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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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July 16, 2004

Hatch's Hit List #6 - Legos

Posted by Ernest Miller

What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringment of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List and Hatch's Hit List Archives.

Today on Hatch's Hit List: Legos

It's Friday. So, I thought Hatch's Hit List could be a little more lighthearted. And what is more lighthearted than showing how the INDUCE Act could be used to sue a maker of children's toys?

Legos are a very cool, educational toy. Who doesn't like legos? They rock. And they're not just for kids; plenty of adults use legos to do some pretty amazing things, which Lego sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly supports. Unfortunately, many of these amazing things violate copyright, which makes the Lego company an inducer of copyright infringement.

Take for example Lego Mosaics, which would be derivative works of the original image. Lego will let you upload a picture file and then, using their Brick-o-Lizer, let you create a custom Lego mosaic from the photo. The next step is for Lego to ship you the custom kit, after you pay them $29.95 (aka commercial viablity). And this is what Lego has to say about the photos:

You can upload any .jpg or .gif file into the Brick-o-Lizer. You can use a scanner or a digital camera to get a picture into your computer to use with the Brick-o-Lizer..." [emphasis added]
Sure, there is a copyright disclaimer you have to "agree" to before you can use the Brick-o-Lizer but, please. The site is clearly geared towards children. Like kids understand lawyerese. This is just one of those phony warnings like the P2P companies use.

Even worse are the sample photos the Brick-o-Lizer lets you play with. They are all professional photos that no child could take. Clearly, the examples are telling kids that it is okay to use professional photos (aka copyrighted ones) with the Brick-o-Lizer.

And it is not only the Lego company; there are free versions of the Brick-o-Lizer available on the internet, such the Lego Users Group Network's Mosaic Maker. Any copyright warnings there? Nooooo....

And what about all those unauthorized derivative work Lego movies on the net at places like BrickFilms? What inspired induced those do you think? Might they have been inspired induced by Lego Comics and Movies?

Yeah, the Lego company is going to have a lot to answer for if the INDUCE Act becomes law.

Want to know more about the INDUCE Act?
Please see LawMeme's well-organized index to everything I've written on the topic, including Hatch's Hit List: The LawMeme Reader's Guide to Ernie Miller's Guide to the INDUCE Act.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Hatch's Hit List | INDUCE Act


1. Crosbie Fitch on July 16, 2004 09:15 AM writes...

Where on earth does the 's' come from??!

It's LEGO, not LEGOS. Goddammit!

It's almost as bad as saying "Sheeps are a very cool domesticated herbivore".

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2. Casper on July 16, 2004 10:59 PM writes...

Perhaps this is just me, but the "Want to know more about the INDUCE Act?" immediately called to mind that Veerhoven flick "Starship Troopers."

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