Pokemon Go, Minecraft, Marvel, Disney, Harry Potter even Dr. Seuss (I could go on and on…) are all the rage right now. And when something is popular it is so tempting to get in on it. Before you do, be very careful… because all of these things have strict copyright and/or trademarks attached. What does that mean? Short answer: You cannot share a resource you created whether it’s free or paid with anyone else if it has copyrighted images, trademarked words/phrases etc. on it unless you have permission to use them. Even if you totally changed it up and created a “musical” spin to it. If you are using their graphics, name, words, phrases in anyway, it could be a violation. Yikes!!!
To give you an example… About a month ago, I had several inquiries asking what happened to my Piano Olympics resource I used to share a couple years ago. First, when I shared that resource I was totally naive thinking that it would be okay because after all, there is no official event in the Olympics called “Piano” and it wouldn’t be competing with anything. But after I opened up my store, I eventually found out that just using the word Olympics was against their trademark. Matter of fact, I recently found out that you can’t even use certain words or phrases such as “Go for the Gold” or “Let the Games Begin”. What?! Who knew? So needless to say I removed it quickly. This makes things a little complicated when you hold an event every 4 years like I do. Since 2017-2018 will be time to hold the program again, I will have to get a little more creative and update to “Musicathlon“. (If you want an idea how strict the Olympics are on using words and terms, check out this article. It will blow your mind. And yes, even though there is no official piano or music event in the Olympics it is clear in this article that you can’t combine the word Olympics with anything else even if it doesn’t exist.)
So what does this all mean? Basically if you want to create something for your use only, chances are nobody is going to ‘catch’ you. But if you decided to share it in some form or another you are taking a big risk (especially if it’s online). All of these companies have no problem going after the “little guys”. For me personally, it’s just not worth the risk.
What if you aren’t sure? Well, that is a good question because sometimes things are in that “gray” area and it might not be so clear. You can either be safe than sorry or do more digging to find out if it’s okay. I have something in my store right now that I had to do some research to make sure it would be okay. After doing some digging I came to the conclusion that it was okay to move forward on it. So definitely do some research because who knows, it may be just fine. Another option is to contact the company for permission directly, definitely doesn’t hurt to ask. It may be a while before you hear back from them. So you will need to practice some patience. Most will say sorry, but occasionally they will say no problem or they will quote a fee to do so. Again, you just never know until you ask or do some digging.
So there you go, that is why you will not find Piano or Music Olympics resources in my store or some cool musical twist on Pokemon Go, which I know students would totally LOVE! It really does stink, but I’ve learned that sometimes that is just life.
Be sure to ‘Like’ Music Educator Resources on Facebook and follow Music Educator Resources on TpT to stay up to date on giveaways, discounts, reviews and other music resources! And don’t forget to join the exclusive email newsletter for monthly freebies and more!
It is a bummer, but it is so much better to do things on the up and up! Some of our competition in the Charlotte area use Disney and musical theatre logos in the summer camp advertisements without purchasing the appropriate licenses. Those show kids and licenses cost top dollar, but I’m at peace knowing that when I use those logos and images I have the right to do so! Good for you, Jennifer! Keep up the fantastic work!
WOW! That is the meanest thing ever. How could the “Olympics” put a copyright on the WORD “OLYMPICS!!” That’s wrong. It seems like it’s an historical “noun” word that everyone should be able to use. Grrr. I’m sorry you had to change it, but thank you for this information too. This world is weird sometimes. LOL!
Yeah, I was pretty surprised when I found out. Gotta love it.
Thanks for sharing! I did not know this. It seems unfair to me, but as I say to my kids, “life isn’t always fair.” 😕