Legal question regarding Halloween.

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#1 Posted by MrGeezer (59715 posts) -

So, this past Halloween I went out to eat at a restaurant and some of the employees were wearing Halloween costumes. Nothing too weird or elaborate. There were some women dressed in black with witches hats on, and like, a guy dressed as Clark Kent with the top few buttons of his shirt undone so that you could see the Superman logo on his undershirt.

Anyway, here's my question...couldn't that restaurant company technically get in really deep **** for allowing that kind of stuff to be done by employees while on-duty? I realize that this probably wouldn't happen. And stuff like "generic witch" or "generic devil" would probably be exempt. But specifically with stuff like Superman (which is an intellectual property that doesn't fall within the public domain), couldn't that restaurant technically get the balls sued off of them by allowing employees to work there while dressed like that (provided that they weren't given permission by DC/WB)?

I'm just curious, because that seems like a potential case of profiting off of someone else's intellectual property. Hell, I've heard of places having rules against using the "Happy Birthday" song because that's copyrighted and could technically get them sued (even if that's really unlikely to happen).

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#2 Posted by Craigslist_org (46 posts) -

Classic case of “daisy stop stalking your man”

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#3 Posted by mrbojangles25 (42420 posts) -

I think you'd have to prove that the company asked the employees to dress up as licensed characters in order to boost profits to really win that argument. That's just my guess, though. Honestly I couldn't imagine being the prosecution on that one.

"This humble mom-and-pop establishment that encourages their employees to delightfully indulge in the wonderful tradition of Halloween despite needing to work has maliciously stolen dozens of dollars--DOZENS! I say--from the rights holders of aforementioned characters..." According to movies I've seen with lawyers in them, that's sort of what it would sound like *Shrug*

Yeah I don't see a judge doing shit about that.

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#4 Posted by VFighter (4046 posts) -

What would be illegal about it exactly? If the Superman costume was bought (or the t-shirt he was wearing) how can he get sued or his company sued for wearing it? Unless said restaurant is using pictures of the employees as advertisements I do,t see how any of that would be illegal. Seems like you're trying to score some easy money.

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#5 Posted by Craigslist_org (46 posts) -

@vfighter:

Majority very unintelligent

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#6 Edited by Byshop (19197 posts) -

@MrGeezer said:

So, this past Halloween I went out to eat at a restaurant and some of the employees were wearing Halloween costumes. Nothing too weird or elaborate. There were some women dressed in black with witches hats on, and like, a guy dressed as Clark Kent with the top few buttons of his shirt undone so that you could see the Superman logo on his undershirt.

Anyway, here's my question...couldn't that restaurant company technically get in really deep **** for allowing that kind of stuff to be done by employees while on-duty? I realize that this probably wouldn't happen. And stuff like "generic witch" or "generic devil" would probably be exempt. But specifically with stuff like Superman (which is an intellectual property that doesn't fall within the public domain), couldn't that restaurant technically get the balls sued off of them by allowing employees to work there while dressed like that (provided that they weren't given permission by DC/WB)?

I'm just curious, because that seems like a potential case of profiting off of someone else's intellectual property. Hell, I've heard of places having rules against using the "Happy Birthday" song because that's copyrighted and could technically get them sued (even if that's really unlikely to happen).

Well, I'm not a lawyer (disclaimer) but from my limited understanding I think probably not. A restaurant or other public-facing business allowing employees to choose costumes that may or may not include licensed characters on Halloween probably would never result in a lawsuit. While you're right that you can't use licensed characters without the permission of whomever owns those characters, there's also a concept of "fair use". Fair use isn't particularly well defined in terms of what is and isn't allowed, but as an example there have been many instances where bars/restaurants choose a theme like Harry Potter or Rick and Morty and were forced to close down. But if it's not an organized effort by the employer who's clearly trying to draw in business by advertising something involving licensed characters then it's probably fine. Even if it's technically a violation, you typically need to start with a "cease and desist" letter first before you jump straight to a lawsuit.

-Byshop

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#7 Posted by MrGeezer (59715 posts) -

@Byshop said:

Well, I'm not a lawyer (disclaimer) but from my limited understanding I think probably not. A restaurant or other public-facing business allowing employees to choose costumes that may or may not include licensed characters on Halloween probably would never result in a lawsuit. While you're right that you can't use licensed characters without the permission of whomever owns those characters, there's also a concept of "fair use". Fair use isn't particularly well defined in terms of what is and isn't allowed, but as an example there have been many instances where bars/restaurants choose a theme like Harry Potter or Rick and Morty and were forced to close down. But if it's not an organized effort by the employer who's clearly trying to draw in business by advertising something involving licensed characters then it's probably fine. Even if it's technically a violation, you typically need to start with a "cease and desist" letter first before you jump straight to a lawsuit.

-Byshop

Ah, thanks. Anyway, my question as to whether or not it's a violation of copyright stems from the notion that technically it might be possible to argue that they're profiting off of the intellectual properties by establishing themselves as the "fun" place to go on Halloween where you can see the staff's costumes. And that technically that might increase the restaurant's revenues. Kind of making it arguably a for-profit thing even if it wasn't an organized effort by the employer.

But yeah, like you said I think it would be EXTREMELY unlikely for anything bad to actually happen. Hell, it would probably be extremely unlikely for any cease and desist letters to happen. I was just wondering if it technically could get them in trouble.

And for some of the people here, no I'm not trying to look for an easy lawsuit. It's not as if I even could sue them seeing as how I'm not the copyright holder of any property that anyone would care about. And in the event that I was the copyright holder of any property that anyone would care about, chances are that I'd be able to hire a lawyer to answer this for me instead of asking the question on Gamespot forums. I was just curious. Not everything needs to have some plan or end-goal attached to it.

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#8 Posted by Byshop (19197 posts) -

@MrGeezer said:
@Byshop said:

Well, I'm not a lawyer (disclaimer) but from my limited understanding I think probably not. A restaurant or other public-facing business allowing employees to choose costumes that may or may not include licensed characters on Halloween probably would never result in a lawsuit. While you're right that you can't use licensed characters without the permission of whomever owns those characters, there's also a concept of "fair use". Fair use isn't particularly well defined in terms of what is and isn't allowed, but as an example there have been many instances where bars/restaurants choose a theme like Harry Potter or Rick and Morty and were forced to close down. But if it's not an organized effort by the employer who's clearly trying to draw in business by advertising something involving licensed characters then it's probably fine. Even if it's technically a violation, you typically need to start with a "cease and desist" letter first before you jump straight to a lawsuit.

-Byshop

Ah, thanks. Anyway, my question as to whether or not it's a violation of copyright stems from the notion that technically it might be possible to argue that they're profiting off of the intellectual properties by establishing themselves as the "fun" place to go on Halloween where you can see the staff's costumes. And that technically that might increase the restaurant's revenues. Kind of making it arguably a for-profit thing even if it wasn't an organized effort by the employer.

But yeah, like you said I think it would be EXTREMELY unlikely for anything bad to actually happen. Hell, it would probably be extremely unlikely for any cease and desist letters to happen. I was just wondering if it technically could get them in trouble.

And for some of the people here, no I'm not trying to look for an easy lawsuit. It's not as if I even could sue them seeing as how I'm not the copyright holder of any property that anyone would care about. And in the event that I was the copyright holder of any property that anyone would care about, chances are that I'd be able to hire a lawyer to answer this for me instead of asking the question on Gamespot forums. I was just curious. Not everything needs to have some plan or end-goal attached to it.

Yeah, I mean someone can sue for just about anything, I view it as a question of "can _____ be sued by _____ successfully?" (as a hypothetical) and I think the likely answer to that question is no. Copyright is weird because you actively have to protect it through lawsuits or else you kind of lose the ability to win those lawsuits. The fact that the copyright owners haven't already been suing people all these years over personal Halloween costumes worn in public work environments I think would make it very hard to win a case like that now. This is one of the reasons big companies have to be so aggressive on copyright infringement, even if they don't necessarily want to be (like when the Rick and Morty bar got a cease and desist).

-Byshop

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#9 Posted by JustPlainLucas (78858 posts) -

Well, I just learned that one of our ASIC (After School Is Cool) programs had to change its name from Animals of Pokemon to Video Game Animals to avoid potential Nintendo lawsuits. Of course, not surprised, as Nintendo would go after anyone for anything.