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By Foom Man
#322167
So after hearing a handful of stories these past few months it seems that it's high time we try and establish some simple, important legal truths. I'm no legal expert, but I figured it couldn't hurt to attempt to spell this out (again). Claims of ignorance or righteous altruism have popped up recently in the franchise community and apparently there are some who have a level of misunderstanding when it comes to finances, franchises, the Ghostbusters intellectual property, and just what the teams are permitted to do (legally).

In short: nothing.


As an IP owned by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment, Ghostbusters is not something anyone has the right to utilize for monetary gain outside of those companies. IE: you cannot profit from being in a Ghostbuster uniform unless you're hired by one of those two companies. Here is the big misconception that keeps appearing:
  • Regaurdless of charitable and altruistic aspirations, you are never, under any circumstances, granted the legally protected freedom to use the Ghostbusters IP in order to raise funds. Columbia seems to turn a deaf ear to the actions of franchises as they tend to build good will towards the Ghostbusters franchise, which is awfully nice of them, but they are allowed at any moment's notice to disband a franchise, website, etc as they see fit.
Our collective actions as a community, which include making websites, selling t-shirts with the GB logo on it, raising money for charities, building props, etc, are all done so with the passive approval of Columbia and Sony. They are letting us do these things, but nobody ever gave us explicit permission.

Selfish acts, such as charging for appearance fees, can easily ruin things for everyone. While it isn't an immediate threat, keep that in mind if you ever consider pocketing money or requesting money for an appearance.


Raising money to pay for a fan film or prop and claiming it is a charitable endeavor is, firstly, just selfish and a misplacement of intent. You can certainly raise money for a fan project, as the fellas behind Return of the Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: Generation, and GB SLC have done for their respective fan films, but none of those projects claimed to be charitable acts that would somehow benefit a cause other than their own creativity & the fan community at large. Those people didn't say "Hey, pay for our movie- it's for charity!" If you plan on becoming a Ghostbuster or a franchise in order to raise money for various benefits, you should never assume other people will pay the thousands required to outfit your team with props. That is just downright silly and borderline sociopathic.

Image
This article here on GB United, entitled DOs and DONTs, is an attempt at explaining the legal-side of the Ghostbusters franchises. If anyone has anything to add (or fix, as I am in no way a legal expert) please feel free to do so.

Make no mistake- it is a priviledge, not a right, to use the Ghostbusters name and logo.
Last edited by Foom Man on May 11th, 2011, 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Glades20, MonaLS liked this
User avatar
By jackdoud
#322190
As a corollary to this, most people don't realize that "profit" does not just mean money. Any priviliges, swag, freebies, food, access or compensation can also be considered profit. It's not usually such a big hang up for an IP holder as straight cash but technically free pizza, t-shirts, movie tickets or the like counts as profit.

If you feel you must get something in return for you time I'd recommed the 501st model of requesting that the person or group you're appearing for make a donation to a local charity in your franchises name (if it's not already a charity event).
User avatar
By cowbybill
#322211
As a corollary to this, most people don't realize that "profit" does not just mean money. Any priviliges, swag, freebies, food, access or compensation can also be considered profit. It's not usually such a big hang up for an IP holder as straight cash but technically free pizza, t-shirts, movie tickets or the like counts as profit.

If you feel you must get something in return for you time I'd recommed the 501st model of requesting that the person or group you're appearing for make a donation to a local charity in your franchises name (if it's not already a charity event).
I believe the saying is..+1!
User avatar
By deadderek
#322246
I recall in another thread someone saying "as long as der logo is 10% different then we aint in legal trouble derp" and this posting should be required reading just for folks like that.
User avatar
By jackdoud
#322336
I recall in another thread someone saying "as long as der logo is 10% different then we aint in legal trouble derp" and this posting should be required reading just for folks like that.
Leaving off that the percentage thing is totally wrong how do you measure 10% of an image?
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By Kissimmee_Buster
#322342
I saw that somewhere on here awhile ago; Even if you "Re-Design" the No-Ghosts logo, i.e. with something like your State or Area or Name, it's still a No-Ghosts Logo because Your still using the Ghost design from Ghostbusters. I'm not against this, I like to see different takes on the Logo.
EDIT: Now someone did use the Filmation Ghost Busters Ghost; But not everyone has seen that show. And I am referring to the General Public.

Now, my opinion on certain people(s) trying to make some extra cash; I had one guy ask me about joining my former group, but His mind set was, "I'll be getting paid just to dress up and attend events if I Join?" Had to tell Him "No". Never heard from him since. People take advantage of Liberties with certain things, knowing or not.

Thanks Kevin for the new "Do and Don't" Section of GB:U Most helpful.
User avatar
By ProtonCharger
#322344
I recall in another thread someone saying "as long as der logo is 10% different then we aint in legal trouble derp" and this posting should be required reading just for folks like that.
Leaving off that the percentage thing is totally wrong how do you measure 10% of an image?
not to mention considering the source that tidbit comes from, that wont admit to why, it actually knows that sort of information.
User avatar
By castewar
#322350
The issue can be made even simpler. Sony, at any time, take any of us, to court over anything having to do with Ghostbusters, not covered by fair-use, which is basically really, really, really limited use of images and sound clips. So, basically, everything to do with Ghostbusters fandom could totally incur the wrath of Sony - it doesn't even have to make sense.

That said, reality shapes potential legalities - Sony, as a giant corporation, is interested in money and publicity. So, as long as any money generated, potentially generated, or generated by proxy or contra (getting paid in a lifetime supply of fish sticks, worth thousands of dollars, say) is below the cost to prosecute and money recovered AND publicity is positive thanks to due diligence, it's unlikely Sony will crack down, though they still retain that right.

(One company mandated copyright training seminar 15 years ago, and it's been more useful in relation to Ghostbusters over the years than in my work. At least someone got their money's worth.)

Nice write up Foom - tricky business, but I think it will go a long way to helping, my semi-self-indulgent post on the OT aside.
Ernest Reid liked this
By kevinj319
#322789
Many people feel that if no money is made, and if a disclaimer indicates they are not officially representing the IP holders, then there is no problem. Personally I think that's what copyright law should be, but that is not reality.

Sony has complete say over what the logos, costumes, car, etc, are used for. With the exception of "fair use", which is basically limited to parody or educational use.

Everything we do is possible only because of Sony's willingness to very unofficially allow us to continue.
User avatar
By chadpanther
#449498
aww man, I was going to read this, as the SCGHostbusters are really kicking it into gear in making our statewide franchise a reality

I was too, did you ever figure anything out with this topic since you posted this comment? I need some advice for my franchise.
By goodale.jason
#4925586
Hey hoping people still respond to this thread. So I read it through... and I understand it. Sony plays loose and fast by letting us use their intellectual properties. We cannot financially gain for these uses.

I guess my question, is how do franchises who are on the comic con circuits... sell merchandise to patrons... get away with that?
I’ve seen groups reselling the Tobins guide at the cons... now the money acquired from that is supposed to be funnelled back into the charity that group is supporting... I can only assume.

Can a group (mind you I do not have a franchise group) keep 10% to keep the lights on as it were and donate the rest?
I would assume this would require book keeping and a treasurer to outline where that kept money is being spent.
Say for instance buying silly string and printing no ghost labels for the cans to play some sort of game with the kids. Or a gift bag or supplies to make slime... whatever.

This is all just conjecture at this point as I’m only looking to gather information and further what I know about the Do’s and Don'ts. I’ve got a background in Recreation and Leisure services and worked with youth of a wide range of ages. I’ve helped plan and run community and city wide events for families. I’ve always had lots of ideas for a Ghostbusters event... wondering what the take is on everything above.

Again thank you in advance everyone
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