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Update notice as of January 17, 2013: I have given this guide a MAJOR overhaul. It was originally written over a year and a half ago, and since then my own views and understanding of copyrights has changed. I felt that this guide should reflect those changes, so if you read this guide in the past, please take a moment to look through it again as I have added MANY new topics, information, and sources. Unlike my first draft, I have also changed my viewpoint to neutral throughout this writing.

Update notice as of July 17th, 2015: Check out DeviantArt's new article on art theft, fanart, copyrights, and other relevant topics! protectart.deviantart.com/jour…

Update notice as of January 19th, 2019: Very small language adjustments to reduce the accusatory tone. Clarified statements that previously implied verdicts of illegality (example: statements such as "this is illegal" have been modified to "this is potentially infringing").

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor any kind of professional that works in dealing with laws or copyrights. This guide was written based on my own research and understanding of copyright laws, and from discussions with others knowledgeable of the subject. These facts are all sourced from U.S. law. I encourage others to do their own research and draw informed conclusions on how they would like to pursue the issue of selling fanart.

The Truth About Selling Fanart

Fanart is something you undoubtedly encounter on a daily basis while browsing the internet, Deviantart, and similar websites. We are all a fan of something, and "fanart" can be a great way for artists to explore artistically and bring fans together.

Fanart can be a tricky thing though, especially when it comes to selling it. There are so many artists out there that sell art of copyrighted material that it can be easy to get lost in the cloud of misinformation. This guide hopes to enlighten you to the truths and falsities about selling and commissioning fanart.

What is "Fanart"?

Fanart is a piece of art that contains a character, name, logo, setting, or any other content that is not owned by you (referred to as a "third party"). The third party content could be from a book, movie, cartoon, TV show, another artist, or a menagerie of other things. For example, if you like Harry Potter and decide to draw a picture of him playing Quidditch, this would be considered a fanart.

In reality, "fanart" is a very vague term, which is why it is often hard to find solid information about it. Most fanart is, in legal terms, what you would call "derivative" art. There are many different kinds of fanart, and many different kinds of derivative art. A piece of fanart may fit into one or many of the following categories:

Derivative Works

Derivative works are created when an original work has been modified, creating a new artwork. A minimal amount of creative effort must be applied to an original work in order to consider it derivative, otherwise it is just a copy. Only copyright holders and those with permission granted to them by the copyright holder have permission to create derivative works based on the original.

Copyright for derivative works applies only to the creativity that has been added to the original. For example, let's say you draw some fanart of Pikachu from Pokemon. You didn't use any of Nintendo's official Pikachu art in your drawing, and you interpreted Pikachu into your own unique style. This fanart counts as a derivative work instead of a copy, because you have made significant creative changes to the original character. This means that the fanart you have drawn is copyrighted to you. However, you did not create Pikachu and so you do not own the copyrights to Pikachu used in your drawing. Technically speaking, this means the very existence of your fanart is infringing on copyrights, because you have used a character that you do not own and do not have permission to use. More so, this also means the selling and reproduction of this fanart would further infringe on Nintendo's copyrights.

Now that I've sufficiently frightened you, know that there is an exception to these laws of copyright, known as "Fair Use", which will be discussed more later on.

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More info on derivative works: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivati…
Understanding derivative works under copyright law: www.legalzoom.com/intellectual…
Very useful Q&A about derivative works: chillingeffects.org/derivative…
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Parodies

Parody works, also referred to as "Spoofs" or "Satire", are derivative works that focus on humor. They are meant to make fun of something in a comical way, usually focusing on plot holes, character flaws, or other imperfections in the subject matter. Many parody works can be sold successfully even though they share very close similarities with what they are making fun of, since parody works do not include heavy amounts of official copyrighted names, logos, characters, etc, or directly copy the source material (as this would become infringement). Parody is not to be confused with Slander, which focuses only on negative views and aims to humiliate or damage the reputation of the third party.

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More info on parodies: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parody
Tips for creating a successful parody: www.lfiplaw.com/articles/trade…
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Plagiarism

Plagiarism, also called "copying" or "tracing" when referring to drawn works, is the act of using third party content without adding any creativity of your own, and/or using material without credit to the original artist or copyright holder. Plagiarism is a form of copyright infringement; it is not considered a derivative work and is not protected by the fair use claim.

Transformativeness

Most fanart is claimed to fall into this category. A transformative work (also known as "Adapted") is used to describe a work that has been changed and represented in a new way. Art may be considered transformative if it adds value to the original, or provides new insights and information that was not included with the original work. For example, a book review would be considered transformative. Since it would be very difficult to write a book review without including some of the book's original content, it becomes a transformative work when you add your own creative views and understanding to the original material. Parodies may also be considered transformative.

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More info on transformative works: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transfor…
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Fair Use

"Fair use" is a claim against copyright infringement when a derivative work has been created without the permission of the copyright holder. Fair use usually refers to journalism, education, and research, but other unique cases have been ruled under fair use as well. Because fanart is so varied, fair use claims are judged on a case-by-case basis. Parodies are widely accepted as being protected under fair use, but it is in your best interest to carefully judge the criteria and determine whether or not your fanart might fall under the protection of fair use. Because even personal uses for derivative work may not be protected by fair use, you should take extra care when considering selling fanart for profit.

Fair use claims are judged in four factors, as follows:

• The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
• The nature of the copyrighted work;
• The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
• The effect upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

While profiting from derivative works is not a deciding factor, it usually weighs heavily against fair use claims. Until your fanart has been judged by a court of law and is found to meet criteria of being protected under fair use, you can assume that selling it without permission is infringing on copyrights.

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More info on fair use: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use
Helpful guide on how to judge your work under fair use: publishing.wsu.edu/copyright/f…
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The "Gray Area"
The "Gentleman's Agreement"
The "Unspoken Rule"


Many who create and sell fanart often mention the "Unspoken Rule". This is in reference to the idea that even though selling fanart without permission is illegal and can be morally objectionable, there is very little chance that any legal actions will actually be taken against you. Fanart is often said to rest in a "gray area" of copyright law because even though it is technically infringing on copyrights, the intent is usually not to harm the copyright holder, but rather to honor or pay homage to them.

Generally, the distribution of fanart is seen as a good thing that promotes interest and "free advertising". In most cases, the benefits of the creation of fanart far outweighs the negatives for both fans and copyright holders, who would make an awfully bad name for themselves if they began attacking their own fans on grounds of copyright infringement.

The act of selling fanart without permission however, is where complications arise. Basically, you are making a profit from content that you do not have the licenses to use. Paying homage to the creator of something is different than encroaching on their market. Not only does it hurt the copyright holder, but it hurts other artists as well. An artist who chooses not to illegally sell fanart can easily lose customers to someone who does choose to sell fanart illegally. It is easy to sell fanart because it contains characters and content that already has a pre-existing fanbase. This can make it very difficult for artists to sell original work and learn to support themselves artistically.

Selling fanart without permission can also give you a "bad business" record. While naïve young fans and artists may be ready to commission and sell fanart, professional businessmen, companies, and experienced artists will not buy from someone who does not take copyright infringement seriously.

Do not be surprised that some people look down very harshly on those that profit from fanart. Others also feel that selling fanart for a profit "takes away from the spirit of fanart". In many cases, people have been publicly humiliated or booted out of conventions for having mass produced prints and fanart commissions.

Cease and Desist

An undeniable risk of selling derivative works is getting in trouble with the law. Remember that as long as your work contains content from a third party, the copyright holder has full legal rights to take action against your profiting from – or creation of – that fanart if they so desire.

While the copyright holder does not have the authority to take ownership of and do what they please with your fanart, the truth is neither do you! If the copyright holder wishes for you to stop profiting from their material, their most likely plan of action will result in a "Cease and desist" order. This order calls for the recipient to "cease" their dealings, and "desist" from doing them again. If the undesired activity continues, a civil lawsuit could result. Similarly, "demand" letters may also call for monetary compensation.

Some copyright holders and companies are known to be quite aggressive over copyright infringement, and the last thing any artist wants is to become the poster child of corporate wrath.

Your fanart is more at risk if:

• It uses official art, logos, or content not solely created by you
• It depicts characters or content in a deformative, sexual, slanderous, or otherwise "unflattering" light
• It has little or no difference from the original works
• It does not have a parody influence
• You sell a high number of commissions or prints
• It caters to the same market as the copyright holder

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More info on Cease and desist orders: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cease_an…
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Taking a Stand

If you see an artist profiting from fanart that you believe they don't have permission to sell:

• Do not buy art of third party content from them.
•  Let them know that what they are doing may be infringing and it bothers you.
• Tell them that you will not buy art from them if they continue to sell fanart without permission, and that you will encourage others to do the same.
• Inform the copyright holder that someone is profiting from their copyrighted material.

Keep in mind that many people simply do not realize what they are doing may be infringing, due to the large amount of misinformation surrounding fanart and convention spaces. Always remember to be polite, direct, and informative when contacting someone. Never use insults or jump to unnecessary conclusions.

The Safest Route

If you are truly intent on selling fanart, and want to do it in a respectable and legal fashion without risk of backlash or infringement troubles, the safest route is to obtain permission from the copyright holder. Some content is owned by multiple people, or has different copyrights for different versions, so it is very important to do your research on who-owns-what. When requesting for use of third party content, be advised that correspondence could take quite a long time. Some copyright holders respond right away, while others are big, busy companies. It is best to plan months in advance before trying to sell any fanart at upcoming conventions or events.

Copyright holders may ask you for specific information about what you intend to sell, where you intend to sell it, and for how long or how many copies. They may even ask you for a percentage of your profits or a fee for using their content.

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Guide to requesting permission: copyright.columbia.edu/copyrig…
Guide to locating copyrights: norman.hrc.utexas.edu/watch/us…
Info on obtaining permission: www.copylaw.com/new_articles/p…
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Alternatives and Work-Arounds

If you still wish to distribute fanart but don't want to hassle with permissions, and also don't want to risk infringing on copyrights, there are some other options available to you:

• 501(c) Donations

Fanart and derivative works can be sold for profit as long as all proceeds are donated to a 501(c) organization, otherwise known as a "non-profit" organization.

• Bonus/Free Fanart

One way to distribute fanart freely is to offer it as a bonus to non-fanart commissions or purchases. Some artists offer a free choice of small items like pins, keychains, or stickers featuring third party characters with the purchase of an original work. This encourages the selling of an artist's original work, while still satisfying the customer's desire for fanart.

• Art Trades

The trading of artwork instead of money is a great alternative. Both artists get a fair exchange and because the dealing is not about monetary profit, it is okay to request fanart drawings.

Other non-issues:

• Cosplay

Creating costumes and accessories for personal use is considered another form of fanart, and does not pose any more of a threat to copyright infringement than the other mediums do.

• Fan Characters

Original characters inspired by a particular franchise are not considered derivative works, but original works, as long as the fan character does not contain any third party copyrighted content like names, logos, outfits, etc.

Parting Statements

In conclusion, the selling of (and even creation of) fanart is a very tricky subject with a diverse array of outcomes. It is common knowledge that profiting from fanart without permission is greatly overlooked, which only fosters the belief that buying and selling it in this possibly infringing manner is okay. Even if the practice is widespread and easy to get away with, be aware of the fact that you are profiting without the specific legal permissions to do so.

Also keep in mind that only the copyright holder or the ruling in a court of law can officially determine whether or not your derivative art is protected under the fair use defense. Most people don't have the time or money to fight legal battles if they are ever challenged however, which is why being granted permission from the copyright holder is the best and safest option for your fanart-selling endeavors.

Many artists out there are able to create admirable fanart pieces, but there will never be anything as beautiful, inspiring, creative, or imaginative as originality!

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Sources/Further Reading:

Copyright Laws of the United States
• VERY informative video of Josh Wattles, legal advisor of dA: youtu.be/xKBsTUjd910
• DeviantArt's fanart policy: help.deviantart.com/743/
• More info on fan art: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_art
• Info on fan labor: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_labo…
• Info on copyright infringement: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyrigh…
• The Organization for Transformative Works on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organiza…
• Official website for the OTW: transformativeworks.org/
• An explanation of copyrights and fanart: lexxercise.tumblr.com/post/596…
• A forum discussion on the selling of fanart: www.digitalwebbing.com/forums/…
• A forum discussion on law and ethics of selling fanart: www.sweatdrop.com/forum/showth…
• Article about fanart and the Unspoken Rule: www.plagiarismtoday.com/2010/0…
• Personal account and tips for selling fanart: www.theotaku.com/fanwords/view…
• A guide on copyrights for fanfiction authors: www.whoosh.org/issue25/lee1.ht…
• The difference between Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents: www.lawmart.com/forms/differen…
Update August 13, 2015: PLEASE stop asking me if this or that is "illegal". As mentioned in the very beginning of this guide, I am not an expert on copyright law and it is impossible for me to straight up say whether something is legal or not since every fanart situation depends on a number of differing factors. I wrote this guide to help YOU decide what to do about selling or not selling your fanart. Please use this guide and the other available sources to come to your OWN conclusions. You are still more than welcome to ask questions, but please read the previous answered comments to see if it has already been answered first.

Update notice as of July 17th, 2015: Check out DeviantArt's new article on art theft, fanart, copyrights, and other relevant topics! protectart.deviantart.com/jour…

Update as of January 17, 2013: This guide has been re-written and heavily revised. If you read this guide or commented here in the past, please take a moment to re-read as it has been updated with far more information, topics, and sources.

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has commented here, read, and linked to this guide. I still get comments and discussions happening on a regular basis, and hopefully the added information in this new draft satisfies those that were critical of it before.

I realize its quite a bit longer than it used to be, which was only necessary to cover the wide array of topics surrounding fanart. Do not use this guide as your only source of information. There are some extremely helpful outside links included throughout the document; be sure to do your own research and get to know what you're dealing with when jumping into the convoluted world of copyrights.

Be aware that with the revision of this guide, older comments and discussions may now be outdated.

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Original description

This is something I've wanted to write for a long while. With all of the plagiarism and art theft that happens on the internet, the issue of selling fanart is often overlooked by both consumers and copyright holders.

There are quite a few artists that I greatly admire who profit from fanart without permission. Its sad to think of how creative and talented they are, and yet they delve into an illegal subject and fuel the belief that it's alright to do so.

With this guide, I would simply like to raise awareness about the issue, and educate those who may be unaware that their acts are not legal.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconakai-blake:
Akai-Blake Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2019  Student Digital Artist

I know It's a little late but you seem to still be active on the comments so....

I really want to preach this really useful well writen and informative journal you just write....

It's unfortunately been many years since a lot of persons are practicing that illegal business here and I started to be extremely bitter about it...

I'm personaly a fanartist too...But I mostly draw by pure devotion to the original author...

I was hesitant to report those persons who are exercing in total illegality here.

I tried to so some searchs on DA FAQ but there is nothing mentionning it clearly...

So I direclty typed " May I sell Fanarts on DA ?" ( or any other site )....

And that's how I came here...

Where can I start...?

Do you alllow me to try to express myself through an exemple.

Let's take a an artist that we will name XX00..

- XX00 started drawing already existing characters and share them freely to the world using DA..... legal...

- XX00 started to draw his own characters using a race that doesn't belong to him...He still share them for free on DA.....Legal...

- XX00 started to get a correct fanzone to reward his works and decided to be open for requests....Legal...

- The amount of requests received by XX00 had become so big that he had to either delete his request lists or.....make people pay to get a work from him.... Unfair and Illegal...

His prices are settled to 150$ per character...( exemple )

- XX00 fame had become so big in the '' Fanzone" he's exercing into and it's now hard to skip his works as they are shoved in all the groups related possible, completely draging away the attention Little and fair artists can receive....Unfair...

- XX00 judge that he's not gaining enough money and started to open a Patreon account....involving characters who doesn't belong to him...growing even more money out of this.......Illegal...

- XX00 also started to sell prints ( still featuring characters who doesn't belong to him...)...Illegal....

- XX00 went from a passionate legal and fair artist before moving into somebody who is just growing money and does not even draw the stuff he used to do as the "easy money" basically corrupted him...leading him to open even more platforms and sell even more stuff that still does not belong to him...Still illegal...

Well...I think I expressed the problem enough here but...yeah..im extremely bitter and mad about the fact those kind of persons are not really fanartists anymore as the business turned them roten and non interesting persons....

But the problem is that their activities here, seem to me, well first illegal...

But another impact it has on me and my friends is that....the Commission business of some people in our fanzone had become so big that it's now rare to came across a real fair fanart as they are completely ignored considering that comission business leads the people to find a way to have their OC's displayed on someone famous account ( some are just paying for that...not even for the art in itself )....

I'm not going to hide the fact that this behavior is completely destructive for the fandom as REAL FAIR Fanartists quickly got their work invisible, even when stuffed into groups.....

The commission had damaged so much the fanzone that people does not even pay attention to the original characters but rather focus on commissioning as much as possible people....

Another of my pet peeve will be the fact that those artists are still putting related Tags to their fanzone....( including the original characters ) as they know it will lead persons in their account or arts..

Whick makes them even more hard to avoid....

Now I wanted to express something...

As I have enough and I know that they are exercing in illegality I wanted to post comments on their account to signal them that they are doing somehting illegal...

I'm not somebody who really pay attention to persons when they bother me but I can't stay silent over people who are ignoring the laws....

However...I think that action can lead to two situations :

- The commissioner will basically ignore / block me... ( judging that I'm a danger for him )

- His white knights may get mad at me and attacking me, arguin that I'm jealous or mad at him while I'll just want to put back law in order that everyone can continue creating on DA without being ignored for "non commercial activities".

I have nothing against that person...

But he has something against the law...

Therefore he bothers me....

An illegal activity can't be considered as a fanart...

I was looking for a DA rule that say that....And unless contacting the DA staff...( which I think is not going to be really useful as they won't take me seriously...)

I didn't know what else to do but to 'Politely warn those persons that their business is illegal "...

But like mentionned before...

Even If i expose what you say politely....

I'm sure that the concerned artists will block me...

i'm having difficulties to think that someone who is comfortably making money ( proly 1000$ a week ) will cease and desist his activities just because a little artist like me say so....

So...Is there a way that we can link your journal to the DA staff to make them aware that their platform is used to make money illegaly....?

because the problem is only getin bigger each day...

Everyday, I wake up and came acrross somebody who claim himself open for Commissions....destroying even more myself and my friends activities here...leading the whole purpose of drawing for free completely non rewarded and dishearting...

I know I can still contact the original author...but this one lives In Japan...and though it's not a problem for me to write a letter or mail him....

I don't really know in which kind of way it will help...

I'm pretty sure that the DA staff will be more convenient for this..

I just want a Law on DA that says...Selling fanarts is illegal unless you can show to your customers that you payed for the royalties and / or obtained the legal authorization of the original author...

Copyright Infrighment is illegal...

Da can't just close the eyes...

I can't do a single thing myself...

But I refuse to just sit there and watch at those persons who are just stealing money out of the original author.

I'm really glad I find a journal as detailled and informative...

So I had to expose a little my point...

And I wanted to end that comment by

Thank you....

Thank you for trying to give back justice in that world...

We need more people like you on that site...

I'm wishing you a good day / night...

^^

( nobody is more hated than the one who says the truth ).

Reply
:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2019
Thank you for reading, I'm glad you found this resource helpful!

Something you may want to keep in mind is that the selling of fanart is a great big "gray area" that defies a strict definition of being either legal or illegal. The laws surrounding copyright are purposefully written to be flexible, so it usually comes down to a case-by-case basis on whether the infringed party feels like taking action or not.

Most people feel quite safe drawing and selling fanart and fanworks, but the more infringement an artist commits, the bigger a target they begin to paint on their back.
The artist you describe sounds like they're playing quite a risky game.

I understand it is very hard to compete with artists who mass produce fanart commissions, and I'm sorry to hear about your struggles with this person.

In regards to DeviantArt hosting the fanart, they aren't actually liable for the activity or content that may be taking place. It's a very common TOS clause that you will find on any website that hosts user-generated content.
Unfortunately, you reporting anything to DA under the pretense of "illegally selling fanart" won't yield much result, because only the owner of the 3rd party content can determine what is infringing or not. Your best bet would be to contact the actual companies or owners of the fan content. They may have an American or English-speaking office branch of the company you can contact. The owners would be the only ones who can take action against infringement if they deem it bad enough to do so.

If you want to contact the artist or any of their followers, I agree that you are most likely going to be ignored or blocked, even if you are as polite as possible. No one who makes that amount of money with such a strong following would be willing to change their ways from a stranger unaffiliated with the copyright holder telling them it's wrong. I'm sure they are already aware of the thin line they are walking and have chosen to take the risk.
Reply
:iconkittyocean:
kittyocean Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I wished more people thought like this. In the Netherlands, I am pretty much the only one who says this. Someone else says it too, but I wonder if she stays true when in a pinch. All in all, 2 artists in the entire dutch artist alley scene think like you. They all say I am overreacting. Fun fact: some of the biggest fanart sellers are graduated art students. You'd think they'd know better....
Reply
:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2018
Fanart is such a difficult topic to navigate and concrete information is scarce! Thank you for trying to do some research and giving this a read!
Reply
:iconkittyocean:
kittyocean Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I've been saying selling fanart is against the law for over 10 years now. Seldom have I found a 'kindred soul' who thinks the same. I had a blast reading it and will redirect people to this article. Maybe they will accept from someone else what I've been saying for years now.
Reply
:iconbuddermeow:
BudderMeow Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
 i've heard it's copyright infringement to sell fanart, but what about fanart of a fan character you created? The characters are based off of a copyrighted franchise, but someone else made them. Is it still copyright infringement to sell them?
Reply
:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2018
I can't say with any certainty what is or isn't allowed, but the amount of added content and creativity does play a big part. If you feel that your fan characters (and art of those fan characters) are far enough removed from the original content, you may have added enough creativity to say your characters are original enough to sell. 
Reply
:iconbuddermeow:
BudderMeow Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you for the answer, it's really helpful ^-^
Reply
:iconhansblox:
hansblox Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2018
so i had alot of phineas and ferb vore on my profile page but like i searched phineas and ferb vore on bing and i found alot of people staeal9g my artwork. i like worked super hard on my art vore than i got really mad and pekkkooekosadjasfidsagijaidsjasndg
Reply
:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2018
I have never heard of that before, that's really interesting and handy! Definitely requires more research, but I'm going to feature your comment as an option for others to potentially look into.
Reply
:iconcrazysammo19:
CrazySammo19 Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2018
Awsome, thank you.  Yeah I was doing a piece that had a universitys logo and when i went to get my piece blown up for printing they told me i cant sell it without consent of the copyright.  they told me who to call and I called and they gave me all that information at city hall.  based on where you are selling, you need the consent from that city to sell it.  so you would be paying per ity if you plan on travelling and selling.  but if you just plan on doing at conventions in your city alone then no need to pay for consent at other cities.
Reply
:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2018
Very useful information, thank you for sharing!
Reply
:iconmiss-alchemist:
miss-alchemist Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
It's NOT LEGAL to sell fanarts unless you have a permission from the owners of copyrights. There is no "it depends", "only if" or "just be careful".
Reply
:iconninjaweretiger:
NINJAWERETIGER Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
It is good to know. I am currently drawing superhero fanart. One being Deadpool another being Black Panther. I think I will just give them to friends for free. Otherwise I might deal with copyright laws.
Reply
:iconyellowstonesart:
YellowStonesArt Featured By Owner May 4, 2018  Student Artist
I got a question. Sorry if I sound dumb
Can you get in trouble for taking an idea that exists already and merging it with your own idea and then patents as your logo?
Example: A charter from One Piece name Zoro and a pet pug (Make the pug have similar features such as the scar on his right eye, green hair, and earing.)
Reply
:icongraeystone:
Graeystone Featured By Owner May 18, 2018
"When in doubt. . .Don't!"
Reply
:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner May 5, 2018
Unfortunately there's no real way for anyone to be able to answer this. The usage and legality of taking features from a third-party character would be completely up to the owner(s) of that character. I would stay away from anything that would clearly imply you've taken features from something as well-known and One Piece though, especially if you're going to go down the route of patents, which is very expensive and a lot of legal paperwork to register as well as working with attorneys. 
That's not to say you aren't allowed to make a character with scars and green hair and an earring, but the stakes get quite a lot higher when you move in the direction of profiting from derivative content, and exponentially higher when you start registering expensive trademarks (and I DO mean expensive, the application fee can be $5,000 and up). You don't want to be tossing that kind of money around on something that could potentially get flagged by the copyright owners of One Piece.
Reply
:iconada-erika:
Ada-Erika Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2018  Student General Artist
This is so hard since conventions are filled with fanart selling people. And fanart is the easiest way to make a profit. Unless you've made a comic series with a relative fanbase (or have one online from your art) you selling original art has little chance to gain a profit with. I'm having an internal fight with this
Reply
:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner May 4, 2018
Even after all these years I still have the internal conflict about whether or not to buy from/support fanart convention artists. It's a convoluted topic to say the least, and unfortunately there's no true answer to whether it's good or bad. In my personal opinion, I don't think there's anything wrong with supporting an artist if you like their style and what they draw. I think the most important thing to consider is whether the artist is a fan of what they're drawing and just wants to make some cash to support it, or if they're mass-producing fanart pieces purely to make bank because they know it'll sell.
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:iconmireba:
Mireba Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2018
Humm... looks like my project just got a lot more complicated.
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:iconwuerfelmuffin:
Wuerfelmuffin Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
That is really interesting!
Thanks for creating this!
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2018
no problem, thanks for reading! <3
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:iconvehilien:
Vehilien Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2018
Thank you so much for writing this and still be actively helping people in the comments! I know you're not an expert, but I do have a question. I read a lot about fanart being art containing a character, but what about an actual person like a celebrity?

I make minimalistic art (linework) of celebrities in which I always use a picture for inspiration. I would like to sell my fanart, but of course I don't wish to do it illegally.

Thank you in advance for your opinion on this, I really appreciate it.
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2018
People are generally copyrighted to themselves. So if you wanted to sell artwork of a real person, you'd go about asking that person for permission. HOWEVER, if you're referencing a picture of a celebrity like an actor, and the photo is from a production like a show or movie, then the ownership of that picture is then copyrighted to the franchise owner instead of the actor. 
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:iconbongupper:
bongupper Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
So for example back in the day there were those gangster dolmation dog parody shirts of almost every cartoon imaginable. Or the graffiti style looney toons characters and disney characters for example?
Or say Nuri Durr’s Hey Arnold characters reimagined as adults?
Those are considered creative adaptations right?
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2018
There are a fair number of organizations that support reinterpretations of characters and content as being protected under fair use, but it's really up to you what you consider "safe" to do.
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:iconbongupper:
bongupper Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
Ok, thanks! I’ll keep that in mind.
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:iconleafturtle:
leafturtle Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2018   Digital Artist
Thank you so much for writing this!!!! :happybounce:  
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2018
no problem I hope you found it useful! c:
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:iconleafturtle:
leafturtle Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2018   Digital Artist
I really did!!! Very informative! \^D^/
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:iconbubbletea-the-nerdo:
Bubbletea-the-nerdo Featured By Owner Edited Sep 10, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
if i were to sell commissions containing drawings of a copyrighted character, would that be an infringement? sorry if this was already mentioned, but it still isnt clear for me. :)
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2017
Since I am not the legal owner of those copyrighted characters, nor am I a professional in copyright law, it would be impossible for me to tell you definitively what is infringement or not. All I can say is that you probably run a small chance of actually getting in trouble if you did decide to sell, depending on what franchise these characters are from.
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:iconbubbletea-the-nerdo:
Bubbletea-the-nerdo Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
okay, thank you so much! that helps clear things up a little! :)
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:iconkawaiihorsie:
kawaiihorsie Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2017
I've drawn musical characters as cats.. i also drew the logo's of musicals that contained humans but with cats.. 
So, i bassicly drew cartoon cats but they still are clearly the musical characters.
Is it legal to upload and sell this in redbubble? 
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2017
I'm not the legal owner of any of those franchises nor am I a professional in copyright law, so it would be impossible for me to tell you what is legal or not. All I can really say is that you probably have a low chance of actually getting in trouble if you did decide to sell it.
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:iconlazymaggie:
LazyMaggie Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
If someone is selling cosplay items that is also illegal right? Or accessories of a show, video game, anime? 
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2017
Yes, in this case "fanart" refers to any creative medium, not just a drawing. It could be clothing, sculpture, etc
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:iconlazymaggie:
LazyMaggie Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
I wonder why people still sell them... 
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:iconcosmic-gypsea:
Cosmic-Gypsea Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
People do not know that it is illegal to do usually.
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:iconreginald-konga:
Reginald-Konga Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2017
[Looks at the part about Slander] Wouldn't it be libel if it's in the written word (assuming it's fan art and not a fan film)?
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2017
yes it would
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:iconreginald-konga:
Reginald-Konga Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2017
I'm sorry if I annoyed you with this.
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2017
not annoying! questions are welcome.
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:iconshade730:
shade730 Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
So what if I were to make stickers that were Pokémon but drawn in my own style and then I would attempt to sell them, would that still be considered copywrite or would it be alright. Because I know you can do it at conventions unless they specifically list ones you can't do.
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2017
Yes, drawing a character in your own style and selling it is still using that character without permission. A majority of vendors at conventions break this rule, because it is rare for small-time artists to actually get in trouble for it.
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:iconimaraofneona:
ImaraOfNeona Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2017
So if I decided to sell a bookmark featuring a quote from the book that would be copyright infringement? This is the bookmark in question: A Court Of Mist and Fury Bookmark by ImaraOfNeona  
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:iconkirawra:
KiRAWRa Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2017
You know I'm not really sure in this case.. I've seen people use quotes for plenty of commercial art but *technically* you would be using a portion of 3rd party literary work without permission. Haha might have to research that one a bit more, but for now I would say yes, using another artist's writing for profit without permission would also be copyright infringement.
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