Is it a violation of copyright law to sell handmade items showing Winnie the Pooh?

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Question:

I manage a craft consignment shop. A crafter has been bringing me painted pictures and knit sweaters of Winnie the Pooh. Is it legal for me to accept these for resale?

Answer:

That lovable little bear who has made millions of children happy has also made millions of dollars in revenue for the "Trustees of the Pooh Properties." This is a group of British individuals who manage the rights of the late A. A. Milne (author of the Pooh books). Winnie the Pooh remains protected under copyright law and anyone who duplicates Pooh without authorization of the Trustees is considered a copyright infringer (violator). A store that sells infringing merchandise may also be legally liable as a "contributory infringer" (someone who contributes to infringing activity and has a direct financial interest in the infringement).

Of course, the Trustees of the Pooh Properties spend most of their time tracking down "big" cases of infringement -- for example, companies making thousands of Winnie the Pooh sweaters -- and it is unlikely that they will care (or know) about a single use by a crafts maker or consignment store. However, if they do find out about your sales, you may receive a letter from an attorney asking you to remove the infringing merchandise.

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