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Muppet Whatnot Copyright Issue

Discussion in 'Muppet Replicas' started by Alex Sadler, Jul 19, 2012.

  1. Alex Sadler

    Alex Sadler New Member

    Hello everyone, I am looking to produce a promotional film, and in the film, I wish to use a muppet whatnot, from FAO Schwarz.

    I was just wondering is this legally allowed? Because it is a muppet, is it copyrighted, and therefore am I allowed to use it? However it is a whatnot created by me, so I'm not sure who owns the rights to it.

    Thank you for all of your answers.
  2. muppetperson

    muppetperson Well-Known Member

    Generally, they are allowed for personal and fan use,such as making clips for youtube.However,it would start coming under legal question if you were to use the puppet professionally and make money from it.Although you "made" the puppet, it is actually made assembling already made Muppet characterised base and parts.
  3. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    I think in terms of that, it's probably not legal to make a film for profit or distribution. If you were going to use a camera and hook up the AV cables to a TV with a high standing tripod looking upword in terms of practicing and learning the skill of the art of television and film puppetry, it shouldn't be a problem if not recorded. Though from what I learned in terms of copyright is that every company is different so try to get in contact with the Disney legal department. Phone is usually best and the fastest way to get an answer because sometimes people in general don't check their email but phone's are more person. Remember, it's always okay to ask questions and permission first and to make sure. Copyright laws are very simple and set in stone but who determans fair use is usually the copyright owners themselves.

    Also I think those whatnots are more for collecting merchandise, but yeah I would contact the legal department of Disney if I were you. You can't get in trouble for asking a question. :) Hope this helps. I had to edit lots of my past puppet videos myself that I made in high school recently and I had to do a ton of calls asking permission for anything. For example stock photos and sound effects can be a subject of copyright, I know now. lol :)
  4. Chruppets

    Chruppets New Member

    Alex (or anyone else) I am curious if this question got answered by Disney. I know a lot of people use Whatnots on YouTube videos and call it 'fair use,' but I don't want to foredoom myself by using a Whatnot on mine and then having to refuse someone offering me hordes of cash to make a DVD.

    (Could totally happen, right?)
  5. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    I'm sure it's okay if it's video taping for educational puppetry practice purposes for yourself or to show some friends, but in terms of distribution I think it's quite tricky. If your reviewing the whatnot in a review format, it's fair use under copyright law but for entertainment non-profit distribution, I don't think it's possible.
  6. Chruppets

    Chruppets New Member

    Awwwww MAN!

    Seriously, thanks for the reply. I saw a comment elsewhere online where someone was like "they sold you the pieces and the result is your custom thing so it's all yours" and that somehow seemed... unlikely.
  7. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I dunno.... they seem to use Whatnots on television shows, and I don't think they even mention a copyright in passing. They used on on 30 Rock, quite obviously.
  8. Bear Man

    Bear Man Well-Known Member

    The 30 Rock puppets were built specifically for the show, and while they were in the style of (and performed by) Henson/Sesame Street alumni, they weren't specifically Whatnots and so did not need any copyright reference.
  9. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    But didn't they use the Sesame Street Anything Muppets for that?
  10. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    No. Not those ones. I'm talking about the episode where Kennith runs by an HD camera and turns into a Muppet

  11. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I don't believe the folks who make Robot Chicken have had any issues with copyright, and they use action figures as puppets, representing the original characters.

    If Robot Chicken can get away with that, I'd be surprised if you had any problem using a Whatnot, especially if you customized it a bit.
  12. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I don't know how Robot Chicken or Family Guy does it for that matter. I'm sure they have to make some arrangement, unless they have a wide parody copyright loophole. I know when the Simpsons used Archie that one time, they had to include Archie's page long copyright notice.
  13. Frogpuppeteer

    Frogpuppeteer Well-Known Member

    one of my teachers in college worked on robot chicken and from what he told me they do 2 things..first off they try not to buy any toys, most action figured they use are custom made/ their own collection/ or major donations...( ive actually given them some of mine) if they do buy thet hunt yard sales...when it comes to who and what they use.. Seth Green and Dan Milano (greg the bunny) pretty much have made friends with as many people as they can to get and like you said there is some form of parody loophole there
  14. Bear Man

    Bear Man Well-Known Member

    Having not seen the FAO Whatnots in person I can't be sure, but I imagine that this particular puppet was built as part of the same order for the puppets used in the "Apollo Apollo" episode. It definitely is not an off-the-shelf puppet, because I am almost certain the FAO muppets don't have a NBC page uniform or a blond wig as customisable options. The "Henson look" is a stylistic feature that can't really be copyrighted (as evidenced by the number of non-Henson puppets that still have similar stylistic features, e.g. fleece skin, plastic eyes, etc). By their very nature the "real" Whatnots are meant to be able to be customised into any number of characters, so I doubt very much it would be possible to copyright the base element. It's only when you get into the realm of identifiable character images (like Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, etc) that they can be subject to things like copyright and trademark.

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