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Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 41220
Experience:  Run my own successful business/contract law practice.
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I am writing a book to help readers remember certain words

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I am writing a book to help readers remember certain words and I use my own hand sketched cartoon to illustrate my points. If some of my cartoons have a mouse ear that looks like Micky Mouse's ear or a nose that resemble other cartoon characters, am I infringing on the original artists' works? I never copy or trace anything. It is all my own drawing.

Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.

What you are describing is known as 'substantial likeness'. If your cartoons are 'substantially similar' to copyrighted characters, then there is a potential claim for infringement. This is a very subjective process but in a nutshell it comes down to evaluation--would a typical reasonable regular person upon seeing your images consider them to be the images that are copyrighted, or will that person see them as their own creation. If the answer is the latter, there is no infringement, but if the former then potentially those parties can file suit, even if you drew it yourself. The chances of filing suit are fairly small but they do exist if the images are so similar in nature.

Good luck.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you....what if two artists arrive at a similar cartoon independently? There are only so many ways you can draw a nose and a ear.

Thank you for your follow-up, and you are most welcome!

The whole image is reviewed to see if it substantially similar. I agree that ears, noses, even hands can together be at times limited on how they can be drawn. But if the image itself evokes a copyrighted character then it would likely be considered a potential claim for infringement. The more dissimilar the full images, even if some parts are fairly identical, the less there is a potential claim that there is infringement taking place.

Good luck.

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