Photographer Whose Grinch-Themed Photoshoots Went Viral Is Issued Cease and Desist by Dr Seuss Enterprises

A photographer’s Grinch-themed Christmas photoshoots have been going viral this week, making appearances on news outlets such as People and the Today Show. However, things have since taken a sour turn after the photographer received an email from Dr. Seuss Enterprises threatening legal action for using their character for commercial gain.

Photographer Kim Durham has been making international news with her recent kids’ photoshoots. Gaining recognition for the unconventional shoots in which children appear, often screaming and crying, opposite the Grinch, the shots have proved popular with parents everywhere.

Now, an email is circulating the internet on behalf of the company who own the rights to the character of the Grinch. A cease and desist has been issued to Durham, instructing her to halt trading any shoots that include the Grinch. The email insists she “remove and destroy any and all promotional materials and photographs for the Grinch Photo Shoots, whether print or digital, that incorporate the Dr Seuss Intellectual Property, or similar variations thereof.”

The email ends with asking for an acknowledgment of the notice within seven days and invites Durham to provide a copy of any relevant authorization if she believes her work is not infringing on the company’s copyright.

Interestingly, Durham’s Facebook page has since been deactivated.

Should Durham be allowed to shoot Grinch-themed photos?

Log in or register to post comments
Alex Cooke's picture

You're a mean one, Mr Grinch's lawyer.

Deleted Account's picture

Just rename it, Clinch. It's a green outfit that looks like a monster, From that thumbnail I wouldn't have recognised it.

Deleted Account's picture

There you go, sorted.

Christian Santiago's picture

Honestly as a photographer she should have known better. If we’re going to throw tantrums (and rightfully so) every time someone uses our photos without permission, we have to respect the intellectual property of others.

However she probably could have gotten away with it by just not using the word “grinch” and by not using the character in the promotions of her services. ( would have still been in the wrong, but probably wouldn’t have gotten caught).

It’s a gray area because it’s not unheard of for photographers to use registered characters in photoshoots. How many spec shoots/ cosplay have we seen of various marvel, DC, Star Wars, game of thrones characters over the years ?

You’re not gonna get in trouble if you have a cool concept for a shoot. It falls under fair use.

But the second you start featuring the IP as a dominant factor that markets your professional services, you’re completely crossing that “fair use” line and are willfully infringing on someone’s else’s copyright.

Deleted Account's picture

Is anyone surprised?! This seems pretty simple. Photographer illegally used the character for her business.

"Interestingly, Durham’s Facebook page has since been deactivated."

Smart move by Durham to limit potential damages.

"Should Durham be allowed to shoot Grinch-themed photos?"

Since "The Grinch" is intellectual property and would need license to use, not in the capacity that she has been. This is why costume companies rename costumes that are obviously characters from tv, movies, books.

She can certainly use the costume but she cannot market the photos as being "The Grinch" and would be smart to not use the photos as marketing material.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Ok. May be she had no feasible way of negotiating a fair licensing agreement. What would be a fair agreement in that case in your opinion?

Scott Hussey's picture

"fair" is whatever the intellectual property owner deems it to be.

Alex Yakimov's picture

I’ve meant fair for both parties.

Deleted Account's picture

The license owner is not required to share their IP with anyone so I'm confused by your point. The photographer is not entitled to a license agreement between.

A reversed example: if you own the rights to a photo you've registered and a brand you don't like wants to use it in their marketing material, you are not obligated to give them permission.

"May be she had no feasible way of negotiating a fair licensing agreement"

Should not matter.

Charlie Ewing's picture

Former Princess Party Photographer with insight on this:
1) She used the copy-righted name. MAJOR red-flag for they look for.
2) Her theme is making children uncomfortable/terrified. That's strike 2.

The Princess groups usually run with a close-but-not-quite name (Snow Queen and Snow Princess, Rose Princess (Belle) Mermaid Princess... etc.) This is known by Disney but not a focus, UNTIL you start making negative headlines or do less SFW images as well. That said, princess party decor is a major sales item as well.

Heather Conrad's picture

Here is why this is stupid of Dr. Suess. You can go out and buy a Grinch costume for Halloween or whatever and wear it. According to this email and letter sent based on that theroy everyone who dresses as the Grinch for Halloween is in violation of intellectual property rights for protraying the grinch. Heres the kicker, why are there Grinch costumes made then? Think about that. I cant tell you how many times over rhe years ive seen people dressed in Ginch outfits similar to these for Halloween, themed events etc and taken pictures. So what is the big deal about someone doing a photo shoot? Why is Dr, Suess enterprise making such a big deal about it?

Dont ruin Dr. Suess and his pure imagine dear attorneys on the enterprises side. Its not like they are using harmful hateful images or abusing the Dr Suess name. Perhaps also then stop making money off of grinch costumes in retail.

This is just stupid I say, like green eggs and ham.

Deleted Account's picture

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not. I hope you are because you missed the point by a mile.

The Dr. "Seuss" legal team is telling the photographer that they can't use IP to make money. This has nothing to do with buying Dr. Seuss merchandise.

holly kuhn's picture

Michael is correct. Yes you can dress like the Grinch, yes you can pose for pictures as the Grinch long as no money exchanges hands. But when someone's licensed character is used and the company who owns that character isn't making any money, while someone who clearly doesn't own the character is profiting from the use, that's where you run into problems. I guarantee you that a Grinch outfit has never been sold from Costume Express or anywhere else without the company who own's The Grinch getting a couple of bucks thrown their way.

Dara Stiner's picture

It seems to me if you buy the costume legally then you should be able to use said costume as you see fit!
They gave up that right when they sold the product!

Deleted Account's picture

Please elaborate a little more