Copyrighting Material

Hello and good afternoon.

I have some questions and would like to see if anyone out there has answers for me.

I have recently started a cartoon that I wish to post regularly, but before I do I need to know what my rights are.

Question #1… If I do a stop motion of a commercially available character, does the original company have the right to that character? As an example Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. If I animated a toy of Luke, would that be an infringement of the Star Wars property? Assuming I wasn’t doing an Actual Star Wars off shoot.

Question #2… Similiar to the first but what if the property I was animating was generic. Like a plastic Camaro model with a Plastic Army Man driving in it? Or what about the Plastic army man himself? If say I did a WWII parity using Plastic Army Men?

Question #3… If I wish to incorporate commercial music into the cartoon what are the guidelines? For example if I wanted to use some of those old classics from the 40’s for my WWII parity?

Question #4… Where would I go to actually buy the rites to use a song in a cartoon? Where would I even begin?

Question #4… If I wanted to copyright a cartoon I did, is there an easy process for that? Where would I start? What is the cost?

Any help on this would be appreciated. I have read some fairly complicated articles on the subject but nothing that actually involves what I am specifically doing. Very confusing subject, and I really can’t afford a lawyer at this time!

Dunkman,

#1 I believe if you plan on selling the finished animation or make any money off it, then you would need to seek legal help.

#2 Anything done is a parody is ok. If you are worrying about copyright infringment, if you alter the character you are using, add a hat, sunglasses, a big nose, etc…now its not the same character.

#3 Again are you making a profit? If so, you will owe. Do you have a musical friend who can play or make up his own music? You can find copyright free music which might sound similiar. Otherwise you need to contact ASCAP and find out who the publisher of the song is. If you are a student production, they might just want a small fee, allowing you to play the song in the movie, but not own the song. You also need to give them screen credit. They own the copyright and will license you to use the song if you pay a small fee, just in case your little film turns into a mega internet sensation, they won’t be asking you for More Money!!!

#4 Call ASCAP 7920 W Sunset Blvd # 300 Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 883-1000 http://www.ascap.com/
You want a http://www.ascap.com/licensing/digital/

Good Luck,

Jim