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Wocka-Wocka... He's at it again!

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by Was Once Ernie, Jul 9, 2007.

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  1. Was Once Ernie

    Was Once Ernie Well-Known Member

    Well, e-Bay must keep shutting him down because he keeps having to open new accounts.

    As far as Disney is concerned, there are two things that may be going on. 1) They aren't bothering with him because he seems to sell so few of these that it's not worth the time or trouble to go after him, or 2) They're just building up a strong enough case before they nail him.

    We'll just have to wait and see... that is, if we ever know the outcome.

  2. Telly

    Telly Well-Known Member

    Is there a difference between selling these replicas and somebody selling say, a Palisades Gonzo figure with a custom outfit? I didn't know how to word it. Does that make sense?
  3. DPuppets

    DPuppets Well-Known Member

    I have been reading this for a while. I have not see this brought up. But, some years ago Sears had a commical that used a knock off Miss Piggy and Kermit. They did not call them by their name from what I remember. I know David Pannibecker made them. I might be wrong but I thought they had used a different name. Been so long ago but, something to reserach and see about.
  4. Bear Man

    Bear Man Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure what context they were used in, but there are allowances within copyright law for parody. That's why were're allowed to see Kermit and Gonzo dueling with lightsabres, etc.
  5. DPuppets

    DPuppets Well-Known Member

    I agree but it was not a muppet sponsor thing from what I remember. If there is an allowances for parody use. All this discussion on the rights and wrongs to making the characters. How wrong is it to build? Then how did they use it for this commerical? Just curious.
  6. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    There is an element of interpretation of intent.

    When you make a replica of a Muppet, you are not creating a "parody".

    Webbsters defines PARODY:

    1 : a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule
    2 : a feeble or ridiculous imitation

    So... say I created a frog puppet that looked similar to Kermit, but I dressed him in a bum's clothes, gave him beard stubble, and called him "Hermit the Fraud". THAT would be parody, especially under definition 2. And the law allows parody... its part of our freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitutional Rights we enjoy (for now).

    If I made an exact likeness of Kermit, or a near exact likeness, that would be a replica. Without being a holder of rights to the character, I am technically breaking the law by infringing on the intellectual property rights of The Walt Disney Company or Muppet Holding Company in specific. (Please read previous posts concerning the gracious attitudes of the Muppet folks in the situation of fans making replicas of Muppet characters for themselves and themselves only. Still illegal, but generally overlooked by the rights holders as healthy "fan activities".)

    As to the commercial with the likenesses of Kermit and Piggy, I've worked in advertising for 17 years. There isn't a single ad these days that makes it on the air without being "vetted" by an army of lawyers. Just to make sure they aren't going to get in trouble or have to pay out any money they don't have to.
    So, if they were likenesses, they must have been far enough off of the originals to qualify (to the eyes of half a dozen lawyers) as parody likenesses or "caricatures" of the Muppets. If David Pannabecker made them, I can bet that he has tales of terror to relate about how they were art directed by everybody and their legal counsel.

    And in the unlikely event that somebody was able to slip through an ad that did NOT qualify as parody, and they truly DID infringe on the Henson Company's rights, you can bet that a lawsuit ensued or at least a settlement. Many of these things happen completely out of sight of the public... a company like Sears usually wants it kept as quiet as possible so as not to affect their sales.

    My company recently came to an "arrangement" with a software publisher we had worked with. We brought a case against them for just this sort of thing. They used a name we owned to title one of their games. They knew it. We proved it. A monetary arrangement was reached via legal discourse. However, that's all I can say about it since the details fo the case were sealed as part of the arrangement. Please note that I cannot use a particular word, beginning with the root "settle" and ending in the suffix "ment" when describing the "arrangement". That, too, was a stipulation.

    Hope that answers the question? :)

  7. propologist

    propologist Well-Known Member

    Hi Gordon,

    I agree with you on all points!

    This guy is now on the RPF as "TheatreOfPuppets" and is try to sell there.

    P.S. Give me acall some time.

  8. Was Once Ernie

    Was Once Ernie Well-Known Member

    This guy is amazing! e-Bay no sooner shut him down again and he's already back on with a new ID. He must be on AOL or some other service with a constantly changing IP Address so they can't track him or just ban him forever.


    P.S. Hey Mike!
  9. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle Well-Known Member

    yes he/she is indeed persistant, apparentley cathcing a hint is not his or her strong suit
  10. Telly

    Telly Well-Known Member

    I'm more partial to Gonzo's sweater vest, long-sleeve white shirt, and khaki pants than the purple tux Master Replicas is putting him in. If I really wanted to, could I have that person make me a legal custom tailored outfit for my Gonzo?
  11. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    You could have anyone make a suit for your gonzo. I'd suggest that you find a person who makes clothing for large dolls instead of TheFabricator... a doll person will do a sweet sweet job on it and charge you much less.

    There are plenty of doll groups on the net. Google (or *new!* BLACKLE) it up. You should find someone willing to do it. Or maybe even someone here on this forum?

  12. Toasty

    Toasty Well-Known Member

    Persistant is an understatement with this unethical, law breaking dude. I do think that he not only "gets" the "hints" posed in well written posts on this forum and others, but that he is using ebay as cheap, worldwide advertising. It's not a stretch to imagine that people in the USA and elsewhere would contact him to purchase one of his Muppet knockoffs via email without even bidding on ebay. This way special payment deals could be struck and the buyer, probably knowing that THEY TOO are breaking the law by purchasing illegal goods, would feel like they were more protected from prosecution.

    If someone from another country wants to buy one, all the better for Mr Muppet Counterfeiter here, since he can fly under the radar even more by shipping to countries that do not recognize US copyrights.

    Ebay is just a big billboard and he'll keep coming back again and again until ebay finds a way to eliminate him from posting ANY auction with photos that feature the likeness of copyrighted entities. Without photos, his listings will be rather worthless and he'll then have to find a new avenue to advertise his illegal goods.
  13. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    The big thing with eBay is that they have absolutely NO fashion of reporting CHRONIC offenders. All you get is the little form that (more than likley) is nothing more than an automated robot to purge people that get reported. There doesn't seem to be any mechanism in place to REALLY ban sellers unless one of the companies that eBay has an agreement with specifically contacts them and insists that the offender be banned.

    I understand why this is, but they don't have ANY way to actually talk to a real human being and state a case. I mean, if I was having my intellectual property stolen by someone on eBay, I wouldn't be able to do a thing about it unless I hired a lawyer. And most small business people (and I'm talking SMALL business... like "self employed") can't afford that kind of loosey goosey expenditure.

  14. Jinx

    Jinx Well-Known Member


    You are absolutely right. The company that I work for has some of our patented products knocked off pretty frequently. I see a lot of them on ebay, and there's not really a decent mechanism in place to address these issues. I have to contact the bogus seller myself and usually (mind you I say usually) they back down. It's a royal pain.
  15. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    But it's all to the benefit of eBay, isn't it? They're taking a "we don't see that" approach simply because if they cracked down on every knock-off product being sold there, they'd lose a significant profit in seller's fees.

    The more they ignore, the more money they make. Not that there's anything wrong with making money... but there are limits to honorable business practices.

  16. Phantom

    Phantom Well-Known Member

    *tapping the tip of my nose

    We have a winner. The almighty dollar sets the rules.
  17. SurfPark

    SurfPark Well-Known Member

    I don't think anyone has successfully eliminated illegal goods to be sold online. Its too much to track of. Anyone familiar with the DMCA know that eBay only has to respond to requests, this eliminating their responsibilities to proactively seek out these people. The DMCA sets the mininum requirements that any company must abide by when they allow user generated content...or in this case, user-generated auctions.

    Anyone familiar with sites like YouTube will know that they've typically only been responding to requests and do no actively seek to protect copyright. As a copyright and patten holder its their own responsibility to scan for illegal activities and ask a web site to remove material that is a violation of DMCA.

    I feel that this is a battle that will never be won. Even though eBay sets high standards, well above the law, its almost impossible to prevent the sale of every illegal item. For every bootleg puppet maker they bust, there maybe hundreds of bootleg DVD, software, and handbag sellers slipping through the system. This is why I said that we all chose our own battles. We can protest the illegal activity of one seller, but there are many others that we turn a blind eye to because they are not threatening our interests.

    I think its nice that a few of you want to play this cat and mouse game with this unscrupulus seller, but the efforts are only a temporary solution. Sure, this seller may stop eventually...but there is nothing stopping the person from waiting for a set time and trying again. The altruistic sellers will stop when the demand no longer exists.
  18. Toasty

    Toasty Well-Known Member

    I completely agree. And the more that people are educated about the value of protecting the intellectual property of others, perhaps (and hopefully) that will begin to quell the demand for such items.

    I am passionate about protecting the IP rights of artists. I know what its like to have copyrighted work misused and believe that the more people who understand the value of the work of ALL artists and designers (etc etc), they will understand the reasons why these laws are in place to begin with. This is especially important education to continue as the internet and digital delivery systems make it easier and easier to circumvent copyright law and the rights of creators.

    I think education is the only way to do this. I think industries with a lot more resources than individual artists should be doing MUCH more to spread the word and not only TELL people "don't do it" but use creative and fun ways of driving the point home.

    It is impossible to fight every battle. I am passionate about protecting the puppet creations of Jim Henson and will do what I can to educate people in forums like this, and elsewhere. Perhaps in a small way I can prevent some of this demand that leads to more illegal sales for guys like the subject of this thread.

    If everyone who was passionate about something did what they could to help protect what they were passionate about, the power of numbers could have a far reaching impact on the Intellectual Property protection for many artist's. Its true that places like ebay will always be "reactionary" and that it will always be up to the artist to seek out the abusers to their IP, but this could be made more manageable with more protective eyes watching and reporting and, most importantly, educating the very people who are ALSO interested in that artist's work.

    At the end of the day, it's not about what is legal and what's not. It's about protecting the art. I think most people are good. And most people would not want to harm what they love. When these people are educated that what they and others are doing may be harming what they love, I'm optimistic that many would choose a different path. They may even become active in helping protect the very IP rights they were about to turn a "blind eye" towards. This is the grass roots type of educational effort that can only help. That's why I bother to post here and other places. That is why I think it is worth my time to do so.

    At a time when it is so easy to Google anything, its hard to believe that educating people about all of this stuff can't be just as easy.

    For every action, there is a reaction. Hopefully it holds true that a positive action will lead to positive reactions.

  19. spcglider

    spcglider Well-Known Member

    Wow Toasty!

    I'm jealous. I wish I had written THAT!

    Very succinct. Lovely.

    And exactly what I'd hope for in attitude from the good-hearted folks who hang out here.

    You nailed it right on the head. EDUCATION.

    Wow... I'm getting verklempt. Honestly.

  20. Telly

    Telly Well-Known Member

    I don't get the connection of somebody wanting a knock off spot on replica and how that person doesn't appreciate the art of the creator? Not saying I'm going to buy one of these replicas, but I still don't see how having one of them in my house is wrong. I wouldn't plan on using it for any sort of advertising or to make money in anyway. If the person who built it for me doesn't make any profit from it, I would assume it's not any different than if they built the replica for themself.

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