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Cartoons are considered graphic works by the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988, and are therefore protected by copyright.

Who owns the copyright to cartoons

The creator of a cartoon usually retains the copyright and is therefore responsible for licensing its reproduction or syndication.There is an exception though. Cartoons are often produced in the course of employment by a newspaper or magazine, and as a result the copyright is owned by the employer.

Use on other platforms

Successful and popular cartoons are often syndicated for use in merchandise or TV animation. To benefit from this use, artists should be careful when they submit cartoons on an assignment basis and always reserve the right to have this type of use licensed separately and for an additional fee.

Cartoons produced by studios

The copyright in popular cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse is usually owned by the studio producing the cartoons. Requests for use should be directed to them.


This factsheet is offered as a general guide to the issues surrounding copyright in this area. It does not represent an exhaustive account. It is not intended to offer legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. We strongly recommend you seek specialist advice for any specific circumstances.

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