I want to use the name BuzzLightYear (one word) as a business name. What are the laws on character copyright infringement for just using the name of a Disney character? And in this case a slightly different version of the name, since it will be one word.


  • 1
    Ask disney, They would know. Oct 16 '17 at 21:28
  • IANAL but this would more than likely still be a copyright infringement. Just because it's one word doesn't change the fact it is still pretty obvious. Maybe if you modified it to be BuzzDarkYear or something, while it is an obvious reference, it's not exactly the name. This probably would be a question better left to asking a lawyer or contacting disney directly. We can only speculate but more than likely answer is no, not in that form.
    – ggiaquin16
    Oct 16 '17 at 21:31
  • 1
    You are only asking half the question. The other half you should be asking is, is it a trademark violation.
    – user16226
    Oct 17 '17 at 3:23
  • 7
    That wouldn't be a copyright infringement. It would be a blatant trademark infringement though, and would land you in more trouble than mere copyright infringement ever could.
    – SF.
    Oct 17 '17 at 13:09
  • Almost certainly yes.
    – GordonM
    Oct 17 '17 at 15:50

Basically this goes in line with what I stated above, making the name one word is more than likely not an adequate enough of a change.

See this link for more details.

Transformative Use

Another way to legally use Disney characters could be to use them in what the law refers to as "transformative use." Transformative use requires that you change, or transform, the character enough so that it is no longer a mere copy of the original. The resulting transformation is sometimes called a "derivative work." For example, if a painter created an original oil painting of his family and included the Disney character Tinkerbell as a family member, his use of Tinkerbell would be fair use because of its commentary that the artist considers Tinkerbell a member of his family. The use of Tinkerbell in the painting could be could be characterized as a transformative use, and the painting could be called a derivative work.

It should be noted that all legal questions should seek legal counsel. The internet is not adequate to provide the proper answers, only speculate. Contacting a lawyer or Disney will always be the better way to go.

  • 1
    Also, bear in mind that larger companies are generally very protective of anything THEY see as infringing on their image. And can afford to bury you in legal costs even if they don't win. Their answer will most likely by No, straight out of the gate, followed shortly be a cease and desist letter
    – user18397
    Oct 16 '17 at 22:29
  • Thank you for this info. Makes sense, my only question about it is that it seems like it keeps referring to a Disney character, not the name of a character. As in you'd depict a character in a transformative way to be able to use it. Maybe there isn't that same overlap with just using the name? Oct 17 '17 at 16:43
  • @watchamacolin Names are still trademarked and branded. You can't write a story with Gandalf in it who is a wizard as well. The Tolkien estates will sue you for every penny the story makes. As I stated a few times, this is something you need to contact disney about or find a lawyer who will give you some free advice for a quick question (some firms are nice like that). My answer is still no, this is not legal and you will get sued. Taking out the spaces is not enough to hold up in court.
    – ggiaquin16
    Oct 17 '17 at 17:34

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