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A Pegasus is Not a Unicorn – Townsend Comments to law.com on Pixar Copyright Dispute

OW&E’s Larry Townsend weighed in to Scott Graham’s “Skilled in the Art” column on law.com on the copyright suit filed by a San Francisco tattooist Sweet Cicely Daniher who claims that Pixar tricked her into letting them use her copyrighted 1972 Chevy “Vanicorn” in their upcoming film “Onward.”

According to the complaint, which is the source of the photos of the two vans included in this post: “To be absolutely clear, the Plaintiff is not claiming that she possesses a general copyright prohibiting, or in any way forbidding, the rightful ability of any person (or any company, for that matter) to paint a unicorn on the [side] of their van.”  But the complaint goes on to assert that “Defendants have unquestionably used the Plaintiff’s copyrighted Vanicorn to be the Guinevere character in Onward.”

According to the article, “Townsend, who’s not involved in the case, said that if the allegations are true, Daniher would have a strong case that Pixar had access to her work, which means she’d only have to prove substantial similarity for a finding of infringement.  But Townsend said he doubts the Vanicorn would meet even that relaxed standard. The animal on the Pixar van has wings and no horn, making it a Pegasus, not a unicorn, he says, and they’re depicted in different postures. While the similarity between the two vans could be evidence of access, the van itself is ‘a useful article’ that would be irrelevant to the similarity analysis.  ‘You can’t point to, ‘We both used the same medium,’ Townsend says.”

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