back to article Playmobil Bible faces wrath of lawyers

A German evangelical pastor who's recreated biblical scenes from Playmobil figures has been given until 6 April to pull his website, or face the wrath of the company's lawyers. The Playmobil Jesus nailed to the cross According to the Telegraph, 38-year-old Markus Bomhard's principal sin was to adapt the figures - for example …

COMMENTS

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  1. George Forth
    Stop

    Justification?

    "We can not accept such transformations for safety reasons as our products are made from plastic and are flammable."

    Exactly why is it Playmobil's business whether or not Bomhard wishes to risk his own health by melting the toys slightly?

    And since when has it been a tort to customize products which you have paid good money to own?

    Are they just trying to bully Bomhard with no actual legal justification?

    Can I think of another question?

  2. alan
    Happy

    Yeah

    You got my email then :)

    Shame I had to read about it in the metro first, El Reg should be first port of call for all things PlayMobile.

  3. steogede
    Happy

    All that trouble and still...

    He went to all the trouble of hair drying Jesus's arms and adding breasts to all the female figures - yet he kept a smile on Jesus's face throughout the entire crucifixion - except for a single scene.

    I know Jesus gave his life willingly; but I don't remember the bit in the bible about him enjoying every minute of it.

  4. David Harper

    Not as funny as The Brick Testament

    The Brick Testament (http://www.thebricktestament.com/) is much funnier.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    I don't get it...

    Does this mean when we buy PlayPeople, we are only getting a licence to use them according to the manufacturer's wishes?

    He bought them, he can do what the hell he wants with them!!!

    Anon - so they can't send me a bill for re-licencing the PlayPeople I transferred to my Nephew.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    eh?

    that sounds a bit like lego telling me what i can and can't build with it's bricks.. what the hell do playmobile have to do with anything once the goods have left the shop? -i must be missing something here..

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Make the bible more accessible?

    I'm unable to get on the site due to corporate firewalls...

    My general feeling is that a modern interpretation of the bible is what any Christian religious people need in order to get young people interested in it... I've heard there is also an Anime version doing the rounds too. The biblical text is not the most accessible nor interesting to read.

    Not that I've read it that much. I went to Sunday School when I was a child (very brainwashy) and got bored and left. I would be interested to see the Playmobil Revelations though and the Playmobile horsemen of the apocalypse...

    Its sad that they are pursuing a take down notice.

  8. Andus McCoatover
    Happy

    A day late...

    ..for an April Fool story?

    Shurely thersh shome mishtake..

  9. Steve

    What law is he breaking?

    As far as I can tell, he hasn't tried to pass these of as actual Playmobil products and there's no claim that he's making money from it.

    It's just a piece of art.

  10. Alasdair S
    Alien

    Double dare you...

    ... to do a Playmobil reconstruction of Lord Xenu's Tellurian vacation

  11. Mike Tree
    Thumb Down

    Breach of Playmobile License?

    I can't see what playmobile think he's done wrong. I can't imagine Citroen complaining about the 1000s of people who modify their Saxos.

    I was not aware that playmobile figures come with a license agreement.

  12. Mithvetr

    Okay, okay...

    Don't let your successes yesterday go to your heads, guys. It isn't April Fools' Day any more.

    Wait...

  13. Winkypop Silver badge
    Alert

    So let me get this straight....

    A guy has used plastic toys to recreate a non existent piece of history where an imagined man is nailed to a cross.

    And people are upset?

    Riiiiiight.

  14. Simon
    IT Angle

    Well done El Reg!

    Greatest April fools joke ever!

    No, wait, umm, its...

    Well ok then it must be FRIIIDDAAAA.....

    No, No, that can't be correct.

    OK, you hurt my brain now, I need to go lie under my desk for a bit now....

  15. Kent Brockman
    Paris Hilton

    Tsk...

    You'd think they would be glad of the coverage... I hope lego don't jump on the band wagon with the brick testament, although that is largely unaltered...

    http://www.thebricktestament.com/

    Paris, because she knows about gluing plastic bits

  16. Steve
    Pirate

    legal basis

    Does their suit have any legal basis? Once the figures have been sold they're not the property of playmobil and as they're bits of plastic they definitely aren't licensed but are sold.

    Sounds like it's a case that's going nowhere to me.

  17. Dave
    Flame

    Publicity

    Sounds to me like this is nothing more than Trolling by the PlayMobil company: "Look - someone is actually using our stuff - lets create some controversy so that we can get on the news."

    (Job Done.)

    <- Flames to represent an over-heated reconstruction

  18. Graham Marsden
    Happy

    @Alan

    > You got my email then :)

    And mine! ;-)

  19. Lee
    Pirate

    Steve,

    I sincerely doubt they do.

    I seem to recall that the makers of barbie tried (and failed) to sue an artist who made S&M versions of their product.

    While I might not personally approve of his work. But he has every right to express himself as he wishes.

  20. John Chadwick

    @Winkypop - Get it right

    Jesus did exist and is documented by the Roman Empire, as a minor troublemaker in Judea. How wrong could they be.

  21. Lee
    Pirate

    In fact:

    I remembered correctly and in fact they have lost repeatedly:

    Barbie in a blender:

    http://www.out-law.com/page-4681

    http://barbieinablender.org/

    http://www.alteredbarbie.com/pdf/mattelfeescase.pdf

    Dungeon Barbie:

    http://www.metro.co.uk/home/article.html?in_article_id=2823&in_page_id=1

  22. James O'Shea Silver badge
    Coat

    what he should say

    'Vade retro me, Satanas... err, Playmobil. And you know what you can kiss when you get there.'

    Mine's the cloak wrapped around the copy of the "Comic's Bible".

  23. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Alert

    It's obvious really!

    I don't think Playmobil makers like the fact that their toys are being used in a religious context for the benefit of one religion, Christianity , thus potentially being "seen" as biased against other religions! They won't say it out loud, as the next thing you will have Fanatics making websites showing one set of religious figures abusing other religious figures!

    All very pathetic, grown adults moaning about kids toys! Typical of the sort of things that happen when religion, politics of PC vs Apple fanatics get involved!

  24. dan russell
    Alert

    @ Winkypop

    Of course the state sponsored murder of a Jewish prophet can't be history - because the only authentic history that exists has been written in the past fifty years and peer reviewed by other noted historians who weren't there either. I understand there's more historical evidence for the existence of Jesus than the other JC, Julius Caesar.

    Cool Playmobils though - but he should tell their lawyers to go away and boil their heads.

  25. Eponymous Cowherd
    Paris Hilton

    Re:So let me get this straight....

    Actually there is fairly good evidence that a bloke called Jesus did exist, claimed he was the Son of God, and was nailed to a cross. just as there is a real bloke called David Icke, alive today, who also claimed he was the Son of God (to Terry Wogan who, possibly, is some kind of minor deity)

    The issue is whether either / neither / both of them *are* the Son of God (and whether or not we should nail Icke to a cross as well).

    Paris, because she has experience with being nailed, too.

  26. Bod
    Coat

    Their attitude...

    ... seems similar to a certain other company that makes mobil toys. That is expensive mobil phone toys (yeah, just fetching the coat).

    Sure Mr Jobs hasn't bought up Playmobil ?

  27. Chris

    @Mike Tree

    "I can't imagine Citroen complaining about the 1000s of people who modify their Saxos."

    Oh, if only they would...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's potential copyright infringement

    If you take something covered by copyright and publish your own pictures on the web or whatever, apparently.

    Seriously, I used to work at a company that also makes small figures that people tended to modify and post on the web, and they had a legal department that spent most of its time tracking down the people doing this and sending them cease and desist notices. Some of the modification was just painting the figures, that came unpainted anyway.

    Absurd as the overall idea might be there are a few important points here, one is that just because you have bought an item it doesn't mean that you have any rights over the associated IP, that may well be necessary in order to publish modified versions* of said item. Another important issue is the Hoover effect, such that if you let your trademarks / copyrights get diluted then you effectively lose them.

    *IANAL and although I have had this explained to me it made my head hurt, but apparently changing a figure and publishing it is covered by the same laws that disallow for example taking characters etc. from a book and publishing your own story - try to post a Harry Potter and the University of Skive book on line and see how fast you get it pulled.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    @ Eponymous Cowherd

    you're right, the issue is whether anybody is the son of God - we rightly have our suspicions that Icke isn't, the claims of Jesus as recorded in the bible are less hard to dismiss, unless you've made your mind up already that is...

    If Jesus was the son of God, then he's definitely extra-terrestrial.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC

    "It's potential copyright infringement "

    were the letters "W" and "G" and the location of Nottingham involved?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Chris re: @Mike Tree

    I was thinking the same thing.

  32. Steven Hunter
    Thumb Down

    @"It's potential copyright infringement "

    It damn well is NOT copyright infringement. At *best* it is TRADEMARK infringement and only if he uses their exact trademark (or a sufficiently similar enough mark).

    So unless *he* calls it the Playmobile Bible they've not a leg to stand on.

    F@#$ing corporations...

  33. XML slave
    Alert

    At least...

    Nobody has tried to make a display/diorama/whatever of a certain islamic figure. Then you'd have a tort from the company, AND angry radicals trying to kill you.

    Why would you make a religious display out of these things anyways? A better figure, or medium even, couldn't be attained? Millions of christ depictions in the world, and this dude chooses...Ugh...

  34. Steve
    Thumb Down

    @AC 12:57

    It might help your head hurt less if you learn the difference between copyright and trademark.

    You can't copyright a thing, you copyright IP as you mentioned. Playmobil figures are things, not IP.

    You certainly can trademark them, but unless individuals who modify them are pretending to be a manufacturer or authorised distributor of PM products then they aren't in any way infringing a trademark by taking photos of it.

    Your company may well have sent out bogus cease and desist letters, but that didn't mean they had any legal argument.

  35. ElFatbob

    eh?

    slow day at the office for someone in playmobile by the sounds of it....

  36. Mithvetr
    Heart

    Call me a sentimental fool...

    ...but I always had a bit of a soft spot for toymakers. I always imagine people making toys as amiable, good-natured people putting their skills to use doing nice things. You know, like in fairy stories.

    And then something like this happens, where someone decides it would be a positive thing to take said little figures and mutilate them in order to replicate something hideous that was done to a guy two thousand years ago and was quite bad enough then, thanks.

    Then the aforementioned toymakers, far from being amiable and good-natured, get all litigatious and try to control what people can and can't do with the toys they've *bought*...

    Actually I'd be more supportive of the company and would understand completely if their argument had been less about copyrights, trademarks and intellectual property and more along the lines of, "no, don't melt and crucify the poor little guys, that's really *horrible*. How would *you* feel?".

    What a world, what a world...

  37. Digital Sorceress
    Joke

    Don't know about Germany...

    ... but in the US, I THINK this would be considered a transformative work of art. Even if the Plamobil figures are copyrighted character likenesses, I believe that using them to create diaramas is artistic expression.

    Heck, I'm an atheist (not all of us American types are slathering bible pounders) and I support this guy's right to his art and religion. I hope he wins.

    In a similar vein, try:

    Robot Chicken (stop motion animation with various toys)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot_Chicken

    Rick and Steve (gay Legos)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_and_Steve

  38. CypherDragon

    @ Steven Hunter

    Well, the website's URL is www.playmobible.com...

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cause of action?

    I'm a lawyer, and I'm having a difficult time figuring out what possible cause of action Playmobile can even arguably have. Admittedly, I haven't read the links, am almost certainly not a member of the bar in any relevant jurisdictions, and I'm not an IP attorney anyway (so for all intents and purposes, I'm just another over-caffeinated bloke with an excess of confidence in my cognitive prowess). But nevertheless, I'm leaning toward concluding that all of this is some kind of April Fool's joke.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @ Alasdair S

    A recreation of Xenu's Tellurian expedition would demand the use of a hair dryer, if not a low-temperature oven. How else could one take a plethora of PlayMobile figures and pack them tightly into the shape of a DC-7 aircraft, per the silly nonsense that scientology sells to its victims?

    It might be more fun to mock up a scene of someone infested with body thetans by lightly sticking PlayMobile figures to, say, the Divinely Shaped Figure of our Divine Moderatrix. She could then be filmed while someone else, armed with a pastry board scraper, scrapes the thetans away, making a perfect analog of an adept using his thetan hand.

    After all, if the Bible can be actualized via PlayMobile, why not scientological scripture?

    PS: there is a downside to the proposed filmed enactment of a thetan hand session. Body thetans, being known to be extremely stupid, might imitate the scenario, giving the Divine Moderatrix freedom from their infestation. True enlightenment, iow.

  41. jsp
    Coat

    Parody?

    The defense in the Barbie case seems to be that the works were parody or satire. So all the Pastor has to do is argue that The Bible is a parody and he is home free...

    BTW Is a priest in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster known as a Pasta? (Sorry)

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @@"It's potential copyright infringement "

    "It damn well is NOT copyright infringement"

    I concur. I thought copyright only applied to original published works and I don't think plastic toys qualify. If the guy was trying to pass the Playmobil off as authentic toys produced by Playmobil, then I think they would have a trademark point. But since he isn't, they don't

    It's just legal scaremongering. If it goes to court, they will lose.

    Often, however, it doesn't get that far.

  43. Mark York
    Thumb Up

    Alien Loves Predator

    http://alienlovespredator.com/

    Very funny.

  44. Doc Dish
    Stop

    @John Chadwick, dan russell & Eponymous Cowherd

    [citation needed]

    The historical representation of Jesus is based on critical analysis of the Gospels (which aren't evidence - no one knows who wrote them or when).

    The only contemporaneous document that mentions 'Jesus Christ' is Flavius Josephus' 'Antiquities of the Jews' and there is much debate as to whether the passage in question is original, or a later interpolation - given that no one quoted the passage till the 3rd Century.

    So please furnish us with this evidence. The Christian world has been waiting for it for centuries.

  45. Christy Stoehr
    Boffin

    The Reg - read all about it only 1 day late!

    Oh dear - this was an April Fool that went viral and is still being repeated on April 2nd. Come on, Reg, do sparkle up.........even the Daily Telegraph had it yesterday; or maybe you were too busy with The Bee's spoof moment yesterday??

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/5090247/German-pastor-ordered-to-dismantle-Playmobil-biblical-scenes.html

  46. Damien Thorn

    Feed the lawyers

    In gross stupidity of this kind, the ambulance chasers, <- needs strikeout, [sic] lawyers, are the only people to benefit from this drivel.

    What next microsoft word suing us for using there word processor to kill the english language.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    I know the reason

    They are (legally) afraid that little chav, jr. will try this at home and burn him/her self with hot flaming plastic (very painful...i speak from experience) and then burn down mommy's and daddy's house and they will be sued out of this world for even "allowing" someone to show that it's possible to melt/disfigure these characters and they did nothing to stop it.

    Anyway, I don't believe a word of the story without optimus prime.

  48. Mithvetr

    @ jsp and Doc Dish

    @ jsp:

    "BTW Is a priest in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster known as a Pasta?"

    I'm fairly sure I've heard that usage before, yes.

    @ Doc Dish

    "So please furnish us with this evidence. The Christian world has been waiting for it for centuries."

    Don't worry, Doc - you don't need to rush things. El Reg will lay into religion again properly soon enough and you'll be able to go to town on those idiot believers... And in any case, there are hundreds of forums where the flaming fun never stops.

  49. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Down

    @ Doc Dish

    Next you'll be wanting evidence that David Icke actually exists.

    Lighten up, for Christ's sake, life's too short to be that anally retentive.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heaven and earth.

    Once the big fella's Da' gets to hear about this, Playmobile can expect a visitation from a plague of locusts and bolts of lightning to be unleashed in their direction. Vengeance is mine sayeth the lord.

  51. skeptical i

    Either Jesus existed or he didn't.

    He either did what has been attributed to him or he didn't. Will we hear a "Sorry, our bad" out of Benny 16 if irrefutable evidence proves that there is no way Jesus could have possibly existed or done the things he is said to have done? Will the majority of folks who subscribe to religion change their minds or behaviors? I'm guessing no on both counts (it's called "faith", remember?).

    However, adding "and Jesus did endure the Gale Force of the Mighty Hairdryer" to the stations of the cross might spur some discussion.

  52. Mithvetr
    Stop

    @ skeptical i

    "He either did what has been attributed to him or he didn't. Will we hear a "Sorry, our bad" out of Benny 16 if irrefutable evidence proves that there is no way Jesus could have possibly existed or done the things he is said to have done?"

    Careful: there's a difference between scepticism and wishful thinking. There will certainly never be irrefutable evidence proving that Jesus never existed. That remains an assertion often made by those who cross that line.

    The idea that Jesus either did or didn't do what was attributed to him is a simple one. It's quite true, as far as it goes; but it doesn't take into account the fact that the culture at the time was very different to our own. The stories that emerged around Jesus are, I'm sure, deeply rooted in the cultural and religious symbolism of the time. Do I believe Jesus walked on water or raised the dead? No, absolutely not. But we in today's world have a tendency to look at things in black and white terms. Especially when we're emotionally invested in proving ourselves right about something. We've lost track of the purpose of myth (no relation) in the modern day, and that it's possible for a story to contain truth without actually being literally true.

    What would be the purpose of the tales of miracles attributed to Jesus? I've no idea - I'm not a first-century Jew and don't have the key to their culture or their psychology. Certainly I wouldn't build a church on the idea that the stories are literally true, and nor would I follow one - but while I'm happy to believe that Jesus didn't defy the laws of physics or biology as we see them in working his miracles, it's going beyond scepticism to insist that he can't possibly have existed at all, or that the people of the time could not have seen truth in stories that were not literal accounts of historical events.

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