I’m not a copyright lawyer, but the subject fascinates me and I’ve
done quite a lot of reading on the issue.
Many of the difficulties of copyright lie in the fact that there are
enormous grey areas. While the owner of the copyrights in a design
hold- unless they’ve disposed of them- the rights to make copies of
that design, in practice there are some exceptions, and large areas
into which the law does not venture.
If one has an item, one generally has the right to modify that
particular item. (There are some artistic integrity laws around, but
they have more to do with originals and one-of-a-kind items, and
have not yet been thoroughly integrated into intellectual property
laws. They’re irrelevant to a mass-produced item, anyway.) One
probably has the right to sell that modified item- except if one,
say, did something risque with Mickey Mouse one might very well have
a lawsuit if one tried to sell or display it, in practice.
If I bought a charm and re-cast it in gold instead of silver, then
destroyed the original, I think I would probably be within my
rights. If I asked someone else to do it I’d think that would be an
infringement. BUT- and this is important- since copyright exists NOT
so the artists has control over her designs(as many think) but so
the artist has the option to try to make money from her designs
(which enables her to continue to produce original work), and since
making one copy of a purchased commercial charm in a material in
which it is not available and then destroying the purchased
original, has absolutely NO impact upon the revenues of the owner of
the copyright on the charm, it is beyond belief that the copyright
holders would choose to waste their money pursuing a lawsuit where
they would get absolutely nothing even if they won. So I’d say it
falls into the vast grey area in which it is probably technically an
infringement but pragmatically (and even ethically if one destroys
the original) OK.
Intellectual property law is seldom a matter of absolutes and clear
lines. It’s very rough-and-ready. For example, all of us who
videotape TV shows and save them are technically breaking the law.
It’s only legally OK if one tapes, watches the show at a different
time, then destroys the data. And even though i know this, it has no
impact on my tape archive… I don’t believe there has ever
been a case where a private individual was prosecuted for archiving
a favorite show- mostly because the law is designed to protect the
copyright holder’s ability to profit, and such archiving does not
So if it were me, I’d have a qualm or two, but probably make the
gold version, destroy the original silver, and figure it’s pretty
much OK. And I’m generally quite protective of people’s copyrights,
since I hope others will be of mine!
This isn’t legal advice, just the opinions of a long-time copyright