HBO Removes Autistic Girl’s Art From Web Claiming ‘Winter Is Coming’ Belongs Exclusively To ‘Game Of Thrones’

In a surprise move that has angered many, HBO has taken down an autistic girl’s artwork from the internet, claiming that because she used the phrase “Winter is coming” on her painting that it was tantamount to copyright infringement as they claim the saying is a trademark of Game of Thrones.

The Register reports that a 13-year-old autistic girl from Edwinstowe in the UK posted a digital painting onto the arts and crafts website Redbubble. The budding young artist had been sharing her art by showcasing it across different social media platforms, including Facebook, and decided to join an art challenge known as Huevember. The goal of this project was to create a piece of art using a different color as you moved your way through the color wheel.

The girl’s father, Jonathan Wilcox, reports that his daughter had no idea that the term “Winter is coming” was thought to be trademarked by HBO after it became a catchphrase through much use on Game of Thrones.

“For this particular piece, she decided to title it ‘Winter is coming.’ I do not believe she uploaded the picture to Redbubble to make any particular financial gain, she just thought it a sensible place to put it.”

Maisie Williams filming a Game of Thrones episode in Northern Ireland on August 17, 2015.
Maisie Williams filming a Game of Thrones episode in Northern Ireland on August 17, 2015. [Image by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images]

A shock was had by all when HBO contacted Redbubble and demanded that they remove the offending artwork from their website, saying that they had exclusive rights to the term “Winter is coming.” The arts and crafts website, fearing a lawsuit, removed the girl’s digital painting and sent HBO’s request to Wilcox.

“My first reaction to the letter was FFS. HBO should get a life or stick something where the sun doesn’t shine. On further investigation, it appears HBO are doing this all over the place regarding this phrase. It seems to have upset a lot of people on Etsy and elsewhere who have had the same or similar letter.”

The legal team at HBO have said that the young artist’s illustration clearly “infringes” upon the intellectual property of Game of Thrones and could cause “irreparable harm” to their television show and brand.

It is not certain just what law HBO has used in order to get the artwork removed from the arts and crafts website as Redbubble is based in Australia. However, they also have a location in San Francisco, and have said that they abide by “several international treaties that relate to intellectual property.”

Tourists in Northern Ireland take pictures of the The Dark Hedges location, used for filming Game of Thrones.
Tourists in Northern Ireland take pictures of the The Dark Hedges location, used for filming Game of Thrones. [Image by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images]

Paul Gordon, Redbubble’s regional counsel, has said that he didn’t see the notice to take down the artwork himself as CNet reports, but does affirm that the painting was removed after HBO’s direct request.

“To clarify, that doesn’t mean Redbubble has formed an opinion either way as to whether the work is infringing. Like most other online marketplaces, we operate under the framework of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, meaning we have a legal obligation to act on takedown notices.”

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While artists are able to file a counter-notice if they feel they have been unfairly treated, Wilcox and his daughter haven’t filed one as of yet.

When the Register asked to speak with HBO to acquire a statement as to whether they honestly believe that the age-old saying “Winter is coming” belongs exclusively to Game of Thrones, HBO was not able to comment at the time.

As for Jonathan Wilcox, he is clearly upset that the artwork his daughter created has been taken down from Redbubble, especially as it was not being sold and no financial gain would have been made from it. Wilcox suggests that people switch off their televisions and “boycott any HBO production, as they go around picking on and upsetting disabled children who have acted in total innocence.”

What do you think? Is it fair that HBO asserts that because Game of Thrones used the term ‘Winter is Coming’ that the show has a trademark on the phrase?

[Featured Image by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]