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Using the minifig design in work

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Using the minifig design in work

Post by Noodle37 on Thu 05 Aug 2010, 6:17 pm

Hey everyone,

I wanted to enquire about the correct way to use LEGO in my University work. I'm making a 30 page graphic novel, but I want to use the design of LEGO minifig characters. I'll be creating them in a 3D program, 3DS Max, in order to create the graphic novel. Its therefore similar to any of the video games, where the characters are all computer-generated, however this is in comic book form and not animated (so purely still shots).

Are their copyright issues with using the default design of LEGO minifig characters even if I am creating my own designs for the faces and clothing? I will not be using any already created characters by LEGO themselves (such as the Star Wars series, or Indiana Jones etc etc), but creating my own from scratch. Think of a minifig in complete white, and then I'll draw my own clothing and face in Illustrator or another program, so in that sense its original characters.

Now heres the catch, its for educational/personal work yes, however the University may display my work in brochures or on their website, and around the campus etc, in order to advertise my course to prospective students. Are there any copyright issues with doing this? Just to summarize my question; can I use my own original characters, using the LEGO minifig design, and then potentially have the University display my work as an advertisement to future students? I can't remember the name of the site, but their also going to compile the best graphic novels and send them to a comic publishing site, that only prints on demand, so my work could potentially be printed on demand by various people (most likely students and family).

If anyone had an answer to this that would be amazing as it has me and my lecturer in a bit of a debate.

Thanks guys.

**EDIT**: I realise also that I can't use the LEGO logo or anything like that, it would just be purely the minifig basic design, and a few "blocks" that may or may not resemble LEGO bricks legolaugh

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Re: Using the minifig design in work

Post by Captain Zuloo on Fri 06 Aug 2010, 12:51 am

Hi Noodle37,

I don't think it would be an issue for you to use the minifig on websites and pamphlets etc. (we've got lots of minifigs on this site and no issue) however there may be a problem with printing on demand as your work would actually be sold. Having said this, I know various AFOL magazines such as Railbricks and Hispabrick both print photos of minifigs in their magazines and sell them. I would suggest perhaps contacting one of these and posing the same question.

Cheers,

Z.

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Re: Using the minifig design in work

Post by kha-khees on Fri 06 Aug 2010, 3:02 pm

Why contact them if you can just contact LEGO? Or do both, as it's possible lego just won't reply. But if they don't it's usually safe to assume that it will be ok to use them.

While the minifig is a trademark of LEGO you ought to be able to appropriate its image without issue. Look at brickforge, brickarms, littlearmory and arealight as better examples than LUGs: They expressly sell items with minifigs used as advertising on their site, but claim no affiliation with the lego group. Several of these sites also sell custom figures.

TL;DR: There are people who would already be in trouble if lego had a problem with people using their product and its image creatively.

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Re: Using the minifig design in work

Post by Captain Zuloo on Sat 07 Aug 2010, 6:20 am

Contacting LEGO is a bit of a slippery slope IMO - it's easier for them to say no before you go ahead and use the minifig than it is for them to chase it up later.
I would say go for it, probably not worth contacting anyone. And if they have an issue, plead ignorance!

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Re: Using the minifig design in work

Post by peterab on Sat 07 Aug 2010, 1:58 pm

Captain Zuloo wrote:I would say go for it, probably not worth contacting anyone. And if they have an issue, plead ignorance!

Given that the comic may be used by the University, that's probably poor advice, since TLG could in the worst case sue the University. Using the minifig design could be argued to be a derivative work, in which case the copyright gets murky. Noodle37's lecturer is wise to err on the side of caution if he intends the comic to be used as advertising for the course. Besides he should be teaching you about what is and isnt acceptable behaviour as a professional. If he thinks its dicey it probably is legaly, and even if others do it, they may be too small for lego to act against or know about, whereas the University or the comic publisher/on demand printer may not.

A safe alternative is to create your own design, for example like Megablocks has done. A little extra work but none of the risk.

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