in regards to copyright (if a work is deemed
satire you can write about whatever type of trademark of someone else's you
>I want to use Disney World in my interactive fiction. I've been there
>hundreds of times, know it very well, and think it would work a lot better
>than a Generic Theme Park. However, it would feature a prominent role, and I
>don't think I'm allowed to do that, am I? Use a known place, I mean. If it
>were satire, would that make it okay? I hadn't planned to make fun of the
>place at all, but I could, if that meant I could use it ;)
>I realize it doesn't really matter, since I won't be selling this game, but
>like most of us, I have grand visions of the story someday catching on and
>making me tremendously rich. (Not really, but I still want it to be...
>legal. Or something.)
The problem is not so much with the legality (it could be argued that
Disney has or has not a copyright to a verbal description of the
design of Disney World, depending on wether you see it as a derivative
work or not), but with what Disney would do if they found out.
Can you afford a legal battle in the USA (assuming you live there or
plan to visit it)? A Russian programmer, who reverse-engineered an
American program in Russia (!), got arrested almost as soon as he set
foot on American soil last week. This is how uptight big companies can
be. (Note that it is perfectly unclear wether or not he did something
illegal: Adobe just called the FBI and they went out to arrest the
Without giving away too much: is the main point of the game that it
plays in a large amusement park or that it triggers brand recognition
in users? If it is the former, I suspect your audience has a clear
enough view of Disney World that you can actually describe your own
amusement park in such a way that it is perfectly clear to most people
that you mean Disney World. Is Disney World the one in Florida? Just
throw in a couple of 'gators and a short visit to Cape Canavaral.
BTW, I am the last person on earth who would tell somebody to refrain
from doing something just because a big company may or may not like
it. If you want to worry about something, though, I would not worry
about the legality of it per se. It is a myth that law in any western
country is enforced in a fair, equal-to-anyone way.
"mooi woord, verorberen, help me eraen herinneren
da'k het vaeker gebruik"
izak van langevelde in n.e.s.
It seems like a silly situation if you have to poke satirical fun
at a place in order to describe it in a work. They probably wouldn't
mind at all if it were described in a good light (as you intend) but
they very likely *would* mind if it were made the subject of satire.
Surely there's a better way?
Isn't there a fundamental freedom of speech issue here? What do
newspaper reporters do when they describe a place? Do they have
to get permission to do so? If the landlord of a London pub bombed
by the IRA refused his permission, would the TV news be unable to
report it? I think not.
I'm not a lawyer but I wouldn't imagine that Disney would be able to
stop you from accurately describing their park in a work of fiction.
I'm sure there are plenty of fictional stories that describe actual
places and there is no reason I can think of for them all to seek
anyone's permission to do so.
The only problem you might have is if you wrote something they felt
was damaging to their business, because they then might sue you. If
they were to sue you then they would have to prove the level of
damages that their business suffered as a result of what you wrote.
This would certainly not be worth their time and energy for something
with as little exposure and coverage as an IF story. In fact,
ironically, if they were to make a fuss about it, the result would
only be to give what you wrote even greater publicity.
The reason that satire has special protection is because it is by its
very nature critical and therefore potentially damaging to the subject
of the satire.
James Taylor <james (at) oakseed demon co uk>
Based in Southam, Cheltenham, UK.
PGP key available ID: 3FBE1BF9
Fingerprint: F19D803624ED6FE8 370045159F66FD02
However, the WORDS "Walt Disney World" are almost surely trademarked.
Therefore, you can describe Walt Disney World thoroughly, but you can't call
it Walt Disney World. You can describe EPCOT perfectly, but you must call it
APRICOT, or the like. Satire makes copyright law fuzzy, it does NOT effect
trademark. So legally, you can include the place, but not the words, or you
are infringing upon trademark.
I recommend http://www.benedict.com/ for your starting point when
researching this issue.
"James Taylor" <SEE_M...@nospam.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
I don't really need brand recognition per se, but I do need a large park
which caters to honeymoon couples like Disney does. I think Mr. Penton's
solution, of basically describing Disney as accurately as I need, but just
changing the name of the place, might be a safe bet. It's a bit cheesy
Thanks for the advice.
Hmm. Good advice. But can't I use their trademarks if I recognize them, like
is often done, with a (tm) or somesuch and an explanatory note at the
beginning of the game?
> I recommend http://www.benedict.com/ for your starting point when
> researching this issue.
Thanks much, I'll go read up.
> > Without giving away too much: is the main point of the game that it
>> plays in a large amusement park or that it triggers brand recognition
>> in users? If it is the former, I suspect your audience has a clear
>> enough view of Disney World that you can actually describe your own
>> amusement park in such a way that it is perfectly clear to most people
>> that you mean Disney World. Is Disney World the one in Florida? Just
>> throw in a couple of 'gators and a short visit to Cape Canavaral.
>I don't really need brand recognition per se, but I do need a large park
>which caters to honeymoon couples like Disney does. I think Mr. Penton's
>solution, of basically describing Disney as accurately as I need, but just
>changing the name of the place, might be a safe bet. It's a bit cheesy
I think that may be just you being too close to your game. For the
players it will look quite normal, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek.
I'm not sure how that one works, I fear.
> > I recommend http://www.benedict.com/ for your starting point when
> > researching this issue.
> Thanks much, I'll go read up.
> - Wingy
Anyhow, you've gotten a lot of responses and it's fascinating to see how hazy and contradictory the knowlege of intellectual property law is even in this bright group. Here's my (hazy and contradictory) view that goes back to a class I took years ago. Any of this could be innacurate or out-of-date.
As I recall... It's important to remember that copyright law refers to an actual work. Describing a place is not copying a work... it's describing a place. You can describe Disneyworld all you want. You can set a story there. I think you can even tell a story (as long as it is clearly labeled fiction and you don't name human names) about the corporation behind it doing evil nasty things.
As to the trademark issue, well, trademarks are different from copyrights. A trademark, IIRC, is pretty limited in its scope; that is, as long as you aren't building a theme park and calling it "Disney World" you're clear on that one. The idea of trademark law isn't to let corporates own bits of the language -- it's to protect company identities.
Btw, you'll note that we've all been using the terms "Disney", "Disney World", etc ... in this conversation. This is not a private conversation -- it's a publicly published running dialogue, and quite subject to copyright laws. So, let's see...
Disney World is a theme park in Florida. It has many rides and other attractions,
including the Spinning Teacups, Mr. Toads Wild Ride, It's A Small World, and others.
There now. If they sue me, I'll be sure and let you know :)
On Tue, 24 Jul 2001 21:26:59 -0400
"Wingy" <wi...@removethis.www.newsfeeds.com.removethis> wrote in message
>First of all, why use Disney at all? I think using a flashy
>corporate image in a story detracts and distracts from it. Wouldn't
>you rather just use good old Generic Land?
>Anyhow, you've gotten a lot of responses and it's fascinating
>to see how hazy and contradictory the knowlege of intellectual
>property law is even in this bright group.
Eh, I guess you're talking about me. ;-) Guilty as charged, I did not
really think my answer through. In my defense I would add that the
view of intellectual property law is hazy even among the judges that
have to base their rulings on it.
For those who have got nothing better to do for a couple of hours,
read the story about how Coca Cola stole their own graphic designs
from Bob Kolody, with the help of a maffia appointed judge who had to
commit a crime to be able to help Coca Cola. It is all documented at
http://www.guerrillanews.com/cocakarma/. A fascinating read for two
reasons: one, because it shows that in a court room it is often just
the money that talks, and two, because it shows what a fine line you
can sometimes walk with intellectual property.
>Here's my (hazy and
>contradictory) view that goes back to a class I took years ago.
>Any of this could be innacurate or out-of-date.
What still holds in my story is that anybody who has got deep enough
pockets can sue the hell out of you. And then, in the end, whether you
win or lose, you lose.
> On Thu, 26 Jul 2001 21:32:52 GMT, M. D. Krauss <MDKr...@home.com>
> >Anyhow, you've gotten a lot of responses and it's fascinating
> >to see how hazy and contradictory the knowlege of intellectual
> >property law is even in this bright group.
> Eh, I guess you're talking about me. ;-) Guilty as charged, I did not
> really think my answer through. In my defense I would add that the
> view of intellectual property law is hazy even among the judges that
> have to base their rulings on it.
No nobody in particular :) guess you just had a guilty concience
> >Here's my (hazy and
> >contradictory) view that goes back to a class I took years ago.
> >Any of this could be innacurate or out-of-date.
> What still holds in my story is that anybody who has got deep enough
> pockets can sue the hell out of you. And then, in the end, whether you
> win or lose, you lose.
Yes that's very true (sadly!)
So any bets on wether Diz-Co would sue over non-profit IF?
I'm calling it a 50/50 tossup.
"Mess not with the Mouse"
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
Get Caught Reading, Go To Jail!
A message from the Association of American Publishers
Free Dmitry Sklyarov! DMCA delanda est!
Oh, I did not feel attacked by your message, twas indeed a guilty
The haziness continues...this is from a book Copyright Law by Richard
In 1990, architectural works were added to the list of works protected
under copyright law...a building is a copy of an architectural work.
That is, the building (or the plans or photographs) cannot be
reproduced without the consent of the author of the work.
I don't think EXACTLY applies to your situation anyway, but I could
see some crafty lawyerly type defining an EXACT rendition of Disney in
an IF setting as a "plan" of the park.
The trick I've found in copyright law is that in 99.9%, what's defined
as fair use is never challenged. This is one of my favorite quotes
about it, and I think latches onto the spirit of people's advice (it's
from Chicago Manual of Style):
A word of practical caution: if a use appears to be fair, the author
should probably NOT ask permission. The right of fair use is a
valuable one to scholarship [or fiction, or IF, or...], and it should
not be allowed to decay through the failure of scholars to employ it
boldly. Furthermore, excessive caution can be dangerous if the
copyright owner proves uncooperative. Far from establishing good faith
and protecting the author from suit or unreasonable demands, a
permission request may have just the opposite effect. The act of
seeking permission indicates that the author feels permission is
needed, and the tacit admission may be damaging to the author's
Not that you were going to ask Disney permission, of course. I hope
some of this is somewhat helpful.
> On Wed, 25 Jul 2001 22:32:34 -0400, "Wingy"
> >I don't really need brand recognition per se, but I do need a large park
> >which caters to honeymoon couples like Disney does. I think Mr. Penton's
> >solution, of basically describing Disney as accurately as I need, but just
> >changing the name of the place, might be a safe bet. It's a bit cheesy
> >looking, though.
> I think that may be just you being too close to your game. For the
> players it will look quite normal, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek.
That, of course, is the real secret to these issues. Readers know that
trademarks and copyrights are a pain in the neck, and are used to seeing
"one-offs" all throughout fiction. Most readers probably won't even bat an
eyelash if it's called "Ditzy World" or something.
Nothing flies under their radar. :) I used to work there and Mike Ovitz relayed
a story to the employees about attending one of Eisner's kid's birthday party.
They bought a cake from a local mom and pop bakery that had a Mickey Mouse on
it. During the party Ovitz noticed that Eisner was no where in sight. He
looked around the house and found him on the phone in the study barking at the
bakery about their unauthorized use of Mickey on the cake.
I seem to recall reading in the intro to "The Unoffical Guide to
the reason there are no pictures in the book is due to Disney copyrighting
images. I always wondered how you can copyright a "view".
In any case, the fact there are books out there like the "Unofficial" guide,
which claims to have no ties to Disney, suggests that it is indeed OK to
about it in detail.
Of course, I'm a programmer, not a lawyer. What do I know. :)
-- Masquerade (Comp2000, nominated for Best Story (XYZZY's))
-- The Cove - Best of Landscape, Interactive Fiction Art Show 2000
-- Excuse me while I dance a little jig of despair
I'm not a lawyer, either, but I've learned a thing or two....
They not only can, but _must_ hit you hard if you use their trademarks
without express acknowledgment -- that is, if you want to say:
You see Mickey Mouse here.
You _must_ say something like:
You see Mickey Mouse here. (Mickey Mouse is a registered
trademark of Walt Disney Enterprises, Inc.)
If you don't do at least that, there's no room to negotiate, and no room
to ask for Disney to just let it slide. The law _requires_ them to go
after you, because of a legal doctrine that says if they don't go after
all known infringers, they have "abandoned" the trademark.
In other words, don't even _think_ of doing this without a professional
intellectual-rights lawyer on retainer, preferably one who specializes
in entertainment law, who can tell you exactly what you can and cannot
Must better to write a story about "Ditzeyland" or "Mouseworld" or
"Happipark", etc., unless the image you present is so positive that
Disney is willing to sell you a license (which you wouldn't be able to
afford anyhow). Even then, they can withdraw -- ask Sierra about
"Mickey's Space Adventure".
John W. Kennedy
(Working from my laptop)
When it comes to trademark, they have no choice. The law says: defend
it or lose it.
>> I'm not a lawyer but I wouldn't imagine that Disney would be able to
>> stop you from accurately describing their park in a work of fiction.
>I'm not a lawyer, either, but I've learned a thing or two....
>They not only can, but _must_ hit you hard if you use their trademarks
>without express acknowledgment -- that is, if you want to say:
> You see Mickey Mouse here.
I would use: You see that mouse here. ;-)
Straight non-fiction reportage that doesn't involve quoting or otherwise
reproducing copyrighted material, and that is careful to label all
trademarks as such is one thing. A work of fiction is another.
Regardless, Walt Disney Corporation very likely will defend their trademark,
whether they need to or not.
"John W. Kennedy" <jwke...@bellatlantic.net> wrote in message
If Happy-Lucky-Smile Pornimation of Taiwan releases "Minnie Mouse Does
Duckburg", and Disney sues them, and Happy-Lucky-Smile's lawyers can
prove in court that Disney _knew_ _about_ _and_ _ignored_ a freeware
piece of IF, then Disney's in big trouble.
Damn you, John W. Kennedy! Damn you to hell! You have given away my
gimmick! Now I must destroy all evidence that I ever worked on "Minnie
Mouse Does Duckburg!" Fine! It has been deleted! Discussion sucks!
Adam, CEO, Happy-Lucky-Smile Pornimation of Taiwan
One of my "best humor" examples comes from Toonesia (a thoroughly funny
The Tazmanian Devil is here, glaring furiously (and hungrily) at you
from within the bars of a metal cage.
The Tazmanian Devil is a real animal, not a copyright of a certain
large corporation with lots of legal muscle. I can therefore mention it
by name in this game. Unfortunately, if I were to describe a real-life
Tazmanian Devil, you'd only be disappointed--they don't look like much.
So, I won't describe the slavering beast before you. And if you assume
that it has a boxy body attached to short thin legs, two large maniacal
eyes set above a wide, drooling, sharp-fanged mouth, and brown fur all
over, then YOU'RE violating copyright, not me.
> >x devil
> The Tazmanian Devil is a real animal, not a copyright of a certain
> large corporation with lots of legal muscle.
Unfortunately, they're wrong there. The Ta_s_manian Devil is a real
animal. The Ta_z_manian Devil isn't.
Then again, unlike some big cartoon companies one might mention, WB have
a sense of humour.
>I'm not a lawyer, either, but I've learned a thing or two....
>They not only can, but _must_ hit you hard if you use their trademarks
>without express acknowledgment -- that is, if you want to say:
> You see Mickey Mouse here.
>You _must_ say something like:
> You see Mickey Mouse here. (Mickey Mouse is a registered
> trademark of Walt Disney Enterprises, Inc.)
Must this be done every time a trademark is used? Or would it be enough
to put a disclaimer at the start of the game (and whenever a saved game
A DAY OUT AT DISNEYLAND
An interactive theme park by Anne Author
Disneyland, Mickey Mouse, [etc. -- list whatever trademarked
terms have been employed] are registered trademarks of Walt
Disney Enterprises, Inc.
I'm not a lawyer. I'm just curious.
The Pretender has JAG's studly resourceful hero, The X-Files's conspiracy
theories, Millennium's super-normal abilities, and the original Buck
Rogers's believability. And, sadly, none of their script skills.
-- Bernard Zuel, writing about "The Pretender"
AFAIK mentioning a trademark is only useful when you've got permission
to use it. I do not think you always need to ask permission. However,
as many have written here, to problem is not wether or not you need
permission, but what Disney is going to do when you use anything they
consider is theirs. In other words, it is not a legal issue.
Now we're into you-need-a-lawyer territory.
Trademark infringement (I am by no means a lawyer), I believe, requires that
the mark be used in such a way as to cause confusion in the marketplace. A
company cannot market detergent and call it Tide, but they can make a Tide
The problem here is that Mickey Mouse is also covered by copyright, and
using the name or character might constitute a derivative work, and
therefore might be *copyright* infringement. It would be a stretch to claim
trademark infringement unless you are using the Mickey Mouse trademark
to compete with Disney in a similar market.
You might be able to formulate a justification for using Disneyland, since
it is a physical location, like a sports stadium.
Of course, the entire discussion will be rendered academic by the first C&D
letter, unless the plan is to litigate use of these trademarks and
We learned a long time ago that licensing is a mind-bogglingly complicated
(and expensive) business, and its always better to just construct your own
characters, etc. Then you have all the rights, and don't have to worry
about "can I do this, can I do that?" all day.
Just another $0.02
System shutdown at 5PM today to install
> >"John W. Kennedy" <jwke...@bellatlantic.net> writes:
> >>I'm not a lawyer, either, but I've learned a thing or two....
> >>They not only can, but _must_ hit you hard if you use their trademarks
> >>without express acknowledgment -- that is, if you want to say:
> >> You see Mickey Mouse here.
> >>You _must_ say something like:
> >> You see Mickey Mouse here. (Mickey Mouse is a registered
> >> trademark of Walt Disney Enterprises, Inc.)
Technically, Mickey's trademark status only
applies when he is _used_ as a trademark.
That is, if you were to put him on the cover
or splashscreen. His appearance in the game
itself is not a trademark violation.
However, it _is_ a violation of Disney's
character copyright, and thanks to Sonny
Bono, you now have another 20 years before
Mickey becomes public domain (not that he
ever will, Disney will undoubtedly buy
another extension of copyright well before
then. Copyrights are effectively permanent
Disney does not _have_ to enforce a character
copyright, nor does the use of it challenge
their trademark, but Disney has a deserved
reputation as assholes in pursuing anyone
that might have infringed their copyrights in
even the most trivial and harmless fashions.
It was just a few years ago they came down
like a ton of lawyers on a day-care center
that had had the utter audacity to paint a
few Disney characters on one of their walls.
Of course, they caved instantly - though
Warner Bros. did step forward with an offer
for a free license to let them use the Looney
Tunes characters. Warner Bros. looked like a
class act, Disney looked like a bullying ogre
- and that is _precisely_ what they are.
Don't use Disney World or Mickey Mouse. It's
just not worth the unmitigated hassle if some
junior Disney lawyer decides to make an example
out of you, too.
.-. .-. .---. .---. .-..-. | Wild Open Source Inc.
| |__ / | \| |-< | |-< > / | "Making the bazaar just a
`----'`-^-'`-'`-'`-'`-' `-' | little more commonplace."
http://www.smith-house.org/ | Need programming? Ask me.
The idea of a one-off theme park like DitzyWorld just seems too cheesy to
me, so I'm abandoning Disney World altogether, and switching over to a
generic theme park that is only vaguely Disney-esque.
Thanks again for your thoughts,
Hey, why not make up your own amusement park from scratch?
m.m.m.m.m.m.m....What was my e-mail address?
> Hey, why not make up your own amusement park from scratch?
That would seem like a lot more fun to _me_, anyway.