patberry wrote:"How does this not qualify for disqualification due to copyrighted characters?"
No such thing. Characters cannot be copyrighted. Specific sequences of words, such as novels or stories, can be copyrighted. The NAMES of characters can be trademarked, but I don't see any names on this shirt, do you?
In any case, this shirt is obviously a parody, and is therefore covered by the "fair use" exception to copyright infringement in the U.S. (and the equivalent "fair dealing" exception in most other English-speaking countries).
I don't mean to get into a debate, but your first statement is absolutely untrue. Characters that are the original creation of an author -- in that they have unique and strongly identifiable descriptors pertaining to physical appearance, clothing, mannerisms, etc. -- are as protected under copyright law as the text itself. The glasses, the scar on his forehead, the scarf, the wand, the use of magic -- all of these elements combined create the pre-established entity of Harry Potter, who is the property of J.K. Rowling (text) and Warner Bros. (film). You can't argue that the designer isn't profiting off the depiction of two characters that are not of his/her own creation. People are buying this shirt because it pertains to Harry Potter and/or Lord of the Rings -- not because they like the look of two nondescript wizard books dueling one another. It is derivative work. Plain and simple.
As for parody, no. Parody is a form of commentary upon the material, mocking or otherwise poking fun of a certain aspect within the work itself. This, at best, is commenting upon an ongoing debate between the fans of two book series and is, therefore, external to the copyrighted work itself. There is no statement within the design that comments upon Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. And even if there were, how is it mocking either?
The whole unspoken rule of fan art is that it, in no way, detracts financially from the copyright owners. I don't see how selling t-shirts like this isn't a slap in the face to the people who gave us these characters to enjoy. That's my personal, opinion, though. The part about characters being protected under copyright law is, in fact, true. The link below summarizes the basics:
As it so happens, though, I wasn't looking for a debate on copyright law. I was referring only to the derby rule in and of itself. Shirt.Woot says don't use "copyrighted characters" -- and I can't help but point out their own use of that phrase, which you claim does not exist -- and yet they printed this. If they're not afraid of litigation, that's all their business. But, speaking specifically to the rules they put forth, and as someone who participates in the derbies, I'm curious what their reasoning is. For my own purposes. That's all.
Aw, crud. Man. I write too much. -_-;; Sorry I created an eyesore on the page.