Copy Right Laws

Dec 18, 2015

Hello everyone! In particular Storyboard Staff...I have two questions.

I came across some great ideas for using characters like Batman and Robin in my eLearnings (see attachment). Should I be concerned about copyright infringements? I am not making any money, but this training could potentially go out to thousands of employees. What is the protocol here?

Also, I have taken some video clips from the movie and dubbed in my own voice and message. Is this also a violation if it's not used for making money?

13 Replies
Alexandros Anoyatis

Hi Brandon,

It is a sure-fire copyright infringement. I can see how much work you did there, but I don't think I would be comfortable showing this out in the wild If I were you.

Heck, I'm not even sure I'd go as far as spoofing the characters (for example Bartman and Corbin), too much of a risk IMHO.

Just my 2c,

Brandon DeHaan

Thanks Leslie, although it's not under the realm of Articulate support, the idea spawned from an eLearning you sent out (Star Wars example). That's why my question was directed to you. My thought was, if Articulate is sending out this example, it must be okay.


Walt Hamilton

The example shows a picture of an actual object they bought.  Articulate can take a picture of it, but if somebody else had taken the picture, they could not use the picture. In this case, the potential for infringement would lie with the company that manufactured the figure, and I suspect they paid a huge bundle to be allowed to make that copy. 

If you want to get really picky, probably Lucasfilms owns the original which they licensed PEZ to copy. Pez owns the dispenser, which Articulate can take a picture of, and now Articulate owns the picture, and you can't use it without their permission. You can, however, buy your own dispenser, and take your own picture of it. (I know, crazy, huh?)


Leslie McKerchie

Love that explanation Walt.

Brandon - it was explained to me that our example falls under Fair Use, which is a broad legal doctrine that supports the use of copyrighted material, without the owner’s consent, for a variety of purposes.

Again, not my expertise, but I do know that this has come up previously in a discussion here and there is some additional information about Fair Use here.

Walt Hamilton
Brandon DeHaan

Let me make sure I understand this. So if I take the pictures of the Batman action figures that I bought, I am not in danger



You are responding to my post, and if you think that my post is legal advice (even poor legal advice), then you are a bigger fool than I am. :)

When you read anything about copyright law written by legal-type people, no matter who it is, there is always only one consistent theme. That is that there is not really anything cut and dried, and nobody really knows for sure until somebody sues somebody else, and a court decides.

That being said, I'm VERY nervous about infringement (comes from working in educational institutions, I guess), but I wouldn't be afraid of what you describe. My thought is that you are not copying anything, but that your picture is a new work.

Do you want a definitive answer? If your employer or client has thousands of employees, they have access to legal opinions. Ask them. Bear in mind, that if the legal eagles say go ahead, it doesn't mean that it is legal, only that they think it is close enough to legal that they are willing to defend it in court. :)

Tom Kuhlmann

You do have some Fair Use rights for parody and other things. You also have rights for derivative works. I find it interesting that even on some sites dedicated to Fair Use, legal professionals aren't always clear. A lot of it isn't worked out until the owner sues the violator. There have been some interesting cases lately involving digital content. Here's a good article that may help.

Going to your original question, I wouldn't use copyrighted content for courses I'm delivering to an organization. The Batman image also includes the Batman symbol (trademarked) and character names.

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