The Walt Disney Company, one of the largest and most well-known entertainment businesses, unsurprisingly has a lot of trademarks under its belt, and is always adding more to its collection.
Disney often adapt popular characters and stories into film, most popularly shown in their animated adaptations of fairy tales.
However, the group recently acquired fellow mass-media company Marvel, creators of films such as Thor.
And it is within this sub-section that Disney has recently been critiqued for its handling of one of their trademarks – one pertaining to the character Loki, from the Thor movies.
The characters in these movies are based upon Norse deities, making them characters of the public domain for anyone to adapt as they see fit.
Disney and Marvel have the right to reproduce the characters as they choose, and intellectual property laws will give them the right to protect their version of the adapted character, person, or, in this case, deity.
The Disney group can then stop others from using their characters for profit without permission, but they cannot stop others from creating their own content based upon the gods – or any other public domain character that Disney may have also adapted.
Recently, however, Disney were accused of doing just this by a creator on Redbubble, an online store in which creators can sell their original artworks as prints and other merchandise.
The creator, one @yourboswell on Twitter, shared the message they received from Redbubble, that their work was to be removed from the site due to infringement of the Disney Loki character.
While it was revealed that Redbubble were behind the removal of the work, and not Disney itself, this situation has still sparked discussion online, with many users concerned that the company may cross a line when it comes to protecting their trademarked version of public domain characters – especially those that are gods and deities, important to a country’s culture.
With the sheer size and power of a company like Disney, it comes as no surprise that many are also concerned for smaller creators’ intellectual property rights.
When the lines are blurred, it may lead to works based upon the deity being removed incorrectly.
While it may be clear in some cases when works are inspired by Disney’s adaptations, it is evident that others require more sensitivity, especially when the characters in question hold such importance.