With the launch of Disney’s new streaming service came the birth of the internet darling affectionately known as “Baby Yoda.” This unofficial moniker refers to character referred to as The Child in the popular “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian.” Out of a desire to maintain secrecy and surprise surrounding the project, Disney chose not to release merchandising coinciding with the release of the show.
Unsurprisingly, this adorable green creature with those big, sad eyes has inspired creatives everywhere. Around Christmas, a hack went viral on Facebook that revealed how to turn an angel cookie cutter into a Baby Yoda design. (You cut off the head and make the wings ears!) Much cooing and cuteness ensued.
But when does harmless fun become copyright infringement?
If you are profiting from the sale of a copyrighted design or character, it is always illegal. Many sellers on the online retailer Etsy.com sought to take advantage of Baby Yoda mania, and are now paying the price. Fox News reports that Disney is “cracking down on Etsy sellers.”
Etsy released a statement saying that they respond to copyright infringement by taking down the material and that it is in the process of responding to requests. Some sellers report that their listings of crochet Baby Yoda dolls, ceramic mugs and other paraphernalia have been removed from the site.
According to Etsy’s official guidelines, sellers repeatedly guilty of copyright infringement run the risk of having their shops closed. However, a recent search on Etsy reveals new products have sprung up in the interim—from t-shirts to tumblers to toy dolls. Many business owners appear to be either willing to take the risk or unaware of the dangers.
As creatives, artists and designers, we sometimes have to face hard truths. Baby Yoda may be beloved. But, when it comes down to it, Baby Yoda is not fair game to sell.
Our creations are often like children to us. And The Child, aka Baby Yoda, needs to be protected. Disney is taking care of its own. It may be the big guy, but in this case it’s not the bad guy.