Costume Copyright

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New Member
This may have been asked or may be a sticky somewhere - if so please let me know. But I have had a few people question me when I offer costume reproductions if I have received trademark permission. I have found information that says that costumes/clothes do not fall under the trademark/copyright law and courts will not pursue it. I wanted to be sure this was true or if it had changed. All of my costumes are hand made upon request and recently was considering doing a limited run of 4-6 Earth Alliance uniforms with full leather and custom dyed twill for an increased price from my regular version. Someone then prodded me about trademark laws and I wanted to be sure I had the right information or if I am outdated and not up to speed.


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New Member
It depends - there's the famous case of Fox going after people selling 'Firefly' hats on Etsy, even though really they're just woolly hats, and you can't really claim copyright or trademark over a knitted hat design, if you've lawyers and enough money, then you can basically argue whatever you want.

Many brands / IP holders encourage it, or at least turn a blind eye, as it promotes their property and keeps the fans happy. I think it could be a problem if you were doing it on a commercial scale, or where it'd threaten their business in some way. Otherwise, I think you have to accept that what you're doing is in a legally grey area, and you're at the mercy of the copyright/trademark holder. The most likely scenario is that they'd just send a Cease & Desist order anyhow, which isn't the worst thing in the world.

I'm not a lawyer though, and if you want legal advice, you do need to speak to a qualified professional rather than well-meaning people on the interwebs :)


Sr Member
^Basically this.

Technically it is illegal if the character is a trademark of a certain company. That means they've paid to own the likeness of that character and any representation of them rather than just copyright, which pertains only to individual works. A piece of art/work can be copyrighted, a character can be trademarked. So really, any fanart or costume or any other depiction of that character that isn't covered under fair use (parody, that kind of thing) is technically illegal. The legislation is broad and pretty darn murky, so whilst there have been insane cases like Disney going after a childcare centre that had Mickey Mouse painted on it (badly) and the firefly hat fiasco, generally the big guns know that pissing off the majority of their fans would be a pretty idiotic thing to do.

So yeah, it's technically illegal and if you're making pots of profit off it then they'd probably be right to stop you from doing that, but then again it's also technically illegal for my three year old son to draw pictures of Spiderman. So... well. That's the size of the grey area, pick your moral endpoint and risk limit!


Active Member
Regarding props, I remember back in the day, around 2000-2002 if I recall correctly, Paramount or CBS was going after anyone making Star Trek props. Even scratch-built communicators and phasers, or the old convention specials. If it wound up on ebay or a private website they would have it pulled claiming it was in violation of their copyrights and trademarks. They even gouged at one point, charging more for their license I believe, and overnight all of their prop kits went up by double.

They have since relaxed, obviously, and there is a ton of licensed merchandise available now to keep them satisfied, but who knows next time? I think it all depends on the entity who controls the copyright, and how much it means to them to go after individual makers. Be smart about it and I'm sure you'll be fine. Don't expect to make a ton of money on it because that could seriously rock the boat for everyone doing that genre, like the old Star Trek prop hunt did years ago.

Just my thoughts having watched this stuff for 15 years or so.


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