Monday, August 10, 2009

Using Disney Photos in Travel Book

Dear Rich: I am writing a travel book. I would like to include photographs of items that are subject to a Disney trademark, such as the Disneyland castle.  If I own the copyright to the photograph, would I need to get a license to include it in my book?  Are there any issues with discussing these items, but without including photographs? What about other places in the Disney parks that are on Disney property, but probably not subject to any trademarks, such as a building on Main Street or a trash can? First, we're not sure that the Disney World trash cans lack trademarks. (And in any case, even if they don't contain trademarks, trash cans can be arranged to create famous Disney marks -- as our blog photo demonstrates). As for the remainder of your questions, Disney creates some hurdles for travel publishers. 
We Appreciate Your Understanding  
A member of the Walt Disney staff wrote to the Dear Rich staff (if only our staffs could meet!) and explained that 
"All requests to use materials which are copyrighted by The Walt Disney Company (e.g. photos, logos, characters, etc.) must be directed, in writing, to the following address: Walt Disney World Legal Department Attn: Requests Post Office Box 10000 Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000 Due to the volume of third-party requests that we receive and in view of the consideration process that these requests are subject to, please know that it may take up to eight weeks for a response to be provided. As such, any requests that are received indicating the need for an immediate response are automatically declined and returned to the sender. We appreciate your understanding." 
In short, if you are asking for assistance, whatever you do, don't tick off the WDW staff by asking that they expedite your request. (That only works here at Dear Rich headquarters) You can learn more about Disney photo rules at the Disney photography site and its forum, the Disney photo forum (and maybe at the DIS site, too). We've never been to WDW or Disneyland so we're not sure if the purchase of a ticket incorporates photo rules as well, but a visit to Disney property is a visit to private property so you may have signed away your rights on this one, just by purchasing a ticket. You can discuss the parks (in textual form) without worrying about trademark issues. And arguably, under first amendment principles (and possibly trademark fair use principles), you can reproduce those trademarks for editorial purposes. (We recommend you consult other travel books and see how they've handled it since Disney is not considered the friendliest IP owner.  (PS Here's an interesting new fair use case to throw into the mix.)