Use of alien mask - copyright infringement?

My partner wants to use an alien mask for a dozen or so shorts. She'll be wearing the mask during each short - for the whole duration. She wants to purchase a high quality mask off the internet.

Her aim is to have a popular skit show on youtube, and to ultimately profit from that show (yes, I'm awae that's a very tough goal to achieve).

I'm wondering if this could be grounds for copyright infringement? Could the mask maker sue? I think yes since we're prominently featuring the mask.

Rok's excellent link
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I'm not a lawyer, and to be 100% sure, you should probably seek actual legal advice, but here's my take on it.

Unless the mask is for a specific character (like from the Alien movies), it's not copyright infringement. To be on the safe side, she could seek permission from the person who created the mask. From what I understand, if it's not a recognizable product (like, your average person wouldn't know what it was), then it's not likely to be viewed as infringement (and even then, I think most of the time it would fall under fair use).

Of course, just because it's not infringement doesn't mean she still couldn't be sued for infringement, and defending that kind of lawsuit can be expensive.

I could be completely wrong about all this, so like I said, call an actual lawyer.
The mask from "Halloween" (1978) is iconic.


If I remember correctly, it was originally a Captain Kirk ("Star Trek") mask. They cut the eyes wider, painted it white and made a few other minor alterations. My guess would be that you're on a very limited budget, but finding an aspiring up-and-comer to modify an existing mask or perhaps create a new one shouldn't be too difficult. This way you completely avoid any legal complications - and the show gets its own unique look.
I would assume that the design of the mask itself would be copyrighted by the original artist - no different than any sculpture or other work of art. So personally I'd be sure to get permission from the creator of the mask before using it as the basis of an original series.
Maybe of interest...

Otherwise Nike and Wrangler could be suing people for wearing clothes in films!!! Also depends if the Mask becomes an asset that is saleable/marketable.

The first-sale doctrine referenced in one of the replies isn't applicable here - it only addresses the mask purchaser's right to sell the mask they bought to someone else, not copies or facsimiles (including pictures/video) of it.

As for clothing, if the clothing is very distinctive and clearly identifiable they probably could. But clothing worn in passing is different than a mask which becomes the basis of the central character in a film or show. If nike or wrangler actually took someone to court it's likely you could successfully argue that the clothing contributed little to the originality of the work in question, and that any similar clothing could have served just as well.

That would be a lot harder to argue if someone's original mask design becomes known as Zardon, Lord of the Universe (g-sector and sub-colonies, excluding the Sardasso District) - the star of a wildly popular online series. Then it would be hard to change the mask without changing the character, and your character actually impacts the artists ownership of their own work because it's no longer just their design, it's now a "Zardon" mask.

Commissioning an original mask would be safest - treated as a 'work for hire' this would transfer copyright to the person who hired the artist. On the other hand there are probably plenty of independent mask makers who would be glad to have one of their masks become recognizable because it would boost sales of the mask. The key is to get something in writing first though - including who has the right to do things like sell things other than the mask, like t-shirts or other products, with the character's likeness.