Pixie Dust and profits is a podcast for small business owners who love Disney and want to sprinkle some of that magic onto their own businesses. Join your host, Nicole Boucher and Yasmine Spencer. As they explore the mouse’s $12.6 billion operation and break down exactly how you can apply these big scale concepts to your own.
Hey everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of pixie dust and profits. We actually have our very first guest interview today, and you might recognize her voice because she does the intro to our episodes. So without further ado, we’re really excited to welcome Christina Scalera to the show. She is the attorney and founder of the contract shop, where you can go to get a contract downloaded right away, or terms and conditions for your website. Get your business legally buttoned up. And we’re just really good fan girls. And also she’s a client of ours. So we have this really long relationship. She’s a huge cheerleader of the show, and we’re excited to have her here to talk to you today about copyrights and how you can protect your business better online. So if you are a Disney small shop, you’re going to want to listen to them.
So before we get into all of that, Christina, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got started with the contract shop?
Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me. This is such an honor. I told you guys that and I mean it. And with the contract shop, it all started with me doing some legal work on the side. So I was pursuing a very service-based type business model. And I had some friends that were one in particular who wanted the templates that I was creating, because I mean, if, if you don’t know this, every lawyer has a bank of templates that they kind of create and go back to. And I’m sure most service-based businesses have the same thing. You’re not creating the wheel from scratch every single time. And so she didn’t necessarily want me to customize it and everything for her, but she just wanted the template to get started with.
So that’s exactly what I, I provided for her. And she said, well, you can probably sell this to other people. And I was like, I don’t know about that. But yeah, here we are five years later and I’m selling it to many other people couplets of all shapes and sizes for the creative sphere and wedding professionals and doing our best to, to help out with the peripheral legal side of the business, which includes copyrights and trademarks. Of course. And you guys are you know, full disclosure. I could not do what I do without these two right here. So they walk the walk and talk the talk. They’re the real deal. So I’m glad you guys are listening to the show right now,
Christina. And I just want to say that Christina totally undersells herself because those contract templates over the last five years have sold over a million dollars, one link to a whole bunch of resources for you and the show. So one thing I want to talk about and give an example here is that there’s a lot of small shops out there, and that’s what people call in the Disney industry. Basically your Etsy shops, fan shops that create products that you know, are Disney inspired, and sometimes, maybe cross that line a little bit of being too close to Disney. So when you actually replicate what Mickey mouse looks like on a shirt, that’s where Disney might start to think you’re infringing on their copyright a little bit. So do you have some general guidelines for people on how to skirt that line of this looks too much like Disney versus this is inspired by Disney?
Yeah. And a fun fact about copyright laws is Disney has more or less created it in the United States. They actually, they call it like the Disney role basically where we’ve been extending copyright protection for original works because of that original Steamboat Willie cartoon. So this is just so fun and so relevant from a nerdy trademark and copyright perspective. I don’t remember exactly when but Siva, Willie is actually going to run out of protection relatively soon. Not in the, I don’t want to say what it is because I’m not remembering off the top of my head.
We’ll find out and put it in as a trivia fact in the show notes.
Oh my gosh. Yes. It’s it’s happening soon, which is going to be like a really interesting thing again, from this nerdy copyright perspective to find out what happens to some of the things that we’re talking about here today, you know, does it fall into the public domain now? Like, like the birthday song or, you know, songs from the 17th century that, you know, whatever we can, we can compose this classical music now because they’re in the public domain. So long story short, what, what happens with small businesses? And this is something I used to do before I had my own business, I worked at a privately held kid’s toy company. And one of the things that we used to do in the legal department, please forgive me. I no longer do this, but we would actually find people that were using our trademarks and our, so the name of our products, basically the trademark, which is what a lot of Etsy sellers probably find themselves doing by adding the word Disney or Mickey or mouse or Mickey mouse or many or whatever it might be, Pluto, whatever that name is that could help the Disney legal department to identify that you are selling some kind of product that’s Disney related or is, you know, using some kind of intellectual property that hasn’t been properly licensed, AKA rented from Disney.
So what we would do in our legal department is we would actually go and find people that were using the name brands of our products, selling knockoff copies of these products or products that featured our designs or logos, you know, the trademarks that we had. And it was really, really easy to find the infringers because they almost always use the name brands of our products, or they you know, a quick like Google image search, which if you don’t know, is photos dot, google.com that will bring up, you can search any image on the internet and they’ll find all the similar images. So it was really easy to find these in printers because of course they were trying to make money off of the name brand, which in this case, as we’re talking in the context of today would be, you know, Disney or Mickey mouse or Minnie mouse or something.
And so a lot of, a lot of people could avoid future legal problems with Disney if they just didn’t use the names because it makes it really difficult to find those things in the future. One thing to note about copyright law really quickly is it’s actually meant to encourage creation of new works from existing work. And so that’s why there’s a fine line between inspiration and new and copying. And so I would just encourage everybody out there that is trying to run some kind of Disney related business, especially some kind of physical business where they have some kind of imprint or inspiration, or it’s like clearly talking about Disney, you know, kind of like this podcast, even you ha you call it pixie dust and profits, not, you know, how Disney does business, right. That would have gotten that, that would have been taken off iTunes a long time ago, the word Disney and same thing with your branding, right?
Like it’s very, it’s, it’s, it’s very like magical, almost like, like Disney Cinderella, castle type feeling. When you see the PR the branding on your website, if you guys haven’t checked out their website, it’s beautiful. You should totally look at it. And yeah. So I, I just think there’s, there’s definitely ways to do it. You guys are proof that you can be highly inspired by Disney without outright using the names and the labels and the faces and the cartoons and the things like that, that go along with Disney inspired merchandise. That being said there, you can also license the Disney trademarks such as, you know, a Mickey mouse, silhouette or something.
And that’s kind of one of the things that’s keeping them profitable right now, the coronavirus and their parks closed Yasmine, you are an ears aficionado. I don’t, I lost count how many areas Yasmine owns. Can you give some tips? We’ve talked about this before, where you talk about like the ways that people describe many ears, which you can buy throughout the parks, but you buy a lot from curated shops that create their own.
Yeah. So I, I too have lost count of how many years I own. I’m moving shortly and I’ll have them all out on display on my office wall. So I’ll update you guys. How many are in my collection right now? But what’s really interesting is they just described them as ears. And if you’re in the Disney community, you know what that means? So nowhere did they say Minnie mouse, years, Mickey mouse ears. That being said, if you do a search on Etsy, some of those results will come up. And I actually have a question for you Christina, about that a little bit later on, but when they describe yours inspired by a certain princess, for example a great one that I love is inspired by princess Jasmine, but the title on listing is Bollywood princess ears, which, you know, if you’re familiar with Disney, you might be able to put that together.
For frozen ice princess ears. Those are the really pretty Elsa ones that that I own. So they’re very creative. And strategic, I should say in terms of not leveraging too much on Disney’s copyrights to describe their products and relying on their own interpretation of the brands and the characters to sell them. And one thing that most people know about Disney parks, but if you don’t is, if you actually go to the parks outside of Halloween, you’re not allowed to dress up like any of the characters it’s against Disney policy to do that. And the reason for that is because I don’t want the kids to really protect those characters and they don’t want kids to confuse like snow white with like, you know, maybe a snow white who had you know, a few too many at the Tavern and is going around saying not so nice things to little kids. Right. so what a lot of people do when they want to dress up as their favorite characters and go Disney is Disney, bounding and park bounding is the again non copyrighted term that fans use to find various gear inspired by their favorite characters that they can wear to the parks.
It’s almost like Disney bounding is the inspiration equivalent to not copying. It’s just inspired by, you know, I’m wearing a purple top and green leggings. I’m now I’m a mermaid, right?
Like I, I have not gone to the parks without having a few princess inspired outfits packed in my suitcase. And it makes it fun to sort of take part in the magic as an adult. Though I am super jazzed to go to the city boppity boutique and dress my little one up as a princess. Whenever we can go back to Disney, all that aside though, Christina, I think you forgot to mention the little kids are allowed to dress up. You said, right. So little little mentioned before, so thank you for that clarification. Adults cannot. So the little kids can dress up and often again, what you’ll find is they either buy their dresses in the parks, or they buy a licensed dress at target or Walmart that’s significantly cheaper than the, you know, 80, 90, a hundred dollars dresses that they have in the parks and go about looking like their favorite princess
Of the little girls and boys too are walking around the parks all dressed up because it is so hot in Florida and it’s a fabric they have to wear and more power to them. And I know the hairstyles last for like four days when they get that Cinderella bun, that’s just Harris Fraden with all the glitter. So my niece did that in that the pillows had glitter on them for a while, but it’s so adorable, so much fun. So thinking about this, we talked about what people shouldn’t do, you know, using the licensed trademark names. And in our show notes, we’ll give you a link to the website where you can actually search for trademarks and things. If you get bored and want to see all of the ones that Disney owns, but what are some things you can do? I think that’s probably a good question to ask.
Yeah. I mean, you guys have already mentioned a lot of them where it’s, it’s these very creative ways to describe something. So a trademark can not be a descriptive term, which is why they’re able to, so we should just break up trademarks and copyrights or different trademarks are used to identify the source of a product or a service. So for example, when you see the word star Wars, that’s a trademark that Disney owns and you know that when you see that there’s going to be some sort of cosmic, forgive me, I’m I like star Wars, but I’m not like all into it. So I’m probably going to mess this up. There’s going to be some sort of like cosmically fantastical gear or ride, or like something on the back end of that. So if you just saw the star Wars logo, nothing else around it, just on a piece of poster or a billboard on the highway, you would know that that is somehow related to the movie series.
You wouldn’t somehow mistake that as a grocery store or something, because we know that as a source identifier. So that’s a good example of a trademark. Copyright’s a little bit different. It’s applied to works that are technically like longer or heftier or something like that. So it’s not just something you can splash across the front of a t-shirt or a billboard. So that’s a good way to keep them in mind. And the reason why copyright is so different is because it has a very different purpose. So like I said, trademarks are there to help you identify the source of a product that you want to buy or add to your shopping cart or something. It’s really there as a shortcut for us as consumers, so that when we go to the grocery store, we can grab our favorite bag of chips or whatever. And we don’t have to read the back of everything every single time we go, because the packaging is always different.
It’s always the same, right? That’s why trademarks exist. On the flip side, we have copyrights. And like I said, copyrights are really there to give the creator ownership over their work and to allow them to freely create knowing that that work is protected. So for example, Disney can create a whole Mandalorian serious because they know that no matter what the scripts and the choreography and the dialogue and all that stuff cannot be replicated in the exact same way. So it’s, it’s not as if someone can just come along and you know, come up with baby Dota and like, baby Dota does the same things as baby Yoda. And, you know, they have a whole series called, you know, the Amanda Dorian or something like, I’m just making this up, but Disney can freely create the Mandalorian, knowing that it’s not going to be like ripped off and put on, you know, like some budget, cable channel where someone’s watching that instead. However, that also allows other people to create adaptations and different kinds of versions off of that. And so while the Disney’s a bit exceptional, because most series and shows and things like that don’t necessarily have the characters trademarked. I think that’s why it gets so convoluted. I don’t can’t speak because I haven’t looked at their portfolio, but I’m quite sure that they have like all of the Mandalorian stuff registered as, as trademarks for everything.
And Disney adds another layer of complexity to all of this, because they’re really heavy into the patent market too, because they come up with new innovation technology that they make a dependence and no one else can use it too. So one of the more recent ones was that they’re making a star Wars hotel, which is public, a cruise, it’s like a cruise ship almost. You come for a two or three day excursion, and you were part of an experience while you were staying there. And so some of the patents that have come out from that are projections in your hotel room, like the way the, the, the windows are. So when you look outside, you look like you’re looking out into a galaxy instead of Florida. So, you know, they, they definitely use the legal tools to their best advantage.
Yeah. I just want Obi-Wan Kenobi to like, deliver me breakfast via hologram. That would be so cool. But yeah, so patents, like a totally separate area that I think is probably beyond the scope of the conversation today, but that’s, that’s even a, for like one one more area that they can help to secure whatever rights that they are creating in their show. Like, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out with like a patent for the Mandalorian costume or something.
Yeah. So what I’d really love to know is what can they do? So Alison Wonderland, for example, we know that that’s based on something in the public domain, which you talked about earlier, but maybe you can expand on what the public domain is and why it’s okay to make some ALIS inspired gear over say Mickey or Minnie mouse.
Sure. Well, I, I don’t know with Alison particular, but my guess is that based on what you’re saying here, the story of Alice in Wonderland must be older than the life of the author plus 70 years, which is so whoever wrote it. And I forget who wrote it Carol in 1865. So then he died more than 70 years ago, which is why the story of Alice in Wonderland is now in the public domain. So literally anybody could take the original work of Alison Wonderland and print it off and sell it. And that would not be illegal versus
Yeah, I’ve seen t-shirts that have like pride and prejudice. They’ll take the chapter of pride and prejudice and like write it on the shirt. And so that’s okay because it’s in the public domain,
But what, that’s a great point though, because if there is a new adaptation or a new version that comes out, that is a new work, so that is still protected potentially. So it’s just that original work and the original, like literal way sequences of words that were written that is in the public domain. So the public domain is think of it like back in the olden days, right. Everybody had the what was it, the grazing comments and their town, like, let’s all pretend like we live in these little towns. And the public domain was like, where everybody could bring their, their sheep to graze. And so obviously we don’t live in little towns. We live on the internet and we’re in the 21st century, but the public domain is kind of the 21st century equivalent of that, where we can come and there’s resources for us there.
So it’s not grasper sheep anymore, but it’s, these works of original art and creation and texts and all that stuff that we have at our disposal that we can take and use it freely. However, we would like to, because it’s no longer protected, which is to say that the owner or the creator of that, which are usually the same, but not always, they no longer have the ability to control how that text or that work or that movie or whatever is used. Yeah. That’s super interesting, Christina. So I have a question that sort of like builds off of that. Okay. I searched on Etsy like three minutes ago, we’re in early December, 2020, and there are 119,000 results for Disney shirt. Now we know that Disney’s legal team, like it has the manpower to do what they need to do if they want to go after everyone.
But clearly like Etsy has this like vibrant community of Disney creators who are using trademarks and copyrights selling products. So my question for you is what, in what case does it make sense for a brand like Disney to sort of allow this to happen amongst them? Never, never, they will never allow it because as soon as you start allowing it, trademarks are based on use. And if you allow other people to use your marks, then you are effectively giving up ownership and rights to use those marks yourself. So they are going after everybody, it might just take a little while, like you might not get that and that’s how this is existing, right? So these honestly, because I worked on the other end of it as in like an in house thing where it was basically like we were playing a game of whack-a-mole like we pop one down, one more, would pop up and that’s always how it’s going to be.
That’s just how trademark departments have had to adapt to the internet, culture and Etsy and Google, and, you know, fulfilled by Amazon and Amazon create what is their like little creative thing now. That’s how they, we’ve had to adapt to like working in-house with legal teams and things. So it’s created a lot of jobs for like legal administrative assistants and things like that to just basically search and find these things. And there’s entire law firms that are dedicated out there just to like playing this game of whack-a-mole for companies like Disney. But this is just a new thing that has really popped up in the last 20 years that the legal community and lawyers and law firms and things have had to address. So I know it can look, that’s the tricky thing about all this is that you can look and you can see other people.
And it’s really, I know how frustrating it is as an Etsy seller to look and see other people doing this. And you’re like doing things quote unquote the right way, and you’re not getting as many as you, it seems like you’re not getting as many sales as the other people who are doing things illegally, infringing on Disney’s copyrights and trademarks and stuff. But I can guarantee you that they’re not going to be really happy with the results it might take a year, might take two years, but they’re not going to be happy when they get that cease and desist letter. And Disney is never going to give up on that. They’re going to follow you like a hound once they know that you exist.
You know, if they can prove that you’ve materially used fair trademarks, they’re probably entitled to money. And so whatever sales that company who’s infringing on rights makes a portion of that would end up going over to Disney. And again, we don’t have insight into how Disney does this makes their decisions or approaches anyone. This is pure speculation on just industry knowledge of how these things usually work.
Well, it’s a good point. And I like nothing that we’re talking about here should scare people. It should be really encouraging and, and satisfying to know that this is the status quo. This is how the law operates in America. And if you’re selling beyond America, it’s still is applying to, if you have purchasers in America, which you probably do, because that’s where the majority of parks are for Disney. But back to what you said earlier, Nicole is like, how, how can they make the most of this? There’s lots of different ways. So there’s the licensing aspect, which I know Disney is. I don’t know what the status is right now, but I know they’re actively trying to make it easier for people because they don’t want to play this game of whack-a-mole. Right? So basic economics, if you make it easier for people to do the right thing, they’ll do the right thing.
So there’s that working in our small business shop owners favor, but then like Yasmin said earlier with the ears, Disney customers are savvy to the fact that there’s this app like an aftermarket or secondary market, if you will, where things are less expensive, there’s this big push right now, especially during COVID, as we’re recording this to support small business owners and veer away from big shops and Amazon and things like that. And all that is, and especially with millennials being, you guys can speak more to how big of a market segment they are for Disney, but like millennials are really on board that train. And so they are looking for shops like yours out there. Listener, if you have a Disney type shop or Disney inspired shop, I should say, they are looking for those kinds of things. And so it’s important. I think for anybody who is creating a brand, that’s inspired by Disney, whether it’s ears or costumes or cosplay accessories or t-shirts, or rugs or whatever it might be, it’s really important for them to stay consistent and to go ahead with their niche, because if you get known for selling rugs that are inspired by Disney, like people always know to go to you.
If you get, if you have a shop that always has like the best, like quirkiest, most fun Disney sayings and expressions that you’ve adapted, just like you guys have for pixie dust and profits, where it alludes to Disney, but doesn’t necessarily use the exact phrase. Those are the types of things that people will get to know you for. And they’ll come back to your shop over and over and over again. Those are also the kinds of shops that Disney the legal team isn’t going to pay attention to because they’re seeing, Oh, Bollywood ears, not princess Jasmine yours. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity here for people to move forward. And I know a lot of our conversation has been kind of like, wow, like legal, boring. This is what you can’t do. And that’s hard. That’s really hard to hear. But on the flip side, there’s also this whole wealth of opportunity and possibility available for you guys. And I just want to encourage you guys to pursue it. And if you can break through in that niche, like I said, I think this is a really big opportunity for niche sellers, but if you can break through in that niche, people get to know you for it. You are the one who’s going to be doing really, really well because other people are still struggling to figure out how to be more inspired than a copycat of Disney. Yeah.
I’ll say, you know, one of those gifts that we like to give out from pixie dust to guests on the podcast, or to people who do in our membership or anything or things that we love ourselves when small shops. So there are small shops that make candles inspired by rights they’ve been on or some of the resorts they’ve been to. And so it doesn’t use Bay Lake tower resort. You know, it tells you the story based on like contemporary which contemporary is the name of resort. So that’s probably a really bad example. But the rug in my office is Mickey mouse and it was licensed by a company. And so making the licensing easier I think is going to help or small sellers. And then I also wanted to say, they are looking, we noticed very recently on our LinkedIn page, that someone from the Walt Disney company found our LinkedIn profiles.
And while we would love as fan girls to think that it was because they wanted to offer us jobs in the operations department. I really think it was probably just their legal team coming across the phrase pixie time. So, you know, they are out there looking. And I think Christina has a really great point to own the niche that you’re in to, you know, really run with it and be inspired by you can go to our, our shop and see that we have t-shirts that say, I make small business magic. You know, that that is Disney ish, that it’s related to our podcast, that it’s inspired by all the magical fun and the pixie dust in the world. But that’s not, that’s not a shirt you’ll ever see in a Disney shelf. It’s not something that you would associate immediately with Disney if you didn’t know or follow us. And so there are lots of things that you can do like that there are so many creative slogans I’ve seen people make and just their own art they can implement. So thank you so much for being here for Christina Yasmine. Did you have any other questions?
No. I think we covered it all. I guess.
I have one last question. Yeah, because when I was last at Disney, one of the biggest stores in disease, it was a Disney Springs, the shopping area, one of the biggest, most crowded stores that I went in, and this is right before coronavirus happened was the small business makers store. So they are, I don’t know how that program relates, but like that was packed that in the Lego store versus anything else. And I was really encouraged by that because it means that Disney is paying attention to small businesses. And again, what they’re looking for is that high quality, super niche attention. Yeah. Like that. So I think that’s a great example of, of people who are doing this right. So right. In fact, that Disney is paying attention to them and not only letting them do what they want to do, but putting them on Disney property to sell their wares to Disney’s customers.
It’s such a good point because I was going to bring up like the deals with influencers. So for example, they have their art festival in the winter time and there’s one artist whose style I really enjoy. And I want some of his art in my office and we can’t get any of his Disney inspired art without going to the art festival because of his agreement with Disney. So he’s allowed to make Mickey and Pluto on splash mountain, but he can’t sell it anywhere other than on Disney property. And so they are definitely paying attention and they’re trying to make the deal lucrative for both sides in both parties, because they know some of these artists and influencers really have an audience who will come to the park that we actually booked a trip for this winter to just a quick one night to try and just get some of the art I wanted and come home.
And we’ve obviously canceled that because of coronavirus, but there’s enough of a draw from some of these people that especially locals, they can go to the parks and get these things. And the co-op market is such a great example. We have another episode talking all about that. I it’s early on, will Lincoln in the show notes. It was about Instagram and Disney and the relationship there and how they’re definitely capitalizing on the audience that millennials bring to grow, to grow the Disney brand even more, you know, years ago, they kind of suffered from the Disney. Isn’t cool. It’s for little kids and no one’s going to be here. And now how many millennials go childless millennials go for a picture with a pretzel and, you know, say what you will about people standing in line to take photos in front of a purple wall. But, you know, it’s keeping them out of the ride lines and it’s making people happy and they’re paying to do it. So, you know, why not go ahead and encourage that. So I definitely think that collaboration is a great way to continue, like using copyrights and a new and fresh way and to collaborate, to make something new. And it’s nice that Disney has a respect for the creative process as they should, because they are one of the biggest creative geniuses we’ve seen in the last hundred years.
Yeah. That’s a great point. I think this is also where they veer hard, right? From Amazon or hard left. However you want to look that they veer very far off center from Amazon. In that, like, they’re huge, they’re one of the biggest in the world, but they are doing a really good job of keeping their ideal guest in mind and also, you know, the industries and the businesses that support that. And they’re not just looking at the bottom line and how they can cut things down to the lowest common denominator and make things cheaper, faster, et cetera. So I’m really encouraged by what I’ve seen from Disney, especially from what I learned you know, about Disney and like the eighties and nineties kind of like the wild West of like copyright law, because you have to remember, this is only seen, but Willie was 1926.
So this is, this is still like an emerging area of law, even though we’ve, we’ve had to deal with it our whole lives. So it definitely is always adapting and growing and changing. We’re due for a huge copyright over overhaul with the internet, which it, nothing has really happened there since the Internet’s been invented. So it’s definitely an area that you’ll want to keep an eye on, but it’s not an area that I would let it keep me up at night or scare me or anything. If I was a small business owner, creating Disney inspired gear or merchandise. Well, Christina, thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode. I think it was very enlightening for a lot of the small shop listeners out there and just business owners in general, to understand how you need to toe the line between inspiration and copying when it comes to Disney.
So to help you all out, Christina is letting you access her course lawless to flawless for a super discounted price. It’s only $14. If you click on the link below and you know, w we’ve been behind the scenes of her business, this course is chock-full of all the information you need to make sure that your business is legally legit. So if you want to check that out, check our show notes, you can find Christina christinascalera.com, the contract shop, where she sells her incredible legal templates, which everyone should have for their small business is www.thecontractshop.com. And of course, if you want to comment about this episode or have any questions, you find us on Instagram, we’re @pixiedustandprofits, and don’t forget to join our mailing list where we share a lot of like fun goodies and roundups at magic.pixiedustandprofits.com. Thank you so much. We’ll see you real soon.