Can Disney copyright 'Loki'? Company slammed for removing Redbubble artwork after viral tweet
Who owns 'Loki'? That's the new question Disney fans are debating after the company had an artwork removed from Redbubble over the weekend. An angry artist shared that his work had been taken down from the site, "because it may contain copyright material". That got social media talking about who really owns the God of Mischief.
The Mouse House is well known for the active protection of its properties, having filed numerous copyright claims in the past against artists and even fans. However, they are far from the only ones. Days ago, Jay Z sued former colleague Damon Dash for selling his album 'Reasonable Doubt' as an NFT. In 2020, Donald Trump's campaign ad was taken down by YouTube for featuring Linkin Park's 'In The End' without permission.
But while many have been buried by the might of Disney's legal time, Italian studio Rainbow managed to take on and beat the company. In 2004, Disney sued the studio for 'Winx Club', which it claimed was copying the concept from Disney's 'W.I.T.C.H' comic. However, Rainbow won in the end, a fate artist Johnny might not get.
Can Disney copyright 'Loki'?
On June 18, a Twitter user who goes by the name Johnny not-so-subtly tweeted "What the f---?????" and shared an image of an email he received. The mail, from the online marketplace Redbubble, said, "We've had to remove your artwork from the Redbubble marketplace because it may contain material that violates someone's rights." The email shows the holder as Disney Enterprises, and claims they "did not specifically identify your work", but it was removed for similarities.
What the fuck????? pic.twitter.com/uN7vL2XYHr— 🔞🏳️🌈Loki’s Buttslut🏳️⚧️⭕️🔞 (@YourBoswell) June 17, 2021
In a later tweet, Johhny said that his artwork "has been up for years". He added, "it’s a comic reference, simple text art I made for cosplays. I even made sure the color and font were different." Johnny said he would appeal the decision, and might even change the name. In the meantime, Twitter got into a furious debate about who really owns 'Loki', and if Disney could copyright the trickster God.
This answer is not so easy. Technically, Loki is a Norse God, which is the basis for Marvel's comic character. As a myth and part of religion, no one really owns the copyright to 'Loki', but Disney can patent and copyright their version. That means Disney doesn't own the name, or the characteristics of Loki, but merely how he looks in their versions. The artwork in question here doesn't appear to feature Marvel's version of the character, it merely features lettering that says "Low Key", and is titled 'Low Key Loki'.
Because it does not feature Marvel's version of 'Loki' at all, it is unclear why Redbubble chose to take down Johnny's artwork. It is possible they did so out of an abundance of caution, given Disney's willingness to sue. It is also possible that the company used an algorithm to scan and takedown any artwork with the name 'Loki', without reviewing it. Whatever the reason, it appears the takedown is in error, and not a violation of Disney's copyright. Nonetheless, Twitter was quick to denounce Disney for taking down Johnny's artwork.
Twitter slams takedown 'sitcom-level ridiculous'
"Disney trying to copyright the deity Loki sounds like a sitcom-level ridiculous way to actually be cursed by the actual god Loki," one person tweeted. Another angry user said, "Dear Disney, You can’t f----- copyright a name that was taken from an actual religion. Loki is a god. Norse pagans still exist. Stfu. Sincerely, A Loki stan."
Disney trying to copyright the deity Loki sounds like a sitcom-level ridiculous way to actually be cursed by the actual god Loki— Yonah (they/él) (@remembrancermx) June 20, 2021
Dear Disney,— Loki apologist || he/they (@drewmethisway) June 20, 2021
You can’t fucking copyright a name that was taken from an actual religion. Loki is a god. Norse pagans still exist. Stfu.
A Loki stan
One person said, "@Disney you can’t copyright a god. Are you joking? Thats a whole religion and culture. It’s not the first time you’ve done this either. You can’t tell people not to sell things for the Norse God Loki." Another tweeted, "Disney is trying to copyright "loki".. a norse god.. they're even targeting small business who sell loki stuff unrelated to disney's loki, i'm so mad." Another user said, "First disney tries to copyright the DAY OF THE DEAD and now loki??? disney you dont own religions or cultures what the f--- is wrong with you."
@Disney you can’t copyright a god. Are you joking? Thats a whole religion and culture. It’s not the first time you’ve done this either. You can’t tell people not to sell things for the Norse God Loki— Shannon 🥀 (@ScrewLooseWitch) June 21, 2021
disney is trying to copyright "loki".. a norse god.. they're even targeting small business who sell loki stuff unrelated to disney's loki, i'm so mad— adrien ४ loki era (@ventisbf) June 21, 2021
first disney tries to copyright the DAY OF THE DEAD and now loki??? disney you dont own religions or cultures what the fuck is wrong with you— honeybee // MARGIE MONTH (@HONEYBEED0TEXE) June 21, 2021
In 2013, Disney was widely trolled for its attempt to copyright the 'Day of the Dead' ahead of its film 'Coco'. They later dropped the suit, but as this story shows, are very much eager to protect anything and everything that they own. Both Redubble and Disney are yet to comment on this story.