Posted by Mr. Q at 6:00 AM Monday, December 10, 2012
Dear Rich: Can you tell me if I can use the original Statler & Waldorf masks on YouTube without getting into copyright problems? I want to do an item in our show (which is being planned at the moment) with us wearing the masks and do activities and visit events and comment on it! We are planning to earn money with YouTube (don't think the chance is big, but we don't want trouble if we would start earning money with it) Or is there a website where I can find out stuff about the copyright of the muppets? Statler and Waldorf -- the heckling Muppets named after New York City hotels -- are both protected under copyright law. The copyright is owned by Disney. Your use is likely to be considered infringing -- you are creating a substantially similar work that does not seem to be transformative, such that it would be permitted as a fair use. (BTW, The copyrights for Muppets that first appeared on Sesame Street are owned by the Sesame Workshop).
Bottom Line Dept. We've written several times about getting permission from Disney (put "Disney" into search box on right), but you don't need to bother reading those entries. Disney is highly unlikely to give you permission. The bigger issue is whether they'll notice your use, and if they do notice whether they'll care. As always, the more popular you become, the more likely you'll get a cease and desist letter.