Copyright and Trademark
Could you describe the difference between trademark and copyright in non-legal terms?
How do you know if an image is trademarked or copyright protected?
Personal Use and Commercial Use
Next, I want to get into how to get the right to use a copyright protected image, so could you describe the difference between personal and commercial use license.
The only images that we can use for personal use image would be all of the licensed images in Cricut Design Space. Cricut has worked directly with the owners of those images and obtained the correct license for those images to be able to sell them to you, for personal use. If you are using an image from Cricut Design Space for personal use you are protected from infringement of any copyright law.
How should a person go about obtaining a commercial use license?
Since I am a huge Disney fan, I asked her specifically about Mickey and Minnie Mouse images. I dive deeper into the topic of Disney Cricut images in a post HERE, but in short, here is what Mariam has to say about my favorite mice.
Copyright law and “inspired by” images
Altering Copyright Protected Images
Gifting or Free
Colors and Patterns
Additional Copyright Information
Here are some additional resources for specific areas of copyright law
What about things in Public Domain?
I know that some people will ask about things that are in Public Domain, so let’s address that.
Items that are in Public Domain are creative words which either have no exclusive intellectual property right, or those rights have expired. Think of it like a driver’s license. When you have a driver’s license you have the right to operate a motor vehicle. You are protected. But when your driver’s license expires you are no longer under that same protection.
In 2024 the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse entered public domain. Many people incorrectly believe that this now means that they can produce and sell items with Mickey Mouse on them.
Some times that make the Steamboat Willie verion of Mickey different from the Mickey we know today would be
- Steamboat Willie is only black and white
- Steamboat Willie does not wear gloves
- Steamboat Willie does not wear a shirt
- Steamboat Willie has solid black eyes
Some things that have not changed would be that Disney still has the trademark rights to the words Mickey Mouse in connection with any products. Trademarks never expire.
That means that even though Steamboat Willie is part of the public domain, if you create something that someone could perceive as being a Disney product you would still be breaking the law.
A great example would be the horror film origin story about Winnie the Pooh. No one that watches this movie would ever confuse this production with a Disney production. The story is based on the Winnie the Pooh books, but not on Disney’s adaptaion of those books.
So, even though Steamboat Willie is now in public domain, and you could produce something without infringing on the copyright, you could still be violiating the trademark by using that exact same image. If your work could in any way be confused with a Disney produced work then you still cannot create it.
So when someone asks “Can I now legally sell a shirt with a Steamboat Willie image on it?” I would ask that you look at a shirt that might be sold on the Disney website. If someone could confuse your shirt with the one sold by Disney then no, you cannot sell it.