In this case, Modern Dog is suing Target and Disney over copyright infringement. Supposedly, Disney and Target infringed upon an image featured in one of Modern Dog’s books, containing artistic sketches of small dog faces. The infringing item, and the supposed original work can be seen below.
Modern Dog’s case is as follows. They claim that Disney and Target used their design in a tee shirt they were selling, and also featured photos of the tee shirt on their web site. Their claim is against Target and Disney making unauthorized copies of the artwork for use on shirts. The substantial part here, is that Modern Dog claims Disney and Target had access to their book, and purposefully stole the image for their own use. They claim specifically, that those at Disney used Amazon’s “look inside” feature on the book, and took the image from there. They also claim that the book had an explicit copyright notice, and that Disney and Target both removed said copyright notice to attempt to circumvent the copyright system. This is a bit of a silly claim, as we all know that under current US copyright law, anything is copyrighted once it’s in a fixed medium, such as this drawing, and doesn’t matter whether they had put a copyright notice or not. Furthermore, they weren’t actually circumventing anything, as again, the copyright notice isn’t mandatory any longer.
Disney and Target’s defense was not explicitly stated anywhere, though I can think of a possible defense that they could use. A tee shirt is obviously a useful article, and as we all know, covered under the useful articles section of copyright. Where this falls short though, is the fact that while the useful part of a useful article isn’t covered under copyright, the design here serves no purpose, and is covered separately under copyright law. This leaves Target and Disney in a bad place as far as a case against infringement.
All in all, if you take a look at the two images, it’s clear that Target and Disney took the image, as certain parts of the original work are copied exactly, down to the signature name below the drawing. To make an irrefutable claim, Modern Dog will have to show that Disney and Target did actually look at their design when making the tee shirt. Modern Dog went as far as to say that that their design was well available at the time that Disney and Target made their design. This will ultimately come down to the court officials, and their judgement of whether this is sufficient evidence for proving that Disney and Target did in fact take the design from Modern Dog’s book.
“Copyright Law of the United States of America” U.S. Copyright Office, December 2011, accessed April 28, 2015
Dan Hunter, “Intellectual Property” Oxford University Press, 2012
Tonya Gisselberg, “Modern Dog Design Sues Target and Disney for Copyright Infringement of Dog Artwork” Seattle Copyright Watch, November 03, 2011, accessed April 28, 2015