The timeless plastic bricks of LEGO can be built into predetermined items such as a car or house but can also be formed into any shape, the options limited only by the creativeness of its builder. However, turn LEGO bricks into a controversial item and the company’s lawyers could soon be breathing down your neck. The Czech Pirate Party did just that and are now calling for Internet allies in their war with the corporates behind one of the world’s most famous toys.
Without doubt the favorite toy of many kids’ is LEGO. What’s not to like about a kit for a country house that can be smashed to bits and turned into a ridiculous 30-wheel truck with a ray-gun on top?
Of course, the makers of LEGO probably aren’t that keen on kids building space guns and other makeshift weapons out of their famous multi-colored blocks. But while there’s little the Danish company can do about that happening in private, raise your head in public doing the same thing and matters can take a turn for the worse.
Last year the Czech Pirate Party produced an animated promotional video to assist their political campaign showing a couple of ‘influential’ businessmen with government connections throwing their money into a lake.
As the video below shows, their little party had an unexpected gatecrasher intent on draining the lake of the corrupt big fish.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, LEGO are not happy that the Pirates used their product in this way. LEGO issued the Pirate Party with a takedown notice in August 2012 claiming copyright and trademark infringement, but the party refused to comply.
“Their claim is based on ‘good reputation of a corporation’,” Mikulas Ferjencik, vice-president of the Czech Pirate Party told TorrentFreak. “LEGO claims that we have damaged their reputation by linking LEGO and the Pirate Party.”
In October matters escalated when LEGO applied to a Prague court for a preliminary injunction against the party. The injunction was granted, forcing the pirates to remove the video from their official campaign media, but LEGO have additional demands.
“First they want us to not use LEGO figurines in any of our activities. Second, they want us to apologize for using LEGO figurines without their permission and to state that we did not receive any financial support from LEGO for our campaign. Third, pay the costs of the court,” Ferjencik adds.
Despite the elections being over, the party went on to file an appeal against the injunction. The complaint from LEGO had certainly pushed their buttons.
“This is exactly the kind of action against which pirates are fighting. We do not like limiting artistic creation or restrictions on human freedoms under the guise of copyright protection, or under a similar pretext of protecting the reputation of a legal person,” says Czech Pirate Party chairman Ivan Bartos.
“The clip with LEGO figures was created by our fan as his artistic work. Is it really true, that an artist may not use a figure for his own story, until it is approved in the instructions of the LEGO marketing department?”
The appeal will be heard by the High Court in Prague but in the meantime the pirates are encouraging supporters to send a clear message to LEGO. This, the party says, will be achieved by turning the Danish company’s own product against them.
“Get a Pirate flag or two and/or other Pirate merchandise you happen to own, go to your nearest LEGO-land or LEGO store and take a photo in front of it with all the flags and stuff,” the party says in their appeal.
“Finally, send us the picture and, ideally, also the GPS coordinates of the place where the picture was taken, so that we can make a map of the places in case this campaign gets appropriately big.”
Other creative options for protest are acceptable according to the pirates, as long as they depict Pirate Party imagery alongside LEGO products.
In 1996 LEGO was involved in another controversy when a Polish artist used their product to make a concentration camp. LEGO took legal action but later dropped the complaint following public outcry. The Pirate Party would welcome a similar outcome.