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For the Lawyers: Use of Likeness

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That Guy with the Jokes's picture
February 10, 2020 at 9:03pm

Hi there GIA brain trust. A question for any lawyers on here regarding use of likeness of a celebrity, in this case one John Hayden Fry.

A number of years back, when we were all goofing around over at BHGP, I had a stupid idea to draw a depiction of Hayden in his signature white pants, doing the high kick of lore. It wound up looking like this:


Well, I thought it turned out pretty nice and I wanted it on a t-shirt, so I uploaded it to Redbubble, a site where you can sell your own art. I bought my own shirt, bought one for a friend, then just thought I'd see if anyone else would be interested in buying the thing. They were. I made a few sales, probably netting about $50 over the last few years. About two weeks ago, U of Iowa found and filed a complaint with Redbubble. They pulled my art down off the site.

Now, I thought I was operating under the ruling in ETW Corporation v. Jireh Publishing, Inc. -- insofar as the work was transformative enough of Fry's likeness that it was fair use. Moreover, I wouldn't expect the U of Iowa to have Fry's likeness trademarked. The image, though black and gold, doesn't use the tigerhawk, protected fonts, or even make mention of Iowa and the Hawkeyes.

I expect with Fry's passing, everyone at U of I trademarks and licensing is on high alert. I don't blame them. And I'm not looking to profit off of the death of a Hawkeye legend. Just wondering what the rules are here and if anyone has any thoughts.

This is a forum post from a site member. It does not represent the views of Go Iowa Awesome unless otherwise noted.

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