Disney doesn’t want you to hire “Big Hairy Guy,” a Chewbacca lookalike, for your child’s next birthday party. Disney and its corporate affiliates have filed a lawsuit against Characters For Hire, LLC (“CFH”) for copyright and trademark infringement. Though CFH changes the names of many of its characters, such as Darth Vader to “Dark Lord,” Star Wars to “Star Battles,” and Darth Maul to “Mauler,” Disney will not have it. Disney claims that CFH’s “shoddy services” have resulted in a reputation (as evidenced by CFH’s “F” rating with the BBB and poor Yelp reviews) that “is fundamentally at odds with Plaintiff’s stellar reputation for excellent quality and customer service.” Disney isn’t just concerned with lost revenue because of CFH’s failure to acquire proper licenses- the company is worried that customers’ experiences with CFH tarnishes their views of Disney. Elsa and Anna’s unprofessional rendition of “Let It Go” just might ruin the all of Frozen for you and your five-year old.
While small companies often fold before this entertainment behemoth, it looks like CFH isn’t backing down without a fight. The defendant and others think that CFH might have a shot at saving at least some of its characters, stating in its response to Disney’s motion for summary judgment that its “use of characters from Norse mythology, such as Thor and Loki, or centuries-old fairy tales and folk tales, like Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Aladdin and Princess Aurora do not infringe upon any original expression added by Plaintiffs to these public domain characters.” In other words, Disney might not have a monopoly on these characters it claims to have. With allegations such as these, the effects of this case might extend beyond requiring parents to pay full price for licensed lookalikes at children’s birthday parties.
Dallin Earl is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2020).