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Row with ‘wonky’ sticker artists leads Manchester United to charity donation

Manchester United have pledged to pay more than £500 to charity after making a copyright claim against a couple who draw “wonky” versions of football stickers.

Self-described “artistically challenged duo” Alex and Sian Pratchett have earned a loyal following online as Panini Cheapskates since they drew every sticker from the World Cup 2014 book five years ago, something they repeated at Euro 2016 and last year’s World Cup.

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Their efforts have helped raise over £12,000 for charity, according to the couple, and they now sell their work online in the form of drawings of legends from specific football clubs.

They ran into trouble, though, with their images of Manchester United players, when the club informed the couple they were infringing copyright.

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“Sad times,” they wrote on Twitter. “Man Utd got in touch and made us stop selling our wonky drawings of their ex-players.

“If you’ve ordered one, we’ll be in touch. x”

According to Panini Cheapskates, one issue United had was with their rendering of the club badge, which was apparently deemed similar enough to the original to constitute an infringement.

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To get around the problem, the duo decided to, in the words of one follower, “go the Pro Evo route” – taking a path often trodden by unlicensed football video games by giving players and clubs names that are similar enough to be recognisable but different enough to avoid copyright issues.

So for their new Man Red print, Wayne Rooney became Ray Wooney, Mark Hughes morphed into Spark Youse and David Beckham was reborn as Daffyd Peckham.

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The pair also said they would give the profits for the first 50 prints sold to Cancer Research.

The new iteration seemed to meet with the approval of United, who responded with an applause emoji and a pledge to pay the price of another 50 – which sell for £11 each – to the cancer charity.

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To fend off any possible copyright issues with other clubs, the pair are now going the Pro Evo route with more of their old prints, starting with Arsenal.

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Images posted on Twitter show the team now includes such players as Sal Crumble, Sailor Dave and Roy Pearler.

A Manchester United spokesperson told the BBC: “Permission to use Manchester United’s intellectual property is only granted to official licensees, partners and sponsors of the club.

“Because Panini Cheapskate’s items featured the Manchester United word mark, they unfortunately infringed those intellectual property rights.”