Monthly Archives: August 2018

Toymakers Beware—If You Make Miniature Custom Figures That Look TOO Good—and Then Sell Them TOO Publicly—You’d Better be Prepared to Face an All-Too-Costly Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

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The likeness is unmistakable— That pose. That expression. That haircut. That weaponry. THAT is Conan the Barbarian—and we all know it. Ricardo Jove Sanchez’s mini-sculpt figurine was clearly modeled after Robert E. Howard’s iconic character and Frank Frazetta’s iconic paintings. Submitted as prima facie evidence in court, this screenshot of a Facebook post made under Sanchez’s pseudonym “Rykar Jové” provided the judge with a definitive and unmistakable side-by-side comparison. Click to enlarge.

Are YOU a custom figure “fraudster?”

Let’s hope not. It might net you some tempting income in the short term, but it could also cost you a pretty penny in the future. For example, a Brooklyn, NY judge recently penalized “professional freelance sculptor” Ricardo Jove Sanchez (of Spain) with $21,000 worth of fines and liabilities. Sanchez’s transgressions? He had sculpted multiple miniature (3″ tall) figurines based upon Robert E. Howard Properties’ Conan the Barbarian characters—and the paintings of Frank Frazetta—and his actions were found to be “liable under trademark infringement laws.” According to the article recently published in the New York Post (HERE) and as penned by reporter Emily Saul:

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Emily Saul, New York Post (Photo: New York Post)

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“A Spanish man has been ordered to cough up $21,000 for hawking unauthorized reproductions of action figures like Conan the Barbarian, Kull and El Borak over the internet. Brooklyn federal Judge Frederic Block found Ricardo Jove Sanchez liable under trademark infringement laws, saying he sold the collectibles despite knowing their likenesses were owned by Conan Properties International LLC, and Robert E. Howard Properties Inc. Sanchez peddled the figures of Conan, Kull, El Borak, Soloman Kane, Ironhand, Bran Mak Morn, and Dark Agnes over Facebook and Kickstarter for a three-year period, the companies alleged. Yet, when he was told to stop, the fraudster simply changed the names of his replicas and continued business as usual, according to Block.

‘For example, he changed ‘Conan the Barbarian’ to ‘The Barbarian’ and ‘Dark Agnes’ to ‘Swordswoman’ ” in his ads, the papers say. Block ordered Sanchez to cough up $3,000 per character he ripped off, plus additional damages. He is also permanently barred from making or selling any figures based on Howard’s works in the future. Howard, who died in 1936, wrote a series of popular pulp fiction works during the 1930s. Sanchez couldn’t be reached for comment.”


hom·age

(h)ämij/

noun

definition: a special honor or respect shown publicly.


How “honoring” your favorite characters can get you in trouble with the law

As most 1:6 scalers well know, a sort of character-infringement “light” has been going on at GIjOE shows around the world for a quite a long time now. This is not the work of major toy companies ripping each other off. No, this activity resides within the realm—and purview—of well-intentioned individuals. And it’s not a greed-driven pursuit, either. Quite the contrary, most of the time, any infringement being perpetrated is because of an individuals’ LOVE for a certain brand or character. His (or her) goal is RARELY to take money away from a brand’s rightful copyright holder(s). Rather, it is (they feel) their way of remembering, honoring, and/or THANKING the creators for something that has provided them with a lifetime of wonderful memories. But—however noble or sentimental their reasoning may be—those people are still—breaking the law. And that’s wrong.

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Too Close for Legal Comfort— With minor tweaks, these figures could’ve easily been declared completely original concepts, but then their sales would likely have dropped dramatically. Sanchez had received a warning about the trademarked names and replaced them with more generic ones (see above). Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to satisfy the attorneys of Robert E. Howard, Inc. and a lawsuit was soon filed. Copyright laws exist to protect creators. (Photo: Ricardo Jove Sanchez) Click to enlarge.

You’ll see such honorific—and yet illegal—products being sold ALL THE TIME at toy shows—as vendors blatantly ply goods bearing likenesses, logos, illustrations, photos and other copyrighted material that is clearly not theirs to reproduce. Most of the individuals doing so have ZERO official approval to make whatever it is they’re making—or to sell whatever it is they’re selling. And yet—

Toy Shows Remain “Islands of Opportunity” for Many

For those involved in the creation and sale of any copyright-infringing product, staying underneath the legal “radar” means that they must produce them in only VERY limited quantities, preferably as one-of-a-kinds, or sell (or trade) them purely on a “collector to collector” bartering basis. Toys shows are ideal for this. Much like open-air flea markets, they provide sellers (and buyers) with an easy opportunity to get together and transact. Heck, with major manufacturers currently “dropping the ball” toy-production-wise, some of the coolest products you can find are the handmade creations being sold at toy shows. We’re not attorneys, but it appears to us that Sanchez’s internet-based sales on both Facebook and Kickstarter were just TOO public, TOO well-received and TOO successful for the Robert E. Howard folks to overlook. Hopefully, the recent (expensive) outcome of Sanchez’s case will serve as an instructive wake-up call to others pursuing similar “business.”

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High Quality Honorifics— Sanchez’s work is superb. This pic shows six more of his sculpted (and unofficial) miniature creations. Remember, whenever you create an original work—it (and you) are BOTH protected by copyright law. (Photo: Ricardo Jove Sanchez) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: Do YOU make your own “kitbashed” or custom action figures? Equipment? Packaging? Clothing? Are you aware of all of the legal pitfalls and potential financial penalties resulting from copyright infringement? Don’t get us wrong. You’re perfectly free to show off (and sell) all of your homemade creations with well-deserved pride. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. copyright law protects you and ALL of your own unique artistic creations. BUT—if any of your work contains near (or exact) likenesses of any other copyrighted characters, logos, or well-known individuals (living or dead), then that MAY be a problem—especially if you ever decide to sell them publicly, online or in very large quantities. Any questions? We suggest you pay for an hour or so of time with your own, trusted attorney. That minor cost up front may save you a great deal MORE later on. View court documents from Sanchez’s case HERE.

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Mark Your Calendars!— The Release Date for Robert Zemeckis’ New 1:6 Scale Motion Picture, “Welcome to Marwen” Has Been Confirmed

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Battle Scar— Mark Hogancamp (as portrayed by actor Steve Carell, off-camera) puts the finishing touches on his new mini-me “Cap’n Hogie” action figure, painting a scar on his right cheek a la GIjOE. During his real-life beating, the right side of Hogancamp’s face DID receive the greatest amount of damage and required extensive reconstructive surgeries. (Screenshot: Universal) Click to enlarge.

U.S. premiere of eagerly anticipated film delayed by 1 month

Finally. we have a date! It’s December 21st, 2018— a day that will forever LIVE in 1:6 scale GLORY. That is now the OFFICIAL release date for the new Robert Zemeckis-Steve Carell action-drama-fantasy, “Welcome to Marwen,” which will be opening in theaters all across the country. Just a short while ago, the film’s release date was still being touted as “sometime in November,” but according to a blurb article just spied in the August 17, 2018 issue of Entertainment Weekly (see below), the new, OFFICIAL premiere date has been moved back a month and is now slated for “12.21.”

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It’s now in PRINT— So it must be true, right? No explanation is given for why its premiere was delayed by one month, but according to this article in the August 17, 2018 issue of Entertainment Weekly, the release date for “Welcome to Marwen” is now December 21st. SO EXCITING! Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: This official confirmation in the press means that fans will have until that time to make their plans for the premiere. Will you be dressing up as a character? Will you be organizing a GIjOE club mass-viewing? Will you be taking along an action figure—or two—to watch the film with you? Remember, according to Amazon, the DVD is not yet even available for pre-order, so until the film is re-released on say, Netflix, fans who miss it in the theaters will have to wait even longer to enjoy it in all of its (freeze-framed) 1:6 scale GLORY at home. Let’s get ready to go to the movies!

 

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Up—or Down?—InvestorPlace Believes That Tough “Structural Challenges” Facing Hasbro Explain Why Investors Should “Fade” (i.e. SELL) Despite the Company’s Recent Stock Market Rally

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What the heck is going on?— A wary stock market continues to keep a cautious eye on economic and societal events currently plaguing both Hasbro and Mattel. (Photo: phillipcfd)

It’s a Secret No Longer—There’s a Terrible Truth Facing Today’s Toymakers

Here at The Joe Report, we like to keep an eye on the the economic health of the major players in the toy industry. While reading an article about stock market investment re Hasbro, the term “fade” was used. That left us a tad confused. Fade? Beyond the obvious definitions, what did they mean? We looked up “fade” over on the investopedia website and discovered the following:

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“Fade refers to a contrarian investment strategy used to trade against the prevailing trend. A trader who ‘fades’ would sell when a price is rising and buy when it’s falling.” 

Ah. Okay. So the article is encouraging investors to be somewhat “contrarian” when considering investment in the “big H.” That’s understandable in today’s “contrarian” world. In fact, the July 24, 2018 article written by Luke Lango and published recently on the InvestorPlace website proved to be rife with additional quotes of interest for both GIjOE fans and Hasbro followers in general. Here are just a few that stood out to us (edited for length):

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Luke Lango, L&F Capital Management, LLC and InvestorPlace contributor (Photo: Luke Lango)

“Surprise, surprise! Toy maker Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS), one of the companies that was supposed to be crippled by the recent Toys R’ Us liquidation, reported much better than expected second quarter numbers. Revenues weren’t down all that much. Margin compression wasn’t that bad. And profit erosion wasn’t as awful as everyone feared for Hasbro stock. In response to those better than expected numbers, Hasbro stock is up more than 10% to above $105. But I think this is a rally investors would be wise to fade. At $105, the valuation simply doesn’t make sense for Hasbro. Revenues are in retreat. Margins are falling back. There are secular headwinds facing the toy industry outside of Toys R Us. As such, I think Hasbro is way overvalued here, and will inevitably fall as investor enthusiasm fades.”

So… it appears Hasbro is doing just fine–for now. That’s great news. But after the “investor enthusiasm fades,” Lango states he believes the big H’s stock value will FALL. Why should that be the case? Well, apparently, it’s due to something we’ve long discussed here on The Joe Report—the dwindling interest today’s children have in toys—DUE to the growing infiltration of electronic devices such as cell phones, home computers and video gaming systems. Lango clearly concurs:

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“The Toys R Us bankruptcy and liquidation was supposed to kill this company. Indeed, it did kill Hasbro in the first quarter of 2018. Revenues dropped 16% year-over-year, led by a 19% decline in the U.S. and Canada business and a 17% decline in the international business. But, the numbers got a lot better in the second quarter. Overall, that is a positive development in the Hasbro growth narrative. The problem is that Hasbro stock is already priced for this positive development, and a whole bunch more. 

At the core, Hasbro’s issue isn’t the Toys R Us liquidation. It is a boom in internet and smart device usage among children. The average age for a child getting their first smartphone is now 10.3 years, so that means that all those 10-year-olds that were playing with Hasbro action figures are now playing on their smartphones.”

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Too young? This toddler is clearly engrossed in this—or is it HIS(?)—new cellphone. Will toys ever again appeal to future generations? Or has that appeal already been LOST—forever? (Photo: mercury news)

The very real dangers posed by cell phone addiction, unrestricted access to the internet and excessive video gaming are all well known. For children, those influences can also mean an abrupt end to what HAD been considered a traditional (or “normal”) childhood development. Surrounded by electronic distractions, their lost or waning interest in traditional, imagination-based play—and toys—is practically a given. Lango confirms this bad news with some more startling statistics:

“Plus, tablet usage among children has soared from 26% to 55% over the past several years, while internet usage has soared from 42% to 64%. In other words, children aren’t playing with Hasbro toys as much as they used to. Instead, they are playing on smart tablets and smartphones.

<Sigh.> The troubles facing the toy industry appear to be just as we feared. So how does Lango see these sad developments affecting Hasbro in the future? He closes with:

This trend won’t slow any time soon. Indeed, things may only get WORSE for Hasbro as technology continues to grow in popularity. Hasbro’s second quarter numbers were much better than expected…But, that doesn’t mean it is time to buy Hasbro stock. The company has structural challenges due to waning toy demand as a result of growing smart device adoption. So long as these structural challenges remain, Hasbro will have trouble holding onto gains.” —Luke Lango, InvestorPlace Contributor

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Q: Who needs toys? A: Fewer and fewer children, apparently. Whenever an iPad or other such high-tech device is placed into the hands of a young child, oftentimes that moment marks the END of what was previously regarded to as a “normal,” or pre-digital childhood development. The resulting “ripple effects” are still being studied and understood, but stock markets are clearly paying attention. (Photo: herald.ie)

Bottom Line: It’s a tough toy-world out there nowadays. Human society—and our children—are changing. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Or just par for the course of life? Strongly affected by such unpredictable developments, toymakers are clearly heading into some serious economic—as Lango calls them—”headwinds.” Keep your fingers crossed that they’re able to adapt and thrive in such an uncertain business climate. Let’s hope too, that innocence and childhood isn’t eroded or shortened any further. When I was growing up in the 1960s-’70s, I remained blissfully ignorant of the “trials and tribulations of adulthood” until about age 16. Now it’s 10? Where are we headed?

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Messerschmits! 12 O’Clock High!—1:6 Customizer Creates WWII Aerial Combat Diorama Featuring 2 Waist-Gunners Defending a B-17 “Flying Fortress”

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Here they come! Stay sharp! We’ve got to get through! This realistic 1:6 scale WWII B-17 battle diorama was created and customized by Bud Brown of California, and the ProSeries waterslide decals (shown on the aircraft’s outer hull) were provided by Patches of Pride (natch’). All this pic needs now are some special “FIRE” effects so that the .50 cal looks like it’s really “spittin’ HOT lead!” Absolutely outstanding customizing and pics, Bud. Keep up the great work! (Photo: Bud Brown) Click to enlarge.

Man, oh MAN. Some 1:6 scale custom dioramas are SO accurate and thrilling to look at that they make you DROOL with envy. This is one of them. Looking at the photo above, you can practically FEEL all the tension and energy of that moment. And, as we all know, it was life-or-death—EVERYDAY—for Allied and Axis combatants over the skies of Europe during WWII. Do you ever stop to think about the horrors endured by all the young flyers during that extremely dangerous air campaign? Well, if you’re not thankful for your comfy life of freedom now (would you even EXIST today if Germany had won?), then think about just ONE of the shocking B-17 bomber statistics from that war—as recounted to us by the dedicated aircraft historians at the Spitfire Association:

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“In a single 376 plane raid in August 1943, 60 B-17s were shot down. That was a 16 percent loss rate and meant 600 empty bunks in England. In 1942-43, it was statistically impossible for bomber crews to complete a 25-mission tour in Europe.”

“Statistically IMPOSSIBLE” to complete. And yet they went up anyway—time and time again. And this was the result of just ONE mission! Are you paying attention now? Good. Those heroes DESERVE our attention. While Hollywood movies thrill and excite viewers, the terrible truth was—and forever will be—REAL war is HELL. Millions of fathers, mothers, sons and daughters DIED protecting and preserving freedom around the world. Thankfully, the creation, sharing and commemoration of those heroes—in 1:6 scale dioramas—is a growing and popular hobby. When customizer Weldon “Bud” Brown II wrote in recently (see below) to share some pics of his latest custom 1:6 creation, needless to say, we were thrilled. Here’s Bud’s letter—

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Weldon “Bud” Brown II

“Attached are some finishing touches on my B-17 waist-gunner display. The bomber jacket patch is fantastic. I placed the decals on the plane fuselage. I made both the YANK mag and the Bible. I also put in the pin ups (one is my wife), along with a liberators war poster and a German aircraft identification poster. Now if I could just find some expended .50 caliber ammo for the floor. Thanks Mark and Patches of Pride. You have great stuff!”
Bud Brown
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History comes ALIVE— On your shelf? Yes! And what a conversation starter. Bud’s 2-figure, B-17 waist-gunner diorama makes viewer’s eyes POP and their jaws DROP. (Photo: Bud Brown) Click to enlarge.

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Details DO make the difference!— In this closeup, you can see Bud’s handmade YANK magazine, a Bible and some pin-up photos. There’s also a couple of parachutes, some oxygen bottles and even a thermos for coffee. Out-STANDING attention to detail. (Photo: Bud Brown) Click to enlarge.

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This reverse-view shows an ammo belt, Bud’s “Liberators” poster, and the gunner’s step-decks to help stabilize their balance and aim. (Photo: Bud Brown) Click to enlarge.

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Durable and Desirable— Large, textured cloth patches for the backs of 1:6 scale bomber jackets are available HERE from Patches of Pride. Bud chose the ever-popular “Straight Shooter” version (for obvious reasons). ZING! (Photo: Bud Brown)

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Avoid “Friendly Fire”— Bud’s German aircraft ID chart helps his waist-gunners to tell friend from foe. So cool! (Photo: Bud Brown) Click to enlarge.

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Providing backup— Another view from tail-gunner #2. (Photo: Bud Brown) Click to enlarge.

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Pulled Back a Bit— Fully revealed, you can now see that Bud has only one small section of the hull of a B-17 represented. To display a full-sized 1:6 scale B-17 in his office would be, let’s say, “uncomfortable.” HA. But this is MORE than enough fun for a work space! (Photo: Bud Brown) Click to enlarge.

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Adorning Armored Aircraft— This reverse angle clearly shows the exciting Patches of Pride ProSeries waterslide decals Bud chose to use on his custom diorama. The 4 swastikas indicate the number of confirmed “kills” for that gunner. The “Benito Finito” cartoon decal (found HERE) was first seen on Allied Jeeps after the Italian campaign. They look GREAT on aircraft, too! (Photo: Bud Brown) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks go out to Bud Brown for his generous contributions to this article. Customizers of 1:6 scale continue to “push the envelope” and amaze us with their creations.

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