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I noticed my bank's offer for a custom-design credit cards and so I decided to create a fancy card with an artwork from a movie (My Neighbour Totoro to be precise). The bank however wouldn't agree to accept anything that can have even a small chance of being copyright protected and the artwork was rejected. So I got a crazy idea of contacting the copyright holder and kindly asking him if I could make this happen because I doesn't feel I'm actually stealing any profit with it; nor do I earn something (sorry for being so down-to-earth here - I'm not a law guy at all).

Question

Before digging deeper into it just wanted to ask for an advice, if it's actually worth it? I.e. maybe there are regulations/laws that won't let any sane copyright holder to do so (e.g. AFAIK bank cards are the bank's property meaning the rights for the artwork should be granted to bank and not by me)? And in general, is it even possible to get a personal clearance from a copyright holder for one single artwork?

ps: the bank is an Estonian branch of a Swedish one.

  • In principle, your intuition is perfectly right, you could do that and it isn't prohibited from doing so (and indeed does so all the time in commercial promotion deals). In practice, it would cost them many thousands of dollars to do the legal work to give you permission in one isolated case, so it wouldn't be worth it to them. – ohwilleke Dec 21 '16 at 22:30
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If it's worth it is purely up to you. But chances are you won't be dealing with the bank; the bank will have to deal with the producers and art directors of the film, and vice versa, and you will be out of the loop. You will need to convince all parties to work together and reach a business licensing agreement to allow you to have a custom bank/credit card.

You will need to find the producers of the film and ask them if they will license the artwork to the bank; they won't be licensing the artwork to you. And they probably won't like your adaptation of the artwork, so they will want to do their own artwork and design suite. If that happens, they will need to sign a deal with the bank system. And there will be money involved; I can't see the artist licensing their artwork for free to another business, so the bank will need to decide if it is worth it to get more customers to open card accounts.

It's worth a try; sometimes it is possible to get a one-off personal clearance from a copyright holder for a single license of artwork. It's possible you could get a letter from the artist/producer to take to the bank, drafted by their lawyer, releasing the bank system from any copyright infringement with the artwork for the single card.

Maybe it will give the producers of animated films the idea that they should license their artwork for checks and bank/credit cards. i.e., http://wowjapan.asia/2015/12/anime-visa-gets-three-official-attack-titan-credit-card-designs/ Or at least you might get a nice email from the film producers turning you down.

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