← Return to forum

  • Hello. I am a new member and would like some help with some copyright issues.

    I have drawn cartoons which I plan to submit for publication in widely distributed magazines and newspapers. Some of my cartoons contain references to celebrity names, well known fictional characters, and a well known groups of performers. Note that there is nothing slanderous or damaging about these references.

    What steps should I take before submiting these cartoons to be sure not to run into any legal problems?

    Thanks in advance.
  • While my advice here should not be considered a legal opinion, I don't believe that the question you are posing is a copyright issue. People and their names are not copyrightable (is that a word?). I believe if there is a problem it would be in the area of libel or slander and those are not topics we are equipped to address. The publication to which you submit the cartoons may be better able to determine this. Good luck!
  • I can see at least three different issues in YD's question.

    Defamation law (libel and slander) is state law, so it will vary a bit around the country. But the Supreme Court, in the name of free speech, has raised a pretty high bar for celebrities and public figures who claim they have been defamed. They must prove that the speaker acted with malice or reckless disregard for the truth when he or she made the statements objected to. That is why political cartoons can be as nasty as they are.

    There may be trademark interests in the names of fictional characters or a group of performers, but if the use of those names is simply to refer to the actual character or group, rather than to imply some relationship or endorsement, it likely will fall into the trademark version of fair use.

    As for copyright, the one thing YD should do before sending his cartoons to potential publishers is to register his own copyright in them, using the forms found on the Copyright Office web site and paying the modest (but recently increased) fee. Note that registration is not required for protection, but it is necessary before bringing an action for infringement and, most important in this case, it supplies prima facie evidence of ownership.

    As with MKardick's post, this is an opinion and not legal advice.
  • Thank you ksmith and MKardick for your insights. I'm currently leaning toward one of two options:

    1) Submitting my cartoons with a note that I would like their help in sorting out any potential legal considerations before they are published. Perhaps they would have a lawyer on staff that would review the cartoons and provide advice. I have never done this before, so I don't know how it works.

    2) Finding a lawyer and obtaining their advice before submitting my work anywhere.

    The second option seems like the safest. I will gladly read any additional comments anyone has.

    Thanks again.

Posting to the forum is only available to users who are logged in.

← Return to forum