Using Photos of Children's Toys in an E-book: Is it Legal?

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  1. QuoteAmber profile image91
    QuoteAmberposted 9 years ago

    I wanted to post this under questions, but I wrote too much. The topic may sound like a stupid question, but hear me out. I want to e-publish my first book and I am using my own pictures. Some of the pictures are of common children's toys. I want to know if that will break any copyright laws or anything of the sort? I remember a few years ago when Disney sued a children's hospital for painting a picture of Mickey Mouse on the wall. So I have stayed away from any Disney related toys because I do not want the wrath of Disney reigned down upon me. But what if I used pictures of toys of other characters, such as Lego people, or Snoopy, or Spiderman, or toys of the old McDonald's characters that used to come in Happy Meals in the 80s? Would it be legal to use pictures of those toys in my e-book? Or is that something I would get in trouble for? If anyone knows, please let me know.


    1. Just Ask Susan profile image90
      Just Ask Susanposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Leaving a comment as this is something I too have been wondering about. So tagging along to see what advice you get.

    2. anusha15 profile image84
      anusha15posted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Using pictures of any toy that is related to a brand - a registered brand, will be violation of copyrights of the copyright holder.

      Spiderman, snoopy, lego etc. all are registered brands and thus you should stay away. But if it's a soft toy which doesn't represented one of these famous characters, or shall I say characters with paperwork big_smile, their usage will not make you a copyright infringer.

      Having said that, there may be brands who might allow the usage of pictures of their famous characters in certain special circumstances, one of which might be that your ebook is being prepared solely for educational purposes, not commercial. Or may be you take special permission for publishing these pictures. You'll have to decide if it's worth your time and effort to dig out all this information about the nature of the licenses and/or take special permissions.

      1. Cardisa profile image88
        Cardisaposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        She won't be violating a copyright law but rather their trademark. There is a difference.

        1. anusha15 profile image84
          anusha15posted 9 years agoin reply to this

          Wasn't too sure of the terminology, and I don't know the exact implications of infringements in US for either copyright or trademark. But it would be "illegal", as in "sueable"... again I'm not sure of the charges also. If you do, do share, I think it would be helpful for her.

          1. Cardisa profile image88
            Cardisaposted 9 years agoin reply to this

            Copyright has to do with creative works. The Trademark has to so do with tradenames and logos. Now, if someone is using photos with brands showing the logo (trademarks) they either need to blot these out or get permission to use.

            I don't know anything about US trademark laws but what I do know is that writing a book for commercial sales will mean that she is using the photos with the trademark for commercial use. This will get her in trouble if she doesn't get the consent of the toy makers in question, especially the Lego which are a trademark.

            If the book is free she may use the photos but she needs to make it clear that the book is not for profit.

            I would suggest she write to Lego and the other toy makers, partner with them and allow them to officially add their trademark to the book so that it can hep her distribution. This way she gets to have her book done officially without having to worry at all.

            1. QuoteAmber profile image91
              QuoteAmberposted 9 years agoin reply to this

              I appreciate both of your responses, but I'm still a little confused. I'm not actually using the logo or brand name, that only entails the actual image of the name of the company, it would just be an image of a lego, or an image of a snoopy toy, there is no actual logo on the toy. And aside from the lego, I don't actually know who makes the toys. So I'm not worried about that. It is what anusha15 is referring to, that I am worried about. Is the image of Spiderman trademarked, even if it is just a picture of a toy?

              Have either of you seen the cartoon network show Robot Chicken? They often use trademarked children's toys in their sketches, like Barbie dolls,etc, and I seriously doubt they have permission from the companies considering the nature of their show.

              But anusha15, I think you might be right. I'll try e-mailing these companies and see what kind of response I get, if any, but I think I might just use 'soft' toys or I might try painting over the iconic images so that you can't tell what they are, except that won't work for snoopy or the lego, but the spiderman possibly. I seriously doubt the old McDonald's Happy Meal Toy is trademarked, the thing is literally like over 20 years old and it doesn't say McDonald's anywhere on it.

              1. anusha15 profile image84
                anusha15posted 9 years agoin reply to this

                I'll give an example to explain. There are hundreds of local manufacturers around who use Disney's characters images on products like children's water bottles. Now, they are all actually making an illegal use, if Disney ever gets hold of them, they can be sued. But the "if" is significant here. Reason being, they are unknown local guys, and probably difficult to trace, or perhaps more important than that, the profits they are earning are so low, that Disney probably won't bother with suing them. I don't think that even the legal processing fee would be recoverable.

                But then there are somewhat famous brands, who would pay the royalty (or whatever suitable term) to Disney, and will keep things clear and dandy. I know of a TShirt design website, who have a deal with disney, so they encourage the users to use Disney's characters while designing the TShirts.

                If the Spiderman, or lego toy you're referring to, doesn't bear a trademark symbol, or something of that sort, it could be very much because of the fact that the manufacturer is him/herself violating the trademark. Now you take an image of the toy, whether or not it's bearing a trademark, if it's recognizable as Spiderman, the famous & amazing Spiderman (big_smile) then you can get into trouble.

                Hey, one more thing, have you checked Check this link, it might help you. The images here are free for commercial use - free and royalty free. (Just check for license cc0, most of the images are shared under that license only - it's free, and no attribution required)

       … amp;order=

    3. psycheskinner profile image81
      psycheskinnerposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      As a stock photographer I am forbidden to sell any photo that is of a single designed object (car, toy, artwork, appliance etc).  I imagine the same rules apply to you.  You can show the toy in a scene, but a picture of the toy alone opens you to litigation.

      Some stock sites are not as careful about the rules and may sell these images, but that does not make their use legal.

  2. Billie Kelpin profile image84
    Billie Kelpinposted 9 years ago

    I have no idea, but here's my thought.  If it's a picture of a toy in your child's room for example or a picture of the toy that your child is playing with, I would think that that is not infringement.  Years ago I made a terrible mistake of being OVERLY cautious and NOT LISTENTING TO A LAWYER who told me I COULD use images for a game I was making.  That was a TOTALLY DIFFERENT situation; however, even though I'm not sure about this case, I'm still wondering if you couldn't use pictures IF in the context of a private use of the product.  Heck, movies and TV do product placement all the time.  If there was a positive review of the toy, then I personally can't see why there would be a problem.  I'll ask my husband's graphic designer son if he knows. Maybe a lawyer on hubpages will respond.  Legal advice is the best way to go and there may be a way to get an answer to this question without paying a lot of money.  Then your conscience is clear.  If you do get legal advice that's positive from someone in the profession, don't second guess it like I did.  The game I re-invented is now sold nationwide in gamestores all over the nation, probably the world, because the guy who had the same idea as I did went ahead and trusted his legal advice.   

    PS.  I found a WONDERFUL artist, Julie Parker, for my children's book, "Lucky, the Left Pawed Puppy".  We never MET!  I found her on craigslist.  So I paid for each image and that is it.  IF you go to print publication, the artist will get a portion of the profits, but in my case, the contract stated that the ebook images are not subject to that stipulation.  When I needed drawings for Lucky's game on our website, I simply paid Julie for other smaller images because you have to be careful not to manipulate the artist's original drawings.

    I'll be interested to see what definitive answer you receive on this topic!

  3. QuoteAmber profile image91
    QuoteAmberposted 9 years ago

    So I found this on the internet. … tive_works

    Apparently the internet does have all the answers. It says a picture of a toy is copyrighted in the United States.

    As per Wikipedia:

    I know that I can't upload photos of copyrighted art (like paintings and statues), but what about toys? Toys are not art!
    This depends on the country of the toy.

    Some countries do not grant copyright protection to utilitarian objects (see COM:UA). In a subset of those countries, such as Japan, toys are generally considered to be utilitarian objects.[10]

    In other countries, such as the United States (where Commons is hosted), most toys are considered to be art. In the United States, it is the same thing whether you take a picture of a sculpture or a picture of Darth Vader. Both are copyrighted; in both cases, the copyright of the photograph does not void the original copyright, and in both cases you will need the permission of the original creator. You cannot upload pictures of a sculpture by Picasso, and you can't upload photographs of Mickey Mouse or Pokémon figures.

    On the issue of toys as art in the US, a toy airplane, for example, has the purpose of depicting the appearance of an airplane in the same manner as a painting of an airplane which is different from an actual airplane having the purpose of transporting persons or goods.[1] Dolls' clothing has been found to be copyrightable in the US on the grounds that it does not have a utilitarian function of providing protection from the elements or preserving modesty in the manner that clothing for humans does (the latter is a "useful article.")[1]

    Numerous lawsuits have shown that Mickey Mouse or Asterix have to be treated as works of art, which means they are subject to copyright, while a common spoon or a table are not works of art. Such items can be copyrighted, perhaps, if they were given a very special form by a designer and presented as art (and not a spoon), but the ones you use at home are probably not.[11]

    When uploading a picture of a toy, you must show that the toy is in the public domain in both the United States and in the source country of the toy. In the United States, copyright is granted for toys even if the toy is ineligible for copyright in the source country.[12]

  4. QuoteAmber profile image91
    QuoteAmberposted 9 years ago

    However, toys in the public domain can be used can be used as the copyright no longer applies. Here is a small list I find of toys and characters in the public domain: … acters.pdf

  5. freecampingaussie profile image60
    freecampingaussieposted 8 years ago

    Hi ! I was looking on Google for " Do toys have copyright " & this was right near the top ! What was the outcome ? Can you take photos of toys that are not famous ? Did you do your book using photos of toys ? I would love to know.


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