Cosplay at the Supreme Court

Earlier this month, we linked to the below article that was making waves in cosplay social media.
I will admit that the article uses some strong language such as "Cosplayers are going to feel the brunt of this decision, one way or the other.  The Supreme Court is quite literally deciding the test by which the legal status of cosplay will be judged."  This made me do a bit of digging into my old copyright courses, cosplay communities, and the interwebs to see how much of this Supreme Court decision would effect cosplayers, and here's what I found.

The original case sited by Public Knowledge as going up for consideration is about cheerleading uniforms, specifically Star Athletica and Varsity Brands.  Varsity is claiming that Star violated copyright by creating and offering a uniform too similar to their own design. The ruling claimed that designs are like fabric patterns and can be protected by copyright.

Cos Puree sited a great example of how this relates to cosplay by referring to Volpin Props who received a cease and desist order or replicating the distinctive design of the Mariott Marquis Atlanta carpet.

Something of note in Volpin's case is that Voplin was attempting to sell the design on Spoonflower, an on-demand custom print fabric store.

What do you need to know from all of this?

Copyright law is extremely difficult to nail down.  There are classes upon classes dedicated to how you can interpret the law, and this flexibility in interpretation is why we so often hear about copyright lawsuits. In every case I could find, cease and desist orders were only issued to cosplayers attempting to make money off of the design.  For Courtisan (the company who created the original fabric which Volpin re-created), they were protecting their business by preventing the sale of fabric with a matching design.

For hobbyist cosplayers, I would say - just keep on being your creative self.  Despite the article from Public Knowledge, it will be very difficult to find a company willing to pay for a lawyer or representative to sit at the door of every cosplay event and screen design issues.  

If you're interested in learning more, please visit Cos Puree who wrote an amazing article and is great at summarizing the more legal aspects of this issue. See you next week for Fandom Monday!

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting. It does make sense if you're trying to make money, like the fabric, why that wouldn't be allowed.